“The pain principle grows out of two axioms: (1) For leaders, pain in life has a way of deconstructing us to our most genuine, humble, authentic selves. It’s part of the leader’s job description. (2) For most people, regardless of culture, it’s easier to connect with a leader’s pain and short-comings and mistakes than her successes and triumphs.” (43)
“One time, after a weekend message, a leader came up to see me … In my message that day I had talked about how my friends in real estate had to buy their Mercedes or their BMW to project an image of success to their clients. He told me, ‘Dave, when you said that, you were talking right to me, because on my desk I have a picture of a BMW I want to buy. It was my motivation to work harder’ … When he talked about the picture of the BMW n his desk, something inside me took root. I asked myself, ‘What is my BMW? What picture have I placed on my desk? What really motivates me to do the things that I do?’ … My BMW in part was a large church, a megachurch with some high-tech goodies and hip people making a difference. Despite my good intentions, that was an important measure of my success.” (58-60)
One of the shifts that Gibbons argues mark third-culture churches is “from consumerism to cause-ism” (93). “More than ever, our churches and ministries need to stand for something bigger than the prospects of our organizations and focus on summoning our people to live for something beyond themselves.” (98)
Gibbons suggests three question to help review our ministries (109-123):
1. Where is Nazareth?
“‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ This question was asked about Jesus. Can anyone worthwhile come from that place in the other side of the railroad tracks? Where is the other side of tracks in your city or region? In other words, who are the marginalized or the outsiders near you, people whom you feel pain for?” (114)
2. What is my pain?
“I’m discovering that most people can’t relate to our achievements or success. However, most people can relate to our pain and our losses, our disappointments and our suffering.” (116)
3. What is in my hand?
“In ministry, I’ve seen how easy it is for us to focus on what we lack: money, the right staff, encouraging supporters, mentors, education, buildings, healthy family history, the right experience, communication skills, knowledge. The list could go on ad infinitum. I’ve learned that our focus too often drifts toward what we don’t have, and we overlook what is already in our hand.” (121-122)
“Experience the street. We go on what we call vision trips, on which our main focus is to see what God is doing, to see the city or community through his eyes. We do prayer walks and then at night share what we felt and saw and what God might be saying to us. We pray the prayer that Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, prayed: ‘Break my heart with the things that break your heart.'” (191)
Gibbons identifies the following “key third-culture principles“:
1. Listen more than we speak. Americans, in particular, are known for our loudness and inability to listen respectfully and well.
2. Believe that the locals know more than we do and be eager to learn from them. They live there. We’re visitors.
3. Understand that Jesus is already there. We’re not bringing Jesus to them.
4. Be open to redeeming or giving new meaning to cultural practices or customs that we may not understand or even be comfortable with.
5. Respect the forms and practices of a given culture. Just as we are sensitive to learn the language of a foreign culture, so we must learn the non-verbal language of the culture.
6. Recognize that what is offensive to much of the world is Christianity, especially cultural Christianity, and not Jesus himself. Jesus is pretty irresistible to most people around the world and, I almost every case, is intriguing in the most positive way. (197-198)