This week, among other things, I’m working on a paper for my latest doctoral course, and thus I read the updated edition of David Livermore’s Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2012). Livermore wrote the book “to change the way we see and therefore do short-term missions” (15). His desire is to open our eyes to the actual effects of our short-term global efforts so that we can prayerfully formulate better ways of exalting Christ and edifying the church around the world.
Accordingly, Part I of the book offers a brief, “wide-angle” view of the world and the global church. With regard to the world, Livermore touches on six subjects: the world population, poverty and wealth, disease, refugees, globalization, and fundamentalism and pluralism. His analysis is short and necessarily partial but accurate nonetheless, and will help any humble westerner awaken to the major issues affecting our world and thus short-term missions.
With regard to the global church, Livermore likewise touches on six subjects: the unprecedented growth of the global church, persecution, communal decision making, the recognition of the spiritual realm among the majority of the global church, faith and expectation in prayer, and the growing diversity of sending countries. He closes his treatment with a stirring plea for the church around the world to rise up and train leaders in a way that is honoring to Christ and culturally sensitive.
Part II of the book is entitled “Conflicting Images” and it presents six issues that the North American church and global church see more or less differently. His aim in this section is to help North Americans see themselves more clearly that we might serve more humbly and effectively as we travel about the globe. The issues he raises are these: our motivation for short-term missions, our sense of urgency and corollary tendency to control everything, being sensitive to the similarities and differences between our culture and others, the way we teach the Bible and church-models, money and poverty and wealth, and the pragmatic simplicity that often blinds us to the more profound issues involved in the ministries and people we go to serve.
Part III of the book deals with what Livermore calls “Cultural Intelligence” or “CQ” a subject about which he is a leading expert. CQ is “the ability to adjust how we think and behave in various cultural situations” (110), and it has four components: CQ Drive (our desire to learn), CQ Knowledge (our level of understanding), CQ Strategy (our awareness and plan for growth), and CQ Action (our level of adaptability). Livermore devotes a chapter to each of these aspects of CQ, each of which close with a helpful set of suggestions for how to improve in that area.
The book concludes with a chapter entitled, “The Heart of the Matter: Shema,” that emphasizes the centrality of love for God and others in short-term missions. Here Livermore offers ten helpful suggestions, and a twenty-three point checklist for doing short-term missions with eyes wide-open. The checklist includes suggestions for what to do before, during, and after the trip.
I highly recommend this book, in fact, I plan to make it required reading for all short-term missionaries sent from our church. Part I is helpful, Part II is the heart of the book and is alone worth the price, and Part III is a helpful introduction to an important subject about which Livermore has extensively. All in all, if you take seriously what he has written, you will serve the Lord and others better on your next short-term missions trip.