A Third Place

An important aspect to being a Gospel-shaped, Gospel-driven church is hospitality. We must learn to think of our facilities as not only being our place but our neighbor’s place as well. The word “hospitality” has come to mean little more than entertaining. But in the Bible it is something far more profound. The Greek word for hospitality – philoxenia – means “love of strangers.” Christians are called to welcome not just other Christians but those who are outside the family of God. The Gospel drives us to this. We were strangers when God invited us in.

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg has written about the importance of what he has termed “third places.” In Oldenburg’s thinking, our homes are “first places,” our jobs are “second places,” and “third places” are cafes, coffee shops, pubs, town squares and other places where we “hang out.” Third Places are where we go to drink coffee, read, meet friends, and have informal meetings. Oldenburg points out that, with the growth of the suburbs, third places have been disappearing in the United States. Yet there is a strong desire for the return of these places. Starbucks and Barnes and Noble have capitalized on this reality.

I cannot help but dream about what it would look like if Metro East had the vision and appropriate facilities to be a third place for our community. What if our commitment to “gospel-ish” hospitality was such that our place became our city’s place as well? How would our ministry change if our facilities did more than provide worship and education space for our members? What might happen if the people who live in the neighborhoods that surround us knew that Metro East was a place where the doors were truly open?

I have no timeline in my mind. It may be God’s will that we wait a while to proceed with any further building. But I am grateful that we have taken a first step to imagine what could be on the fifteen acres on 143rd Street.

The pictures posted are from Parkside Church in Cleveland. Their commons area, bookstore, and cafe serve as an excellent "third place." It is open to the public every day into the evening. Parkside hosts lectures, concerts, and other events in their commons that are often used to engage their community. Their bookstore is simply the best church bookstore I have ever seen.