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Jesus VS the Church

September 25, 2010

In Dave Gibbon’s book The Monkey and the Fish: Liquid Leadership for a Third-Culture Church, he provides the following table  showing his understanding of some of the main characteristics of Jesus and how the church is often at odds with Christ’s ways.  Gibbons is a pastor of a large church himself, and often his critique of the church comes from within and from his own experience.  He’s not simply a church naysayer.   Here is the table:



Freedom Rules

Anger in the name of people

Anger in the name of principles

Bottom up Top down
Mysteries Answers
Incarnational Formulaic
Loving Judging
Sacrifice Comfort
Blessing the community Converting the community
Decentralized Power Centralized Power
Letting go Holding tightly
Community Individuals
Slowness Velocity
Pain Safety
Rabbinical/Relational How to/Programmatic
Socratic/Discovery/Journey Didactic/Solutions/Destination
Meekness Mightyness
Smallness Bigness
Variety Homogenous
Humility Pretense
Authenticity Masks
Maturity Infantilism
Every day Sunday


As with any table of one’s own interpretation, there will be areas that are off.  But still, I think this provides a very good look at how often our churches do not reflect its founder.  What are your thoughts on this table?  Where do you see your church lining up with the characteristics of Jesus?  Where do you see your church exhibiting qualities that are opposite of those of Jesus?  What do you think needs to be added to this table?  Changed?  I would love to see a good discussion here! 🙂

11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2010 3:36

    Well, this inspires me to add yet another book to my eternally growing “must read” list. While I don’t think I can agree with all the definitions Gibbon has in the table, I’ll agree that it demonstrates that the Christ’s Church can sometimes fail to be like Christ.

  2. jonathangroover permalink*
    September 26, 2010 4:12


    Yeah, there are a few of them that I’m not quite sure about, and the reality is that his table simply assumes the opposite for the “Church” which may not be fair in all cases. However, I think he gets most of the characteristics of how Jesus operated and so this table provides a great look at how the way we ‘do’ ministry does or does not reflect Christ.

    While this table may seem like Gibbons is launching a diatribe against the church, his book is far from that. The main focus of the book is mainly that globalization is occurring so fast and cultures are in constant contact with each other, that to be effective in the 21st century, the Church will need to embrace “third-culture” attitudes. “Third Culture” is a term that describes people who are from one culture who live in another culture (usually based on their parents foreign work) who learn to adapt to many cultures rather than being only exposed to one. To be fluid.

    It’s a fast read and definitely has some things worth knowing and pondering.

  3. Matt permalink
    September 27, 2010 7:26

    Hey bud, I am pretty sure this Dave Gibbons is the same Gibbons who started Newsong in BKK before returning to California to continue to lead a church he was involved with before moving to Thailand. Does he mention Newsong in his book…or am I completely wrong about this being the same guy?

    • jonathangroover permalink*
      September 27, 2010 11:00


      It is indeed the same guy. He founded NewSong in California. Ja gave me this book on her trip over here. It’s cool to read a book of a guy you’ve met. 🙂

  4. Matt permalink
    September 28, 2010 3:36

    That is neat…I like his breakdown of the differences between life programmed and life organic…

  5. October 3, 2010 7:56

    It’s easy to see truth in that. And that is really unfortunate.

    I’ve seen so much good come from the institutionalized church, but it is so terribly deficient in many ways, as this table reveals.

    On something as basic as the “every day” versus “Sunday” point, it’s bad enough that way to many of us just think of “the church” as a place you go for an hour or two a week on Sunday. Of course the church shouldn’t be thought of as a place, but even if we limit it to that, what a pity that it is just a “Sunday” place.

    Think of all that space and all those facilities that just sit vacant nearly all the time, when there are so many needs they could be helping to fill. What if our church buildings doubled as homeless shelters, community centers, literacy training facilities, soup kitchens, adult education facilities, crisis counseling centers, refuges for victims of abuse, and on and on. I realize that some do these things, but most lock up Sunday night and sit empty until time for the next “service.”

    I’m taking a class in Islam this term and I’ve learned that mosques are open nearly all the time. If you want to talk to someone about Islam, just go to a mosque, there will always be someone there to greet you and talk to you. But if a Muslim who wants to learn more about Christianity gets the courage to go to a church, almost all of the time he or she will find the doors locked and no one there.

    Great post bro.

  6. March 2, 2011 3:04

    Dude, I find this table misleading at best. Mostly, I think it is unhelpful, and promotes a lot of negative stereotypes of the church. I guess I understand his aim – namely, to show that the Church doesn’t always get it right and to encourage discussion. And I’m sure that he’s been in churches like this. But to stereotype and generalize by simply putting “CHURCH” at the top instead of “Dave Gibbon’s Church Experiences,” and then to set up this dichotomy that pits Jesus against the Church, is to do violence to the Bride of Christ. And dude, I’m getting sick of Christians talking smack about Christ’s sweetheart.

    I think that in order to edify the reader and not lead someone into quick judgment and non-reflective thinking, his chart would have been helpful if the church side was blank, and he simply asked the reader to fill in what characteristics she may see in her own church.

    Again, I haven’t read the whole book, and I’m sure my comments are out of context, but that’s the nature of this post.

    • Aaron Brooks permalink
      March 3, 2011 11:52

      oops…I read your comments to Chad after I posted, so you’ve already cleared a lot of my objections up.

  7. March 2, 2011 3:07

    and let me add that when I say “Church,” I’m not thinking about a building and programs. In that case, his chart would be spot-on simply by definition. I mean more of what Augustine talked about as the “invisible church” of true believers. This is the Bride I referenced – something organic and living, not some type of stale human institution.

    • jonathangroover permalink*
      March 4, 2011 8:54

      Aaron!! Hey man, thanks for stopping by! Long time man–how is Duke treating you??

      Gibbons is definitely not attacking the Church (universal) but challenging the institutionalized, entrenched church to see how what they (we) do lines up with Jesus. After re-looking at that section, I should have probably mentioned that this table was made during a round-table discussion with a number of church leaders. That’s why I tried to show that it was a critique from the “inside” and from someone who is very committed to the church.

      I can definitely understand your concerns though–there is a great deal of naysaying about the Church without any loving and productive solutions about how to make things better.

      Let me know what you’re writing/thinking/learning about these days! 🙂

      • Aaron Brooks permalink
        March 6, 2011 3:21

        Got it. Thanks for the clarification.

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