The idea is simple. People live in at least three spaces.
1) Domestic Space. This is there home. It’s where they live with their family. It’s private and hard for churches to reach.
2) Civic Space.This is school or work or something of the like. It’s public, but professional, in these spaces and Christians have limited influence people in these.
3) The Third Space. This is social space. It may be coffee shops, pubs, clubs, gyms, shopping malls or community areas. These places have both private and public qualities. Here, Christians can both meet new people and connect with them personally. In a sense, a church is itself a third space.
A lot has been written in Christian circles about ministering to people in the “Third Space.” So, what exactly is a Third Space Missionary?
Third Space missions focuses on turning strangers into neighbors. Third Space missionaries join gyms, frequent coffee shops, join clubs or walk in the same parks and meet new people. They are open to others and seek to build relationships them. They understand that these relationships often develop in ways that allows God to others with the Gospel.
Third Space missions focus on “the church going to the lost.” They aren’t trying to get the lost to come to church. It’s designed to get the Christians out of their seats and onto the streets. 3rd Space missionaries go out and love people knowing that some of these new relationships will bear Gospel fruit.
Third Space ministry is less threatening and more low key than traditional “outreach” ministry. The goal is not quick prayers on the street; it’s long relationships with people that allow them to find Christ and become formed in His image. Once people find Christ, they will find a church, and they should find Him in our hearts.
Third Space ministry is not friendship evangelism. It’s not warming up to someone in the hope’s that they will visit your church. Third Space missionaries do not butter people up for church membership like a used car salesman trying to make a deal. They befriend people and spend time with them because they love them. They trust the Jesus in them to make a difference in others’ lives.
Third Space missionaries don’t focus on large events to draw people. They don’t invite a strong man team or recording artist to church to increase their numbers. Instead, they focus on the small natural events that occur in the course of relationships. They trust that God will use those to bring His light into the heart’s of others.
Third Space missionaries don’t count prayers on the street. They value people and understand that by getting to know someone they will be able love that person better, and when they love people they know God does great things.
Third Space ministry isn’t quick or easy. Relationships take time. Seed must be sown and watered before it’s harvested. Some people’s lives will change dramatically and others will be less noticeable. They make commitments to people, they don’t try and get commitments from people.
Third Space ministry doesn’t require special training or gifting. There’s nothing special you have to do. There’s nothing particular you have to say. Third Space missionaries focus on loving people and staying connected to Jesus’ presence, and they trust Jesus to do the rest. It’s a game everyone can play.
Third Space ministry requires the presence of Jesus. The world is dangerous. Third Space missionaries have to be filled with the Spirit if they are going to walk out being in the world but not of the world. The danger of Third Space missions is that people can become complacent and distracted. They can hold back the truth from those who need it, or share truth those who aren’t ready. Third Space missionaries need lots of Jesus.
Third Space missions aren’t necessarily “better.” They are just different than other methods or models so enjoy your concerts, practice the 4 Spiritual Laws, and bring people to church, but in the midst of all of that, love people, be authentic, and show kindness.
What are your experiences with Third Space mission work? Please share in the comments section below.