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preaching with cultural intelligence – reuben munn

I read an interesting book recently called Preaching With Cultural Intelligence: Understanding the People Who Hear Our Sermons. Written by Matthew Kim, it’s a helpful guide to reflecting on how well our preaching is connecting with those who don’t share our cultural context—not only in terms of ethnicity but also gender, socio-economic context, religious background, demographics, geographic location, and so on. It has reminded me how much I instinctively preach to people like myself, especially in the illustrations and applications I use in sermons. Being mindful of the ‘Other’ (even that term is problematic) doesn’t come naturally to me in preaching, and this book has been useful in that regard.

In particular, Kim takes a theory of cultural intelligence developed by David Livermore and applies it to preaching. He describes a model of cultural intelligence (described as QC—cultural quotient) in preaching that involves four steps:

  1. QC Drive. This is “The motivational dimension of CQ, [which] is the leader’s level of interest, drive, and energy to adapt cross-culturally.” In other words, do we even care about communicating cross-culturally, or only homogeneously? Cultivating QC drive is about developing the motivation to expand our cultural horizons and connect more deeply with those unlike ourselves.


  1. QC Knowledge. This is “the cognitive dimension of the CQ research, [and] refers to the leader’s knowledge about culture and its role in shaping how business [or preaching] is done.” This means getting to know our congregational context better. Even in churches that is not very ethnically diverse, there is still diversity along many other cultural axes—age range, denominational background, political affiliation, etc. How well do we understand our hearers and the specific factors that make them tick?


  1. QC strategy. This is “the leader’s ability to strategise when crossing cultures.” In other words, make a plan. Reading this book became part of the plan for me and gave me some concrete tools.


  1. QC action. This is “the behavioural dimension of CQ…the leader’s ability to act appropriately in a range of cross-cultural situations.” Learning about cultural intelligence in preaching means nothing if we don’t put it into practice. As a small example, in a sermon a few weeks back on anger I gave a range of examples of situations that make us angry. Because I had just read this book, the idea of cultural intelligence was in my head, and I included an example of someone from a minority culture becoming angry because of a subtly racist comment made by someone from a majority culture. A person in the church commented later on that she appreciated that example because it made our church seem less ‘white’!

I’d recommend this book to any preachers desiring a greater level of connection and resonance with their audience, especially those with whom they don’t have much in common. By appreciating the complexities of our hearers, we can more effectively build bridges from the gospel to their lives.

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