Leading across Cultures: Effective Ministry and Mission in the Global Church

by James E. Plueddemann

James Plueddemann gives the Global Church a toolbox for crafting leadership for cross-cultural ministry.

P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515, 220 pages, 2009, $20.00.

Reviewed by Marcus W. Dean, associate professor of intercultural studies at Houghton College, Houghton, New York; and former missionary in Latin America for fifteen years with the Wesleyan Church.

In Leading across Cultures, James Plueddemann gives the Global Church a toolbox for crafting leadership for cross-cultural ministry. He writes from personal experience, important cultural research, and missiological and biblical insights. The result is a guide for mission practitioners and a textbook for contextualizing leadership.  

Each section of Leading across Cultures adds a significant component to the toolbox.  Part One explores the need for leadership to be contextualized; Plueddemann writes, “If the worldwide Body of Christ is to work together in harmony, a cross-cultural understanding and appreciation of leadership differences is essential” (p. 17). On the micro level an individual is to function as a leader in a way that coincides with the host culture. On the macro level the mission endeavor is to use biblical principles to guide the development of culturally relevant leaders. Finally, each culturally distinct part of the body needs to learn how to interact within the leadership perspective of the other. Thus, all are learning and adjusting to each other.

Recognizing the need for contextualized leadership is not enough. In Part Two, Plueddemann argues for balancing biblical principles with cultural theory to understand how to craft culturally relevant leadership. He appropriately points out that the issues faced in cross-cultural leadership are not simply based upon the differences in how we lead, but in the core values each culture holds as to what leadership should be like. Plueddemann explores these core values and practices using a variety of cultural factors from leading cross-cultural research. The challenge is twofold: first, to recognize when these leadership values and practices are in line with the Bible and when they need to be corrected; and second, to discover how each culture contributes to the development of cross-cultural leadership.

Leading across Cultures avoids the cultural relevancy trap by developing, in Part Three, a solid theological perspective of leadership. Its premise is that while the Bible does not “prescribe leadership style…the Bible is our final authority” (p. 149). In this section, Plueddemann weaves sound leadership theory with biblical absolutes into a practical model that can facilitate culturally relevant and biblically true leadership practice—the purpose of which is to “glorify God by facilitating the development of people” (p. 172). Finally, in Part Four, he calls for the development of church leaders based upon the cultural context and styles, given that they are recognized as having God-given leadership gifts. The outcome will be leaders who are not focused on themselves and their cultural styles, but on being global leaders with God’s perspective of a Global Church.

This guide offers the reader a biblical basis for leadership, supported with valid cultural and leadership theory. Leaders are directed into practical application that will enable the Global Church to work together with fewer cultural misunderstandings as we seek to glorify God.


EMQ, Vol. 46, No. 3, pp. 377-378. Copyright  © 2010 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.


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