The Death of Public Space


Many emerging church communities are exploring simple and sustainable forms of church, having no advertising, no teaching, minimal programs, and no obvious leaders. And I think this is vital.

But in doing so are we in danger of losing something vital, too?

Attendance at our emerging church group may include the risk of uncertainty, food, and relationship. Our groups run the danger of involving people into in the people’s worst fears: forced intimacy, sharing, and lack of public space. People want to watch, listen, and observe without pressure because very few relationships are intimate . . . we tend to think of intimacy as the ‘Mecca’ of relationship.

But would all relationships in our lives be better if they were intimate?

Emerging churches by their nature necessitate intimacy, but this very attribute can be a hurdle to many people ever connecting meaningfully with us. Those of us that really enjoy these new forms of community, can validate ourselves as committed and “authentically" Christian/Missional etc, in comparison with those who do not. Rather than being open communities, our new expressions can become closed and as culturally exclusive. Our new groups can become small communities made up of tired, frustrated Christians who reject the church and view the new community as an ideal place.

A primary axiom of some groups is in the area of gathering. Many emerging church groups have moved away from any form of public, congregational space. Joe Myers, however, suggested that public space is vital for postmodern people to connect. Gathering has been vital to pre-modern, modern eras, and will be in the postmodern church. It can be argued that fear of congregations may restrict the ability of many groups to be significantly missional.

We need the mission of God through the church to take place in all the spaces, public, social, private and intimate.

For an intro to the nature of how people belong to different spaces, get hold of Joe Myers, "The Search to Belong".