Dave Gibbons Is a Church Misfit

Newsong was on its way to becoming Orange County's next big megachurch—then its pastor decided to pull back and go small

"Dave is a guy who's most comfortable being uncomfortable," says Bob Shank, former senior pastor of Irvine's South Coast Community Church (which eventually merged with OC's second-largest megachurch, Mariners). "He set out to do things that no one is doing. He's the new generation of church leaders."

A supernatural force fuels him, Gibbons says. "I think what God is calling us to is a radical life that's generous and not boarded by walls like the ones we have in Orange County," he says. "It's not about preaching to people; it's about loving people."

Gibbons was born in Seoul, Korea, to a Korean mother and an Irish-American father. When he was in grade school, the family migrated to Tempe, Arizona, and started attending a Christian fundamentalist church where, he says, "everyone kind of looked alike, with big Bibles and short hair." As a teen, he accepted Christ as his savior. "God discovered me, and I found a purpose and energy from it," he says.

Gibbons at the Newsong home base in Irvine
Mary Bell
Gibbons at the Newsong home base in Irvine
Gibbons at Kidworks in Santa Ana, one of the nonprofits where Newsong members volunteer
Mary Bell
Gibbons at Kidworks in Santa Ana, one of the nonprofits where Newsong members volunteer

Gibbons attended Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, a Bible college infamous for a ban on interracial dating that lasted until 2000. Gibbons proved a monkey wrench as a mixed-race individual, so much so that school administrators offered him a choice: date white or date Asian, but not both. During this time, the U.S. government wanted to deny funding to the university because of its segregationist ways, and the school decided to take the issue to the United States Supreme Court, which ultimately sided with the government. News outlets were turning to students such as Gibbons to speak out against Bob Jones, and because he complicated matters—he was dating a white woman named Rebecca who would soon become his wife—he was called into the dean's office and asked to leave the school. "I was like, 'What the heck is this?'" Gibbons recalls. "I didn't think Christianity was supposed to be this way."

Back home, tragedy struck. His mother was killed in a hit-and-run accident on Interstate 10 in Arizona. "When I went to the funeral, I remember seeing my mom in the casket, and it was just a stark moment," he says. "I realized, No. 1, life passes by really fast, and No. 2, all that my mom had accumulated, all that material success, it didn't really matter. I was sitting in the front row, and I remember hearing God say, 'Hey, Dave, I want you to give me your life. I want you to give me everything.' At that time, I thought that meant I should go into ministry."

After grieving, Gibbons attended Dallas Theological Seminary, taking a staff job at a Korean Presbyterian megachurch in Baltimore after graduation. "I'd never seen so many people like me—second-generation Asian Americans," he says. But the church was struggling to retain its younger members. A 1994 Los Angeles Times article explored what Korean pastors were calling the "silent exodus," reporting that 60 percent of English-speaking churchgoers in their 20s and 30s were dropping out of Korean churches because they couldn't understand the language well enough to be inspired. "It just burdened me that church was totally irrelevant to them," Gibbons says.

He was hired to help ignite the diminishing generation, but he felt constrained by the controls of old-school church elders. Then, one day, he was invited to speak at a conference for young adults at Bethel Church in Irvine, one of the largest Korean churches in the country. He felt an instant connection to the people there. "I thought, 'This is home. This is right,'" he says.

God confirmed it. While sitting in his room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Von Karman Avenue, Gibbons heard Him speak. "I don't hear God all the time," he explains. "Growing up, I was told God doesn't do that. But I heard two words—Psalm 40—and I heard them twice. I thought, 'What the heck is that?'"

He opened his Bible and read the verse: "I took your feet out of the muddy clay, and I placed you on a rock. I gave you a new song." He then looked out his hotel window and saw the sprawling landscape of Orange County.

"I thought, 'Shoot, are you telling me to come here?'"

God said yes.

Gibbons told Rebecca about the spiritual encounter and was shocked when she agreed to uproot their three preschool-aged kids to an area neither of them knew. "I would never start a church out of any natural, logical framework. I don't recommend it," he says with a laugh.

For several months, Gibbons pondered and prayed about the church he would build. "I looked at myself and asked, 'Why did God make me who I am?' I was Asian on the outside, but I felt very American. I felt like I didn't fit anywhere. So I thought, well, maybe I need to start a church for people like me, for misfits, outsiders, marginalized people."

He then thought about his mother. About four years before her death, she and her husband divorced; Gibbons' father had been caught having an affair. "The church didn't know how to adjust to my mom as a divorced woman and, on top of that, an Asian woman," he says. "She didn't fit. Then I thought, 'There are so many people like that. What if we had a church for people like my mom?' I studied the genealogy of Jesus. He comes from four women. One is Bathsheba, King David's wife. She was an adulteress. Another is Rahab, a prostitute. Another is Ruth; she's on social welfare. And then another is Mary, his mother, who said she was a virgin and was impregnated by God. In other words, she came from questionable origins. This is what the church should be, a church rooted in the theology of the misfits!"

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
38 comments
John
John

1dem·a·gogue

noun \ˈde-mə-ˌgäg\

: a political leader who tries to get support by making false claims and promises and using arguments based on emotion rather than reason

The Truth
The Truth

Dave Gibbons is a psychopath. "I can understand their fears. I have the same ones. For too long,religion has been combative versus synergistically collaborative." He is not that smart. This makes no sense whatsoever and serves as a representation of his narcissism and the constant mask he puts up. He uses the human condition for people to give up their lives for his cause. People entrap themselves in his church after providing evocative traumatic memories in which he pathologically empathizes with them only to exploit them for their gifts. He also lies to his community about knowing top CEO's of fortune 500 companies, hedge funds, etc. It is ironic because corporate capitalism strays away from religious cults nor do they flirt with them. I feel poorly for his wife, Rebecca, and his family as he dictates the household with his personal agendas. Every Sunday the church urgently broaches its audience for more donations due to the church suffering quarterly budget deficits, but somehow he has the ability to muster $3 million dollars for the Santora Arts building. Gibbon is a pathological lier, and his vanity and ego will be his downfall.

Carissa
Carissa

Great article. Well written.

Shellyhur
Shellyhur

Dave Gibbons continue to pursue what God has intended for you to do! God bless you and your ministry! It is highly impacting many. Your inspiring messages for all, those who are weak and strong, thirsty for Christ has changed lives! Don't ever let anyone pull you down or even question your ministry because in the end God is your judge and I know He is in favor of you and all that you do!

twinmomma
twinmomma

I do think if you want to call yourself a "Misfit" church, then marginalizing LGBT folks (if what commenters here say is true) is intensely hypocritical.

christa
christa

This article misrepresents and demeans the Christian church in Orange County. I do not believe this author is qualified to make statements such as ..."In Orange County, where the Wal-Mart-ized megachurch and its subsequent prosperity gospel is one of our most influential exports." The prosperity gospel is actually mostly seen within the pentecostal and Charismatic movement in the South, not a very prevalent denomination in Orange County. And the article does nothing to look at why young people are leaving the church. The reason that young people are leaving the church is that the church has become lukewarm, moving away from a message that truthfully proclaims what John the Baptist did..."repent and be saved!" and instead tries to be seeker friendly and entertaining. Honestly, people can find better entertainment at a movie or concert. The job of the church, of true religion is to care for the widows and the fatherless. The way to salvation is repentance.

Ken Webb
Ken Webb

okay - this is one interesting article. almost makes me want to get back into the ministry,...I am actually interested,..on a side note the featured ad on this story is the ad for "T-Girl Nights" very interesting. Back to point,..I wonder if they actually believe in using normal people or "fringe" as they call it,..or if the fringe have to become "unfringed and become closer to a perfection to be allowed to be used. churches are full of people who are still human on the inside with all that it includes yet pretend they are not on the outside - because they are churchy. SonLife Evangelism and all,..Apologetics aside,...I wonder if this place is really for real.

KC
KC

Impressed. And I'm an agnostic.

Blackvulcan215
Blackvulcan215

Who is this 20ftJesus that keeps posting these useless comments? Dude, I don't see your point. This is not a Q&A session. First of all, Dave Gibbons has done wonderful things to make Christianity mainstream to non-believers. I don't understand all the hate here. If you have a problem with Dave, call him up and talk to him. The enemy is out there laughing at us. Most of the Christians who lashed out at one another are hypocrites. What have you done to further God's message and will? You are so quick to judge and lash out. I can't complain about DG. Until I accomplish more things for Christianity, I cannot be his critic.

Second of all, hats off to Dave Gibbons. Your vision is right on track. Give the church to those who need it. I would like Newsong Irvine to grow bigger but that is a selfish vision. Cater to the poor and the sinners who don't know better. Continue with Newsong LA, Thailand, Design All-Stars, and Burrito project. You are making a difference where it counts.

Finally, shame of you who would take this good article about DG and try to slam him and his vision. You have never walked in his shoes. When the service ends, how many people walk up to him and ask, "what does that mean?"

Mike Wilson
Mike Wilson

Thanks Dave! I pray for your commitment to growing small. The motive and message will be radical and costly. I tried to do what you did at my former church and was fired. But I'd do it again. Church has to stop being concerned with itself and pursue Christ and his priorities in the world.

ALim
ALim

I used to attend NS since 2003, but I recently decided to leave as the church, not because DG has lost his way, but because I don't know what way NS is going."Do away with big, resource-swallowing buildings. Dissolve church brands. Decentralize."A good portion of the budget has gone towards facilities, there was an "announcement" that NS would move to Santa Ana, but that never did anything. Newsong's continues to be flashy worship services and repeated, artsy videos of initiatives like the burrito project and laundry of love. NS has decentralized to "empower the congregation" but the current church workers offer little support, guidance or training. For example, the lay counsler program and the small group connections minstry has completely fallen apart.I also think that recently there has been more of a focus on healing miracles and demon attacks. I open to thinking that stuff exists but i also think people use that to trick other people into giving more money. It is especially strange when DG says that stuff is always happening in asia.I guess going small is the right decision. I've been with friends to the Harvest Church next door to NS and they just openned and they have already taken over more parking spaces than NS and have a much more active kids program. I think its tough to compete and people need to find smaller markets to survive.

Shalom 888
Shalom 888

correction: Laundry of Love in Santa Ana not in Fullerton. Thank you

James Rhee
James Rhee

First off, I don't see how this merits a front page article. Even though based in Irvine, this church has less influence over the community than Saddleback's Irvine Ext, Harvest, Bethel, etc. Even their international efforts really are just small groups of people that primarily consist of ex-pats.

Second, going small is not intentional, the church is losing members because of Dave's mismanagement and inability to execute long term projects. Over the past 5 years, a core group of leaders has walked out on Dave to start their own church or go to Saddleback. Furthermore, while every single church on the jamboree corridor is thriving, Newsong continues to run a budget deficit.

Third, these initiative like Xealot, 3rd Culture, Misfits aren't understood by members themselves and are simply flavor of the week taglines supported by a graphic arts campaign, their is no substance, no written mission statement to any of these projects.

Newsong started in Irvine because that's where the money is. Their current current expenses are unsustainable and it seems that the church has focused on developing the Dave Gibbon's name brand. This guy loves name dropping, and he loves bragging about his "influence" over CEO's, pop stars, and high up government officials. This article is only accomplishing three things: feeding his ego, pumping up his speaking fee and marketing his upcoming book. None of which will benefit Newsong Church.

PatriciaDeWit
PatriciaDeWit

Fantastic article by @michellewoo . You've told @davegibbon 's story so well! Really enjoyed reading it.

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

OC religion owes a huge debt to Lonnie Frisbee.

James Huang
James Huang

Inspiring to read! Great to see a top story of church on the cover of an OC magazine/weekly. Hope to see something like that in SF!

Bill T.
Bill T.

Touchy, aren't we? I read back through the posts, I don't see the same thing in 20's posts that you apparently do. All he did was ask a question and make a few comments that I don't see as hostile at all. Of course there are people who can't tell the difference between assertive and hostile. Note that I'm not an apologist for 20, he and I are more often on opposite sides of discussions than the same. If the message isn't robust enough to suffer a few questions how can I take it seriously?

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

Isn't Harvest Church at the Lakeview Senior Center?

David Liao
David Liao

Wow, why so much hate. The problem with Christians today is that we like to point out what we think are wrong with other Christians while priding ourselves as better followers of Christ, much like pharisees. Instead of working together to build each other up as Brothers and Sisters in Christ in order to spread the gospel to non-believers, we end up fighting with each other over idealogy, membership, my church is better than your church, etc. I've been at Newsong since 2000 and I've seen its ups and downs. Dave Gibbons has always been honest about his struggles as a man in pursuit of Christ. Also, galvanizing members to get out of their comfort zones instead of being Sunday Christians as well as having a focus on reaching non-believers is why many may have left. They felt they weren't being fed enough and they wanted a nice message to listen to on Sundays that didn't make them uncomfortable and introspective about their Christian walk. However, trying to model the church after the life of Christ and His Love is something I think all Churches should strive for.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

DUH...but Newsong doesn't come from Calvary Chapel insanity, so your comments are kind of whack here.

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

Hi Pastor Dave: What is your church's position on the Theory of Evolution? I checked your web site and couldn't find it. Thanks.

Blackvulcan215
Blackvulcan215

Only 2 posts bro, calm down. Just saying comments and Q's are off-topic. Never said the comments were hostile. Like yours, they are useless and off-topic. Peace!

Cammycat
Cammycat

You are a troll and should stay away from this message board.

Harvest Church only wants money and publicity. If you are jacked up, poor, sinner, sex addict, you are not welcome at their facilities.

Go to the other churches first. Get cleaned up. Now, you are ready for Harvest.

If you are a small church, come and volunteer at a Harvest event. There are lots of grunt work for you to do. After the event is over, please get out before you steal some of our members.

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

Are you a member at New Song?

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

Ah, we now know that Dave is reading the comments.

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

My point was Lonnie went after misfits e.g. hippies, beach bums. Same approach as Pastor Dave. It's nothing new. Young people will always be fertile ground.

Bill T.
Bill T.

Calm down? All I did was make a couple observations and ask a question, how is that off-the handle? This just reinforces my feeling that you're maybe one of those people who can't tell the difference between assertion and aggression.

Help me out here, how is a direct response to your comment addressing points you made off-topic? Any particular reason a person can't ask a question because it's "off-topic"? I notice that it was ignored, what message is that supposed to convey?

You say you weren't accusing him of hostility, here are a some quotes that suggest that you were: "... all the hate here.", "... quick to judge and lash out ...", "... try to slam him and his vision.". I don't see any of that tone of rhetoric in his posts.

Homogenius
Homogenius

It would be even more interesting to hear a bit about their commitment to the "marginalized" while identifying with an evangelical movement that calls LGBT people to "life in celibacy".

I believe that's called cow manure.

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

Excellent.

It would have been interesting to hear a bit about their faith; in particular, whether Gibbons is a Young Earth Creationist.

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

Gibbon's "like" on Liao's post has disappeared. That's the reason I made my comment -- to show he's dodging the question I left for him.

BTW, is Michelle a member of New Song?

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Um, you didn't see that Gibbons left the first post?

 
Anaheim Concert Tickets
Loading...