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Leading Cross-Culturally

Covenant Relationships for Effective Christian Leadership

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"No one is better qualified to tackle the thorny challenges of cross-cultural leadership than Sherwood Lingenfelter. Leading Cross-Culturally brings together a rare blend of anthropology, leadership theory, and theology. This is practical missiology at its best."--Tom Steffen, School of Intercultural Studies, Biola University

As the US becomes more culturally diverse, cross-cultural ministry is no longer solely a concern for missionaries but also for nearly all pastors and church leaders. Of particular concern is the important issue of leadership--a difficult task made even more challenging in multicultural settings. Sherwood Lingenfelter, whose Ministering Cross-Culturally has become a standard for cross-cultural training, now turns his attention and considerable experience to this crucial topic.

Cross-cultural leadership is made especially difficult by the fact that each of us brings the culture we inhabit to the role, often unknowingly. This creates blind spots and insensitivity to how others are culturally conditioned to exercise and receive leadership. Lingenfelter helps the reader understand their own leadership culture, 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. After carefully defining cross-cultural leadership, Lingenfelter unpacks and explores 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.


"No one is better qualified to tackle the thorny challenges of cross-cultural leadership than Sherwood Lingenfelter. Forged out of Dr. Lingenfelter's lifetime of experience in the field, in the classroom and educational administration, and in global consulting, Leading Cross-Culturally brings together a rare blend of anthropology, leadership theory, and theology that calls cross-cultural team members into covenant relationships centered on Christ and the cross. This is practical missiology at its best."--Tom Steffen, professor of intercultural studies, School of Intercultural Studies, Biola University

"Another compelling volume from Sherwood Lingenfelter, Leading Cross-Culturally proclaims a simple but critical truth about multicultural ministry and mission teams: we must work as a 'covenant community team.' Lingenfelter reveals the diverse and intertwined principles and practices of effective multicultural team leadership. As a practitioner, trainer, and instructor of leaders and teams in ministry and missions, I will have to include this book in my required texts. In fact, it has challenged some of my own assumptions about this difficult aspect of kingdom work."--Mike Barnett, Columbia International University Seminary and School of Missions

"Sherwood Lingenfelter has written a tremendous book that combines the best theory and practice with the kind of perspective that comes only from vast personal experience. The unflinching honesty of Leading Cross-Culturally is complemented by a Christ-centered hopefulness that focuses the arduous task of leading squarely on the cross. Lingenfelter offers not a set of practices but a path of faith that is wide enough for believers from all cultures to share. This book is both thought provoking and practical, but most importantly, it points us to Christ, the leader of the church."--Earl Creps, director for the PhD program for organizational leadership, Northwest University

"Many good leaders fail to make a lasting kingdom impact by undermining the role of cultural values in team and work dynamics. In this insightful and exceptionally practical book, Sherwood Lingenfelter points us to the three essential components for lasting kingdom impact: leadership, cultural values, and the Word of God."--Bambang Budijanto, vice president of Asia region, Compassion International

"Sherwood Lingenfelter provides us with an excellent resource on exercising leadership in cross-cultural contexts. He goes directly to the heart of the matter--building a covenant community of trust. Such a community moves us to transcend our differing worldviews and default cultural values. It is driven by kingdom vision and values and results in the leader generously empowering others within the community, recognizing the Holy Spirit as the ultimate leader."--John Watters, linguistic researcher and translation adviser, SIL International

"I wish this book had been written in the late 1960s at the start of my own cross-cultural ministry in Latin America. Back then some of us were pioneering a new (for us) concept of true cross-cultural teams. The absence of tested wisdom meant that we learned by trial and error. And then, about forty years later, the very day I was asked to read this manuscript, a young friend (himself in a cross-cultural marriage) who serves long-term in Albania asked me for help in leading multinational, multicultural teams in pioneer church planting and leadership. Now I can recommend what I did not have long ago. This is a remarkable book. It is crafted out of life and honesty and reflects Lingenfelter's own pilgrimage. It is rooted in people stories and case studies that illustrate and bring theoretical points to life. It is grounded in Scripture and deep spirituality, protecting leadership from mere technique and transforming it into discipleship principles. It emerges from the tested soil of the globalized church and its leadership and points us to true paths of sacrificial but creative ministry. It reflects the reality of our marvelously global Christianity with the new challenges this brings to all of us, regardless of 'mother culture.'"--William D. Taylor, former global ambassador, World Evangelical Alliance and the Mission Commission

"Lingenfelter provides another significant contribution that takes culture seriously and the Bible authoritatively. Avoiding trendy leadership gimmicks, this volume secures key principles applicable to all cultural contexts regardless of the level of complexity. This resource will allow global leaders to learn and discuss together their shared desire to serve Christ's kingdom and to do so with concepts that are common to all cultures."--Byron D. Klaus, professor of intercultural leadership, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary

"With missionaries traveling from everywhere to everywhere, a book on cross-cultural leadership is urgently needed. The worldwide body of Christ, working together in multicultural partnerships, daily faces confusion over cultural styles of leadership. Dr. Lingenfelter builds on his wide global experience and illustrates powerful principles with insightful examples and Scripture."--James E. Plueddemann, professor of missions and evangelism, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"In Leading Cross-Culturally, Sherwood Lingenfelter, a veteran in the study of cross-cultural ministry and an accomplished leader, combines his intercultural experience and judicious study of cross-cultural leadership with biblical-theological reflections and creative use of empirical cases. This book should be in the hands of everyone already in cross-cultural leadership as well as those who are considering entering the field. The integration of kingdom vision with intercultural leadership is laudable."--Lalsangkima Pachuau, associate professor of history and theology of mission, Asbury Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. Sherwood G. Lingenfelter

    Sherwood G. Lingenfelter

    Sherwood G. Lingenfelter (PhD, University of Pittsburgh), a senior statesman among evangelical anthropologists, is provost emeritus and senior professor of anthropology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He has written numerous books,...

    Continue reading about Sherwood G. Lingenfelter


"[Lingenfelter] speaks personally and frankly from over twenty years of experience in academic leadership. . . . 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."--Robert L. Gallagher, Evangelical Missions Quarterly

"There is much in these 170 pages that would assist the Christian worker who has been placed into a cross-cultural setting to carry out Christian ministry. . . . This book would provide a helpful component to a missionary team's training. . . . The messages and encouragements of this book would serve workers in a foreign context just as well as they would serve members of a North American outreach team."--E. Allen Sorum, Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly

"Typical of Lingenfelter's work is how he fluently interacts with and utilizes critical anthropological and leadership theory while drawing such theoretical discussions into tangible challenges and provocative insights. . . . Lingenfelter's challenging and helpful volume is precisely the type of resource that can assist us all in the ongoing work of auditing and renewing our vision and values as they relate to our calling of leadership. The case studies would be ideal for any teacher of missions or missionaries-in-preparation to use in guiding reflection on culture, power, and leadership. All involved in or preparing to work in a different cultural context simply must read this book. Though Lingenfelter writes specifically to those ministering in cultures other than their own, what he describes increasingly represents important issues for leaders in North American churches who find, due to shifting demographics, that they too lead a cross-cultural community. Thus, this is an important book for all who engage in the work of Christian service and leadership. I recommend it highly."--Chris Flanders, Missio Dei

"This slim volume is easy to read and the case studies are examined in stages so that the reader is able to see how each development of covenant relationships enhances the quality of leadership offered. . . . It is an exceptionally useful volume, and the various depictions of ways in which different cultures operate and the identification of different types of games will provide helpful advice for those who operate in new and alien contexts. . . . Missionaries preparing for cross-cultural service will find this book helpful whether they will be leaders or led. . . . Those who work within a local context will also find much of value in the description of covenant leadership and the use of power. It deserves a wider readership than only those who will intentionally be placed in cross-cultural leadership situations."--Fergus King, Mission Studies

"Destined to be a book that will be very useful in many places for current leaders as well as for leadership training."--Haddington House Journal