Leading Cross-Culturally: Covenant Relationships for Effective Christian Leadership

by Sherwood G. Lingenfelter

This latest book in a series of three by Sherwood G. Lingenfelter deals with culture and cross-cultural leadership for Western and Majority World leaders who are leading multicultural teams in various ministry contexts.

Baker Academic, P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516, 2008, 175 pages, $14.99.

Reviewed by Robert L. Gallagher, associate professor of intercultural studies, Wheaton College Graduate School, Wheaton, Illinois.

The latest book in a series of three by Sherwood G. Lingenfelter, provost and senior vice president at Fuller Theological Seminary, deals with culture and cross-cultural leadership for Western and Majority World leaders who are leading multicultural teams in various ministry contexts. The author speaks personally and frankly from over twenty years of experience in academic leadership, acknowledging his own weaknesses as he reflects on why leading is difficult.  

The book is sectioned into four parts: Part 1, “Inspiring People,” deals with how leaders inspire people to achieve a common kingdom vision; Part 2, “Building Trust,” focuses on how leaders build trust within multicultural teams, which involves learning about the individual cultural values of the team members and then breaking habits from their default culture; Part 3, “Pathways to Empower,” includes power-giving leadership in which leaders are biblically challenged to understand the difference between management and leadership in order to release control to emerging leaders; and Part 4, “Leading Cross-culturally,” confronts the reader to comprehend how power is abused and to learn to use it scripturally in various cultural settings. Within these four parts there are threaded four insightful cross-cultural leadership motifs.

1. Issues of cultural diversity. Leaders need to understand their own cultural leadership beliefs and values and how they shape their thinking and actions evaluated against Jesus’ kingdom teaching and practice. Most people in missions bring their own prejudiced leadership style whether they know it or not, which leads to worldview clashes.

2. Cross-cultural ministry partnerships. Leaders need to be learners of culture to build trust communities in multicultural teams. For instance, various cultures have different structures and pathways to organize community relationships and work, as well as management of power, resources, and accountability. In this way, teams may be transformed into covenant missional communities.  

3. Cultural biases create barriers. There is a human temptation to seek power and control, which undercuts ministry success worldwide, thus causing ineffective leadership and partnership. The writer considers these leadership temptations and the ensuing struggles.

4. Biblically examined leadership. The gospel of Christ is transcultural and Jesus’ example gives leaders principles to resolve ministry conflicts and misunderstandings.  

In addressing these missional motifs, Lingenfelter desires that the Church achieve scripturally-based, culturally sensitive, humble leadership in multicultural venues, yet acknowledge that human brokenness and cultural blindness prevent effective leadership. Since leadership is different in each unique situation, the author analyzes case studies and provides illustrations which demonstrate that it is possible to exercise anointed, power-giving leadership that builds communities of trust empowered to achieve a common faith vision. In doing so, he provides a unique book that is extremely relevant to leaders or potential leaders in cross-cultural contexts—short-term, local church, parachurch organization, or mission agency.

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Copyright  © 2009 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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