Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Our World is Getting Flatter

Written by: on May 9, 2018

When an author says, “Chapters 3-7 present the most important material in the book” [1] then I pay attention, especially since that is how Adler taught us to read a book. [2] Not that I won’t read the rest of the book, maybe I will and maybe I won’t, but I will especially read those chapters!

This topic of cultural intelligence is immediately interesting to me because of our Cohort members who are scattered throughout the world–it is always special to hear from G in China, Jenn in France, M in the Middle East, Dr. Jason in England and Mark in Canada. Even our California classmates come from a far different culture than Montana (grin).

I hope to relate Reading With Cultural Intelligence with my research topic of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Right off, just crossing the border with our neighbor to the north, there are already cultural challenges to consider (Sorry Mark!). I read this from a forum, “FPU is unfortunately, not permitted in Canada… I believe it was the University of Waterloo that complained that Financial Peace ‘University’ was not a recognized Canadian University and could not be advertised as such.” [3] So there you go, my first FPU cultural challenge, this time having to do with LANGUAGE misunderstandings.

It was immediately evident to me after reading chapter one of our book that I have probably been only a little culturally competent, but hardly at all culturally intelligent. [4] I have only visited 15 countries throughout the world in my lifetime, mostly on leisure or mission trips (hopefully they were not leisurely mission trips).  I admit I only gleaned enough information to be competent about the foreign cultures before I travelled. I was not at all intelligent. For instance, not wearing shorts at the wailing wall in Israel was cautioned beforehand, but it was not until I wore the yarmulke (kipper) IN AWE OF OUR KING covering the back side of my ample bald spot, that I became more culturally intelligent.

Now, back to Dave Ramsey. When we visited Capetown, I wondered aloud if FPU was taught in South Africa. I decided to call my contact at Ramsey Solutions to inquire, and was told there not only was no place in Capetown teaching FPU, but there was not a single class in all of Africa! A week later he emailed that a church in Capetown was trying to field test FPU, but were running into problems because talking about IRA’s, mutual funds, and 401k’s went over like a lead balloon in that culture.

That is why I suppose Dave Ramsey is not operating in MOST of the world, especially since 80% of the world lives on less than 10 bucks a day. [5] Critically, I also surmised that Dave Ramsey focusing on wealth building would be a deterrent in many foreign cultures. Bingo! A critic from CNN stated Dave Ramsey was using 1st world solutions to 3rd world problems. I quote, “The book of Proverbs certainly heralds success as a common return on faithful labor, nowhere does the Bible guarantee that good habits lead to wealth, as Ramsey perscribes.” [6] Evidently, so called middle-class American financial “problems” are not exactly the same financial problems that most of the world faces…

I would certainly hope the FPU principles of debt elimination and “The borrower is slave to the lender” [7] would pertain to any culture in the world. However, the principles Livermore discusses in chapters 3-7 are much deeper than I imagined. the motivation of a North American to thrive is much different than that of a South American to simply survive. I really appreciated our author’s section on “Work for Something Bigger”. I finally understood success at work is not culturally intelligent unless their is a bigger cause that sustains someone’s work drive. [8] Well stated! I think that is why some Pastor’s work well into their 80’s.

Would Ramsey’s Biblical recommendations for SAVINGS be culturally intelligent in faraway places. Surely, “Even the ant stores up for winter”[8] from the book of Proverbs would travel. Boy was I wrong. In America, we think saving for retirement involves a huge bank account, while in other places of our world, retirement is living with your relatives because they would be culturally ashamed if they let you move into a retirement home.  Interesting!

Livermore stated very emphatically, “In this chapter and the next, we will review the most important cultural knowledge you will need in order to lead with cultural intelligence.” [10] He explained the difference between cultural general knowledge, and cultural specific knowledge. I will use my trip to Iceland as an example.

In Iceland, they would scream if they heard Dave Ramsey’s thoughts on credit cards. Iceland is a “cashless” society. If you don’t have a credit card, you don’t buy anything! General knowledge of how their society works would have to be written into FPU in order to make it beneficial. However, where Dave Ramsey supports the wise use of Debit Cards, now that could be a specific knowledge that would be helpful for Icelanders. In addition, there is no such thing as “tipping” in Iceland. When I asked my waitress about tipping, she got offended at us Americans and didn’t say a thing to me the rest of the evening. So, I learned using my debit card was okay, as long as it had the VISA or MASTERCARD logo, and I would not have to fill in the blank on the size of the tip, because there was no such thing. Very interesting! And I was culturally clueless.

I close with this: I believe Livermore was most beneficial for me when he talked about the VALUES we need to understand before we can be culturally intelligent–cooperative vs. competitive, individualism vs. collectivism, direct vs. indirect, etc. [11] Those are cultural intelligence issues Dave Ramsey should also understand before expanding his enterprise globally!

[1] Livermore, David A. Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success Ed. 2. Amacom, 2015. p. xiv.

[2] Adler, Mortimer Jerome, and Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

[3] Nellie29. “RedFlagDeals.com Forums – FPU in Canada.” RedFlagDeals.com. September 11, 2015. Accessed May 09, 2018. http://forums.redflagdeals.com/.

[4] Livermore. p. 33.

[5] 2007 Human Development Report (HDR), United Nations Development Program, November 27, 2007, p.25.

[6] Evans, Rachel Held. What Dave Ramsey Gets Wrong About Poverty. www.religion.blogs.cnn.com. 30 November 2013. Accessed 9 May 2018. http://.religion.blogs.cnn.com/.

[7] Barker, Kenneth L. Zondervan NIV Study Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008. Proverbs 22:7.

[8] Livermore. p. 60.

[9] Barker. Proverbs 6:6-8.

[10] Livermore. p. 68.

[11] Ibid. p. 99-133.

About the Author

Jay Forseth

Superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. Blessed with 28 years as the husband of my amazing wife who I can't make it without. Now three of four in our family are attending University, but both my children are way smarter than me.

5 responses to “Our World is Getting Flatter”

  1. M Webb says:

    Montana can be like a foreign country for sure!
    Excellent compare-contrast between Ramsey’s FPU and South Africa and the context that most people live on less than $10 bucks a day. I think you have pulled the essence out of Livermore’s work and aptly addressed how CI influences your dissertation problem on FPU. Well done!
    How does CI influence your new ministry position, shepherding all those pastors and their congregants? Do we take it to the refugee centers and neighborhoods? Do we add it to our preparing, training, and equipping missionaries?
    I am going to ask more questions about how CI impacts the problem with spiritual warfare because most non-Western cultures are much more sensitive to the influences of evil spirits, demons, and schemes of the devil than our North American cultures.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

  2. Dan Kreiss says:


    As always you go straight to making sense of a text through the lens of FPU. I admire your ability to see the connections and translate them for your use. I think you have hit on one of the most distinguishing characteristics of people in the US, they live with a completely different mindset in regard to money than the rest of the world. Even the Christian community seems to be controlled by their love for possessions which is why FPU works so well in this culture. Much of Europe has a more socialist economy and they see no problem with paying higher taxes in order to ‘share’ the wealth. That is anathema to Americans, especially conservative Christians it seems. Asia except for those with a more American economy like Japan and S. Korea tend to be more family oriented while African and South American cultures tend to be more community focused and/or just surviving. Living in the most powerful and wealthy nation the world has ever known has certainly altered the mindset of the Christian community here, both for good and ill. Encouraging people to be debt free in order to release funds for those in need is certainly biblical, doing so motivated by the opportunity to ‘live like no one else so you can live like no one else’ may be tapping into the selfish and individualistic tendencies in the US culture. What do you think?

  3. Greg says:

    The way money functions in other places is such a fascinating things. I have at least 2 apps on my phone just to convert currency. In China more people are using digital money that is either used like a debit card (rather than credit card) or have a 30 day repayment option. With the resources of China I would imagine FPU is involved here as a way to help people manage and succeed in money matters. The culture here desires to be ahead of others (almost like one upping the Jones’) People will simply video and post themselves working out to show they are better than others. Ramsey definitely would need to adapt but could be something Asia would benefit from.

  4. Jean Ollis says:

    Interesting post! I think 15 countries you’ve visited is a lot! I agree with your last thought – cultural intelligence is really about how open you are to learning and understanding the value of other cultures rather than being ethnocentric. Can’t wait to see you in a few weeks!

  5. You highlight a significant point about FPU crossing cultures which is the challenge for any program that wishes to operate in other cultural environments. Not only details in the program would need to change (ie. references to American tax law, attitudes toward credit, etc.) but also the underlying cultural framework that is culturally-bound.

    Karen found this when her leadership development curriculum crossed boundaries for use in Africa or Asia. Often the underlying presuppositions that create the need for what may be a viable program in North American contexts is completely different and needs to be re-envisioned. The values you identify really shape programming and how we can minister effectively in other contexts. Karen had to work with indigenous leaders over a long period as they were empowered to rewrite the curriculum and prepare it for relevance within their cultures.

Leave a Reply