I didn’t think this was the sort of place I’d meet a Christian.
This is a fairly regular phrase I hear as our teams at Third Space Ministries go about sharing God’s love in the ‘third spaces’ of society; places outside of home and work; places of leisure such as gyms, nightclubs, pubs, cafes.
I love to be where people are least likely to expect an encounter with God, whether that is in the middle of the Wimbledon tennis queue, in a gym, on the streets of Ibiza, or in a nightclub. Our Club Angels, who volunteer in nightclubs, sometimes find clubbers who are almost running away from God. They are somewhat surprised to discover a Christian showing them love and offering them prayer in a place where they thought they’d escaped!
I love the way that The Message paraphrases Matthew 5:13-16:
Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine!
Our role, as disciples, is to bring out the God-flavours and God-colours in the world around us. There’s no place where God is not present. We can sometimes use language referring to “taking God into” places, which can imply that He’s never been there before! But the truth is that God’s already present and is ahead of us.
When we enter unexpected places we enhance His presence, as we are carriers of the Holy Spirit; we bring out the God-colours and God-flavours and make them more tangible, heightening people’s senses and awareness of His presence.
Jesus was criticised for hanging out with the wrong people in the wrong places, yet that is how lives were transformed. I believe we shouldn’t shy away from seeking to share our faith and the love of God in places that might be unusual or surprising. We help people in Ibiza in the noisiest, smelliest, dirtiest, obscene environments, and that’s where I find the presence of God almost palpable, and the spiritual hunger immense.
Don’t shy away from the messiness of people’s lives, because sometimes that’s where we find the presence of God the strongest.
So many people are not coming into our church buildings these days for all sorts of reasons, and yet they are spiritually hungry and searching. It’s so important to go where they are, to meet them on their ground, and to begin to sow seeds of the good news.
One steward at the Wimbledon Championships said to our team: “This is the most I’ve been to church all year.” She was referring to the nightly chats she had with us as Christians, the way we gently drew alongside her and offered her prayer and told her of God’s love. She’s unlikely to step across the threshold of a church, but saw something positive as we brought the heart of church to her in the middle of a dark, wet, muddy park. We enhanced God’s presence in that place; the God-flavours and colours.
Where are the places around you where people don’t expect an encounter with God? How can you be intentional and prayerful in those spaces and with those people who are spiritually hungry, but don’t know where to start or have no one to show them?
I’m sure there are kingdom opportunities all around us that we just don’t see because we’re not expecting to see them, such as while picking up children at school gates, sitting in the hairdressers, your daily commute, conversations in a pub after work and many more.
Let’s ask God to give us His eyes to see what He sees – when He looks at our community.
“Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.” (Romans 12:1-2, The Message)