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Cultural Intelligence: Improving Your CQ to Engage Our Multicultural World

Author: David A Livermore
Published By: Baker Academic (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Pages: 287
Price: £?
ISBN: 978 0 8010 3589 0

Reviewed by Arthur Brown.

CQ stands for “Cultural Intelligence Quotient. This is the second in the Youth, Family and Culture Series, edited by Chap Clark. The series seeks to provide a theological basis for contextual youth and family ministry that adds to the emerging literature defining and framing the field of academic and practical ministry. David Livermore is the Executive Director of the Global Learning Center at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, which aims to prepare and resource missional leaders for worldwide mission.

Although the series focuses on youth ministry, as a discipline of practical theology, Livermore’s focus is far broader. He explores both the motivation and practice of engaging with ‘the Other’, in missional and relational terms, with the express intention of helping the reader move from a desire to love those from a different cultural background, to the ability to do so.

A key feature of the book is its focus on the affective dimension of inter-cultural engagement, as the foundational basis for effective and sustainable loving interaction. Livermore suggests that literature on cross-cultural communication and engagement has tended to be skills based, or cognitive in its focus - teaching people about different cultures. This book seeks to offer a corrective, bringing the affective, behavioral and cognitive dimensions of inter-personal relations together, to form a more solid base of missional engagement across cultural divides, be they generational, social, ethnic, religious etc. which can be applied to any cross-cultural encounter. As such, the book is aimed at all those involved, or preparing to be involved, in any form of cross-cultural ministry. While the target audience is North American Christians, Livermore makes it clear that, in today’s world, cross-cultural encounters are as likely to happen in your local shop as they are were you to go on a short term mission trip beyond your national borders. As such he encourages us to prepare for these encounters, so we will be better able to love, in ways that can be understood.

Various lenses are used to explore what makes up the cultural intelligence quotient [CQ] map. These lenses include “knowledge CQ and Interpretive CQ” which support the development of cultural strategic thinking. These then relate toperseverance CQ and behavioral CQ”. Central to the map, however, is the focus on moving from the desire to love towards the ability to love, which may only take place after the vital process of interpretation has occurred.

The book is helpfully divided into four sections, each exploring different elements of cultural intelligence [CQ]. The first section explores the motivational or affective dimension by which we might seek to develop our CQ, namely the desire to love the Other, as part of our missional mandate. Section two explores the nature of culture and some of the different ways in which culture may be expressed. This section includes chapters on understanding one’s own culture, including ‘The Average American’ culture, as well as chapters on cultural domains, language and cultural values. Section three goes deeper into the processes involved in interpreting culture, exploring areas such as awareness, empathy, and labeling the world. Section four gets to grips with some of the practical ways we can sustainably engage in cross-cultural relationships with a high degree of CQ. This section includes some very simple and practical guidance on how to go about improving your CQ.

Included towards the end of the book is a helpful and practical self-assessment test, which helps the reader ascertain their perception of their level of CQ, as well as a total score. It would be particularly helpful for a team preparing for any form of cross-cultural mission.

While simple and accessible through out, Livermore brings some profound thoughts and challenges to such a vital element of general ministry. He brings sound theory and theology to form a solid basis for the sustainable practice of ministry in and beyond the church. Of particular significance was his focus on the need for those engaged in cross-cultural ministry not only to understand their own culture, but to be able to go through, as Paulo Freire would articulate, a process of conscientization in order to be better able to name the world. In a summary of Freire’s understanding of praxis, Livermore almost states again the aim of the book as a critical feature of developing CQ: “Praxis is the practice of becoming critically aware of how the values and assumptions of our cultural background shape the way we perceive, understand, and feel about our world”. (p.193).

Although I am not from North America, I found the book honest and engaging and even inspiring at times. While based in sound academic theory and research, Livermore never loses sight of the personal nature of his own journey in this area, sharing numerous stories of his own experience - both positive and negative - some of which relate to youth ministry settings. He raises important questions for readers to further engage with. He also provides additional resources to explore, in more detail, subjects covered in each chapter.

Rather than focusing on the need for cultural sensitivity or political correctness, Cultural Intelligence challenges its readers to respond to the Other in Christ-like ways that demonstrate understanding and with it the ability to love in ways that may be understood. To benefit from this book, the reader will need to be prepared to be personally challenged, and willing to go through a process of self examination. It is not simply another text book, despite its academic credentials. Those involved in pastoral and missional leadership in and beyond the church, those preparing for cross-cultural mission experiences, students and practitioners of youth and other forms of contextual ministry will do well to engage deeply and systematically with this helpful book.

Arthur Brown

in Youth Ministry and Applied Theology at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon. He and his family are mission personnel with BMS World Mission

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You are reading Issue 55 of Ministry Today, published in July 2012.

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