About This Blog

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"Preaching with Cultural Intelligence" (Matthew D. Kim)

TITLE: Preaching with Cultural Intelligence: Understanding the People Who Hear Our Sermons
AUTHOR: Matthew D. Kim
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017, (288 pages)

There are many books on preaching. Some of the classics include ; Martin Lloyd Jones's "Preaching and Preachers"; the late Dr Haddon Robinson's "Biblical Preaching" that highlights the single big idea preaching; Charles Spurgeon's "Lectures to My Students"; Fred Craddock's "Preaching" and more recently, Thomas Long's "The Witness of Preaching" and Tim Keller's "Preaching." Continuing Gordon-Conwell's tradition of innovation and development in the art and craft of preaching, associate professor of GCTS Matthew Kim has given us a book that focuses on the recipients and contexts of sermon delivery. This book grows out of the author's elective courses, "Cultural Exegesis for Preaching" and "Preaching to Culture and Cultures" which explore how hermeneutics, preaching, and cultural contexts intersect. Beginning with the story of giraffes (majority culture) and elephants (minority culture), Matthew Kim observes that our churches are increasingly non-homogeneous. There are diversities lurking behind every supposedly distinct areas. No longer is it about ethnicities because there are intermarriages. Neither is it about similar backgrounds because generation gaps exists. With increased cross-cultural interactions, mindsets are constantly changing. In other words, do not build our houses with solely giraffes or elephants in mind. Acknowledge the increasing diversity of not only elephants and giraffes but others as well. Lest we preach to a congregation that no longer exists!

Kim helps us address this in two parts. Part One teaches us about cultural intelligence, how our understanding culture can help us hone our preaching; how to use the homiletical template in our preaching; how to understand perceptions; and to consider the preacher's own cultural contexts. Kim's use of "cultural intelligence" is similar to Christopher Earley and Soon Ang's "cultural quotient theory" (CQ). The author defines holistic cultural understanding as: "a group's way of living, way of thinking, and way of behaving in the world, for which we need understanding and empathy to guide listeners toward Christian maturity." He combines CQ with David Livermore's four stages of cultural intelligence to come up with a model of three concentric circles. The four stages provides a framework to build our cultural intelligence. It covers motivation (CQ Drive); cognitive (CQ Knowledge); Strategy (CQ Strategy); and Action (CQ Action). These are built into the model of Cultural Intelligence represented by three concentric circles. The inner circle is the way of thinking; the middle circle the way of behaving; and the outer circle the way of living. Then there is the use of the homiletical template that helps the initial hermeneutics stage; followed by a bridge; and a delivery phase. The hermeneutics is a core preparation stage in which the preacher tries to understand the main idea of the text; the cultural contexts both modern and ancient; and himself.

Part Two fills a more substantial portion of the book, which deals with practical matters such as the five cultural contexts of denominations, ethnicities, genders, locations, and religions. Kim goes in depth by applying the homiletical template to each of the given context, in three stages. There are many helpful resources to the novice preacher who might be called to preach across different denominations. Even the use of illustrations has to be carefully thought through depending on the denominational or non-denominational background. For this is about dealing with a core part of the Church: Identity. The ethnicities chapter is an important one, but I cannot help but feel it could benefit from contributions of a larger spectrum of authors from other ethnic groups. Having said that, I applaud Kim for his ability to condense so much material into one brief chapter. That is a feat in itself. The chapter on gender highlights the uniqueness of each gender and how preachers ought to be sensitive to the different gender perspectives from the pulpit as well as from the congregation. At the same time, this cultural context could become even more complex as society moves toward a wider range of gender identities.  Locations are huge because it impacts the way the sermon could be delivered. The chapter on religions cover only a few mainstream religions in a world that are full of sects, cults, and religious groups. What about secularists and atheists? What about the rising number of NONES?

If there is one thing I can takeaway from this book, it is this: The preacher must know what is unchanging and what is not. The Word of God is unchanging. The faith is unchanging. It is only the people and their contexts that continue to change. At the same time, the preacher himself is also changing over time. The way forward is to know what is unchanging first of all. This requires the preacher to know God personally and the Word of God with conviction. If we try to reverse it, that is, to understand the culture first before understanding the Bible, that would be a serious mistake. For all the desire to be relevant and to be culturally intelligent, we must remember that only the Word of God is eternal and unchanging. Cultures will always change and we most likely will change with them. It will be good to remember the wise words of David Wells. In "The Courage to be Protestant," Wells writes:
"Studies on contemporary life, whether of a demographic or psychological kind, are helpful in understanding the way life is in a postmodern world, but these studies do not themselves give the church its agenda. At least they should not. The agenda comes from the Word of God. In the rhythms of marketing, and the pandering to generational tastes, this agenda is often being lost. The agenda, in fact, is coming from the culture, from its consumers, from the world. In these churches it is sola cultura, not sola Scriptura. Unless evangelicals recover their confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture and their willingness as a result to be different from their culture, their claim that Scripture alone is authoritative will remain empty, and their character will soon be lost." (David F. Wells, The Courage to be Protestant, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2017, p195)
May we know what is unchanging and what is changing, and even as we seek to bridge the ancient and modern contexts, we will know the difference and to build everything we do on the Rock of Truth.

Dr Matthew Kim is Associate Professor of Preaching and Ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Academic and Graf-Martin Communications without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

No comments:

Post a Comment