What do monkeys and fish have in common? It’s a fair question and one that pastor Dave Gibbons explores in the preface to his new book, which is part of the Leadership Network Series. The title is a takeoff on an Eastern parable about a monkey who discovered a fish swimming against the current. The fish appeared to be struggling and needed assistance, so the monkey decided to give the fish a helping hand. At great personal risk, he climbed out on a limb, reached down and grabbed the fish. Placing it on small ground, he watched as the fish showed excitement for a moment before settling into a peaceful rest.
The parable is a powerful reminder that, in our efforts to help others, we can sometimes do more harm --- particularly if we don’t understand the context of the one we’re trying to help. Gibbons believes this principle is more true than ever as we are living in a world of perpetual change. Our world is at a crossroads of old systems that do not work and new systems that are still being invented. How should followers of Jesus and the church respond?
THE MONKEY AND THE FISH suggests that to handle the colossal challenges of our world, we must become adaptable and embrace what Gibbons calls “Third culture” thinking. He defines “Third culture” as “the mindset and will to love, learn, and serve in any culture, even in the midst of pain and discomfort.” He points to Genesis 12 when God called Abraham to be a blessing to the nations as a scriptural example of what it means to be multiculturally and outwardly focused. This blessing is again represented in Revelation 5:9-14 where the nations are gathered to sing a new song.
Gibbons writes: “Third culture is not only about geography or skin color or language. For third-culture people, home is wherever Jesus is. Third culture is the bearing of pain to love those who are not like you.”
The layout and structure of the book is unique. The writing is fluid and at times may feel disconnected, but the author seems to be inviting his audience to step into a different “current” in each chapter. For example, “Liquid” challenges readers to adapt to the needs, people and places they are serving. “Neighbor” invites them to consider who they’re really loving when they love others.
One of the most intriguing chapters, “Liquid Bruce Lee,” examines how roles are rapidly changing for church leaders today. Gibbons suggests that some of the major shifts are from consumerism to cause-ism, from pastor to social entrepreneur, and from developing paths or systems to discovering rhythms.
Overall, THE MONKEY AND THE FISH is an intriguing read for church leaders today. Gibbons’s diverse experience, both outside and in the church as well as within the United States and internationally, give this book fresh depth and perspective that is much needed today. Highly recommended to church leaders everywhere.
Reviewed by Margaret Oines on January 20, 2009
The Monkey and the Fish: Liquid Leadership for a Third-Culture Church