This book had it’s limitations. The concept has it’s virtue. Let’s start with the former.
David Livermore said in a self-promotion video on his website, “Cultural intelligence is your level effectiveness working across culture. In fact, CQ is proven to predict your success or failure in working in today’s global marketplace.” This opening statement I felt pointed out some of the limitations of this book. CQ is effectiveness and effectiveness is measured by success and the ones who were more successful were the more effective ones, so they must have had CQ. Im not saying this should disqualify the book’s main argument, but this hidden case of circular reasoning deflated it somewhat for me. Another limitation of this book is it simply is it’s small demographic it is applicable to. Not every business will be multi-cultural. And of those, not every interaction will happen in face to face foreign soil contexts. And then that limited pool of interactions will only be had by a select few of leaders. Furthermore, Livermore himself lays out that the first importance is an honest self-assessment. One of the questions he poses, is “do I care.” And some people genuinely don’t care to be foodies of other cultures. Some people just like staying home. A former senior pastor of mine used to talk about how much he doesn’t like traveling. “I’ve seen pictures of London, why do I need to go?”, he would say. To me that sounds silly and juvenile. But to him, an independently wealthy millionaire who’s traveled extensively, it’s an honest statement. And then for those who do realize they do care, there is still a limit, I believe, on how much they can progress. Some of this simply can’t be taught. Some people just like their own pillow and their own city’s pizza. maybe those people would be better off working on their own strengths at home.
Towards its virtue, and it’s merit
Having originally been a missiology major, this book on cultural intelligence brought back fond memories. I remember always looking for another mission’s class I could take to fill up my undergrad schedule. Unfortunately, I ended up changing my major to “Christian Ministries” because more credits transferred in. I remember questions and problems of language being an incredibly complex issue along with many unsettling cultural customs. Finding the line and trying to discover what is biblical standard and what is just an imposed cultural colonialism. This book brought in the same principles learning in Christian Missiology classes but taught in the business world’s language.
I am also reminded of an incredible book, a book I think all Christian ministers should read, especially anyone who is a 3 on the Enneagram, The Poisonwood Bible. This novel tells the story of a husband and wife missionary team, along with their four daughters, struggling to adapt to the new culture in the Congo, as they are forced to minister there because of their overly-driven patriarch of the family. One story in particular that highlights the importance of cultural contextualizing is the attempted baptism that the missionaries attempt to have. After preaching for 6 months with no converts and only a few people attending church, they attempt to invite people down to the river to finally give their hearts to God. They especially emphasize the importance of baptizing the children in the river. The people of this rural Congolese village are not interested and even scowl at this invitation. It was not until years later that the family finally learns that no one ever swims in the river because of alligators. To the Congolese, it looked like the missionaries were asking to sacrifice their children to the river Gods. According to our author, the missionary missed all four steps of the Cultural Intelligence process.
For the rest of this post I’d like to talk about the work I am involved with today. I have referenced before, I am working with a small formerly Chinese church in Midtown Sacramento (37 people the last two weeks). Working with this small ethnic church has been a learning experience for me and what follows is some of my intentional reflection and steps on this process.
Step 1 – Drive: Your interest, drive, and confidence to adapt to multicultural situations.
I have low confidence in my current knowledge of the people, but a strong confidence in my ability to connect with people. I have a high interested and high drive in learning, because of the potential benefits of revitalizing this church. Luckily despite being a Chinese church, they are all resident Sacramento citizens, so the changes (I am crossing my fingers) will not be as drastic.
Step 2 – Knowledge: your understanding about how cultures are similar and different.
One of the first things I did in this book was flip to the appendix to find more specific information about the Asian culture I was wading through. Livermore said, “the Confucian way of thinking and behaving, Li, literally means “to arrange in order.” Li means etiquette, customs and manners; its ceremony, courtesy, civility, and behaving with propriety.” Furthermore, he listed that the give key relationships all have to do with proper governing and honor, ruler to subject, husband to wife etc. etc. Livermore suggest, “when working with someone from Confucian Asia, determine which side of the relationship you are on.” Brilliant. We recently had a young woman come to preach at our church and I wondered how they would receive her. To be honest, I could not read them.
Step 3 – Strategy: Your awareness and ability to plan for multicultural interactions.
Going into this, I wondered what are their values? They love their potlucks. They love their tight-knit family. There are many different Chinese congregations closer to each of the families. But yet they still all commute about 30 minutes each to this random central location of Midtown Sacramento because of their bond, tradition and love for their building. From the very beginning, my strategy was to honor what’s came before as I lead forward. Honor is free after all. Things that do no hurt progress, can wait to be changed.
Step 4 – Action: Your ability to adapt when relating and working interculturally.
I’ve stepped into a formerly very Chinese culture, but a church that has failed, and a church that is wanting to change and no longer just be a “Chinese church.” They are very non-confrontational and I have difficulty knowing if they are actually OK with any particular change. My actions have been to push hard for a few early wins. We have raised $6,000 from our district and recruited four bible college students from a nearby bible institute who want to learn about church planting. This has been a huge adrenaline shot for the church. In particular, the money won us a huge amount of confidence. I realized at the moment that I announced that we raised that money from our district and saw how relieved and excited they were how much they respect money and intentionally save and live frugally in their personal lives. Attendance is up, we have worship music again, there is a baby dedication this Sunday and two baptisms in three Sundays from now. With these few strong early wins that God has blessed us with we won a lot of confidence, to lead us further faster.
And now according to Livermore, I should circle back to step 1, and assess my drive for more CQ.
Kingsolver, Barbara. Poisonwood Bible. Faber & Faber, 2017.
Livermore, David A. Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success Ed. 2. Amacom, 2015.
 David A. Livermore, Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success Ed. 2 (Amacom, 2015). 234.