Dr. Matthew D. Kim, Associate Professor of Preaching and Ministry
Release: October 17, 2017
An excerpt from Preaching with Cultural Intelligence:
Understanding the People Who Hear Our Sermons (Baker Academic, 2017)
As an ethnic Korean, born and raised in the United States, the impetus for this book derives from my personal experiences living as an “elephant” in America. Like the proverbial elephant in the room, I and Others often stand out, and not necessarily for positive reasons. In most contexts, the dominant culture places me in the Other category. In other words, I have never felt completely comfortable in white America, nor am I at ease among Korean nationals and first-generation Korean immigrants. Like sitting awkwardly and uncomfortably between two chairs made of timber, I have always sat in the in-between space, what Gerald Arbuckle calls the state of liminality. In most cases, being in a sanctuary where I am the Other has meant that my background and experiences have been grossly misunderstood or completely ignored.
Being in the position of the elephant is cumbersome and painful. We do not know what it is like until we have actually experienced it. In preaching to diverse listeners, then, we want to be mindful of the Other, especially because we take the second greatest commandment seriously. To love our neighbors means that we will put ourselves in the position of the Other. Like Jesus’s example of the good Samaritan, we care for our church members just as we care for our own bodies and souls. We can demonstrate this care even in our preaching.
As preachers, we want to pause and reflect on life and Scripture from the Others’ viewpoint. For example, have you ever asked yourself these questions about your listeners during sermon preparation? (1) How would listeners from Life Situation X or from Cultural Background Y read and interpret this Scripture passage? (2) What excites them, and what do they fear? (3) Which illustrations are most relevant and helpful for these listeners? (4) What does life application look like in their specific context? (5) How can we embrace and even celebrate those who are different from us in our preaching ministry and in “doing life” together? We want Others to feel noticed, valued, embraced and celebrated in church life and in our preaching. We want to love elephants in our congregations deeply, just as Christ loved his church.
We preach the Bible to real people—both to ourselves and to our hearers. Preaching effectively to the Other involves what David A. Livermore and others call “cultural intelligence,” and that is what we seek to obtain. Moreover, preaching with cultural intelligence requires biblical exegesis and cultural exegesis. Sermons deficient in either form of exegesis will be found duly wanting in the ears and hearts of our listeners. Both are indispensable to our calling as preachers.
However, I trust that as we embark on this cultural intelligence journey together, even one more listener will exclaim on Sunday morning, “Thanks be to God for this preacher who understands God’s Word and understands me.” So, thank you for picking up this book and for taking the next step in becoming a culturally intelligent Christian and a culturally sensitive preacher. Our efforts are not in vain, because God is worth it and so are our listeners.
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"Matthew Kim writes with the sensitivity of a pastor, the experience of a multicultural minority person, and the knowledge of an experienced homiletics professor--a wonderful combination for helping us think through what is needed to bring knowledge of hermeneutics, humans, and homiletics to bear on the task of preaching in a world of rapidly integrating cultures."
- Bryan Chapell, senior pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church; author of Christ-Centered Preaching