UNDERDOG REPORT: What Happened to YOUR Third Place? Part 1 – Frozen Out Of Fellowship | Joe Hoft


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UNDERDOG REPORT: What Happened to YOUR Third Place? Part 1 – Frozen Out Of Fellowship

What Happened to YOUR Third Place? Part 1 – Frozen Out Of Fellowship

A Third Place is a familiar public spot where people connect, over a shared interest or activity, with others they may, or may not know. The term was coined by Ray Oldenburg in the early 1990s.[1]  In his book Celebrating The Third Place[2], he defines these social surroundings as being separate from the home (“the first place”) and the workplace (“the second place”).[3]

He explained these places are essential to community and public life, saying they are central to a community’s vitality. Third Places are usually real-life places compared TV’s, phones, and other ‘screen-time’ alternatives. Think of the TV show “Cheers,” a place where “everyone knows your name.”  Third Places allow people to enjoy the company and conversation around them. They can be bars, coffee shops, general stores, barb shops, etc.


Here are some of  attributes to a Third Place[4]

  • No importance on an individual’s status in a society
  • A home away from home
  • Conversation is encouraged
  • Accessibility and accommodation
  • Regulars that welcome newcomers
  • Not snobby or pretentious (no keeping up with the Jones’)
  • Conversation without tension or hostility


Unfortunately, the Plandemic began wiping out Third Places, leaving many isolated and alone. After COVID, inflation continued this decline as many people could no longer afford to frequent their favorite Third Place. Typically, these Third Places are inexpensive places, but this is changing quickly. Have you gone to a coffee shop lately? It’s so easy to spend $20 on a drink and a pastry. These rising costs are driving people away. They are being frozen out.

It’s surprising (or maybe it’s not so surprising), that Oldenburg did not place churches in his list of the top Third Places, and I agree with him.[5]  Over the past few decades churches have strived to become like a Third Place by offering coffee bars, concert like performances (the altar became a stage), larger congregations where it is easy to get lost, and multiple service times where people are herded in and out limiting their ability to interface with one another.



Church used to be a place where people would gather, sharing food and conversation in a variety of alternative type meetings (Opposed to and in addition to Sunday Worship). When the Mega Church became popular, people were attracted to them for the “services” they offered, and congregants became ‘consumers of faith,’ shopping for the best experience or amenities a church offered. The best product may win, but people frequently got lost in the process. To be fair, large churches are not bad, but they have to offer an intimate alternative to stadium like gatherings, and these gatherings can’t be in the building called “church.” What’s the solution? Hint, “It’s not the Place.”


The absolutely best Third Place is really the First Place, the home. Let’s stop concentrating on the ‘place’ and look into what these places really offer. What is the attraction of a Third Place, is it the place, or who it offers? Let’s be honest, it’s not the place, it what you receive from the place that make it so attractive. So, what is so attractive about third places? Fellowship. The Fellowship of the family of Believers. We need to stop trying to be a place and to be what God intended, a family.

Gathering Celebration 4

Psalms 133:1 (NIV) How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

You can see from the this verse it is “good and pleasant” when God’s people experience fellowship together.


In Part 2, I will explore how the home was always identified to be the ‘place” where the ‘church’ meets. The Greek word for church in the New Testament is ‘ekklēsia.’ It is a group of people who meet together (are you beginning to understand where this is going?); especially a religious congregation, an assembly of people, not a building that houses an assembly.

Our ‘temple’ (think of the Old Testament), or our human body, becomes a ‘Church’ when two or more people are gather in Jesus’ name.

John 2:19, 21 (NIV) 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” …21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.

Matthew 18:20 (KJV) 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Be sure to check back next week as we explore, in the First Place, the importance of a Third Place that meets in the First Place. 😊

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  14. Epstein’s Victims – Sexual Abuse Part 3


The Underdog Report is a team of two men, one Black and one Brown who write on current event from a Biblical perspective. The use of the possessive “I” is interchangeable between both parties.


 [1] https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/third-place-community-spaces/

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Celebrating-Third-Place-Inspiring-Communities/dp/1569246122

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_place

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_place

[5] https://www.chrismorton.info/2015/01/15/why-your-church-will-never-be-a-good-third-place/

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