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David A. Livermore: Cultural Intelligence

The third, and most theoretical, part of the book is entitled “Interpretative CQ” and asks us to consider the meanings behind the representations of culture discussed in the previous parts. Here, we are encouraged to become aware of what is going on and our own emotions as well as to attempt to empathise with the people we meet who come from a different culture. This will help us avoid the common trap of assuming that cultural cues like body language and word choice have the same meanings in different cultures.

Wishing to reach across the cultural barriers?

The middle two chapters of this part (chapters 10 and 11) are, to my mind, the most thought-provoking. The topics of how different cultures go about labelling sets of objects and forming categories may seem utterly divorced from everyday ministry realities. However, in these chapters Dr Livermore skilfully shows us that these two areas not only help us towards a greater understanding of how different cultures view the world but also why we might react the way we do to different situations. These chapters also have applications in crucial ministry areas such as the way we view becoming a Christian and how we interact with other churches.

In the fourth and final part “Perseverance and Behavioral CQ,” the knowledge and theory from the previous sections are applied to everyday practice. While this section may seem a little short, this is simply because the author’s research has shown that ministry leaders tend to be far weaker in the areas covered in previous sections (210). That aside, this section takes us on a journey from examining our own motivation to continually develop our CQ (chapter 13) to practical ways to develop it (chapter 15). This latter chapter contains a gold mine of ideas, not all of which will seem natural or comfortable to readers. However, it would seem that this very discomfort, when analysed and reflected upon, can be a catalyst to greater cultural intelligence.

The Appendices are excellent, as are the short Suggested Reading sections at the end of each chapter. Of the former, the most highly recommended are Appendix B, a self-assessment test of your cultural intelligence (CQ) and Appendix D on forming a culturally intelligent ministry environment. If the Church is to see the manifestation of Galatians 3:28 any time soon, this last Appendix must become a reference point for all churches.

Overall, this book is an absolute must for all ministry leaders and lay believers wishing to reach across the cultural barriers that have divided us for too long. After all, while migration and increased international travel have led to increased linguistic and cultural diversity in towns and cities of all sizes, this has not yet been reflected in the makeup of the churches who serve them. Instead, the congregation of typical American or British churches tends to be monolingual and dominated by a single socioethnic culture. It is therefore very difficult to find a real excuse for any leader in any ministry situation not to read this book. While there are one or two weaknesses and while occasionally the language does lean a little too far towards the academic for some lay readers, this should not be enough to put people off. If the principles found in this book were to be carefully applied by all church leaders and those in ministry then churches and their surrounding communities would stand to reap the benefits.

Reviewed by Jonathan Downie

Read excerpts: [available as of Mar 13, 2014]

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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Winter 2010

About the Author: Jonathan Downie is a conference interpreter, preacher and church interpreting researcher living in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is married with two children and is committed to helping churches reach out to their surrounding multilingual communities using interpreting.

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