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He spends much of his time with Newsong's community initiatives and prayer groups; working with Xealot, traveling to different cities around the world; and asking people, "Who here is amazing?" He has helped an Australian chef relocate to Idaho to work on an organic farm that employs refugees and a New York City fashion exec launch a Christian network for corporate moguls such as himself. Throughout the day, Gibbons shares inspirational TED talks and quotes from world pioneers—from Ignatius to Bono—with his Facebook fan base of 28,000.
"I had a lot of issues with church," says Stephen "Cue" Jean-Marie, a former Virgin Records artist who is now the discipleship pastor at Newsong LA, the founder of the Row and the CEO of Xealot Music, a mentoring program for young R&B artists. "I thought Dave was really humble and he really cared about people who are looked at as low-class, like hip-hoppers. Dave was different to me."
For Maribel Toan, Newsong has completely changed her life. The 38-year-old Irvine woman was abused as a child in Mexico City and turned to drugs and prostitution as an outlet. One day, a friend brought her to church, where she had a "supernatural experience." She is now part of the Xealot program and works with human-trafficking victims throughout Orange County. "I didn't realize the great gifts I have by being multicultural," she says. "Where you come from influences who you'll be as a leader. I can walk in the shoes of these women. It was all there, but when you're in darkness, you're unable to see what's around you. Now, I have light."
And it's those stories that Gibbons refers to this Sunday, as he remains on his knees, humble before God, before his congregation, before the world.
"Anybody here who really wants to follow Jesus and know how to grow, we'll uniquely customize a program for you," he says, throwing his finger up to the sky, then pointing it to the crowd. "No more one-size-fits-all stuff in our churches. No more 'Just seven classes, and then voilà, you're done' or, 'Go to that small group, and you're done.' No, no, we're gonna sit down with you and actually get on our knees and pray and ask God to give us wisdom about your life.
"Our job is to serve you," he concludes. "That's what Jesus did with the 12. He spent time with them, had meaningful conversations with them. Let's go back to the roots."
This article appeared in print as "The Misfit: Newsong was on its way to becoming Orange County's next megachurch—then pastor Dave Gibbons decided to pull back and go small."