This is a transcript of the talk that Insoo gave at the gathering of the Society of Vineyard Scholars back in April of 2014. We are sharing this here because the issues that Insoo raises in this talk will be very relevant for our church planting work in Vancouver.
Good evening! It is great to be with you all tonight. My name is Insoo Kim and I am not really a Vineyard scholar. I am not a theologian. I am not a sociologist. I am not a historian. I am a pastor born in South Korea, raised in Miami, educated and trained for ministry in Chicago, where I met and married a girl from Iowa whose family is from the Netherlands. And together we moved to Columbus, Ohio in order to work for a Jewish lawyer turned mega-church pastor who grew up in New York, so that one day in the not too distant future we might plant a church in Vancouver, British Columbia.
I am not an expert on Both-And by any stretch of the imagination. People like Rich Nathan and others, people who are much smarter than I, have written tons on this topic. So since I cannot speak to you as an expert, what I would like to offer you tonight are some lessons that I’ve learned as an apprentice, someone who’s had an opportunity for the past 6 years to watch up close a master at work. And in some small way, I hope that these lessons will assist you in your Both-And journey.
What is Both-And?
So, let’s start with the most basic question. What is Both-And? In a word, Both-And is tension. It is about being stretched beyond your comfort level and yet choosing to remain there in the discomfort.
To use a silly illustration, it’s like a person standing on two tables that are slowly moving in opposite directions. And even though everything inside of you is telling you to shift all of your weight to one side or the other, you keep your feet on both tables. Your body’s self-preservation mechanism kicks in because you can visualize the worst case scenario. Your brain is telling you that at this rate, it’s just a matter of time before you will fall and hurt yourself. But Both-And says no. Both-And says there are things on both of these tables that are necessary and important. I will not choose one. I will choose both. And maybe, just maybe, by the very act of my choosing to keep my weight on both tables, I can keep them from getting too far from each other.
To use a different illustration, Both-And is about actively cultivating and embracing tension by stepping onto a tightrope.
Philippe Petit was a street performer whose big dream in life was to walk between New York’s Twin Towers on a wire. On August 7th 1974 at 7:15am, Petit stepped off the edge of the North Tower onto a wire that was hanging 1,350 feet above the sidewalks of Manhattan. With nothing but a long balance stick in his hands, he mystified onlookers by kneeling, lying down, and even dancing on the wire for 45 minutes.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to live in tension. We worship one God who exists in three persons. We serve Jesus who is both fully God and fully man. We live in a world that is both good and fallen. And the kingdom of God that Jesus announced is both already here and is still yet to come. This tension exists in not merely what we believe and experience, but it is also who we are – both sinner and saint.
To live in Both-And tension means that you are always going to be pulled by forces to choose one or the other. But the moment the tension is relieved, there is no longer any power. It’s like the string on a violin. No matter how wonderful and expensive the instrument itself may be, it is the tension on the strings that enables it to make music. There is power in tension. There is energy in tension. There is beauty in tension. There is life in tension.
Both-And is what makes great disciples and great churches. But, Both-And is also the source of most of the conflicts that we experience as followers of Jesus. These conflicts occur because living in tension is not something that comes easily to any of us. It’s not a natural human behavior. We always tilt towards Either-Or where it’s safe and easy. We either lean toward one extreme or the other, or in some cases, we choose the average of the two, which is the worst outcome of all.
Where the world creates these false dichotomies, Both-And is about radically holding on to both extremes at once:
• Conservative and liberal
• Intellectual and emotional
• Calvinist and Arminian
• Organization and organism
• Quality and quantity
• Tradition and innovation
• Left brain and right brain
• The love of God and the wrath of God
• To be secure in our salvation and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling
Sometimes, it's not that we intentionally choose one or the other as much as it is our default position by habit. Sometimes we are Either-Or simply because of habit. It’s like working out in a gym. Not that I work out as you can see. But I’ve heard from people who work out. Sometimes you can get so fixated on your 6 pack or your buns of steel that you forget that your whole body needs attention. Either-Or is like having an amazingly defined calf muscle but you don’t realize that you have beer belly.
The theory of Both-And is wonderful. But to live it out is a whole different matter altogether. Walking on a tightrope is a great idea until you look down. Both-And life is impossibly challenging and uncomfortable. It can cause a great deal of hurt and misunderstanding between people. It’s going to feel very lonely at times because not everyone is really crazy enough to step onto a tightrope.
But we believe that Both-And is exactly what Jesus demands of us!
Both-And as Third Culture
So, what does Both-And actually look like in practice? To answer that question, I would like to address two issues. The first issue is outward focused. I would like to talk about how a Both-And strategy might assist the church and Christians as we engage the world. The second issue is internally focused. I would like to talk about how Both-And thinking might assist us as a Vineyard movement as we think about the future.
So, first let’s talk about how the church and Christians might engage the world. In the book, we use the terms orthodox doctrine and relevant practice. But today, I would like to frame this conversation a little bit differently by using the terms first culture, second culture, and third culture. Let me explain what I mean by that.
First culture is the culture that is your home. It is where you feel comfortable and safe because it is familiar. So if you grew up in the United States, this is your first culture. Second culture is the foreign culture where the language and customs are different. It’s like if you grew up in the US and you moved to Iran. You would feel out of place because there is nothing familiar about it.
“Third culture” is a sociological term that originated from foreign service workers whose children were immersed in foreign cultures because of their parents’ work. Sociologists have observed that children in these situations are forced to come to terms with their home culture (which is their first culture) but also must assimilate into the new culture of where they now live (which is their second culture).
When third-culture kids become adults, they develop an incredible cultural intelligence that allows them to thrive wherever they go. Throughout their lives, they are able to relate to people of vastly different cultures far more easily than most people can. They celebrate culture. They treasure it. They respect it.
As many others have argued along these lines, Christianity in the western world has become its own subculture. We have our own language. We have our own customs. We have our own traditions. We have our own music and movies and TV channels. We even have our own version of Facebook called the Christian Faithbook because Facebook is evil and Mark Zuckerberg is the devil. And we feel safe in our subculture. It is home.
Continuing then, along this line of reasoning, the modern secular western world has become second culture to us. It’s like moving to Iran. We don’t understand their language, their music, or their interests. We don’t understand their ethics or their belief system. So, when we in first culture Christianity talk to someone in second culture, we look like dogs when humans talk to them, right? We tilt our head and we go, “Your mouth is moving but I have no idea what you’re saying!”
I really enjoyed reading Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon’s book, The Art of Neighboring. I think it’s a great book and I would highly recommend it to you. But here’s my question: Don’t you think that it’s weird that this book even needed to be written in the first place? How in the world did Christians get so entrenched in our subculture that we don’t even know how to offer hospitality to non-Christians?
In a second culture world where Christians are retreating deeper and deeper into their first culture (the Christian subculture), Both-And says what we need is third culture men and women of God who are bilingual (able to speak both languages), bicultural (able to thrive in both cultures), and bivocational (able to wholeheartedly serve both Christians and non-Christians). In other words, what we need are resident aliens.
I am a third-culture kid. I was born in South Korea. Like many immigrant families, my parents wanted to give their children a better life than what they had. So what better place is there than the United States, a land flowing with milk and honey and Chicken McNuggets? We packed all that we could into about 8 large suitcases, and our family uprooted from all that we knew – our country, our culture, our people– and moved to a foreign land, to a strange place called Miami, Florida.
Through the help of the small Korean community that lived in Miami, my parents were able to open a store in a flea market where they sold everything from bags to radios to sunglasses. And for me, as an 8-year old, the thing that I dreaded the most was starting elementary school because I did not speak any English whatsoever. And what made matters even worse is that the elementary school that I attended was about 99% Hispanic, mostly Cuban. I was the only Asian in my entire school. I stood out like a sore thumb. So, right away kids started making fun of the way I looked and talked, so I got into lots of fights. I was an angry and unhappy child. But by the grace of God, I somehow survived and even made some friends along the way and learned to speak English in time. But that was only the beginning of my introduction into my second culture.
Our family moved again when I graduated from elementary school, so I attended a middle school that was made up of about 80% upper-middle class whites, and I was one of only 3 Asian students in the school. So again, the students made fun of me. But this time, my enemies were not Hispanics, but rich white kids.
And to complete my global ethnic tour, after graduating from middle school, I enrolled in a magnet program in a high school that was about 90% black, and I was one of only 7 Asian students in the entire school.
Obviously, my parents did not buy into the notion of gradual adjustment. I was plunged into the deep end of the swimming pool, so I learned to swim not because I wanted to, but because I had to.
Like many immigrants. I went through a major identity crisis as a teenager. To relieve this unbearable tension, I turned my back against my Korean community and plunged myself into the American lifestyle. I did everything I can to become an American. I intentionally did not eat Korean food and I pretended that I didn’t know how to speak the Korean language.
I bulked against my first culture by diving radically into my second culture. And the end result of this rebellion is that people in my first culture began to make fun of me by calling me a “Twinky” – someone who was yellow on the outside but white on the inside. Blacks who go through this culture crisis were called “Oreos” – black on the outside but white on the inside. And the Hispanics who were brown on the outside but white on the inside were called “Coconuts.” And together we all existed in a state of limbo hating the culture of our parents and yet never quite fitting into the American culture because of the way we looked.
So where am I today? Well, after lots of therapy and receiving prayers for inner healing, I have come to a place where I am learning to be comfortable in my own skin. I have learned that I don’t have to reject my first culture to appreciate my second culture. But most importantly, I have learned to thrive in tension. As difficult as this identity crisis was for me growing up, I am grateful that I am a third-culture kid.
The saddest part of my immigration story is that my parents never came out of their first culture. To this day, my parents cannot speak to my wife or my kids because they do not know how to speak English. They were never able to step out of their first culture. It was too scary, too confusing, too different!
Listen to what the prophet Jeremiah told the people of God who were being carried into exile in Jeremiah 29:4-7:
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem (first culture) to Babylon (second culture): 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem in 588 BC, he had a great strategy to subdue his new subjects. He deported a majority of the Jews, including their leaders and influencers, back to Babylon which was nearly 1000 miles away in order to change them from first culture people into second culture people. He understood that if you want to change people, you must change their culture.
So can imagine how frightened they must have felt? They are being forcefully taken from the safety of their first culture into a foreign land of second culture where they do not fit in at all. And to these exiles, Jeremiah tells them to, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Listen to what James Davison Hunter writes in his book, To Chang the World:
Clearly it would have been justifiable for the Jews to be hostile to their captors. It also would have been natural enough for them to withdraw from engaging the world around them. By the same token, it would have been easy for them to simply assimilate with the culture that surrounded them. Any of these three options made sense in human terms. But God was calling them to something different – not to be defensive against, isolated from, or absorbed into the dominant culture, but to be faithfully present within it.
Hunter challenges the common ways in which Christians typically engage the world which he describe as “defensive against” (the fundamentalists), “relevance to” (the Christian Left), and “purity from” (the “neo-Anabaptist”). In contrast to each of these paradigms, Hunter argues for a theology and practice of what he calls “faithful presence within,” which is his nomenclature for what we would call Both-And.
I understand the challenges of what I am presenting here. In talking about this Both-And idea as it relates to cultural engagement by embracing a third culture, there is the ever-present danger of being pulled so far into second culture that you can lose your soul. And people much smarter than I have written tons about this. Neuhouse, Stott, Neibuhr, Volf and others have written extensively on this topic using different nomenclature but the same general Both-And thesis: Living out the great commission and the great commandments is a dangerous undertaking that will cause a great deal of tension in our lives, a tension that we must readily embrace because there are only 2 alternatives - one, we dive headfirst into the world of relevant heresy where there is no distinction between the people of God and the people of this world; or two, we hide out in our first Christian subculture living in irrelevant orthodoxy!
Both-And: Preserving the Core and Stimulating Innovation
Now that we’ve talked about the external engagement of the church with the world, let’s shift gears now and talk about how Both-And thinking might assist us as we think about the future of our Vineyard movement.
As in every organization, within the Vineyard itself, there are those who care deeply about our history and tradition. Not exclusively, but generally speaking, those who are currently in leadership in the Vineyard were given those places of authority because they bought into the vision and mission of the tradition, the first culture which was shaped by John Wimber.
And on the other side, there are those in the Vineyard who are all about where the Vineyard is going next. They are all about innovation and change. Here, too, not exclusively, but generally speaking, those who are younger and newer to the movement would fall into this category.
In our context, traditionalists are important because they are the bearers of the Vineyard DNA. They give us structure. They give us a safe environment within which we can play ball. And they paid dearly to give us this safe environment. They paid with their blood to make the Vineyard movement what it is today. In fact, the Vineyard would not exist today without their sacrifice.
But the innovators are important, too. They challenge the status quo. They intuitively understand how today’s people think about life, God, and community. They are trailblazers who are able to envision a future that many of us cannot even imagine. They recognize that world is changing rapidly and they love that.
But the first culture and second culture folks generally cannot get along because they don’t speak each other’s language. They don’t understand each other’s customs. They are utterly foreign to each other.
John Stott, in his book Balanced Christianity writes this:
Perhaps I can express myself in biological terms by saying that we need both Christian gadflies to sting and harry us into action for change and also Christian watchdogs who will bark loud and long if we show any signs of compromising biblical truth. Neither gadflies nor watchdogs are easy companions to live with. Nor do they find each other’s company congenial. Yet the gadflies must not sting the watchdogs, nor must the watchdogs eat up the gadflies. They must learn to coexist in God’s church and to fulfill their respective roles by concentrating their attention on us, the generality of God’s people, who badly need the ministry of both.
What makes matters even more challenging is that those who are in power, generally the first culture folks, underestimate how being in power and having authority blinds them from seeing the very things they need to see in order to lead well. Power distorts reality. Authority distorts truth.
I had a very interesting experience in college. The dorm that I was in was far away from campus, so there was this big bus that would go around Hyde Park to pick students up and drop them off on campus. Hyde Park is a very segregated neighborhood with lots of racial tension. There is this prestigious university in a very nice neighborhood that is immediately surrounded by poverty.
The bus that drove us around Hyde Park was this big white bus that had written in large letters on the side “The University of Chicago.” And of course, it was filled with mostly kids from very privileged homes. And one evening as we were driving through this one street, there was this black homeless man who looked at us in the bus and he just started screaming at us as we drove by. There was so much pain and anger in his eyes. All he can see as we drove by was this big white bus filled with rich kids most of whom were not black. All he can see was how we were literally living right next to each other, but our life experiences could not be any more different. All he can see was that these kids will have opportunities that he never had.
And no matter how much I wish I could feel what he felt at that moment, I just can’t. I can emphasize, but I can never fully enter into his reality because from my seat of privilege, no matter how low I stoop down, there is a glass wall between my world and his.
The same is true of those in power, those who have authority. No matter how much you want to see things from another’s perspective, your seat at the table, your power and authority blinds you from seeing the very things you needs to see to lead where.
So why is this important? As much as our leaders want to lead innovation for our movement, innovation does not and cannot come from the seat of power because first culture cannot engage second culture without the help of third culture folks.
The most important thing that first culture leaders can do is to listen to third culture misfits in our movement. And they will not be found in the places where we typically look. In the Vineyard, where the relationships are strongest among the senior pastors, we tend to look to other senior pastors for advice. But that’s not where innovation is. We are missing out on the brilliant thinkers, entrepreneurs, activists, and visionaries who are sitting right in our pews. These are people without church titles. They do not get paid by the church. Actually they have no desire to work in a church because they see it as a place where dreams and visions come to die.
So in this season of massive shifts not just in the world but also within the Vineyard movement, I believe what’s needed is a band of third culture misfits, people who can navigate within both the first and the second cultures; people who can courageously look forward to a future that we can’t even envision now, while at the same time honoring the work and sacrifice of those who have gone before us; people who can boldly exhort first culture leaders to take a chance with those who are at the front lines of innovation.
If we desire to be a movement that lasts not just 50 years but 500 years, then we must radically hold on to the Both-And tension of preserving the core while stimulating innovation.
Think about this. There was once a time when the Vineyard used to be known for our worship. I remember the first time that I listened to one of the Touching the Father’s Heart CDs. It was so powerful. It was so intimate. It was so different than anything that I have ever experienced before. I was hooked. Worship used to be what defined the Vineyard. Not anymore. God used the Vineyard to bless the body of Christ with a new vision of what it means to worship God. There are now groups in the body of Christ who are doing it better than we have ever done it.
We say what makes the Vineyard different is our theology of the kingdom of God. Yes, for now that may be the case. But like worship, I believe that there will come a day when even this idea will become commonplace in the body of Christ. Then what?
In my humble opinion, preserving the core is not so much about the what but the how. The question that we need to be asking ourselves is not “What is our core?” The better question is “How do we define our core?” And I believe the answer to that question will vary for each generation. So the heart of the issue is the necessity of a prophetic voice. It’s about doing what we see the father doing. And the great thing is that we already have this in our DNA.
But where in our movement is this important question being asked? Is it being asked by first culture leaders in a board room? Or will we invite third culture misfits into the dialogue, people who are bilingual, bicultural, and bivocational?
The issue of defining our core is not so much about strategy as much as it is about shaping the culture of the Vineyard movement. Strategy is about what we want to accomplish and how we will do it. Culture is about who we are. And culture always trumps strategy. Peter Drucker, the organization guru said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” But most of our energy usually goes into strategy.
This idea of shaping the culture of a movement is what the Jesuits did so well. Founded in 1540 by just 10 men, within a generation they became one of the world’s most influential religious institutions. With no experience running schools, they managed to start 30 colleges in a decade. By the late 18th century, they started 700 schools in 5 continents. According to one study, the Jesuits were educating nearly 20% of all Europeans who were pursuing a classical higher education. It is now the largest religious order in the world with 20,000 Jesuits running some 2000 institutions in more than 100 countries.
Loyola described the ideal Jesuit as “living with one foot raised” – someone who is always ready to respond to emerging opportunities.
Are we living with one foot raised? How willing are we to embrace discomfort? We certainly have a theology of suffering in the Vineyard but do we have a theology of discomfort that will push us to keep trying new things?
At the heart of Both-And thinking is a radical trust in the Jesus who promised in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Jesus promises that he will build his church, and not even death will be able to stop him from doing that. Nothing will stop it. Not his death. Not my death. Not your death. Nothing will stop it.
So friends, let me exhort you tonight to take up your cross to follow Jesus onto the high wire of Both-And Christianity!