PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE
I have already shared that one of the places I hang out and study is the local cigar shop. I have not simply made it a "second office," but a place where I have built friendships and learned a lot along the way. Yes, I share the gospel there as God provides opportunity, but it is also where I share my life with others. I and many others from our church are members at this tobacconist and for us it is one of the places where we live among the people to whom God has sent us. It has also proven to be a place of learning in multiple ways. During this week I will share just five things I have learned in the cigar shop.
Part One: Participate, Don’t Isolate
I have seen a number of Christians and pastors frequent third places with the hope of building relationship or sharing the gospel. But I have also seen such people isolate themselves from others around them by wearing earbuds and working without giving or seeking opportunities to connect with others. It isn't enough to be present at the coffee house, barber shop, diner, comic store, or gym, we must participate.
This is easier at the cigar shop than many other places because I have found, in cigar shops across the United States, that the people there are ready to share ideas, tell stories, debate, and listen. There is a certain amount of down time afforded to those who slow down for this shared experience of a smoke. Nevertheless, this still requires that introverts (like me) are ready and willing to engage--sitting down with others, joining conversations, and opening ourselves up. Because I know that this is a place I will be at long-term I do not feel the rush to push every conversation toward a decision to believe in Jesus. I am there to love my neighbor, and bear witness to the truth in both word and action. In whatever third place you find yourself it is important that you are not there to be a mere consumer, but a contributing part of the group. There is no hope of sharing the gospel or even becoming a part of a shop unless you are both present and participating.
In the following posts I'll talk a little more about how to participate and the difference between making friends and treating people like projects in the places God allows us to step into as followers of Jesus.