I've been ruminating on an idea over recent months about time and how we use it and how much we have available to do what and when. Intrigued by the concept of "third places" or "third spaces" as described in some sociological studies, I began to wonder where church fitted in all of this. The basic premise is that we all have three spaces in our lives: home, work and a.n.other. This other place might is where our social interaction occurs, where we spend our leisure time, that kind of thing.
I began to wonder if, especially in our pressurised twenty-first century lives, if we actually only have room for three places. If that is true, then when someone comes to faith and begins to attend church, church has to compete with the other three spaces for time and energy. I think I've talked or blogged about this before, but it seems to me that what we need to work out n church is how not to compete for attention, time and energy through getting people to attend meetings, attend church, or generally fill up their diaries with things that take them out of their normal environments. Why? Because it is in those environments that they rub shoulders with people who are far from God. It is that simple. Every time we replace a non-Christian friends with a Christian friend we take another step out of God's mission.
In the end I think we will have to rethink how we define commitment (is being in church every week the best measure?) and we will have to rethink how and when we do church (is Sunday morning the best time and is church the best venue?) After all, why would we want to compete with those things that create opportunities for conversations and relationships only to replace them with programmes and events designed to create relationships and conversations!