Cultural Intelligence: Improving Your CQ to Engage our Multicultural World

by David A. Livermore

David Livermore writes to open the eyes of mono-cultural short-termers who can only see the world from their narrow perspectives.

Baker Academic, P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287, 2009, 287 pages, $17.99.

Reviewed by Jim Plueddemann, professor of missions and evangelism, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

To paraphrase the late Ralph Winter, short-term missionaries without cultural intelligence are “like dogs running through an art museum. They see everything and appreciate nothing.” David Livermore writes to open the eyes of mono-cultural short-termers who can only see the world from their narrow perspectives. His primary audience seems to be a North American youth group making a service trip to Mexico, but anyone experiencing cultural differences will benefit from this insightful book. Popular stereotypes in literature and film portray missionaries of the last century as paternalistic and culturally insensitive. In spite of their many foibles, missionaries typically spent thirty to fifty years in the culture, became fluent in a local language, and built trusting relationships—all of which resulted in the astounding growth of the worldwide Church. Back then, missionaries were special people who sacrificed greatly for the sake of the gospel in distant locations. Times have changed. Now millions of people every year travel around the world “doing missionary work.” Some have called this the “democratization of missions.” Now anybody can be a missionary. Others call this phenomenon the “amateurization of missions.” An education in cultural intelligence is more urgently needed today than ever.

Livermore builds upon his previous book, Serving with Eyes Wide Open, and expands the theoretical base in a growing field of research called “cultural intelligence” or CQ. I like the way he begins his CQ map with love at the core. The highest motivation for world missions must come from loving God and our neighbor. A person who possesses the most sophisticated cultural intelligence without love is nothing but a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. Livermore’s basic model integrates knowledge of cultural systems and values with deeper interpretation of cultural meaning from the perspective of the other person. The integration of knowledge and interpretation leads to perseverance in understanding culture, which results in appropriate cultural behavior and ministry effectiveness. The book is organized around the CQ of knowledge, interpretation, perseverance, and behavior, with love at the core.

The book intersperses dozens of theoretical models with examples, stories, and journal entries, making the book both deep and interesting. Theoretical insights come from Paul Hiebert, Edward T. Hall, Geert Hofstede, David Kolb, Paulo Freire, as well as cultural intelligence researchers Christopher Earley, Soon Ang, and Joo-Seng Tan. Perhaps the book might have been strengthened with an overarching theoretical framework rather than a mixture of insightful, but sometimes unrelated, theories. The developmental perspectivism of Jean Piaget and Jack Mezirow could have added coherence to the structure of the book.  

For the youth pastor getting ready to lead a short-term mission trip, Livermore’s Serving with Eyes Wide Open is hard to beat. But for a more serious study of the implications of cultural intelligence for the missionary enterprise, Cultural Intelligence is a significant and delightful book. I’m looking for ways I can use it in one of my seminary courses. Mission pastors will find the book useful in designing programs for missionary preparation. Cross-cultural workers in any setting will grow and become more effective as they serve. I thank Livermore for this “labor of love” for the global Kingdom of God. 


Copyright  © 2009 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS. 


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