Leonard Hjalmarson has a book project, Broken Futres, and he posted a couple of pages of it over at his website, Next Reformation. In it he talks about one of my (fairly new) favorite concepts — LIMINALITY. His point is that the changing of our culture, where Christianity is moving from a place of cultural prominence to a place on the sidelines, makes for a sort of porous boundary, a thin space, between church and culture. The lines are less clear which allows for creativity and some fluidity.
Here’s what he writes:
Transition is a place of liminality, of instability and contradictions. The old Latin word “limina” means threshold. Liminality is a space in-between where nothing seems clear…
Liminality is a place in between. It is emptiness and nowhere. Adolescence is the liminal space between childhood and adulthood; but what if entire communities are entering liminal space? Gareth Brandt writes, “Societal circumstances in the past few decades have created another developmental stage now known as emerging adulthood. The characteristics of this stage are inherently ambivalent, ideological, and transitional, which is why it is not easily recognizable as a distinct stage.” Brandt is describing a new experience of liminality that grows out of unique cultural conditions.
I find our local coffee shop to be a “liminal space.” It is a former church. There are pews. There is an old balcony. They serve fabulous coffee. And it’s still a place of fellowship and community. So, is it coffee shop? Is it church? Is it both?
And as the church moves to the sidelines, culturally, the lines between culture and church will blur…kinda’ like that coffee shop. This provides new opportunities to reach across those lines, finding new avenues for evangelism, and new places where culture and church meet.
And while, yes, this can be exceptionally troubling to those in the church, it is to be celebrated as a new way for the church to impact the world.