January 23, 2009
Welcome to a Third Culture World
The new president represents more change than you may realize.
by Dave Gibbons
It's just the beginning. With the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president we are seeing what many consider a dream fulfilled. Of course there are still conflicts, and there still is racism, prejudice, and stereotyping - including in the church. But it is a new day when the most powerful political person on the earth is black. This is a historic moment for the world to celebrate, but before we simply see this as a race issue, or even just a political party's victory, we need to see it through the lens of culture - or rather cultures.
"Third culture" is used to describe the fusion of multiple cultures, the art of adaptation and dialogue rather than dictation. It's about diplomacy over strong arm tactics, and the embrace of discomfort as part of the journey toward real community. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, to a White mother from Kansas with has Irish and English roots, and a father, from Kenya. He studied in Indonesia, Hawaii, California, New York, and Boston. His experience has both urban and surburban, he's engaged cities and villages, he been both rich and poor.
While the church is still talking about diversity or homogeneity, city or suburban initiatives, rich or poor, post-modern or modern, Gen Y or Gen X, attractional or missional, the world has changed the conversation. The focus is no longer either/or but both/and. We're seeing the emergence of people and leaders who can live in the intersections between divergent ideas; people who understand the fringes and the margins yet can weave in and out of multiple cultures, honoring each context yet without alienating those on the fringes.
It's a third culture world. How are your third culture skills? President Obama is just the beginning of a whole new wave of leaders who will have significant impact in a world where the rules have changed and are changing. Is your church, your staff, your team ready?
Check out a video about 3rd Culture produced by Dave Gibbons and his team here.
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