Reverend Osoba Otaigbe is not the regular type of missionary. With 18 years of work with multinational organisations mainly in the oil and gas industry, and academic qualifications in Business and Computer Science under his belt, Reverend Otaigbe decided to give more time to missionary work.
Prior to that, he was the Mission Director of his branch of the New Covenant Baptist Church; a responsibility that led him to oversee the establishment of primary and secondary schools as well as worship centres in Nigeria, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. He learnt quite a lot about people from different nationalities during these assignments.
Osoba went on to read Theology in London and learnt, even more, when he became the head of a highly multicultural church in London. As a former Chairperson of the London Baptist Mission Strategy Forum for 4 years, he has been able to deploy his cultural values orientation in helping Baptist churches in London plan and strategise for mission.
An aggregation of these experiences and values has culminated in a unique book, Building Cultural Intelligence in Church and Ministry. Newsplus’ Editor-in-Chief, Tony Ekata, caught up with Reverend Otaigbe recently and had a chat with him on the significance of the book.
It is eye-opening. Enjoy it.
The concept of Cultural Intelligence is not a common concept to the uninitiated. Could you explain it within the context of everyday life?
Cultural intelligence (CQ) refers to one’s ability or capability of functioning effectively in situations characterised by cultural diversity. In a globalised world, with much diversity, the question often is, “What is the difference between individuals and organisations that succeed in today’s globalised multicultural world and those that fail?” You can only understand this concept if you constantly interact or work in a diverse community. High IQ and good character are desirable traits to have but when you are faced with culture clash and shock, you need skills other than IQ and good character. High cultural intelligence (CQ) will help you to navigate difficult cultural challenges and clashes.
In the book, you illustrate the concept of cultural intelligence with the lives and times of major biblical characters like Moses, David, Jonah, Esther, Paul, etc. We would like you to shed some light on this.
Sometimes, we think that globalisation and cross-cultural interaction started in the 20th or 21st century. What these stories in the Bible reveal to us is that cross-cultural interactions have existed since the old testament Bible days. Moses was sent to Pharoah, an Egyptian King but developed cold feet about the assignment from God. David lived among the Philistines while he was running from King Saul. Jonah was sent to Nineveh on a mission to save the people. Esther, a Jewish woman brought up in Persia, had to navigate the challenges of crossing cultures to become the Queen of Persia. Paul was culturally very competent; he connected very well with the Gentiles, he was at home with the youth culture, he mentored Timothy. In 1 Timothy 4:12 he warned him, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity”. Apart from that, Paul was at home with the Roman and Greek cultures. He understood very well how to communicate within these cultures.
Are there contemporary equivalents of those characters that deploy cultural intelligence in their activities?
The Cultural Intelligence Centre has found that the culturally intelligent person has strengths in four capabilities. That is drive, knowledge, strategy, and action. The former President of the USA, Barack Obama, certainly exhibited high cultural intelligence during his 8 years in office. We all saw the way in which he negotiated and navigated very daunting cross-cultural challenges.
The first, capability or strength, is one’s motivation or drive to interact in culturally diverse settings. In my book, Building Cultural Intelligence in Church and Ministry, I used the popular movie character James Bond to illustrate what high CQ looks like. Looking at the different missions James Bond engages in, one gets the clear impression that he thrives on intercultural engagement. The audience feels that James Bond would not be content if the scope of his work were confined to the United Kingdom. Without this inner drive, individuals find it difficult to make the effort required to engage in otherwise valuable intercultural exchanges. Within this category of drive capability, you have intrinsic drive, extrinsic drive, and self-efficacy. Individual cultural intelligence drive sub-categories can be assessed and improved through our online self-assessment and workshop.
The second aspect of cultural intelligence is one’s knowledge of cultural customs, norms, and expectations. Whether his mission lands him in Beijing or Saudi Arabia, James Bond always seems to be prepared with the requisite knowledge of the appropriate cultural behaviours. But what makes the missions compelling is that there is often something unexpected and unaccounted for that crops up, to challenge Bond in these intercultural settings. Within this knowledge capability category, we have general-context and specific-context knowledge. Individual cultural intelligence knowledge can be assessed and improved through our self-assessment and workshop.
This brings us to the third aspect of cultural intelligence, which is strategy. Strategic thinking involves using one’s knowledge to plan ahead and anticipate, but it also encompasses the ability to think on one’s feet and adapt to a changing landscape. This characteristic is one of the key features in making James Bond such an enjoyable character to follow. Within the strategy capability aspect, you also have the planning, awareness and checking subcategories; as with the other categories, an individual’s cultural intelligence strategy can be assessed and improved. This ability is also tied up with the final aspect of cultural intelligence, which is action. The strategy element is simply the mental planning and the mental shifting of understanding as a situation changes. The action component is the ability to behave or adapt in a way commensurate with the planning or the unexpected new situation. Within cultural intelligence action capability, you have verbal communication and non-verbal communication. These sub-categories can also be assessed and improved.
One of the reviewers of this book, Dr David Livermore, the President of the Cultural Intelligence Centre in the USA has this to say, “……this guide will help you love your neighbor”. How so?
Jesus commanded us to love our neigbours as ourselves. It is very easy to love those who are like us – who look, talk and behave like us and eat the same food as we do. However, to love those who are not like us can be very difficult. If we are to build stronger relationships with those who are not like us, special CQ skills are needed and this book provides a practical recipe for that.
The book exhaustively addresses ways to build Cultural Intelligence in Church and Ministry. Before we examine those ways, how can individuals build their personal cultural intelligence?
To build your cultural intelligence, in addition to reading my book, Building Cultural Intelligence in Church and Ministry, a cultural audit has to be carried out; this is in the form of an online self-assessment. This is the first stage to find out where individuals are currently. The second stage is to debrief the 17-page feedback report from the self-assessment in a group one-day workshop. The session will include an introduction to the cultural intelligence model and research. Participants will be given examples and best practices for using cultural intelligence as they relate to worship and service within their local church and the wider community. At the end, participants will leave with an action plan for improving their cultural intelligence for mission and ministry. We also do one-to-one coaching or group coaching. After six months of application in your everyday life, we encourage the person to take a final self-assessment for evaluation. The report from this assessment is debriefed. CQ can also be built through living with people from other cultures, travelling and visiting their local people to see how they do things.
We also do one-to-one coaching or group coaching. After six months of application in your everyday life, we encourage the person to take a final self-assessment for evaluation. The report from this assessment is debriefed. CQ can also be built through living with people from other cultures, travelling and visiting their local people to see how they do things.
Why is Cultural Intelligence important in Church and Ministry?
The acquisition of Cultural Intelligence is an imperative if the Body of Christ is to fulfill the key biblical injunctions enshrined within the Great Commission, (go and make disciples of all nations) the Great Commandment, (love your neighbour as you love yourself) and the call for unity amongst followers of Jesus Christ. In essence, the church’s fundamental missional task to ‘make disciples’ and ‘love your neighbour’ is a socio-theological assignment that requires cultural adeptness.
Secondly, historically the Church has reflected wider societal norms and values. At its worst, some elements of the Church have operated unpleasant practices such as ostracism, prejudice, and discrimination. In today’s Church, unconscious biases and culture clashes are still prevalent and can be seen in the way that churches operate, including the roles that individuals can access. My experience shows that diverse congregations or teams with enhanced CQ significantly outperform homogenous entities both in terms of organisational relationships and organisational output.
Thirdly, within the increasingly diverse nature of contemporary society, the provision of organisational ‘diversity awareness training’ is essential. However, for some, engagement in diversity training can be regarded as merely a ‘box-ticking exercise’ which results in little individual or organisational change. Even when an organisation is genuinely committed to raising awareness of equality and diversity issues, such training is in and of itself insufficient to equip its members with the skills for effective cross-cultural engagement. My experience at Friendship Plus shows that raising individual and organisational CQ levels adds value to an organisation’s existent equality and diversity training offered by enabling the acquisition of transferable and lifelong skills.
And finally, stated simply: ‘Culture matters’, and although often unacknowledged, culture is a determinant of the Church’s evangelistic and missional endeavours. For example, the way in which the gospel message is interpreted and conveyed, or the chosen responses to some of the major problems affecting our world today, (like poverty, trafficking, the refugee crisis, etc) are all culturally contextualized. Cultural Intelligence is, therefore, a prerequisite for effective outreach.
What is the difference between a regular Church and a Cross-Cultural Church?
In a regular mono-cultural church or workplace, you would have members of one particular nationality, region or ethnic group and skin colour. In a cross-cultural church, you would find people of all age groups, of many ethnic groups and of different races, nationality, and socio-economic classes, etc.
Briefly, let us into the ‘secret’ of the 10 ways to assess and improve cross-cultural competence in Church, Ministry and the Workplace.
Cultural Intelligence Drive: This is the extent to which an individual or a church is motivated in their approach to multicultural ministry and mission situations. It includes self-confidence in your abilities as well as your sense of the benefits that you and the church will gain from intercultural interactions in terms of kingdom benefits.
1) Intrinsic Drive: Deriving enjoyment from culturally diverse experiences.
2) Extrinsic Drive: Gaining benefits from culturally diverse experiences.
3) Self-Efficacy: Having the confidence to be effective in culturally diverse situations.
Cultural intelligence knowledge: Understanding the norms and differences of the cultures and subcultures around you and the church.
4) General-context knowledge.
5) Specific-context knowledge.
Cultural intelligence strategy: That is, making sense of culturally diverse ministry and mission experiences and planning for it accordingly.
6) Planning: Planning before a culturally diverse encounter
7) Awareness: Sensing the perspective of self and others during mission and ministry.
8) Checking assumptions and adjusting mental maps when experiences differ from expectations.
CQ action: This is the extent to which you can act appropriately in multicultural
situations. It includes your flexibility in verbal, non-verbal behaviours and your ability to adapt to different cultural norms.
9) Verbal: Modifying verbal behaviours
10) Non-verbal: Modifying non-verbal behaviours
What is the interplay between the Church, the Ministry, and the Workplace in terms of cultural intelligence?
People are what make the church, the ministry, and the workplace. It is all about people and how they interact with one another in a very diverse cultural setting. Anywhere you find people there is bound to be an interaction. When they are from different cultures, most of the time they will experience what we call “culture shock and culture clash” while interacting. For effective interaction and communication, cultural intelligence is the skill you need to navigate these challenges.
Now, let’s get a little bit close and personal. You transformed from being an entrepreneur within the oil and gas industry into a Baptist Minister and frontline Cultural Intelligence researcher. What informed the change and how fulfilling has it been?
I spent 18 years as an entrepreneur. During this period I worked with multinational organisations, working in Nigerian Oil and Gas companies. Within these companies, you have people of different cultures – race, ethnicity, nationality etc. I learnt quite a lot about how people from different ethnic groups see and do business. While in business, I was also the Mission Director of our church; New Covenant Baptist Church. We started mission fields in rural Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Nigeria where we established primary and secondary schools and worship centres. The experiences from these mission fields led me to read Theology in London. On completion of my theology studies, I became an accredited Baptist minister in London and was called to lead a highly multicultural church. After spending 12 years ministering in two multicultural churches in London, I have discovered that we are all very unique based on the way different cultures and people see and do things. I have learnt a lot from other cultures: and also, as the Chair of London Baptist Mission Strategy Forum for 4 years, I have been able to bring to the table my cultural values orientation in helping Baptist churches in London plan and strategise for mission. I should mention also that I attended a Catholic-Mission-established boarding school – St John Bosco’s College Ubiaja in Edo State Nigeria – which was populated by students from multi-ethnic and different socio-cultural backgrounds. So, my appreciation of missionary work and the challenges of interpersonal relationship in a cross-cultural environment actually dates back to my secondary school days.
For me, whether I work as a businessman or as a Baptist pastor, I am a partner in building God’s Kingdom right here on earth. It has been a very fulfilling mission which I will be very happy to do for the rest of my life.
Do you have other related books on building people and the Church?
Not at the moment. I am working on another book.
For those who would like to participate in your numerous seminars or acquire your books, how should they go about it?
To participate in workshops or take the online self-assessment you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 790 810 9987. To buy the book you can get it from any Amazon website or visit www.osobaotaigbe.com.
Thank you very much for your time.
Thank you very much, Tony, for what you and your organisation do and represent. May God bless your organisation as you continue to build a culturally intelligent community in South Africa.
Please, follow either of these links to get your copy NOW and start improving your cultural intelligence: