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The Culturally Intelligent Leader by Hirpo Kumbi

06 July 2018

Anna Poulson draws lessons from reflections on multi-ethnic mission

WRITTEN primarily for reverse-missionary church leaders, Hirpo Kumbi’s debut book may be one that we are tempted to cross off our reading list. But this would be to miss out on the significant challenge that it poses to the Established Church, and his wisdom on missional leadership and church growth.

Kumbi’s premise is both theological and sociological: we are called to make disciples of all nations in a society rapidly changing from monocultural to multicultural. Church leaders therefore need to be “culturally intelligent”, equipped with the character and intercultural skills necessary for mining this exciting new mission field.

Yet Kumbi gives only the briefest of treatments to this concept, as developed by the social scientist David Livermore. The reader is left wondering whether Livermore’s “gnostic secret” for successful international business leaders can be so uncritically transferred to those in the Church.

While the title of Kumbi’s book may, therefore, be a misleading description of its contents, Kumbi offers other valuable insights that we would do well to engage with. His emphasis is on “reverse mission”: church-planting from African diaspora churches to reach out to the British “host” culture. As the Church of England explores and develops a vision for growth and church-planting, Kumbi has plenty to say to us about the limitations of mono-ethnic church-planting and the need for developing multicultural communities for mission.

Such heterogeneous faith communities are the future of the Church, not least because the current generation of “third-culture children” will, as Kumbi puts it, give birth to a new common culture out of the diversity of their different backgrounds. While those of us from monocultural backgrounds must work at developing the intercultural character and skills that Kumbi commends, these third-culture children will instinctively know how to help the multi-ethnic missional Church of the future to grow.

Kumbi’s challenge to both African diaspora and indigenous church leaders is to make this vision a reality by working together in mission-centred partnerships. He commends, for example, the mutual benefits of cross-cultural mentoring. If we heed this challenge, and are inspired by Kumbi’s fervent commitment to multicultural missional communities, we are offered a compelling vision of the future of the Church in this country.

The Revd Dr Anna Poulson is Vicar of St John’s, Southall Green, in London.

The Culturally Intelligent Leader: Developing multi-ethnic communities in a multicultural age
Hirpo Kumbi
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