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Preaching With Cultural Intelligence: Understanding the People Who Hear Our Sermons

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Preaching With Cultural Intelligence: Understanding the People Who Hear Our Sermons

Rodney Anthony Palmer

—Reviewed by Rodney Anthony Palmer, DMin, assistant professor of religion (preaching and ministry), Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.

 

With more congregations becoming increasingly diverse, homileticians are required to preach with cultural intelligence. Preaching With Cultural Intelligence: Understanding the People Who Hear Our Sermons, by MatthewD. Kim (associate professor of preaching and ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), provides a practical framework for preachers who have a vested interest in augmenting their “competence to preach with greater cultural understanding and sensitivity” (4).

The book is divided into two parts. In part 1, “Cultural Intelligence in Theory,” Kim provides a succinct overview of seminal research done on cultural intelligence (CQ), applying David Livermore’s four stages of cultural intelligence (CQ drive, CQ knowledge, CQ strategy, and CQ action) to the field of homiletics. In part 2, “Cultural Intelligence in Practice,” he transitions into illustrating how to apply the homiletical template he developed to the five different cultural contexts of denominations, ethnicities, genders, locations, and religions.

The homiletical template is an 18-step model, which is divided into three stages, represented by the acronyms HABIT, BRIDGE, and DIALECT. Stage 1 lays the foundation that “preaching with cultural intelligence begins with hermeneutics, and not with the values of a particular cultural context” (34). In stage 2, Kim discusses the steps involved in conducting a cultural exegesis of one’s audience, with the sole objective of building a bridge to connect with them. Stage 3 explores seven mechanics of preaching, which assist the preacher in delivering messages that are intentional and culturally relevant.

So as to avoid any misunderstanding that may arise in the mind of the reader, the author spends quality time distinguishing the nuances that exist between ethnicity, race, and culture. Kim quotes race as “ ‘inherited physical traits,’ ” while ethnicityrefers to a  “‘“people group,” ’ ” and culture speaks to “the way of living, way of thinking, and way of behaving” (96; emphasis in original). Culturally intelligent preachers are therefore cognizant of the fact that, although their hearers may all belong to the same race, they do not all belong to the same ethnic group or all live, act, or think alike. Consequently, all these factors must be considered during the sermon preparation and delivery process.

Preaching with cultural intelligence is not an easy feat to accomplish. Kim reminds his readers that this process requires “varying degrees of self-sacrifice and the commitment to stretch ourselves beyond our limits of comfort and . . . even to make cultural faux pas on account of our ignorance” (216). Lest his readers are tempted to think that developing cultural intelligence in preaching is a daunting task not to be attempted, Kim provides a number of personal experiences illustrating his own journey. These snippets from the author’s world, scattered throughout the book, create a picture of transparency and authenticity. Though the growth process in cultural intelligence demands a protracted amount of time and may result in altering habits of life, readers readily deduce that they are not alone on this journey.

Although the book primarily targets homileticians, it will prove beneficial to anyone who has a heart-felt desire to be more culturally aware of how they interact with others.

In summary, Kim does a masterful job at demonstrating how, through a careful exegesis of Scripture, culture, and one’s self, the preacher will deliver more effective sermons that will reach the hearts of both the giraffes (the insiders) and the elephants (the others) within the congregation. Preaching with cultural intelligence is worth it!

—Reviewed by Rodney Anthony Palmer, DMin, assistant professor of religion (preaching and ministry), Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States

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