3 Spaces!

One of the paradoxes of being in local church ministry is that the very people you are called to minister to in the world are often the hardest people to actually connect with because you spend most of your time working alongside fellow Christians. One of the issues of being a senior pastor overseeing a local church is the amount of time spent connecting with what’s culturally familiar.

I call this the 1st spacethe culturally familiar.In Acts 17 when Paul arrived in Athens, he too went to the 1st space – the culturally familiar by ministering in the synagogue to the devout Jews. The culturally familiar is filled with people who talk the same talk, have the same beliefs, the same convictions and the same rituals. The more time you spend in the 1st space the more you actually become irrelevent to the other spaces where people live around you. Most Christians spend far too time in the 1st space not realising they are irrelevant to people in the 2nd & 3rd space and too easily form the opinion that unchurched Australians aren’t interested in having spiritual conversations.

The 2nd space is being culturally engaged. In Acts 17 Paul moved from the 1st space…the synagogue…to the 2nd space which is the marketplace. This is the space where the church needs to be leading the change the most. Unfortunately too many of us are actually focused on competing with each other in the 1st space rather than engaging with the culture in the marketplace. Some churches do start to engage with the 2nd space but most if any rarely get the invitation into the 3rd space.

The 3rd space is by invitation only and i call it being culturally in demand. In Acts 17 Paul so engaged culturally with the marketplace that he actually earned the right to be invited (actuallydemanded) into the Areopagus, which was the cultural centre of Hellenistic influence at the time. Paul then proceeded to not just exegete scripture but exegete the culture in such a way that he identified with their religious practices and sought to use their own symbols, writing and ideology to proclaim the gospel message to them. People like Dionysius (named after the god of pagan drunkenness) got saved and joined Paul and believed in Christ.

What if we could shape the culture of the 1st space in such a way that we led the change in the 2nd space being culturally engaged and then we earnt the right to speak into the 3rd space being culturally in demand? It’s possible because Paul has demonstrated so. It’s time we broke out of the familiar and reviewed our language, rituals and cultural norms to engage with the culture of the marketplace like the Apostle Paul did and like Christ did. Only then will we be able to lead those trapped in the drunkenness of this age to Jesus way of life.

Lead the Change!

3 Responses to “3 Spaces!”

  1. Ken Murphy Says:

    How intersting that a christian has got their head out of the sand and realised that the non church going person is pi##ed off with religious crap / jargon,( in talk or church issues). We non church people dont mind talking religious stuff as long as we sense that the person talking to us actually cares about what we think, and are not raming there own agenda down our throats. To be treated like a “sinner” when we alreay are a sinners is a slap on the face.
    If you really want to actvate church and be held in high esteme as the salvo’s this second space is the first step to bridging the gap, It is hurting world and a ever increasingly perverted world and in need of good moral teadership but alas the church has been found wanting.

  2. Dave Murray Says:

    Yes Ken, the problem here more specifiically is the fundamentalist churchy. All fire, brimstone and a dogmatic belief in the doctrine. The world is becoming savvy to the negative side effects of fundamentalist beliefs and how these extreme views prohibit any kind of forward progression as a community. I know many people who lead strong moral lives of kindness, good will and value but don’t call themsleves Christians and like you question the people who need to assign a label to humanistic behaviour.

    Like Lao Tzu said in the Tao Te Ching, “Those who know the way speak not of it”.

  3. Amy Brown Says:

    It has always been a bit fascinating to me why we over complicate things. I was always under the impression that the kind of culture that Jesus demonstrated was one of love. If love is what dictates all of our actions, not affection, but true Agape, GOD-centered love, then automatically culture will be dictated by that.

    I have this dream that I will be a part of a church which is not a Sunday event, but a day to day lifestyle of community, where it is bonded by family and commitment. Where the Gospel is outworked through my hands and I can be the Jesus that people can touch.

    Sometimes I think that the organised church (not that I am anti, because I am a part of a formal church community) can justify not having to reach out of the 1st space (as you put it) because we get taught so well to justify and interpret the bible, so to keep it at an arms length. Realistically, the same Jesus that tells us that we must be saved and baptised, tells us that we should sell everything we own and give it to the poor (Rich Mullins). We pick and choose what we want, and create a pattern for church according to that.

    In truth, I think it simple. The way to be “counter-cultural” is to be committed in love, not just in relationships, but in friendships, to be generous and practical. It astounds me when church folks have to take a vote to see if they will buy a car for a pregnant teenager to decide if it is a “wise investment”. Jesus says over and over if you have two shirts, give someone who has none one of them. How far removed have we become?

    The pattern of the early church was that if one person couldn’t eat, then no-one would eat until they had enough for everyone. Now THAT is counter cultural. If we can learn to build this kind of safe environment within the church walls, that is what gives us credibility. This is why the Salvation Army has such high standing in the community. And I love that.

    Um. Yep. That is all.

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