What is third culture?

Had a great two days at the NewSong VIBE 07 conference, with a more intimate audience, but extra potent with the teachings of Brennan Manning. He spoke powerfully several simple yet profoundly deep truths: God loves me just as I am, not as I should be; a 7-syllable breathing prayer — “Abba, I belong to you”; biblical fear of God consists of silent wonder, radical amazement and affectionate awe at the infinite goodness of God. (Wasn’t able to get my mobile Internet card connected up, so no live-blogging.)

There’s been a stirring curiosity about the definition of “third culture” and what does it mean. Their use of the term is an adaptation of Third Culture Kids, which refers to someone who [as a child] has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture.

NewSong Church‘s David Gibbons is writing a book about cultivating a third culture church, and how this is a theologically strategic approach to minister to the marginalized in societies around the world. This third culture nomenclature is an intentional effort to find an clearer term than multicultural or multiethnic, which may either be too complicated or too focused on skin color.

Here it is, a working definition:

Third culture is the mindset and will to love, learn, and serve in any culture, even in the midst of pain and discomfort.

I recorded the audio to the “Third Culture 101” breakout session presented by David Gibbons and John Park (a Google guy!), and will post the audio here so you can hear so listen to the design principles for a church that’s reaching third culture people:

[mp3 audio size 30 MB, time 1:03:17; upload courtesy of free wifi at Portland PDX Airport]

I also caught this video of the first half of David Gibbons’ general session where he spoke about where NewSong has been and where things are now. My battery ran out, so I didn’t get the last 10 minutes that were particularly heart-grippingly raw. NewSong resources might make videos and audios available — great get if you want to hear Gibbons’ heartbeat.

[update] David Wang from NSD Underground (NewSong Dallas) writes about his takeaway, that God is always there before we are and there’s no such thing as an unknown.

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3 Responses

  1. John says:

    Appreciate the post on 3rd culture issues.

  2. Aaron says:

    Spoke about this back in December in Chicago…


    Instead of the melting pot, some of us are more like lava lamps. Third culture was coined by a sociologist in Latin America, by the name of Ortiz. What’s interesting is I found third cultures can’t be manufactured or fabricated because the very meaning of a being in a third culture is “no assimilation, no loss of culture” When we manufacture or fabricate third cultures, we risk imposing or requiring other cultures to assimiliate into the other culture. This is contrary to genuine third cultures or transculturalism. In fact, it has more to do with multiculturalism than with transculturalism, where we naturally transcend and include our own cultures while including others. All third cultures ever created seem to have happened “accidentally” and not intentionally. We’ve played at length with this idea at Canvas as well, as we try to exist in another culture as both native and foreign.

  3. Annie Lowe says:

    Glad I stumbled into this article! Finally, got what I was looking for to put on my school report… Thanks for sharing this