the monkey and the fish

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. school of ministry and missions instructor. president of fistbump media, llc.

March 5, 2009

The Monkey and the FishA typhoon stranded a monkey on an island. In a protected place on the shore, while waiting for the raging waters to recede, he spotted a fish swimming against the current. It seemed to the monkey that the fish was struggling and needed assistance. Being of kind heart, the monkey resolved to help the fish.

A tree leaned precariously over the spot where the fish seemed to be struggling. At considerable risk to himself, the monkey moved far out on a limb, reached down, and snatched the fish from the waters. Scurrying back to the safety of his shelter, he carefully laid the fish on dry ground. For a few moments, the fish showed excitement but soon settled into a peaceful rest.

— An Old Eastern Parable

Doesn’t this sound a lot like evangelism in the church today? That’s one of the main points that Pastor and Author Dave Gibbons makes in his new book The Monkey and the Fish: Liquid Leadership for a Third-Culture Church. (Keep reading…   you’ll have an opportunity to get some free stuff…)

Gibbons makes the case that if the church wants to succeed in reaching other cultures (whether it is a third-world nation living in extreme poverty, or the college student that is searching for meaning while hanging out at the local pub) then we shouldn’t expect to always bring them into our preconceived ideas of what ‘church’ is, and think that they will be better off.

Check out this video of Gibbons sharing about this idea of being a ‘third culture’ church and sending out a team to build a church in another community…

[youtube wr-wTKPb9xo Video :: Dave Gibbons: Third Culture]

Recently, we’ve had the opportunity to ask Gibbons some questions, and he’s taken the time to answer them. Here are the results of that discussion…

BibleDude: What would you say to someone who has a hard time with the idea of ‘taking church’ into certain places (such as bars or other ‘questionable’ locations) because they see it as compromising their integrity?

Gibbons: Perhaps they shouldn’t go. I wouldn’t want to persuade them to do something that’s “compromise” in their eyes. It wouldn’t be good for them or the people living in those marginal spaces. 

BibleDude (submitted by Paul Cheezem): How do we get the church to embrace a third culture outlook when too many of the church have yet to embrace a first culture outlook? Which is to say, too many of the church are bogged down in a fantasy culture that they believe existed a half-century ago, even though it was not real even then.

Dave GibbonsGibbons: Yes, it’s definitely the work of the Holy Spirit! To ask people to enter into pain and suffering, eat foods they don’t like, hang out with people that make you uncomfortable is counter-cultural. I would say the key is for the one who does get it to start living out the third culture life. Personally, before the movement became church-wide, I felt God telling me I had to live it out more intentionally. So my family and I moved out to Bangkok. It starts with leadership and prayer.  As one engages real suffering and poverty, clarity emerges. For many in the first culture, it’s hard to shift. It doesn’t have to be either/or. My philosophy of life is about fueling the fringe and honoring the past.

As you live out third culture, invite others with you on the journey. I still remember taking a group of friends with me on a third culture vision trip about 5 years ago. We have never been the same. The impact now goes beyond my own circle of friends to people all over the world. 

BibleDude (submitted by Mary Ditmars): What are some of the major difficulties you have encountered in third culture church planting and how have you dealt with them?

Gibbons: Some difficulties I’ve encountered in dealing with third culture church planting are:

  1. Tendency to fall back into default habits, findings, and processes rather than seeing what God is doing or desires to do in the given context He has called us to.
  2. Lack of letting the indigenous, local leaders lead.
  3. Unsustainable models of church planting.
  4. Western constructs and forms that don’t engage the local culture.
  5. A focus on the non-essentials. Most of the world has no idea about post-modern, emergent, mega-churches, or simple churches.
  6. Loving people with strings. We ask people to listen to a sermon before we feed them.

What we try to do in our contexts around the world . . .

  1. Listen and Learn.
    Instead of resorting to default methodologies, forms and diatribes, it’s better to go as a learner and listen. In the west, especially if you’re more an entrepreneurial type pastor, you want to ramp it up as fast as you can. A good thing to do is to first focus on relationship, and let the vision emerge. As one gets to know the locals and their culture you affirm what God is doing and support the initiatives of these amazing leaders God already has developed.
  2. Sustainability.
    When you start churches, it’s good to think long term, holistic and sustainable. Often I’ve found churches in the West indiscriminately give to missional enterprises that they actually hurt the recipient, causing them to be overly dependent upon them. I’ve noticed this particularly as we have dealt with the work in India. Third culture organizations we work with are required to move towards self-sustainability. 
  3. Multiple forms and styles.
    I’ve noticed that we gravitate towards arguing over forms or styles in America. Is it emergent or boomer? Y or X? Mega church or simple church? Missional church or purpose-driven? The reality is all of the above! It all depends on the context, culture, calling and even the leader herself.
  4. Love without strings.
    This takes the mindset to know that God does the converting we do the loving and serving.

.

The Monkey and the Fish, by Dave GibbonsSo what other questions do you have? Throughout the day (for one day only), Dave Gibbons will be stopping by to answer other questions that you post in the comments here. What do you want to know about being third culture either locally or around the world?

And I will be giving  away a free copy of the book to one random commenter. So share your thoughts below even if you don’t have a question for Dave.

If you want to read more, then you can also download a free chapter of the book or purchase the book in the BibleDude Store.

You can also check out other stops that Dave Gibbons is making and see what other people have to say about all of this. Visit the post on the Zondervan blog to learn more.

43 Comments

  1. lespaul1963

    What about church plants here stateside amongst specific language/cultural groups, e.g., Latino, Hmong, Ukrainian, etc whom are straddling two cultures, their own and ours? Is it best to relate to them in their culture of origin context or should the attempt be made to help them assimilate into an American cultural context?

    Reply
  2. kristabelieves

    I love this analogy used with the monkey and the fish, and how it gives a great illustration of how we often approach evangelism.

    I have a question for Dave…

    I see how this third-culture church has been used abroad, but do you have some practical methods of how we can incorporate this type of living and evangelism on a local level in our own communities?

    Thanks,
    Krista

    Reply
  3. lespaul1963

    What about church plants here stateside amongst specific language/cultural groups, e.g., Latino, Hmong, Ukrainian, etc whom are straddling two cultures, their own and ours? Is it best to relate to them in their culture of origin context or should the attempt be made to help them assimilate into an American cultural context?

    Reply
  4. lespaul1963

    What about church plants here stateside amongst specific language/cultural groups, e.g., Latino, Hmong, Ukrainian, etc whom are straddling two cultures, their own and ours? Is it best to relate to them in their culture of origin context or should the attempt be made to help them assimilate into an American cultural context?

    Reply
  5. KimB

    I saw ANOTHER new term “third culture”…and thought, oh no….more new ways of viewing the world, and people, and the church. I was pleasantly surprised and relieved when I read the book reviews that the focus IS on Jesus and HIS ministry and how we as individuals as well as church bodies should be trying to imulate Him…….I am now excited about reading this book!

    Reply
  6. Jeff Skinner

    Good Stuff. How do you deal with the first culture folks that Toss words like heresy at those are simply seeking to reach those that the the church has missed or at worst disenfranchised?

    Reply
  7. kristabelieves

    I love this analogy used with the monkey and the fish, and how it gives a great illustration of how we often approach evangelism.I have a question for Dave…I see how this third-culture church has been used abroad, but do you have some practical methods of how we can incorporate this type of living and evangelism on a local level in our own communities?Thanks,Krista

    Reply
  8. kristabelieves

    I love this analogy used with the monkey and the fish, and how it gives a great illustration of how we often approach evangelism.

    I have a question for Dave…

    I see how this third-culture church has been used abroad, but do you have some practical methods of how we can incorporate this type of living and evangelism on a local level in our own communities?

    Thanks,
    Krista

    Reply
  9. KimB

    I saw ANOTHER new term “third culture”…and thought, oh no….more new ways of viewing the world, and people, and the church. I was pleasantly surprised and relieved when I read the book reviews that the focus IS on Jesus and HIS ministry and how we as individuals as well as church bodies should be trying to imulate Him…….I am now excited about reading this book!

    Reply
  10. KimB

    I saw ANOTHER new term “third culture”…and thought, oh no….more new ways of viewing the world, and people, and the church. I was pleasantly surprised and relieved when I read the book reviews that the focus IS on Jesus and HIS ministry and how we as individuals as well as church bodies should be trying to imulate Him…….I am now excited about reading this book!

    Reply
  11. Jeff Skinner

    Good Stuff. How do you deal with the first culture folks that Toss words like heresy at those are simply seeking to reach those that the the church has missed or at worst disenfranchised?

    Reply
  12. Marlo

    Serving the least of these…I was in a position when I worked with the government many years ago where I was serving this very population in our city. I am embarassed to say that I began to resent it after a few years. I lost my heart for it and became a bit hardened to 'the least of these'. I was quite a new Christian and didn't really have that heart of compassion for people – not God's heart. Any compassion I had was of my own flesh and that is why it disappeared. This is the main reason I left the field.

    I don't have a question, really. I just want to say that I cannot wait to read this book after watching the video clip and reading what the author had to say here on the blog. I believe, that even though I messed it up 9+ years ago when God presented me with the opportunity to serve, that He will use that past experience I had to continue to stir me up to serve today. But this time, I understand God's compassion and it is through HIM that I will serve, not by my own steam.

    Reply
  13. Marlo

    Serving the least of these…I was in a position when I worked with the government many years ago where I was serving this very population in our city. I am embarassed to say that I began to resent it after a few years. I lost my heart for it and became a bit hardened to 'the least of these'. I was quite a new Christian and didn't really have that heart of compassion for people – not God's heart. Any compassion I had was of my own flesh and that is why it disappeared. This is the main reason I left the field.

    I don't have a question, really. I just want to say that I cannot wait to read this book after watching the video clip and reading what the author had to say here on the blog. I believe, that even though I messed it up 9+ years ago when God presented me with the opportunity to serve, that He will use that past experience I had to continue to stir me up to serve today. But this time, I understand God's compassion and it is through HIM that I will serve, not by my own steam.

    Reply
  14. Jeff Skinner

    Good Stuff. How do you deal with the first culture folks that Toss words like heresy at those are simply seeking to reach those that the the church has missed or at worst disenfranchised?

    Reply
  15. Marlo

    Serving the least of these…I was in a position when I worked with the government many years ago where I was serving this very population in our city. I am embarassed to say that I began to resent it after a few years. I lost my heart for it and became a bit hardened to 'the least of these'. I was quite a new Christian and didn't really have that heart of compassion for people – not God's heart. Any compassion I had was of my own flesh and that is why it disappeared. This is the main reason I left the field.I don't have a question, really. I just want to say that I cannot wait to read this book after watching the video clip and reading what the author had to say here on the blog. I believe, that even though I messed it up 9+ years ago when God presented me with the opportunity to serve, that He will use that past experience I had to continue to stir me up to serve today. But this time, I understand God's compassion and it is through HIM that I will serve, not by my own steam.

    Reply
  16. dave

    It all depends on the local context, calling of the leader and their capacity. The more immigrant the population in a new country, the more there is a tendency to preserve rather than pioneer. I use the mantra, you can't pour new wine into old wineskin. . . not because old wineskin or new wine is bad! Just different. Another key phrase in that text is if you let each go its own way both will be preserved. I love that! So Honor the Past and Feul the fringe.

    Reply
  17. dave

    I found instead of answers when doing cross cultural living it's better to have questions and principles. For example, when you overlay key questions you'll come up with a customized answer. Here's several.

    1. Who are the Fringe of your community? (this will guide you to figure out who to serve) In LA, while we were a suburban church, when we asked this question it led us to launch a multi-site in the murder capital of America).
    2. What is in your hand? What resources are within your reach? Don't focus on what you don't have. You have what you need to do God's mission today.
    3. What is your pain? Your pain will help to connect you to a community. Most people can't relate to your strengths or gifts, but they can connect to your hurt. The next deeper question is to consider what is the pain of those in your city. Find it, Embrace it, and See Jesus Heal it.

    Reply
  18. dave

    Sweeet! Check out this video, it may give you more encouragement on your third culture journey.

    http://3culture.tv

    Reply
  19. dave

    Hmmm, probably wouldn't try to debate them. I try not to change people's minds but if they'd like to have a true dialogue, probably have them see how Jesus defined the “neighbor” we're to love as someone NOT like us and someone we would actually hate. It's hard to argue that passage. Also, probably share Jesus at Matthew's party. Christ said, “I've not come for those who are well but for those who are sick.” There are many beautiful narratives and exhortations that weave a biblical theology of loving the outsider: Acts 8, 1 Corinthians, John 4.

    Reply
  20. dave

    Thanks so much for the props and participating in this Blog tour. It was fun.

    Reply
  21. BibleDude

    Jeff… You were the lucky random winner of the free copy of Dave's book 'The Monkey and the Fish'! I've just sent you an email requesting your mailing address. Enjoy the book dude!

    Reply
  22. BibleDude

    Thanks for coming by Dave! It was a pleasure hosting this here and having you stop by to answer additional questions! I hope to chat more with you again soon. Thanks!

    Reply
  23. dave

    It all depends on the local context, calling of the leader and their capacity. The more immigrant the population in a new country, the more there is a tendency to preserve rather than pioneer. I use the mantra, you can't pour new wine into old wineskin. . . not because old wineskin or new wine is bad! Just different. Another key phrase in that text is if you let each go its own way both will be preserved. I love that! So Honor the Past and Feul the fringe.

    Reply
  24. dave

    I found instead of answers when doing cross cultural living it's better to have questions and principles. For example, when you overlay key questions you'll come up with a customized answer. Here's several.

    1. Who are the Fringe of your community? (this will guide you to figure out who to serve) In LA, while we were a suburban church, when we asked this question it led us to launch a multi-site in the murder capital of America).
    2. What is in your hand? What resources are within your reach? Don't focus on what you don't have. You have what you need to do God's mission today.
    3. What is your pain? Your pain will help to connect you to a community. Most people can't relate to your strengths or gifts, but they can connect to your hurt. The next deeper question is to consider what is the pain of those in your city. Find it, Embrace it, and See Jesus Heal it.

    Reply
  25. dave

    Sweeet! Check out this video, it may give you more encouragement on your third culture journey.

    http://3culture.tv

    Reply
  26. dave

    Hmmm, probably wouldn't try to debate them. I try not to change people's minds but if they'd like to have a true dialogue, probably have them see how Jesus defined the “neighbor” we're to love as someone NOT like us and someone we would actually hate. It's hard to argue that passage. Also, probably share Jesus at Matthew's party. Christ said, “I've not come for those who are well but for those who are sick.” There are many beautiful narratives and exhortations that weave a biblical theology of loving the outsider: Acts 8, 1 Corinthians, John 4.

    Reply
  27. dave

    Thanks so much for the props and participating in this Blog tour. It was fun.

    Reply
  28. BibleDude

    Jeff… You were the lucky random winner of the free copy of Dave's book 'The Monkey and the Fish'! I've just sent you an email requesting your mailing address. Enjoy the book dude!

    Reply
  29. BibleDude

    Thanks for coming by Dave! It was a pleasure hosting this here and having you stop by to answer additional questions! I hope to chat more with you again soon. Thanks!

    Reply
  30. dave

    It all depends on the local context, calling of the leader and their capacity. The more immigrant the population in a new country, the more there is a tendency to preserve rather than pioneer. I use the mantra, you can't pour new wine into old wineskin. . . not because old wineskin or new wine is bad! Just different. Another key phrase in that text is if you let each go its own way both will be preserved. I love that! So Honor the Past and Feul the fringe.

    Reply
  31. dave

    I found instead of answers when doing cross cultural living it's better to have questions and principles. For example, when you overlay key questions you'll come up with a customized answer. Here's several.1. Who are the Fringe of your community? (this will guide you to figure out who to serve) In LA, while we were a suburban church, when we asked this question it led us to launch a multi-site in the murder capital of America).2. What is in your hand? What resources are within your reach? Don't focus on what you don't have. You have what you need to do God's mission today.3. What is your pain? Your pain will help to connect you to a community. Most people can't relate to your strengths or gifts, but they can connect to your hurt. The next deeper question is to consider what is the pain of those in your city. Find it, Embrace it, and See Jesus Heal it.

    Reply
  32. dave

    Sweeet! Check out this video, it may give you more encouragement on your third culture journey.http://3culture.tv

    Reply
  33. dave

    Hmmm, probably wouldn't try to debate them. I try not to change people's minds but if they'd like to have a true dialogue, probably have them see how Jesus defined the “neighbor” we're to love as someone NOT like us and someone we would actually hate. It's hard to argue that passage. Also, probably share Jesus at Matthew's party. Christ said, “I've not come for those who are well but for those who are sick.” There are many beautiful narratives and exhortations that weave a biblical theology of loving the outsider: Acts 8, 1 Corinthians, John 4.

    Reply
  34. dave

    Thanks so much for the props and participating in this Blog tour. It was fun.

    Reply
  35. BibleDude

    Jeff… You were the lucky random winner of the free copy of Dave's book 'The Monkey and the Fish'! I've just sent you an email requesting your mailing address. Enjoy the book dude!

    Reply
  36. BibleDude

    Thanks for coming by Dave! It was a pleasure hosting this here and having you stop by to answer additional questions! I hope to chat more with you again soon. Thanks!

    Reply
  37. angelakerns

    Wow! This book speaks my heart! I've been a “third culture” minded person for so long and didn't know it! My husband and I raised a “third culture” minded daughter, who is the one who shared this book with me. She serves in China at present, is returning to the states to tend to some business the Lord has put on her heart, and ALL of us will be seeking Him as to how we can apply what you've written about Dave Gibbons! I'm telling everyone I know about this concept, your book… and praying that we can see more and more and more third culture activity in our own community! I want to be water in a dry and thirsty land! Thanks for writing this…. Lord, help me apply this to my daily walk… and may others be excited, motivated and taking the initiative to do the same! Forgive me Lord, for taking so long to get it!

    Reply
  38. BibleDude

    Sweet! I'm glad that this has impacted you! It was a great interview with the author, and this is a great book! If you like this, then you will want to watch this site over the next couple of weeks. I've got a rock-star lineup ready to review each chapter of this book… one every day until we work throught the whole book.

    I'll have an informational post up later this week, and the 'group blogging project' itself kicks off on Monday. You might want to follow along and share your thoughts as we work through it together!

    Reply
  39. angelakerns

    Wow! This book speaks my heart! I've been a “third culture” minded person for so long and didn't know it! My husband and I raised a “third culture” minded daughter, who is the one who shared this book with me. She serves in China at present, is returning to the states to tend to some business the Lord has put on her heart, and ALL of us will be seeking Him as to how we can apply what you've written about Dave Gibbons! I'm telling everyone I know about this concept, your book… and praying that we can see more and more and more third culture activity in our own community! I want to be water in a dry and thirsty land! Thanks for writing this…. Lord, help me apply this to my daily walk… and may others be excited, motivated and taking the initiative to do the same! Forgive me Lord, for taking so long to get it!

    Reply
  40. BibleDude

    Sweet! I'm glad that this has impacted you! It was a great interview with the author, and this is a great book! If you like this, then you will want to watch this site over the next couple of weeks. I've got a rock-star lineup ready to review each chapter of this book… one every day until we work throught the whole book.

    I'll have an informational post up later this week, and the 'group blogging project' itself kicks off on Monday. You might want to follow along and share your thoughts as we work through it together!

    Reply

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the monkey and the fish

by Dan King time to read: 6 min
44