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Adaptive Stance Towards the World

Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister, ABC of the Northwest

I'm reading The Monkey and the Fish by Dave Gibbons. I usually don't do this, but I just have to pass along a quote from his book. Sorry, it's a long one:

In my journeys, what's becoming clear to me is that the more adaptive we are to the Holy Spirit and to diverse people groups and settings, the more we reflect who Jesus is and impact this new flat world.

Author Thomas Fiedman has become a bit of a prophetic voice in this regard in the area of culture, politics, and business. In his seminal book, The World Is Flat, he describes some of the forces at work that are creating the groundwork and necessity for a third-culture movement in the church: "Two aspects of culture have struck me as particularly relevant in the flat world. One is how outward your culture is: To what degree is it open to foreign influences and ideas? How well does it "glocalize" (a term that combines the necessity of both local and global initiatives--it's not a choice)? The other, more intangible, is how inward your culture is."

In other words, organizations with cultures that intentionally or unintentionally maintain an inward focus―a culture of exclusivity and a leeriness of and even suspicion toward differences and change―are in real trouble in this twenty-first-century global village of ours. Conversely, the more an organization's culture naturally glocalizes―the more easily our local cultures can absorb and embrace foreign ideas and best practices and meld those with the best of traditions and values―the greater the boon we will enjoy in the new world.

Gibbons goes on to say that the task of the church today is to live as third-culture people. 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. It's what God did for us in Jesus when He stepped into our rebellious milieu to love us and rescue us. In turn the Father sends us into the world, just as He sent His Son. We do this best when we accomplish it in a third-culture, adaptive manner. Missionaries "get" what Gibbons is saying. We can learn from them, because increasingly every church will need to be missionary in ministering to today's world.

Originally published 2009 © Dr. Charles Revis, ABC Northwest
[This article previously appeared on Dr. Revis’ blog, on June 2, 2009]