In Review: The Monkey and the Fish

The Monkey and the Fish: Liquid Leadership For A Third-Culture Church by Dave Gibbons

Randall’s Review: Four stars out of Four

There’s a lot to like about this author, what he has to share, and the way he shares it. The reasons I gave this book a four-star rating (not something I do very often, by the way) are plentiful.

Gibbons is a Southern Californian megachurch pastor who by human standards is a “success” as a pastor. Big church, big building, big budget, big razzle dazzle services, etcetera. Through a few life-changing overseas missions experiences, he came to realize, “What we idolize today, I think, is a form of church and ministry that revolves around bigness.” Gibbons goes on to talk about the tunnels Vietnamese farmers dug to evade the napalm dropped by American troops and how small units led by women defeated the American military. Dave didn’t come right out and mandate holistic small groups or cell groups, but I sure saw the similarities. He earned his first star right there.

Gibbons earned his second star when he wrote, “Now I find myself trying not to ‘lead’ the congregation but more importantly to support them and ascertain how I can fan the flames of their leadership. Our staff is the support team. The members are the field team.” Obviously, he’s mobilized his church’s members for ministry and successfully released them to do it. This is what healthy churches do and why cell groups are helpful to a truly missional church.

Gibbons earned a third star when he discussed the “Theology of Discomfort.” He contends that the Western church is all about providing comfort to those who are in it and might come to it, which neutralizes the member’s desire to be uncomfortable for the cause of Christ. There is little room or need for sacrifice in our churches, yet people want and need to follow Jesus, the Christ who sacrificed everything for us and asks us to do the same.

Finally, Gibbons earns his fourth star by urging readers to create a “third culture church,” which means befriending people who are nothing like us and have totally different beliefs and backgrounds. Think about it, how many close friendships do your church members foster where the other person is a lesbian? A Muslim? An illegal migrant worker? The author mandates that we abandon our strategies to create homogeneous congregations of people. I could not agree more. We cannot show the world the love of Christ until we become a true friend.

This is not a cell church or small group book, but it sure is a good book for the cell church and small group-driven church to read! The book’s content is not difficult or labored reading, and is appropriate for church leaders and members alike. I read it in a couple of hours and it kept my attention and motivated me to think differently about my friendships.

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