The Labor Department reported the economy added 203,000 jobs in November, in line with the progress of recent months.
Overall, the economy should be stronger in 2014, permitting the Federal Reserve to ease back on monthly bond purchases and let longer term interest rates rise modestly.
These purchases of government securities lowered mortgage rates and made home buying easier. These have helped push up housing values — and stock prices, too. These have had their desired effect, and now new ways to stimulate the economy must be found.
The unemployment rate fell to 7.0 percent, mostly because furloughed government workers returned to their jobs.
With third-quarter GDP growth at 3.6 percent, businesses should be adding more jobs but much of that growth was from additions to business inventories as consumers remain tightfisted and goods stay on the shelves. Overall consumer demand contributed about 1 percentage point to growth, whereas inventories accounted for 1.7 percent.
Major apparel retailers report huge stocks of unsold goods entering the final weeks of holiday shopping.
More broadly, Black Friday weekend disappointed their expectations for stronger sales than last year. These indicate much slower fourth-quarter growth, as businesses slow purchases and retailers trim headcount more than usual in January.
Auto sales and rising home values remain a bright spot. With the uncertainty of new U.S. military activity in the Middle East and effects of another government shutdown receding, consumers’ confidence should strengthen through December and into the New Year.
Overall growth will be between 1 percent and 2 percent in the fourth quarter and then strengthen to 2.5 percent to 3 percent in 2014. However, hiring will likely continue at its present pace or improve only moderately. Good-paying full-time jobs will continue to be scarce.
Overall, jobs creation is well short of the 365,000 needed each month to reduce unemployment to 6 percent over a period of two or three years, but that would require GDP growth in the range of 4 percent to 5 percent. Over the last four years, the pace has been a paltry 2.3 percent.
Along with anticipated penalties for not covering all employees working more than 30 hours per week in 2015, these will cause employers to either reconfigure toward more part-time workers or to only cautiously add workers.
Strident anti-business campaigns targeting McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and other employers of lower-skilled workers add to pressures to substitute machines for workers or move to a more part-time economy in hospitality, retailing and other activities where wages are already subpar and job security nonexistent. All with lax immigration enforcement, these exacerbate income inequality.
The situation remains particularly tough for recent college graduates and older Americans, and many working age adults have quit looking for work. Adding part-timers who want full-time employment and discouraged adults, the unemployment rate becomes 13.2 percent.
Stronger growth is indeed possible. Four years into the Reagan recovery, following a recession that pushed up unemployment to higher levels than President Barack Obama faced, the economy was growing at a 4.9 percent pace and creating jobs at a breakneck pace.
Still, in this environment, the Federal Reserve’s low interest-rate policies and quantitative easing (monthly purchases of $85 billion of Treasury and government-agency securities) have done about as much good as can be expected.
With a bit stronger growth beginning in 2014, look for the Fed to begin easing back on bond purchases.
The trade deficits on oil and manufacturing with China subtract substantially from demand for U.S. goods, services and workers.
Even with the recent surge in domestic production, petroleum imports exceed exports by more than 6 million barrels a day, and will require lifting bans on offshore drilling to eliminate.
Currency manipulation and other forms of protectionism remain problems with China, Japan and Germany — America’s main competitors.
Addressing those problems could add nearly more than 4 million jobs directly and 7 million jobs with the usual secondary effects, all but eliminating unemployment and substantially reducing inequality.
Astronomical federal deficit. Skyrocketing national debt. Obamacare and what lies (no pun intended) ahead. Escalating health care costs. Mushrooming taxes and hidden fees. Downsizing and pension cutbacks. Food and education increases. “Spread the wealth” socialistic policies.
Surviving and even thriving in the midst of today’s economic upheaval is the challenging task we all face. Many churches, in addressing financial matters, will focus on the area of giving the tithe, which is paramount, yet oftentimes overlook what God says about handling the other 90 percent. As a result, millions of people look to financial counselors like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman or secular forecasters for guidance and help.
Here’s the deal as we close out this year: God wants to both encourage and instruct all of us (myself included) to be ever looking to Him as our ultimate provider, in addition to being better financial stewards so we can glorify Him and be channels of blessing to others in need.
This is personal for my wife and me as we find ourselves closing the year without any more partial salary from a local church, health insurance, cell phone coverage or any perks that have been part of my ministry for more than 41 years. This is by divine design, as God recently transitioned me from a local church involvement “because of the present distress” (1 Cor. 7:26, NKJV) upon America, in order to serve the wider body of Christ in our desperate need for spiritual awakening and assurance as children of God.
Therefore, I’d like to offer some specific suggestions to assist all of us in becoming more like the “wise ant” of Proverbs 6:6-8 in preparing ourselves and saving money for whatever lies ahead. With a little self-discipline, discernment and prudent decision-making, we really can save “big bucks.” It comes the same way God instructed His people to take the Promised Land: “little by little” (Deut.7:22).
Our motivation in saving this money should not be to spend it frivolously on unnecessary items but rather to be faithful stewards by diminishing any debt we may have, keeping Joseph-like supplies in readiness and investing in God-honoring ministries, ministers and missionaries.
In Luke 16:10-11, Jesus says, “If you are not faithful in money matters, who will entrust the true riches to you?”
Aubrey Andelin, an author on marriage and family says, “Few families are free of anxieties and contentions in the matter of family finances. To some it is a matter of such major importance as to be an ever-festering sore, never healing and continually thwarting the happiness of the home. As a factor in marital breakup, it is one of the primary causes.”
Are you ready to enter into a new dimension of financial rest through the “exchange zone”? To save money and have more to give, will you make choices substituting one thing for another to discover big dividends in the end? Let me illustrate by citing “exchanges” made in the realm of eating habits that bring the benefits of weight loss and longevity of life.
The best-selling paperback series entitled Eat This, Not That! presents the reader with thousands of simple food swaps that can save individuals 10, 20 or 30 pounds—or more! Once people are informed of the hefty caloric content in foods they routinely consume and change over to healthier items, they discover weight loss as well as increased energy. Examples of items the author exhorts us to replace include (calories follow the listings):
$1· Cinnabon, classic cinnamon roll (813)
$1· Outback, cheese fries with ranch (2900)
$1· Uno, classic deep-dish personal pizza (2300)
$1· Panera, Sierra turkey sandwich (840)
$1· Pizza Hut, 4 slices supreme pan pizza with pepperoni (1672)
$1· Starbucks, bran nut muffin with Venti white hot chocolate (1530)
$1· Ruby Tuesday, Bella turkey burger (1145)
$1· McDonald’s, hotcakes with biscuit without syrup and margarine (1090)
Scary, huh? Yet as Scripture tells us to add to our “knowledge, self-control” (2 Pet. 1:6), once we’re informed, we can exercise self-control in making better choices.
So here goes. These are not presented in some rigid, legalistic way but rather as practical suggestions, enabling you to save money God’s “little by little” way and have more to give.
1. Renounce all impulse buying. Commit to live by this pledge: If I can’t afford it, I don’t need it. If I need it, I’ll save for it.Remember the biblical admonition: “Owe no one anything” (Rom. 13:8, NKJV).
2. Enjoy the free cup of coffee offered by most local grocery chains, and forego the daily Starbucks specialty routine.Incredible as it may seem, this will save you more than $1,200 annually. If you skip that breakfast bagel, roll or sandwich, you’ll save an additional $1,500 to $1,800. That total comes to $3,000!
3. In the winter, save on electricity. Lower your thermostat to 62°, wear sweaters, use inexpensive oil heaters, and close off rooms and vents not being used. This actually is not only cheaper, it’s also healthier!
4. Buy gas at Costco or similar discount stores to save 10 cents a gallon. This adds up to thousands of dollars yearly.
5. Pray about and then purchase pre-owned cars instead of the latest luxury model, which depreciates markedly when driven off the lot. I love my red and reliable 2000 Honda coupe that I got for $4,400 a decade ago. Billionaire Warren Buffett drives a similarly humble car and lives in the same house he bought in 1957. The IKEA founder has been known to drive a 15-year-old Volvo, while Wal-Mart heir Jim Walton drives a 15-year-old pickup truck. Regarding selection of an automobile, to each his own, but don’t get snared with payments, pricey repairs or status symbols.
6. Unless there’s some scholarship or major financial aid included, don’t be fooled into thinking your child must go to some prestigious out-of-state school to succeed. Read the Wall Street Journal on “Employers Favor State Schools for Hires” or the bookDebt-Free: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships or Mooching Off My Parents for eye-opening information. Payment plans for local colleges can average $250 a week. Count the cost here to avoid tens of thousands of debt requiring payback for sometimes even decades.
7. Look for bargains. My Messianic Jewish friend of 35 years, Bob Weiner, always chides me, “Larry, you know why God created Gentiles? He knew somebody would have to pay retail!”
Consider the following alternatives:
$1· Go to the movies between 4 and 6 p.m., when it’s 1/2 price.
$1· Buy Christmas, birthday and anniversary gifts for the future after the holidays, when stores like Barnes & Noble and Target offer items up to 80 percent off.
$1· Get generic prescription drugs, which can be 75-85 percent less than advertised brands.
$1· Purchase in bulk at discount superstores.
$1· Don’t rent DVDs but go to your library, where you can find hundreds of great, free DVDs.
$1· Bring home all the toiletries from the motels when you travel.
$1· Re-use grocery store plastic bags as wastebasket liners.
$1· If you have a cable system, regularly call and cash in on discounts and specials, and make appeals to lower your rates as a loyal customer.
$1· Instead of rushing off to the cleaners, get a wrinkle-free spray to restore items of clothing.
There are so many more creative ways you can be a good steward and save money, but these are just a few that come to mind.
8. Save on the water bill. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. Wait until you have a full load for the washer. Shorten your shower times or take the “wet, off, soap, rinse, done!” approach. Finally, have a chuckle at the wisdom my daughter brought home from Youth With a Mission concerning saving water and money in the bathroom: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down!”
9. If you are pregnant and not a high-risk pregnancy, prayerfully consider the option of a skilled and caring midwife. Outside the United States, 80 percent of babies are born under the care of midwives. Two of our three children were born this way. Hospital costs can run into the tens of thousands. Epidurals can cost $5,000 and a C-section $12,000. While this option isn’t for everyone, an average $600 bill for a midwife can be an attractive draw in these economically challenged times.
10. Worship God with your tithes, offerings and charitable gifts. This is the most important item of all! The Malachi 3:8-12 “covenant of blessing” is a sure way to experience godly abundance and prosperity. As someone once said, “Everyone tithes—either to the Lord or to the doctor, the dentist or the car mechanic.”
Difficult days are before us as we close out a year and look to a new one. Re-read in the Gospels what Jesus foretells concerning the days prior to His return. In these days, Proverbs exhorts us, “The prudent see danger and take refuge” (NIV), but “the fool goes on and suffers for it” (NLV). Let’s be prudent in preparing spiritually and economically for whatever lies ahead.
Larry Tomczakis a best-selling author and cultural commentator with over 40 years of trusted ministry experience. His passion is to bring perspective, analysis and insight from a biblical worldview. He loves people and loves awakening them to today’s cultural realities and the responses needed for the bride of Christ—His church—to become influential in all spheres of life once again.
“There are enough applications on the iPad that allow me to write and edit about as well as I could on a laptop,” he told AdWeek.
Despite his digital commitment, Gingrich said he doesn’t play computer games, although he toyed with the idea of buying the latest “Grand Theft Auto.”
“I almost bought Grand Theft Auto V, but my staff talked me out of it. I thought, anything that sold a billion dollars’ worth in three days, you should at least have some notion of what it was like,” he said. “But some of the younger staff explained, ‘This is probably not you.’”
He does use Twitter and Facebook, but doesn’t mess with Instagram. His @newtgingrich Twitter account has almost 1.5 million followers.
Gingrich told AdWeek that he and Callista use Google Glass mostly for video purposes because “we’re not that clever yet” to do some of the more out-of-the-ordinary things.
“I’m not sure that it’s going to catch on since it’s a little weird, but one of our theories is that you want to constantly push yourself to try something new and different,” he said.
New and different doesn’t extend to TV, though, where Gingrich said he watches mostly old movies and sports. But he is using Duolingo and Rosetta Stone apps on his iPad to learn Spanish. His wife’s favorite is a McDonald’s app that shows where the nearest Big Mac can be found, he said.
“We’re both McDonald’s fanatics,” he told AdWeek. It’s a love that gets him a lot of attention online.
On that sunny afternoon, as my husband and I took a fitness walk along a row of car dealerships, I never dreamed we would be cruising home in a brand-new red Saab convertible. The car just seemed to fit the day. After all, this was Southern California, where sunshine and fancy cars abound.
It is also a place where many judge you by what you drive. Of course, we already owned a prestigious foreign convertible, but it had become a real headache with its never-ending expensive repair bills.
As we negotiated with the Saab salesman to purchase the car, we abandoned the idea of a trade-in because of the tremendous loss we would have had to take on the market value. Besides, we had driven my husband’s car that day, and the problem car was at home. We would just have to sell it on our own.
After several hours of waiting while the salesman repeatedly checked “with the manager in the back,” we drove off into the sunset basking in the exhilaration of having purchased a new toy.
It took only a few days for us to face the sobering reality that we now had three cars to insure and maintain. Plus, the monthly note was so huge that it rivaled the note on a rental property investment!
It took us much longer to sell the headache car than we had anticipated. We finally admitted that we had made an emotional purchase. We had bought the Saab out of frustration with the old car plus a desire to maintain a certain image.
I take no pleasure in sharing this story. In fact, I experienced a great deal of guilt over the transaction because I am a certified public accountant and am assumed by most people to be frugal with myfunds.
My husband is also an astute financial manager. Even though we have never made a purchase we could not afford, emotional transactions simply do not reflect good stewardship of the moneyGod entrusts to us.
After a year, we sold the car and invested in a single-family home, which ultimately yielded a handsome return. God graciously redeemed our mistake.
Unfortunately, the Saab was not the last of our emotional spending.
The problem with an emotional purchase is that it doesn’t eliminate the emotion that motivated it, nor will it bring any lasting satisfaction. Isaiah the prophet asked, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” (Is. 55:2, NIV).
Spending to pacify an emotion is like being given an anesthesia but never getting the required surgery; you get temporary relief, but the problem remains.
I did some honest soul-searching about the car acquisition and concluded that many of my purchases emanated from my basic personality temperament. As a hard-driving, goal-oriented person, I found that my acquisitions were a way of saying, “I’ve made it.”
I wanted to be recognized as a success without having to say a word. After all, I abhorred braggarts, egotists and others who openly exhibited pride because of their possessions.
Having counseled singles, seniors and soulmates—and having observed their spending habits—I have concluded that everyone must come to grips with their emotional view of finances before they attempt to master the mechanics of money management. I can lecture until I’m blue in the face about the importance of having an emergency cash reserve or contributing the maximum amount to the company’s matching retirement plan or getting out of debt. But despite my admonitions, a single overriding emotion can cause anybody to abandon sound financial judgment.
Here are seven emotions that may cause you to spend in an unwise manner and some ways to deal with them:
1. Stress. “You deserve a break today,” declares the popular McDonald’s fast-food slogan. If you are constantly confronted with stressful situations, you do need to find relief—but not through spending.
My husband and I purchased a 32-foot cruiser boat with the hope of finding relief from our stressful schedules. The boat show was held at the marina, so we experienced on the spot what it would be like to chill out on our own boat. Just the thought of leisurely weekends cruising around Southern California’s harbors was enough to seal the deal.
It wasn’t long before the boat itself became a source of stress. Whoever said, “The two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day he purchases it and the day he sells it” was right!
In my book 30 Days to Taming Your Stress, I list 30 ways to address stress, including controlling your finances, setting boundaries, exercising, releasing unrealistic expectations, delegating, saying no and a host of other actions. There are numerous choices available to you to reduce stress—other than spending money!
2. Anger. Shopping may help you work off a little steam; however, if you peel your anger onion, at the core of it you may find you are angry with yourself. Perhaps you tolerated someone’s bad behavior, failed to speak up, put yourself at risk, disappointed God or indulged in a number of other regretful acts.
Before you run to the mall, get in touch with why you are feeling the way you do and deal with the root of the issue. Repent, if necessary, or confront the people involved.
If face-to-face is not possible, then write a letter expressing how you really feel about what has happened and what changes you desire. Ask God to give you His words and His wisdom so that you can be direct, honest and godly in your approach.
3. Boredom. Television and Internet shopping companies thrive off the boredom that drives buyers to indulge their fantasies. The best way to combat boredom is to invest time in meaningful diversions that move you toward your goals or make life better for others. Here are a few suggestions:
Take a crafts class or other class of interest at your local community college. They are usually low-cost and short in duration and are a great way to meet new people with common interests.
Host or teach a class at home on a subject of interest to those in your circle of interaction.
Volunteer with a church or other charity to visit nursing homes, hospitals, orphanages or shelters. I used to get great satisfaction from just combing the hair of elderly people who never received any visitors. The staff will welcome your support, and the patrons will never forget your act of kindness.
Keep a supply of blank notecards. Send a word of encouragement to someone who needs it (for example, your minister, a college student, a mom with small children or someone who is ill). Helping others is personally rewarding and usually requires little more than your time.
Even if your expenditures seem to be minor, beware. Those frequent discounted purchases can really add up.
Anne, a receptionist, visits the 99 Cents Store when she is bored. She rationalizes that her spending is relatively harmless since the items cost so little. She doesn’t want to face the fact that her regular $5 to $10 purchases exceed a few hundred dollars during the course of a month.
Remember that boredom spending is just a temporary cure. The thrill of the purchase will fade in record time, and then you’ll need another fix. This vicious cycle is sure to keep you in a financial pit.
4. Depression. Recall the last thing you purchased with the hope that it would cheer you up? Did it? If so, for how long?
I know I’m treading on sensitive ground here, but if you are depressed, it may be because you have become the center of your world; you have focused all your attention on how things are affecting you. If you dare to step out of the spotlight and shine it on someone else, you’ll find amazing results.
See the list above for possible activities that may refocus your attention. Also, consider getting a psychological evaluation by a medical professional.
5. Insecurity. When you are unsure of your inherent worth as an individual, you may buy things you think will impress others. One of my counselees, Lucy (not her real name), drives a pricey BMW but cannot afford to go out for Sunday dinner even at an inexpensive restaurant.
“I want a car that’s a good investment,” she lies to me and to herself. The truth is that her entire self-worth is wrapped up in sporting the car around and being admired for owning it. It is her only asset besides her clothes.
If you are like Lucy, ask the Holy Spirit to give you the courage to stop living a lie and to begin spending at your affordability level. Value the intangible assets that you bring to the table such as a sense of humor, integrity, dependability, perseverance and so forth. Don’t be like Haman, the insecure Persian official who needed the king’s horse, the king’s robe and association with a noble prince to feel honored (Esth. 6:7-9).
Rather, adopt the mindset of the Proverbs 31 woman: “She perceives that her merchandise is good” (v. 18, NKJV). This woman was not dependent on outside validation; she knew inwardly that her merchandise (what she brought to the table) was good.
6. Frustration. Thwarted plans, unmet expectations or other unfulfilled desires can send you running for mall therapy—unless you have totally embraced the truth of Isaiah 14:27: “For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart Him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” (NIV).
From Natural News: Today we announce the first investigation conducted at the Natural News Forensic Food Laboratory, the new science-based research branch of Natural News where we put foods under the microscope and find out what’s really there.
Earlier today I purchased a 10-piece Chicken McNuggets from a McDonald’s restaurant in Austin, Texas. Under carefully controlled conditions, I then examined the Chicken McNuggets under a high-powered digital microscope, expecting to see only processed chicken bits and a fried outer coating.
But what I found instead shocked even me. I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff in my decade of investigating foods and nutrition, but I never expected to find this…
These are shown in extreme detail in the photos below, taken on August 15, 2013 at the Natural News Forensic Food Lab. The actual Chicken McNugget samples used in these photos have been frozen for storage of forensic evidence.
We also found odd red coloring splotches in several locations, as well as a spherical green object that resembles algae.
We are not claiming or implying that these objects in any way make McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets unsafe to consume. We do, however, believe that this visual evidence may warrant an FDA investigation into the ingredient composition of Chicken McNuggets.
In particular, where are the hair-like structures coming from? This is especially important to answer, given that chickens do not have hair. Is there cross-species contamination in the processing of Chicken McNuggets? This question needs to be answered. source – Natural News
Editor’s note: Prophetic author Jennifer LeClaire sounds the alarm on key issues impacting the church and society through her bold writing. Sign up today to stay informed and join her as a “watchman on the wall” interceding for these times. Click here to sign up for the newsletter.
Nearly a year ago, I wrote about a wicked back-to-school abortion pricing special that saw dozens of babies literally massacred in Orlando, Fla.
Sept. 19 went down in pro-life history as “free baby-killing day.”
On that dark day, scores of pregnant young women—probably scared, anxious or resentful—lined up at the Orlando Women’s Center to take the abortion clinic up on its offer to brutally murder their pre-born babies—free of charge. You can read about it here.
Fast-forward about nine months (how ironic), and justice seemed to be served. The Orlando Women’s Center was surrounded by police, moving trucks, news reporters, attorneys and crime-scene tape while sheriffs raided and seized all assets from inside the building, according to Pro-Life Action Ministries. The siege was the result of the final judgment in a $36.7 million lawsuit against late-term abortionist James Pendergraft.
Now the stubborn late-term abortionist is back in business at the Orlando Women’s Center—and he’s looking to attract new customers with new pricing schemes. The clinic, which promises “quality care is tradition,” may have too many bills to pay to offer abortions for free. But it is offering a $50 discount to relieve some financial stress for any woman who needs one more reason to get an abortion.
And get this: The coupon is only good on Sundays. God forbid the woman go to church and hear a word of encouragement from an anointed vessel that causes her to keep her baby! But wait—there’s more. Women who act quickly can also take advantage of free deep IV sedation so they can escape, at least temporarily, the horror of the procedure.
Pendergraft is still maximizing his murderous profits, though. His coupon states clearly that the offer doesn’t include the office visit charge, gynecologist visits, emergency contraception, ultrasound, lab tests, blood work, birth control pills or shots. And he also makes it clear that abortion-seekers can only use one coupon—and if they forget, in their distressed emotional state, to present the coupon before the procedure takes place, then they have to pay the full amount.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This is a sickening marketing display that treats murder like a 59-cent cheeseburger on Wednesdays at McDonald’s. Unfortunately for scared, young, pregnant and cash-strapped girls, this may seem like an offer too good to refuse.
Beyond discounts, this late-term abortion mill strips away any possible obstacle to having an abortion. Prefer a female doctor? You got it. Need to be convinced, er, “reassured” in the middle of the night? You can do a live chat or have direct email contact with a consulting physician 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Too busy to wait in line? The website promises “immediate appointments available.”
The pro-life community rejoiced when one of this late-term abortionist’s five Florida clinics was shut down this summer, only to be disappointed by its reopening and now deep discounts on abortions. Even though this death camp has resurfaced in Orlando, now is not the time to give up the fight.
And we fight in prayer.
Once again, I urge you to pray. Pray not just for the late-term abortionist to come to repentance through an encounter with Jesus, but pray also for the women considering abortion. Pray for them to get a revelation of the precious life they carry within. And pray that the women who have had abortions would come to the knowledge of the saving grace of Christ, which rids them of the guilt and shame of abortion. Just pray. And don’t stop praying. Amen.
Recently Starbucks unveiled its biggest overhaul in its forty-year history.
Though still a prototype, a new kind of Starbucks has launched in Seattle’s bustling Capitol Hill area which serves regional wine and beer, along with an expansive plate of locally made cheeses served on china. The barista bar is reconfigured to allow customers to sit close to the coffee.
It doesn’t really look like a Starbucks at all, but more like a café that’s been part of the neighborhood for years. So don’t be surprised when you find an outdoor deck and an indoor/outdoor fireplace.
Starbucks is trying to get the after 2 p.m. business that other java joints have been peeling away from them for years. If it works, expect it to come to a Starbucks near you.
The point isn’t about beer and wine – it’s about the importance of a “third place.”
And Starbucks wants to be that place.
Most people have two social environments: their home and their workplace (or depending on your situation in life, their home and their school).
In his book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg argues that we need a “third” place. His thesis is that the home is where we live and constitutes who we live with; our workplace/school is probably where we spend the most time but is very “task” oriented in nature. We need a “third” place to provide a mooring for community life and wider, more fluid, creative interaction.
So what are the marks of a good “third” place?
Oldenburg suggests that they should be free (or at least inexpensive); provide food and drink; be highly accessible (even walking distance); encourage “regulars”; be welcoming and comfortable; and allow for both new friends and old to be found in its confines.
In the U.K., I think it’s safe to say that the “third” place has been the pub (though as a frequent traveler and fan, real ones are fading fast). In the Middle East, the Hookah lounge seems to fit the bill. In the United States, we didn’t have one. That is until Starbucks, which might explain the coffee chain business exploding into a $15 billion enterprise.
Has it ever really been about the coffee? Most taste comparisons put Dunkin’ Donuts, or lately even McDonald’s, ahead in the taste department. No, it’s where you go to read a book, meet a friend, work with others on a project…
It is a “third” place, one that we obviously want and need.
Where should the church be in this conversation?
Right in the middle.
The church, wherever she is, should be conscious of casting itself as a “third” place.
Biblically, it seemed to be a mark of the early church. We read that they met in homes, sure, but they also had a “third” place they seemed to frequent on a daily basis – the temple courts (Acts 2:46). While they may have been there to engage in actual temple worship on a daily basis (not the sacrifices, but the prayer service, cf. Acts 3:1), it is more likely they turned the temple courtyard into a first-century Starbucks in order to gather as a community (e.g., Acts 5:12).
From the beginning there seemed to be a need and a desire for the new community forged in Christ’s church to offer a real, tangible “third” place.
How is the church offering that today, or is it one more dynamic we’ve given over to the secular world as it gains even more of a hold over our lives?
People often denounce churches that invest in such things as coffee bars or bookstores, designed to allow people to congregate throughout the week and around weekend services, as if it is one more sign of selling out to the culture.
In truth, Starbucks may be reminding us how to reclaim culture.