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Leading Cross-Culturally: Covenant Relationships for Effective Christian Leadership

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As the US becomes more diverse, cross-cultural ministry is increasingly important for nearly all pastors and church leaders. Of particular concern is the issue of leadership--a difficult task made even more challenging in multicultural settings. Sherwood Lingenfelter helps the reader understand his or her own leadership culture (and its blind spots), examine it critically As the US becomes more diverse, cross-cultural ministry is increasingly important for nearly all pastors and church leaders. Of particular concern is the issue of leadership--a difficult task made even more challenging in multicultural settings. Sherwood Lingenfelter helps the reader understand his or her own leadership culture (and its blind spots), examine it critically in light of Scripture, and become an effective learner of other cultural perspectives on leadership. He also confronts the issues of power inherent in any leadership situation. Lingenfelter carefully defines cross-cultural leadership and unpacks that definition throughout the book, with an emphasis on building communities of vision, trust, and empowerment through leadership based on biblical principles. In the end, he argues that leaders must inhabit the gospel story to be effective cross-culturally.


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As the US becomes more diverse, cross-cultural ministry is increasingly important for nearly all pastors and church leaders. Of particular concern is the issue of leadership--a difficult task made even more challenging in multicultural settings. Sherwood Lingenfelter helps the reader understand his or her own leadership culture (and its blind spots), examine it critically As the US becomes more diverse, cross-cultural ministry is increasingly important for nearly all pastors and church leaders. Of particular concern is the issue of leadership--a difficult task made even more challenging in multicultural settings. Sherwood Lingenfelter helps the reader understand his or her own leadership culture (and its blind spots), examine it critically in light of Scripture, and become an effective learner of other cultural perspectives on leadership. He also confronts the issues of power inherent in any leadership situation. Lingenfelter carefully defines cross-cultural leadership and unpacks that definition throughout the book, with an emphasis on building communities of vision, trust, and empowerment through leadership based on biblical principles. In the end, he argues that leaders must inhabit the gospel story to be effective cross-culturally.

30 review for Leading Cross-Culturally: Covenant Relationships for Effective Christian Leadership

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Smith

    Lingenfelter merges biblical relational dynamics to real, cross-cultural, church life – serving one another in humility. Sometimes our own cultural bias and sin nature as Christian leaders blinds and prevents us from experiencing biblical community that truly inspires people, builds trust, and empowers leaders. The way forward in kingdom work is through embracing kingdom values.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mike Jentes

    One of the areas of great growth and learning for me since I’ve been with Encompass World Partners has been in cross-cultural relationships. One of the experts in that area, and former board member with Encompass is Sherwood Lingenfelter. I encountered his book Ministering Cross-Culturally and learned a lot! I have poked around in Lingenfelter’s more recent book Leading Cross-Culturally primarily because of our implementation of coalitions which are an architecture for everyone everywhere to enga One of the areas of great growth and learning for me since I’ve been with Encompass World Partners has been in cross-cultural relationships. One of the experts in that area, and former board member with Encompass is Sherwood Lingenfelter. I encountered his book Ministering Cross-Culturally and learned a lot! I have poked around in Lingenfelter’s more recent book Leading Cross-Culturally primarily because of our implementation of coalitions which are an architecture for everyone everywhere to engage in mission! It will be best if multiple cultures are involved, and it will also be a stretching experience for everyone involved. Last night I was transfixed by chapter 8 on “Power-Giving Leadership.” Lingenfelter walked through the sticky Paul, Philemon, Onesimus situation. What a beautiful example of Paul giving away his position and power and empowering Philemon to lead and be like Jesus. This study provides an excellent contribution to Biblical leadership! Lingenfelter’s definition for the book: Leading cross-culturally, then, is inspiring people who come from two or more cultural traditions to participate with you (the leader or leadership team) in building a community of trust and then to follow you and be empowered by you to achieve a compelling vision of faith. Below are a string of some of what I found to be the best quotes in my reading so far: The most important part of empowering new leaders is to support them in the early stages when they need help and to release them as soon as they can walk in the ministry by themselves. Consider the analogy of a toddler learning to walk: as soon as the child takes steps alone, we encourage the child to keep going. Some people are very cautious about releasing young leaders; this is a serious mistake. To release is not to abandon but to let the young leader learn to walk. It is vitally important that we allow young leaders to take halting steps, allow them to stumble, even fall, and then, as mentors, encourage them to get up and try again. We can always support them and help lift them up after they have fallen. But they will never be successful leaders unless we release them to play the game, to do the work for which we have equipped them. The focus of power-giving leadership is to follow Christ and, in so doing, to lead others to follow Christ. In the patterns of “normal” cultural life, our power and skills may produce leaders but probably won’t produce followers of Christ. “Giving Philemon the freedom to choose is also a vision to grow (‘I know you’ll do even more than I ask’). Part of empowering leadership is to remind people of who they are and the way their (potential) actions are consistent with their identity in the Lord” The power-seeking leader uses position and authority to exert mastery over others. In this situation, Paul used a letter to engage in a power exchange with Philemon. He had Onesimus in his custody, and he could have easily written a different letter that would have asserted Philemon’s obligations to him and induced Philemon to release Onesimus to Paul without ever letting Onesimus out of his sight. Paul understood that if he took that tactic, it would be a false path to acquire something that he desired. He would pervert the relationship that God had given him with Philemon, using his position as the senior brother in Christ to advance his own selfish interest. In doing this, Paul would have, in fact, undermined Philemon’s faith and the work of the grace of God in their relationship together. Jesus must become the center of who we are… To restore our human psyche and relationships to the will and purpose of God, Jesus must become the center of who we are and replace our quest for power. Only as we are motivated by the Holy Spirit and through the living Word of God can we relate to one another within the structures of human society to accomplish the purpose of God. I will first argue that we must put Jesus “in the place of power as a proper source of healing and will” The task and the routines of daily work always erode our mission and vision for the ministry. They also erode our spiritual values. The question is not whether our values are eroding; team values are always eroding. The question is, what are we doing as leaders to renew our sense of mission, to restore our vision, and to renew the values that are critical for multicultural teamwork? Our hope for effective leadership and ministries lies in aligning ourselves with the mission and work of God in a lost and broken world. Leaders in particular must surrender their obsession to control and achieve, through worship at the cross. While the process will be difficult, with periods of intense testing and struggle, building covenant community is a process of refocusing from doing what we want to being the people of God. In the end the work of the kingdom depends on our obedience to the King. God cannot rule in people who are disobedient and in conflict with one another. God rules as we obey God and love one another. Every leader who expects and hopes to be effective in leading cross-culturally must give repeated attention to the mission, the vision, and the values that are essential to kingdom work. Every team meeting should include some intentional renewal of mission, vision, and/or values. As soon as that component of the team is lost, the mission and the vision will be lost to the routines and the pressures of doing our daily work. Every case study that we have considered here has suffered because of a loss of mission, vision, and/or values among the people who were part of the multicultural team process. Saying, “I was wrong,” is more powerful than saying “I’m sorry.” One of my colleagues, Janice Strength, notes that saying “I was wrong” is far more powerful than saying “I am sorry.” She notes that we often push children to say “I am sorry” when they and we know they are not. To acknowledge “I was wrong” is to take responsibility for the action we have done. I remind students in my classes that we are first emotional creatures and only secondarily rational. As we respond to crises or stressful situations in leadership, we rarely operate based on reason and rational processes. When things get tough, we first respond emotionally—frustration, anger, fear, disappointment, and betrayal. These emotions often get the best of us, leading us to seek power to protect ourselves, which in turn undermines the will and purpose of God. I remember praying, “Please remove this person from leadership and give me someone else who can do the job more effectively.” God’s answer to this prayer was, “Absolutely no; don’t you understand my work?” I learned over a period of time that God loves weak people and that God intends leaders to work with the people whom God gives to them.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    I appreciated this book more than I thought I would when I started reading it. Technically it probably lands somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars, but I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt. Lingenfelter lays out a case for looking at leadership in ministry situations as a place for discipleship and developing other leaders, rather than as a place to insure goals and visions are accomplished. Setting aside some of the points where his theological background comes through (among other points, I felt I appreciated this book more than I thought I would when I started reading it. Technically it probably lands somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars, but I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt. Lingenfelter lays out a case for looking at leadership in ministry situations as a place for discipleship and developing other leaders, rather than as a place to insure goals and visions are accomplished. Setting aside some of the points where his theological background comes through (among other points, I felt like Reformed theology received specific criticism which at the very least was applicable to a broad portion of Protestant traditions), Lingenfelter does develop a decent vision which at the very least is thought-provoking. On the downside, the opening of the book is rather repetitive, and several of the early chapters developed trains of thought which were similar enough I felt like I was just getting a repeat of the previous chapter. Also, business/leadership books are not my normal reading, so I felt slightly uncertain of how the argument was developing and how references were used. Both of them felt unwieldy to me, but this might be more a factor of my unfamiliarity with the genre, rather than an actual issue with the book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dimas Castillo

    In this book, the author addresses the issue of diversity in America and how cross-culturally ministries are becoming increasingly important for today’s pastors and church leaders. Lingenfelter focused on the foundational concept of building covenant community within a leadership team. The author merged biblical relational dynamics to real cross-cultural church life. Lingenfelter suggested that individuals own cultural bias and sin nature blinds and prevents church and ministry leaders from expe In this book, the author addresses the issue of diversity in America and how cross-culturally ministries are becoming increasingly important for today’s pastors and church leaders. Lingenfelter focused on the foundational concept of building covenant community within a leadership team. The author merged biblical relational dynamics to real cross-cultural church life. Lingenfelter suggested that individuals own cultural bias and sin nature blinds and prevents church and ministry leaders from experiencing biblical community that build trust. The author asserted that strategy and planning in multi-cultural relationships is almost worthless or pointless unless a solid foundation of covenant community and identity is established. The author addressed the issue of trust and its importance in cross-cultural relationships. The author described what is essential to building trust in cross-cultural relationships and how that must be navigated across power relationships. The author emphasized that trust cannot be build cross-culturally on very deep levels unless awareness of how power must be managed in the covenant community.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeremie Hamby

    Powerlessness is the profound path to Kingdom productivity Jesus chose the path of powerlessness, the path of the cross, rather than the common human path of power, striving, and dominance. Lingenfelter does an awesome job of showing what true Kingdom leadership looks like in the reflection of our King, Jesus Christ. I am going to have to reread and reread and reread this book to absorb all of the jewels therein. As a senior pastor, I have much to repent of in how I’ve been leading the local chur Powerlessness is the profound path to Kingdom productivity Jesus chose the path of powerlessness, the path of the cross, rather than the common human path of power, striving, and dominance. Lingenfelter does an awesome job of showing what true Kingdom leadership looks like in the reflection of our King, Jesus Christ. I am going to have to reread and reread and reread this book to absorb all of the jewels therein. As a senior pastor, I have much to repent of in how I’ve been leading the local church under my watch. I need to relinquish my quest for power and walk in a deeper humility, as I shift from self-ambition to Kingdom priorities. No more church self-work here...only Kingdom teamwork here.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Overall, this book had great principles for cross-cultural leadership. My main takeaway was that good leaders create and protect covenant community rather than simply focusing on accomplishing the task at hand, whatever the cost. The latter mindset is easier to fall into than most of us would like to admit. The case studies really helped illuminate his points. With that said, I struggled to get through some of the more abstract parts. I thought the book could have been more concise.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Ray

    This was required reading for a class I'm taking this summer. Ligenfelter uses case-studies and examines what they've done right or wrong as cross-cultural ministers. I had so many takeaways from this book, and a lot of them applied to ministry or life in general, not just cross-cultural ministry. It was a really great read for just a general perspective on relationships, especially for people coming from different backgrounds and perspectives. This was required reading for a class I'm taking this summer. Ligenfelter uses case-studies and examines what they've done right or wrong as cross-cultural ministers. I had so many takeaways from this book, and a lot of them applied to ministry or life in general, not just cross-cultural ministry. It was a really great read for just a general perspective on relationships, especially for people coming from different backgrounds and perspectives.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brittany J.

    “Culture is both our palace and prison.” (P. 59) Invite God to the meeting. Be guided by the illogic of love. What is the core of your ‘Why’? God is interested and invested in everything you do. How are maintaining your mission/ vision and values? Read for an intercultural communications class and recommend to anyone looking to build understanding and applicable skills when engaging peers from different cultural backgrounds.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Scott D

    Cross-cultural Leadership demands covenant relationship Tremendous read! Informative and true to the scriptural narrative of the cross, both Christ’s and ours. When we love in covenantal ways we will see with Christ’s eyes and respect each other. Lingenfelter conveys a vision for cross cultural leadership that is biblical and vital.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alfie Mosse

    I wish I had ready this book many years ago. Lingenfelter gives profound advice for being an effective leader - not just cross-culturally, but anywhere. I wish I had read this book many years ago. Another "multi-reader". I wish I had ready this book many years ago. Lingenfelter gives profound advice for being an effective leader - not just cross-culturally, but anywhere. I wish I had read this book many years ago. Another "multi-reader".

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Sherwood J. Lingenfelter is a missiological anthropologist and former provost at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books regarding leadership and is referenced in missiology and church leadership research. Most recently, he presented research on the challenges of missions and LGBTQ issues. In this book, the author emphasizes that the values of a ministry are depreciating rapidly. Ministries must have a vision and a mission dedicated to that vision. Each chapter is rife with Sherwood J. Lingenfelter is a missiological anthropologist and former provost at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books regarding leadership and is referenced in missiology and church leadership research. Most recently, he presented research on the challenges of missions and LGBTQ issues. In this book, the author emphasizes that the values of a ministry are depreciating rapidly. Ministries must have a vision and a mission dedicated to that vision. Each chapter is rife with examples of dysfunction, miscommunication, negative cultural assumptions, and repetitive routines that digress from the vision and mission and degrade the spiritual values that support and undergird them. Cross cultural leadership is finding a way to communicate, interculturally, the vision and mission. The values supporting them must be believed, modeled, repeated, and renewed. “Every leader who expects and hopes to be effective in leading cross-culturally must give repeated attention to the mission, the vision, and the values that are essential to Kingdom Work. Every team meeting should include some intentional renewal of mission, vision, and for values.” The author examines case studies in each chapter, reflecting on the difficulties of leadership and the obstacles to executing the vision and mission of the respective ministries. He reflects on “Kingdom Work” and entering a covenant of love with those we partner with in this work. Building intercultural trust in a covenant community has specific challenges a leader must overcome. The author also addresses these specific challenges. He emphasizes that good leadership empowers others and offers scriptural teachings regarding our “exercise of will and desire to control others and outcomes” He concludes by outlining some principles for effective stewardship of power.”…leaders must learn how to align people with their diverse gifts to achieve the vision that God has given them and then empower them to be about his kingdom work.” I think the author has done a very good job emphasizing the important distinctions of “Kingdom Work” and the values that must be upheld by leaders. His reminders about trust and covenant are very timely as various Christian communities in the United States grapple with their own visions and crises of identity (race, gender, sexual expression, et al.) I was confused by Chapter 4 and the “social game” grid. I need to educate myself more on these concepts, yet it also seems to reduce complex cultural dimensions in a way. So, while his presentation is complex to me, I can hardly believe this grid is all-encompassing. Personally, I am challenged by this book to examine my endeavors in covenants particularly my vows to my wife and my covenant membership to my church body. While our church is not my primary place of ministry, I am challenged to be more loving and supportive of our leaders. I can also see more clearly my covenant responsibilities to assume authority and leadership in my marriage that effectively empowers my wife and strengthens our partnership and union. What is our vision? What is our mission? These will be great conversations to have together. With regard to the author’s emphasis that Kingdom Work is accomplished by entering into covenant with your mission community, I appreciate the “Philippian principles” he outlines in Chapter 10. “God’s highest priority is that we be and live as the people of God” While these five principles do not touch on all the themes of the book, they are very relevant to the way I am applying the author’s teaching to my ministry as a clinically trained health care chaplain. I think this is a very good handbook for anyone who serves in ministry and finds themselves with increasing leadership responsibility both in the United States and abroad.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Justin Hargrave

    Very helpful overview of the many traps facing people trying to partner cross-culturally for Kingdom work - I would read alongside "Ministering Cross-Culturally" by the same author. Should be required reading for anyone moving overseas who intends to work together with locals - and most especially should be required reading for team leaders. Very helpful overview of the many traps facing people trying to partner cross-culturally for Kingdom work - I would read alongside "Ministering Cross-Culturally" by the same author. Should be required reading for anyone moving overseas who intends to work together with locals - and most especially should be required reading for team leaders.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    As someone working with a multi-cultural team I found this book insightful, helpful and challenging. I have made many notes and am seeking to apply much of what I gained from Lingenfelter. The book focuses primarily on the foundational concept of building covenant community within the team and I would have appreciated some more practical suggestions for what to do to develop communication, trust and such within the team. But in the end I think this is a very useful book and I will almost certain As someone working with a multi-cultural team I found this book insightful, helpful and challenging. I have made many notes and am seeking to apply much of what I gained from Lingenfelter. The book focuses primarily on the foundational concept of building covenant community within the team and I would have appreciated some more practical suggestions for what to do to develop communication, trust and such within the team. But in the end I think this is a very useful book and I will almost certainly refer back to it. I would also say that much of what he shares in this book is relevant not only to multi-cultural teams but to any team situation, especially those involving believers. I have marked some of his other books on my to-read list and expect to find them as useful.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Al Soto

    "This book was one of the books that I needed to read for my Global Leadership class in my MA program. It is an incredible reader as siting one who is a leader in a Cross-Cultural context to be aware and sensitive in their approach of decision-making as well as strategic planning. The premise is not to superimpose an American style of leadership on leaders from other cultures. I had many "aha" moments reading this book and reflecting on past experiences ." "This book was one of the books that I needed to read for my Global Leadership class in my MA program. It is an incredible reader as siting one who is a leader in a Cross-Cultural context to be aware and sensitive in their approach of decision-making as well as strategic planning. The premise is not to superimpose an American style of leadership on leaders from other cultures. I had many "aha" moments reading this book and reflecting on past experiences ."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sara Best

    Very practical book outlining the need for cross-cultural awareness in leading multi-cultural teams. Fascinating case studies illustrate each chapter.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shane

    Excellent book. Particularly impressed by how Lingenfelter references his previous works and notes his growth/evolution in thinking on some topics.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Simon Wan

    Valuable insights on building a covenant community on trust.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    One of the better books on leadership within cross-cultural settings.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sean

  20. 4 out of 5

    John

  21. 5 out of 5

    Johnny Long

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  23. 4 out of 5

    Élizabeth

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ying

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dylan Brobst

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah L Bedi

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chik

  29. 4 out of 5

    Craig Gustafson

  30. 5 out of 5

    Waylon Slabach

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