Third Places and Passion

This is a re-post from 2008 – six months into the life of Connexus and written after a meeting with Erwin McManus.  The ideas still excite me:

Having some food and time with Erwin McManus, lead pastor of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, and a handful of other Toronto pastors last night was incredible.

I had this question on my mind: “how does Erwin know when he/Mosaic is doing something for creativity’s sake rather than for Christ’s sake?”  While I was trying to figure out how not ask it offensively, he answered it with a passion that took me back.  I loved his ‘answer’.

Erwin’s passion is contagious.  Jesus has so changed and shaped his life that he is desperate to have others follow Jesus.  He is so sure of Jesus and so sure people need him that he’s willing to do just about anything to reach people.  He said he was willing to die trying to do different things in the name of Jesus to introduce people to Jesus.   He wants to spend the rest of his life going for broke trying to figure out how to connect people with the One who changed him.

He went even further in his talk last night at the Nova Experience, which ranked as one of the best talks about the church I’ve heard in a long time.  Some challenges he posed:

  • Speaking on Acts 17:16-34, he said most Christians expect to have dialogue with people who don’t know Jesus on our terms in our environment.  We expect them to come to us.  He called this evangelism in the “first place” (the church).  Some Christians are willing to venture to a second place (like a Tim Hortons) to talk about life and faith.  But Paul was willing to go to a third place (like the Aereopagus) and dialogue with people where they were.  How many leaders are willing to do that?  How many churches are willing to do that?
  • Most of the energy in our churches is spent on incremental improvements in discipleship for the already-convinced, and Erwin wonders what would happen if we took all the energy we put into things like making music for Christians and simply became an environment for normal humans to interact.
  • He dreams of leaders who are even willing to be ostracized by other Christians for their radicality in making Jesus known (this actually is what biblically between Jesus-followers and “religious” people), who will go to “third” places and even be shunned by denominations (his words) and accused of heresy (which he has been, again and again) because of their passion to make Christ known.

Erwin’s talk moved me deeply, because I think it resonates with the core calling I have felt and I think our community at Connexus has felt.  Moving church from the comfort of a multi-million dollar facility into the sticky floors and pungent smell of a movie theater where normal people actually gather has been challenging but great, and is some ways is like a first step into a third place. (Erwin’s church meets in venues like night clubs where his volunteer team puts on while gloves and wipes excrement and vomit off the walls to prepare for worship). Some Christians may feel alienated by a move like that, but there are so many fresh faces who finally feel like God is becoming more accessible – who realize for the first time that Jesus actually wants a relationship with them.

It challenged me to make more space in my life for living in third places, for engaging the curiosity and hunger of thousands of people who would probably like to know this Jesus but don’t.  As much as I feel there is this call on my life, I am still so incredibly comfortable.  I’d love to die trying to figure out innovative ways to reshape lives around Jesus.  Clearly what we’re doing in the North American church now isn’t really working, with 60% of Americans and 85% of Canadians voting “no” to Christianity every weekend.

If we really believe that Jesus is who He said He is, why don’t we go for broke in sharing all of Him with the world?  I’m excited to be part of a community that more and more is willing to risk it all for the sake of those who don’t yet know Jesus.

What do you think about third places?  What would need to be true for your passion for lost people to be white hot?


  1. Dustin W. Stout on July 26, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Hi Carey! I saw Erwin talk about this in 2009 at Catalyst West Coast and the ideas still compel me as well! Thanks for jotting these down– I couldn’t find my notes from that conference. I remember this talk (which was part of the pre-sessions) more than any other.

    • Carey on August 1, 2012 at 9:39 am

      Dustin…thanks. I heard Erwin give the talk in Toronto and it really had an impact on me.

  2. Lisa McCarthy on March 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Thank you for reposting this! It was SOOO good. A healthy, healthy-wake up reminder!

    • Carey on March 25, 2011 at 5:05 pm

      Thanks Marilyn and Lisa…appreciate your feedback. Revisiting Erwin’s ideas did that to me too – reminded me and fueled my passion and focus.

  3. Marilyn Muller on March 25, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Loved this article Carey; I was at their conference Mosaic/Catalyst West that year where he continued to communicate his vision re: third places…it changed me profoundly… thanks for the reminder… and thanks for modelling it for the rest of us… have a great weekend!

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