Three Pieces of Glass

Why We Feel Lonely in a World Mediated by Screens

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Loneliness is increasingly recognized as a major public health crisis that is on the rise and impacting people of all ages. Addressing the crisis of loneliness from a fresh perspective, this book introduces belonging as an overlooked but critical aspect of a flourishing Christian life.

Eric Jacobsen shows how three pieces of glass--the car windshield, TV, and smartphone--are emblematic of significant societal shifts that have created a cultural habit of physical isolation. We feel increasingly disconnected from the people and places around us. Jacobsen explains how adopting everyday practices and making changes in our neighborhoods can help us create a sense of belonging and rediscover what belonging in a place looks like. In order to effectively solve the problem of loneliness, we need to recover patterns and practices of community life that encourage us to form meaningful connections with people and stories that are part of the places where we live, work, and worship. To this end, Jacobsen offers four redemptive strategies for living a more intentional and spiritual life.


Introduction: Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Part 1: Definitions
1. What Is Belonging?
2. The Special Need for Civic Belonging
3. Signs, Instruments, and Foretastes of Belonging
Part 2: Kingdom Belonging
4. The Character of Kingdom Belonging
5. The Character of Worldly Belonging
6. The Shape of Kingdom Belonging
7. Strangers and Kingdom Belonging
8. Kingdom and Covenant Belonging
Part 3: The Gospel and Belonging
9. The Promise of Community
Excursus: Social Capital
10. The Promise of Homecoming
Excursus: Place Attachment
11. The Promise of a Good Story
Excursus: Thick and Thin Language
Part 4: A Crisis of Belonging
12. Three Pieces of Glass: The Crisis of Belonging in Relationships
13. The Declining Civic Realm: The Crisis of Belonging in Places
14. Busy: The Crisis of Belonging in Story
Part 5: The Shapes Choices Take
15. Communally Shaped Choices
16. Policy-Shaped Choices
17. Liturgically Shaped Choices
Part 6: Encouraging Belonging
18. Belonging by Design
19. Belonging through Proximity
20. Belonging by Placemaking
21. Belonging and Local Culture
Conclusion: Belonging to the God Who Knows Your Name


"Eric Jacobsen's Sidewalks in the Kingdom was transformative for our family. It literally changed the way we walk. I expect Three Pieces of Glass is going to change the way people see--and most importantly, how we see one another. It's hard to imagine a more timely book for our fractured, lonely republic."

James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy, Calvin University; author of You Are What You Love and On the Road with Saint Augustine

"Three Pieces of Glass is a revelatory examination of our human need to belong, showing how this universal desire is a reflection of God's own nature, his good design, and our ultimate purpose. In these pages, Eric O. Jacobsen points the way past the various fractures and false senses of community that characterize today's culture in order to help us find--for ourselves and others--true belonging."

Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More--Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist

"Eric Jacobsen's Three Pieces of Glass is a wise and much-needed book, a rich mix of social analysis and theology. Jacobsen offers churches a deep well of imagination for how we can be catalysts of belonging in a world that is dying of loneliness. Three Pieces of Glass is one of the very few books that is both hopeful and helpful for churches as we try to navigate the profound brokenness of late-modern culture, as manifested in our particular places."

C. Christopher Smith, senior editor, The Englewood Review of Books; author of How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church

"Eric Jacobsen is a pioneer in the place-based movement. Three Pieces of Glass is a must read for anyone who cares about their community and their literal neighbors. The four practices that Eric outlines in this book are crucial to experiencing the kind of life that we are yearning to live."

Dave Runyon, coauthor of The Art of Neighboring

The Author

  1. Eric O. Jacobsen
    Emma Jacobsen

    Eric O. Jacobsen

    Eric O. Jacobsen (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, Washington. He is the author of The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment, Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New...

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