Church Leadership: Empirical Results and Discussion

Subject: Religion
Pages: 30
Words: 8076
Reading time:
32 min
Study level: PhD

Continuing our study of challenges to modern church leadership in today dynamic, multicultural and complex environment, we will analyze the results of empirical research conducted in frames of this study. Starting the analysis, it should first be noted that leadership is viewed from two points of view today.

Firstly, as a special case of interpersonal influence, due to which a person or group of people does what the leader wants from them ‑ in other words, leadership is a process of predominantly non-forced influence towards the achievement of goals by a group or organization.1 Moreover, secondly, leadership can be seen as the presence of a certain set of qualities attributed to those who successfully exert influence or influence others.

The variety of leadership theories that exist today can be divided into four groups. These are the following: theories of leadership qualities and behavioral theories, situational theories or theories of unforeseen circumstances, as well as theories of new leadership, which include a charismatic approach, a transformational approach, leadership through self-governing teams, and attributive theory of leadership. However, despite the variety of concepts, approaches to the study of leadership are based on a combination of three main variables, such as leadership qualities, leadership behavior, and the situation in which the leader is.

In the process of researching issues of effective leadership in a multicultural group in the context of intercultural communication and cooperation, including in the church environment, the group of theories of new leadership plays a particularly important role, where studies expanding the vision of a modern leader ‑ a leader in a global context, based on which it is possible to form a fundamentally new model of leadership in a multicultural “team.”

It is especially important as representatives of different cultures in cross-cultural groups have different motives, incentives, rules, norms, traditions, communication styles, and can also perceive working situations in different ways. Studies in the management of cross-cultural groups prove that difficulties arise in the communication of representatives of different cultures due to national characteristics of their communicative behavior, which is defined as verbal and non-verbal behavior, people, individuals, groups of people in the process of communication, regulated by norms and traditions of communication of this society.2

It seems that in the subject of cross-cultural research, the problem of social and cultural distance (a measure of the similarity and difference of social positions, elements of culture in specific conditions) acquires a special sound. The closer the values, the basic attitudes of cultures, the shorter the cultural distance and, accordingly, the easier it is to build relationships in a cross-cultural team. The main factors in the effectiveness of a cross-cultural team are tolerance, empathy, knowledge of other cultures.

It is obvious that the cross-cultural skills of the church leader are represented by the ability, in a mixed or foreign cultural environment, to demonstrate behavior that leads to the achievement of goals. It implies understanding the nature of different cultures and their impact on work behavior, organizing systems, structures, priorities; understanding and ability to implement elements of one culture to another.3

At the same time, ethnocentrism is a negative factor, since it demonstrates the desire to “fit” representatives of another culture into the framework of their culture and to expect, to demand from them behavior corresponding to these specific norms.

In the world of cultural diversity, the leader, first of all, needs to identify the common points of different cultures, common values and interests, as this will facilitate the process of intercultural communication, which is an extremely important process of effective management in a multicultural environment. Next, cross-cultural differences need to be recognized in order to find common ground and build trusts aimed at the long term.4 This requires the ability to listen, the ability to concede and respect the originality of others.

A number of basic factors that determine the effectiveness of a multicultural church community are highlighted in the literature: leadership style, team architecture and selection of its participants, management of the development of a cross-cultural team, cross-cultural communications, cross-cultural collectivism, cross-cultural trust, cross-cultural management, the level of cross-cultural uncertainty.

The last two factors ‑ cross-cultural management and cross-cultural uncertainty ‑ are, to some extent, integrating the rest. So, successful cross-cultural management is the result of successful work in the areas of team building, establishing communications within their framework, choosing the most effective leadership style, building mutual trust and a team culture (Rockson 2019).

In turn, cross-cultural uncertainty is the aggregate characteristic of most of the problems that multicultural ‘teams’ face in the process of their formation and work: communication barriers, different perceptions of common goals and norms by group members, different distance of power and other unique cultural features. Overcoming cross-cultural uncertainty is facilitated by the collection of the maximum amount of data on the cultural characteristics of representatives of various countries and the further consideration of these features in the process of managing a group of church members.

Theories of new leadership have tried to combine the virtues of traditional and situational approaches. They focus on the leader’s ability to create a new vision for solving the problem and, using their charisma, inspire followers to take action to achieve their goals. As part of the study of issues of effective leadership in a multicultural team, the group of theories of new leadership plays an important role in the implementation of intercultural practices (Gutterman 2019).5

Of particular interest are recent studies that expand the vision of the modern manager ‑ the leader of any ‘project’ implemented in the multicultural environment, on the basis of which the formation of a fundamentally new model of leadership in a multicultural group is possible.

Cross-cultural leader should have a great horizons and rich imagination, as he has to work with representatives of different cultures. It is very important to know and take into account, when working with potential and existing parishioners, the peculiarities of a national character, the mentality of representatives of other cultures in order to avoid cross-cultural dissonances.6 The prototype of the church leader in an intercultural environment should be free from cultural “barriers” and not depend on nationality.

He should maximally take into account the interests of representatives of different cultures, motivate parishioners to achieve results by increasing their consciousness in perceiving the importance of the Christian’s stated goal of activity.7 They should be given the opportunity to combine their personal interests with a common goal, creating an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect, promoting their development in the spirit of Christian teaching and taking into account followers’ cultural characteristics.

At this, quite unexpected result was obtained in the question “Would you consider yourself religious?” The answers were distributed as follows: only 51.2% called themselves religious, while 42.5% do not consider themselves religious. At the same time, 66.5% attend church services more than once per week, and 16.8% visit church once per week. Such inconsistency can be explained by following community practices, not being really adherent to church and its life.

This is evident also from the distribution of answers to the question “Do you believe Christians must attend church?” – the distribution was 67.1% (Yes) and 26.7% (No). Such situation, clearly shown on the graph below, unlikely can be called suitable for ministry and mission development and requires changing leadership practices towards introducing engagement approaches. One can force a person to fulfill some duties in the church, but if at the same time his heart has not changed, it means that the leader has not brought him anywhere spiritually.

Religiosity and church attendance among respondents.
Fig. 1. Religiosity and church attendance among respondents.

Answering question “Do you believe that church unity, love, and training are important to growing a ministry?,” absolute majority of respondents said “yes.” Also, almost the vast majority of respondents indicated that they want to be disciples for Christ. 72.7% of respondents expressed desire to train church members to win souls for Christ. This represents a wide field for the leader’s creative activity in his efforts to synergistically unite the characteristics and “best practices” of different cultures, to achieve “organizational diversity” in the church.

Thus, the heterogeneity of resources, processes, and preferences in the activities of the church community and its members requires effective management of this diversity ‑ first, to use its capabilities in choosing a leadership strategy to increase the effectiveness of missionary work, and secondly, to justify the scope and directions development of church organization.

It is known that the fundamental process in the activities of any organization is social interaction. It seems possible to argue that the effectiveness of this interaction in the internal space of any organization (including in church) predetermines its integrity as a social organism. At the same time, any organization, based on its definition of social formation, is heterogeneous ‑ primarily, based on differences in the individual goals of the participants.8 Heterogeneity in the scientific literature is interpreted as dissimilarity, “peculiarity” by the nature or origin of parts of a particular system.9

Most often, this term is used in sociology ‑ as one of the structural characteristics of a particular society. If we consider heterogeneity from these positions, as a set of parameters demonstrating the degree of heterogeneity, a wide range of shades of a certain society, dissimilarity, and “peculiarity” of its constituent parts, then it can be argued that modern organizations are distinguished by a high degree of heterogeneity, and especially in relation to their social components.

Heterogeneity of preferences also takes place in the internal environment of an organization (church community) ‑ motivational preferences of different participants. Each of them evaluates their contribution and their importance to the structure of the ministry process, comparing it, inter alia, with the ‘remuneration’ received from the standpoint of social justice.10

Reaching agreement on the motivational attitudes of participants in joint activities requires the development of effective ways of organizational interaction and methods of regulating socio-economic relations. The greater the level of heterogeneity of diverse groups, the more diverse should be the techniques and methods of regulating relations and communications in them.

Today, diversity management is becoming an important tool for effective management of a heterogeneous organization. From the point of view of diversity management, it is important how heterogeneity in an organization is considered: as a chance or as a danger. In a positive way, diversity is interpreted as a wealth of shades, in which differences are considered not as disconnecting, but rather as uniting, which allows using the potential of diversity to achieve a synergistic effect.11

In a negative sense, a hierarchical system is created in which the difference is seen as a kind of deficit, a deficiency. In a sense, differences are interpreted in terms of non-adaptation or inability to adapt in society.12 Which of these understandings of diversity will dominate the organization will depend on its culture.

When defining diversity as a chance, we are talking about all the members of the organization who belong to different groups and based on their various abilities, experience and views, can make a specific contribution to its success. Consequently, diversity becomes the foundation of the organizational development of the church community.

Maturity in the field of diversity involves knowledge of leaders and the transfer of the main aspects of diversity to followers and a certain flexibility in their thinking and activity. These qualities are formed both through special training of church members and their personal reflection, and through the daily implementation of the principles of diversity in the church organization. To determine the degree of maturity in the field of diversity, an analysis of the behavior is required.

Persons with a high degree of maturity are ready to take responsibility for the success of the church organization and do not try to shift it to others. They feel like a particle of the world of diversity. They are experts who are able to evaluate themselves, the level of development of the organization, its philosophy and mission, and know the most important aspects and postulates of the theory of diversity.

Only one who knows his own personality well can effectively comprehend personal goals, development prospects, and self-requirements. They are characterized by situational thinking and behavior. These people show their willingness and ability to prevent and regulate tension and conflict situations that arise on the basis of diversity, and consider them as an attribute of the world of diversity.

They are ready to abandon the traditional views on the difference between individuals and groups, as well as the prejudices and stereotypes that arise around them. These people are ready for lifelong learning. The most important characteristic of an expert in the field of diversity is his competence, which involves the following abilities: to identify problems in a multicultural team and determine the types of tensions and conflicts; competently analyze the causes of these conflicts, identify productive ways to prevent and resolve them.

If maturity in the field of diversity requires knowledge of its various aspects and the ability to adequately respond to them, then competence in the field of diversity requires the ability of a leader to professionally competently solve problems arising in the world of diversity, create a productive heterogeneous environment for the organization and include members representing various social groups. Thus, maturity and competence in the field of diversity are complementary features that characterize the respondent’s effectiveness in the field of diversity, which is evident in our empirical research.

Individual differences affect indirectly, and sometimes directly, the success of an organization. T. Cox has developed a model that reflects the impact of diversity on individual expectations and indirectly on organizational performance.13 This model is based on the forecast that in the era of globalization, a mixture of ethical, cultural, religious, and racial groups will occur. In this context, when developing a strategy for the development of church organization, consideration of the factor of diversity is inevitable.

In the Cox model, diversity is considered at three different levels: at the individual, group, and organization level. These three levels determine the totality of diversity factors in an organization. Individual factors reveal, first of all, the member’s identification structure: his individual inclinations, a sense of belonging to a certain cultural, age, ethnic, religious group, as well as prejudices towards other groups that do not meet his identification standards.

This leads to the formation of stereotypes that are quite sustainable. All these qualities characterize the essential features of the personality and represent a source of potential conflicts in the church organization. Group conflicts can also arise on the basis of cultural, ethnic, and other differences. Through targeted activities, the organization must influence these interrelated factors and use them for its successful development and the spiritual well-being of its members.14

Another Cox’s model which should be mentioned is the “right circle” model. This model provides a process of cultural change in the organization through the use of diversity management strategies. The right circle of Cox identifies the interconnected and interdependent factors that influence these changes: leadership, research and measurement, education, alignment, and aftereffect.15

The Cox model assumes the initial use of top-down strategy in organizations. Using this strategy, the leadership demonstrates vivid examples of cultural change, appointing, for example, women or representatives of national minorities to leadership positions. This contributes to the formation of the collective’s understanding of diversity as a factor in the development of the organization.

According to this model, its first element ‑ leadership ‑ involves leadership’s recognition of the need for changes in the organizational culture, the introduction of the basic principles of diversity management. Also, it is the willingness of the administration to develop optimal diversity management strategies, interact with various heterogeneous groups, and build a system of “corporate” training and education that takes into account the interests and needs of various social groups.16

In order to carry out this work effectively, a thorough study of the social, national, gender, age structure of the staff, motives, needs, expectations of the organization’s members (followers) representing various heterogeneous groups is necessary.17 Carrying out such a multilateral analysis should be provided, according to Cox, by the second element of the model ‑ research and measurement.

In cross-cultural teams, two scenarios for the development of relations within a group are possible: the establishment of cultural unity and cohesion, or subgroup domination and the effect of exclusion from intra-group interaction. In the field of team architecture, the following three most important factors dominate for inclusion of an individual in a multicultural team: personal qualities, ability to work in a team, respect, tolerance. The leaders of cross-cultural groups as well as their members can solve these problems in different ways based on their cultural background, which determines the specifics of their approaches and ‘team’ management strategies.

From a missionary point of view, the third element of the Cox model, education, is most important. The model involves the construction of such a system of “corporate” education that solves enlightening and ‘upbringing’ tasks aimed at forming in the parishioners (both existing and potential) philosophy and value-semantic attitudes associated with the recognition and respect of diversity as a factor in the development of the individual and the church as a whole.

This system should facilitate the inclusion of all members in the process of cultural and institutional changes in the organization. Authors recommend continuing education courses, trainings, seminars, coaching, supervision, and mentoring as forms of ‘corporate’ (intra-church) education.18 So, for example, training on diversity management, intended for leading positions, is aimed at expanding managerial competence in terms of creating a heterogeneous environment that ensures equal opportunities and disclosure of individual qualities of organization members.

The fourth element of the Cox model ‑ alignment ‑ is aimed at assessing the organization’s existing rules, practices, procedures, political decisions, strategies for their compliance with the principles of diversity management. All management decisions, especially decisions concerning members, are evaluated in terms of their potential capabilities, discrimination of individuals or entire social groups associated with various signs of diversity.19

Such an assessment of managerial decisions helps the organization’s management avoid serious mistakes in interaction with heterogeneous groups in order to improve the socio-psychological climate in a multicultural organization. The fifth element of the model the aftereffect ‑ involves careful monitoring of the processes of changing ‘corporate’ culture that occur in the church organization in the present and contain diagnostic procedures that are prognostic in nature.20

The organization of diversity is seen as an active and sustainable process in which several ways of organizing, training, explaining, and evaluating the same action always coexist, which ensures the development of constructive organizational reflection. This makes it possible to recombine resources, transform the old organizational forms of interaction into a new organizational structure (system) ‑ with higher adaptive properties.21

Moreover, the ability to develop is an immanent characteristic of open systems that allows them to exist ‑ evolving, adapting to changes in the external environment, developing their ability to compensate for external disturbances and maintaining their stability and dynamic equilibrium with the environment ‑ as is usually the case in nature.

However, another development path is also possible ‑ the bifurcation one, which creates the basis for new options for the development of the organization. It seems appropriate to interpret the innovative development of the organization as the implementation of one of the options for such a bifurcation ‑ as a purposeful, revolutionary destruction (violation) of the existing order of the internal organizational and functional space in order to bring it into line with the new operating conditions.

At the same time, attention is focused not on overcoming the problems that have arisen, but on identifying new opportunities. As a result, according to the law of emergence, both the elemental composition of the system and the relationships between them change, which gives the system new properties, and its system attractor changes.22

A qualitatively new state of the organization can significantly increase its adaptability. Moreover, the increasing flexibility of the organization due to improved connections between its structural elements increases the ability of management to be proactive, forming the basis for the development of preferences and the creation of new, sufficiently capacious ‘segments’ for missionary activity implementation, which means maintaining the effectiveness of missions in the long term.

Diversity helps to ensure such innovative development through “management of uncertainty.” This is important because ignoring the uncertainty caused by the mismatch and sometimes conflict of values and attitudes of different cultures is expressed in the fact that management decisions are made on the basis of forecasting studies, but within the framework of a single scenario. The scenario, adopted as a dogma, after a certain time ceases to correspond to the changed situation.23

Management that realizes itself within the framework of such a scenario makes the organization inflexible, the entire management system rigid, which ultimately begins to threaten its normal functioning. Refusing to develop and analyze a variety of scenarios that open up unique opportunities, a management decision leads, instead of the planned result, to an imbalance of the entire organizational system.24

Thus, the limited linear relationships are evident when substantiating the “benefits” from the implementation of church leadership: they benefit only under similar conditions and in an unchanged system of organizational coordinates.

Ethnopsychological characteristics of people are real-life, functioning phenomena of public consciousness, having their own specific properties, peculiar mechanisms of manifestation and having a great impact on people’s activities and behavior. They represent the dynamic, changing side of national psychology and find themselves precisely in activity, in behavior, in actions.

The national attitude is understood as a certain state of the person’s internal readiness for specific manifestations of feelings, intellectual, cognitive and volitional activity, the dynamics and nature of interaction, communication, etc., corresponding to the prevailing national traditions. Such a peculiarity is indeed possible at the psychophysiological level. National attitudes, like attitudes of any other kind, are fixed in the course of the historical development of the mental structure of the nation.

As a result, entire systems of fixed national attitudes are formed, which are constantly updated and initiate a peculiar course of the personality’s mental processes, the nature of behavior, interaction, and communication of certain ethnic communities, providing an internal readiness for a certain form of their response to emerging situations. The basis for fixing the national attitude should be sought in the formation of national stereotypes to the direct impact of objective reality. For this reason, they have greater, compared with other psychological phenomena, conservativeness and stability.

At the same time, psychological compatibility is seen as a phenomenon that includes interpersonal relationships and suggests the following:25

  1. Complementarity of needs, implying an addition to manifestation of needs. For example, when one of the subjects shows a strong desire for leadership, and the other ‑ the need for obedience.
  2. Congruence of needs, when both subjects (partners) have similar needs, satisfied by the same interpersonal relationships.
  3. Complementarity of skills, suggesting compensation for the underdeveloped abilities of one subject with another (partner).
  4. The complementarity of knowledge, when both partners have non-overlapping knowledge, so that each of them can learn from the other.
  5. Common values, when partners in joint activities have a common system of values and rules of conduct.

For people with a “normal” ethnic identity, it is the rule when they tend to prefer their own culture and values. This is, as it were, the initial stage of ethnocentrism, when the desire for a positive ethnic identity is a necessary condition for maintaining the integrity and originality of the ethnic community in the ethnocultural diversity of the world.26 Thus, the problem of adaptation in a multicultural church environment should be replaced by another one ‑ the problem of adaptability.

The question should be posed in a different way ‑ not how to fit into the new economic conditions, but how to change the organizational structure so that it enhances its ability to respond to future unexpected changes in the external environment. Gutterman reflected this more specifically: adaptability is driven by a variety of organizations: a system with a greater variety of organizational forms is more likely to find a satisfactory solution in the event of a change in external conditions.27

In a multi-ethnic environment, interethnic interaction is an everyday reality; therefore, the ethnic affiliation of a communication partner ceases to be dominant. The first are social and emotional aspects; this type of identity is characterized by high tolerance and willingness to interethnic contacts. In this, striving for a positive ethnic identity, the individual increases his self-esteem, and seeks to increase the prestige and status of his group.

The problem is exacerbated when members of the group at the same time possess a small amount of knowledge. Key strategies to overcome these challenges can be presented as follows (Branson and Martinez. 2011):28

  • Formation of feedback, facilitating understanding of community’s goals and objectives
  • Building trust of group members to leaders and to each other. For this, it is necessary to devote more time to informal communication at the initial stages of the group’s work, taking into account the cultural specifics of various group members
  • Adaptation. Overcoming conflicts based on cultural differences (including in decision-making processes). Members of a multicultural church community openly outline the problems that impede the effective work of structures. After that, the team members begin to adjust their own system of norms and values in order to overcome the identified problems (limitation as a lack of personal flexibility). As a result of such adaptation, the effect of cultural differences is leveled
  • Structural interventions. Changing the perception of hierarchical relationships by ‘team’ members. A typical example is the discomfort for individual members of a group from working within a group of members who are at a lower or higher level of the hierarchy. To solve this problem, a change in the structure of teams is carried out, as well as their division into several smaller groups of uniform composition or rearrangement of individual elements (limitation is the lack of structural flexibility of the team).

The second extreme leads managers to another managerial impasse. Perceiving the world completely unpredictable, they generally abandon analytics in the process of exercising leadership functions and listen mainly to intuition. Such management decisions relate management practice to intuition activities. The consequence of intuitive control is a form of managerial unproductive behavior called “managerial paralysis”.29 “Management paralysis” is most pronounced when managers generally refuse to make strategically important decisions, focusing on issues of current routine activity.

It is interesting to note that most of the respondents do not experience difficulties in public speaking, which indicates a good potential for building effective intercultural communications subject to a competent approach. Moreover, 74.1% of respondents love telling people about their church. In addition, 74.1% of respondents love telling people about their church. Thus, the church has an excellent potential for engaging a kind of “brand advocates,” but subject to “catalysis” of the integration of effective intercultural communication practices.

The globalization of the mission not only facilitates the interpenetration of cultures and religions; it not only provides access for missionaries to anywhere in the world. The globalization of the mission also makes meaningless what makes it easier. Western missionaries openly admit that too much is being done.

If we take into account the production of “evangelism” of 1.27 trillion hours, then this is enough for every resident to listen to the presentation of the Gospel one hour every day until the end of life30; at the same time, what is really important is not being done or little is being done: in the Christians of the North, there is still a unique role in the future of global Christianity, including in interacting with culture at the levels of missiology, philosophy, theology and ecclesiology; propose radical contextualization; work with postmodern youth (Johnson 2006).

In the case of the latter, it is important to establish a global youth interaction, because namely the “global youth” is primarily interested in global topics: how to learn to serve in the context of global Christianity; partnerships in a post-colonial perspective; respect for world cultures; openness to dialogue and lessons from other cultures and religions; desire for communication and community; calm in uncertainty and doubt; strong faith that does not require all answers.31

Analysts of the Lausanne movement note one of these stereotypes that collapsed before our eyes: for decades since the Edinburgh 1910 conference, a dualistic view of the mission has been fixed, in which the Western church identified itself as a sending church and a non-Western one as a receiving church. All of this has changed.

The mission is no longer a one-way street from the West to the rest of the world. By 2050, the majority of the population will live in non-Western countries, and only 12.6% of the world population in the West. In the 1970s, there were less than one thousand of all non-Western missionaries put together. Today, missionaries from non-Western countries outnumber Western missionaries”.32

The adaptation model involves an ontological process, as the embodiment of Christianity in each new culture, which has the name of inculturation, or contextualization.33 This concept requires, first of all, the “reincarnation” of the missionary himself, who should truly become a “Chinese among the Chinese” (Hispanic, etc.), that is, as part of the apostle Paul’s approach: “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.

To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (Corinthians 9: 19-22). Such a perspective means a deep penetration into the intellectual, cultural, and political spheres not only as a missionary but as a scientist and philosopher.

In this case, the leader should understand his mission primarily as dialogue and friendship. Returning to the apostolic ministry of Paul, it should be noted that for the Jews converting to Christianity, some rituals were important: observance of the Sabbath, circumcision. Although the apostle Paul fundamentally defended the idea that pagans do not need to accept circumcision in order to become Christians, somewhere he could make some kind of concessions.

One should remember that Timothy, his closest co-worker, was prone to circumcision, although this was optional. The Christian does not need to be circumcised, but in some situations, Paul acted diplomatically.

For those under the law, it was like a bylaw to acquire bylaws ‑ this also applies to a greater extent to Jews, those who considered the law to be the highest value. For those who are strangers to the law – he was like a stranger to the law ‑ that is, to the Gentiles who did not have the law of Moses above them.

However, Paul gives an important comment that he himself was not a stranger to the law before God, he nevertheless fulfilled the main law of Christ ‑ the law of love. Therefore, in this sense, he was not a stranger to the law, but simply went towards people who did not have a law, and thereby allowed changes at some points.

If we turn to church tradition, we will come to the conclusion that it has never been reduced to universal, total uniformity, both in the field of dogma and in the cultural life of the community. The apostle Paul says: “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval” (1 Cor. 11:19). Thus, the norm is set for what today is called “intra-church discussion”.34 In the described process the principle “in the main, unity, in the secondary ‑ freedom, in everything ‑ love” is applied.

Within the Christian community, various views on the structure of church life have always been seen. Believers may have different ideas about the boundaries of relations between the Church and the state and the world of politics, the degree to which the Church is involved in social processes and the information space. In the church, there may be supporters of a conservative and liberal position on all of the above issues. Differences in opinions, as well as in political, informational and cultural preferences, do not prevent the preservation of intra-church unity, supported by sincere love for one’s neighbor.

Intra-church work includes two formats ‑ “temple”, that is, meetings directly in the church, and home groups that can be assembled in apartments. So, in some Asian missions, home group meetings are closer in style to Asian culture. Everyone sits on mattresses on the floor; periodically they make pilaf, read the Holy Scriptures in Uzbek and Tajik. As pastors of such missions note, “we don’t have the task of breaking culture, we, on the contrary, want to preserve Asian customs, but we share culture and religion, there are times where we put the line.”35

Drinking tea from the bowls is pilaf with hands, which not all do, these are cultural elements. At the same time, prayer (namaz) after eating is a religious part. In home groups, Protestant ministers pray together with former or practicing Muslims, raising their hands and washing their faces, like all Muslims do. At the same time, “Our Father” is read as a prayer. Many of those who come to home groups get to know each other through social networks and are invited to “Asian meetings” rather than to Christian worship.36 In this regard, Protestant missionaries, first of all, say that they “preach not religion, but Christ, not culture, but salvation.”37

Thus, the multicultural approach not only takes into account the differences of individual members of the church, but also creates conditions for heterogeneous groups, allowing them to maintain their quality originality, their quality characteristics. If, with the adaptive approach, members adapt to the organization, then with a multicultural approach, not only members adapt, but the organization itself.

If the integrative approach is focused on quantitative monitoring of the effectiveness of cultural diversity, then the multicultural approach has a qualitative orientation, promotes respect for differences, creates a socio-psychological climate where everyone feels appreciated and respected.38 The synergistic approach in tune with it is aimed at integrating differences in order to achieve a synergistic effect to ensure high organizational effectiveness through the realization of professionally-personal and cultural-ethnic potentials of various heterogeneous groups and individual members.

The church community is formed from long and constant interactions of parishioners, not limited to religious practices, but initiated, which is important, by clergy. The leader’s figure, therefore, should occupy a key position in the organization of these interactions. A shift in focus from universally accepted dimensions of religiosity to “community” actually means a transition from the characteristics of the individual level to the collective level.39

Moreover, participation in social activities is not mandatory, as is the case with maintaining order in the church. Parishioners are involved in social activities at their own request and in accordance with their capabilities/needs. However, all those who attend church can also be involved in parish life ‑ in maintaining order, social activity within the church, and informal interactions.

Existing studies show that religion is one of the most important factors that improve the indicators of social capital accumulation by communities. So, Putnam, summing up a detailed description of the influence of the religious factor on indicators of social capital and civic engagement in the United States, writes that religion today is traditionally the main source of community life and health in America (community life and health).

Faith-based organizations serve civic life both directly, by providing social support to their members and social services to the wider community, and indirectly by fostering civic skills, instilling moral values, encouraging altruism, and promoting civic engagement among church members.40

In this regard, Unruh and Sider note that congregations transform their social capital into social well-being by performing collective action, supporting the civic involvement of their members, encouraging people and including them in the caring community.41 Schneider concludes that faith-based communities are becoming a major source of community, social and cultural capital, and support (Schneider 2006).42

Two main levels of studying social networks can be distinguished, each of which allows posing different research questions. The first level is the ego-networks of parishioners ‑ a circle of people (which can include both church members and non-church people, as well as representatives of other faiths), with which each person interacts directly. The second level of analysis is the complete social network of the parish community. Here the question is raised about the general structure of social relations in the parish, and about what effects some configuration of social relations can have.

Non-liturgic practices and social projects provide not only the strengthening of internal parish relations (between parishioners), but also the multiplication of external relations, which is achieved by connecting sponsor organizations and partner organizations, friends and acquaintances of parishioners participating, hired professionals (if any), parishioners of other temples, etc. A parish is rooted in the community (connecting with the world “outside the church fence”), which increases the level of social capital of the parish, forms a large number of weak ties that can be used both for parish affairs and for personal needs of parishioners.43

An important condition for such a development of the parish network is the delegation of extra-liturgical activities to the parishioners, the lack of closure of all contacts (including with external organizations, other parishes) at the rector or priests of the parish.44 Communications acquired during parish activities, in essence, become a complex of those social relations that can be involved in the interests of not only the parish as a whole, but also individual parishioners.

Experts distinguish between involvement in activities and organization engagement. The results of research indicate that conscious organizational support affects both types of engagement.45 Activities characteristics predict engagement in church work/activities, and fair procedures predict engagement. Moreover, the formation of involvement is a two-way impact on the addressee of the church mission: on the one hand, the attitude of the leader to the church as a whole, to the organization and to the church member in particular, and on the other, the organization of work that allows to identify, activate, and realize the interests of the member.

Among the respondents, 80.5% enjoy volunteering in the church, and even more (87.6%) love helping the community. Moreover, overwhelming majority of respondents (93.1%) enjoy working in a team (Fig. 2 below). Thus, engagement has high potential in the congregation community under consideration. In turn, engagement can help capitalize on members’ cultural diversity, engage them and encourage collaboration. This helps create a comfortable environment in which an open exchange of ideas is welcomed and cultural barriers are lacking.

Volunteering in community and working in a team (a comparison).
Fig. 2. Volunteering in community and working in a team (a comparison).

Analyzing the mechanisms of attracting volunteers and the peculiarities of their motivation, researchers identify (with a certain degree of conditionality) two main models of organization of church communities and social groups: authoritarian-mystical and socially-open.46 The appearance of the latter model shows the dynamics of changes in religiosity and sociocultural priorities in modern church service. At the same time, in the field of church social service, there is definitely a much greater difference in approaches to organizing volunteer activities than before.

Unfortunately, often in some church parishes a person is encouraged to social work in spite of his inner motivation. He can be manipulated, psychologically pressured, including speculating that he must obey. However, doing good deeds, volunteers must realize themselves, justifying their ideas about life, internal ideals. Just as in business organizations routine work, which does not bring internal satisfaction to the employee and does not contribute to his development, is a brake on organizational effectiveness, this pattern also holds in the church.

That is, from this point of view, volunteering is recognized as a kind of springboard for the possibility of self-realization or even the choice of a life path, and by no means as a path of almost monastic understood obedience. Obviously, authoritarian-mystical principles are out of the question here. The modern model of the organization of church social service, especially in conditions of organizational diversity, can be described as a model of a socially open type, because it allows volunteers to more individually and freely choose the type of social service.

For the religiosity of volunteer groups of a socially open type, the practice of Christianity is adapted to modern conditions, according to the specifics of certain professional and psychological qualities of certain groups of people and social categories. The formation of involvement is a two-way impact: on the one hand, the attitude of the leader towards the church as a whole, towards the organization and the parishioner in particular. On the other, it is the organization of work that allows identifying, activating, and realizing the interests of parishioners and those who are not yet within the walls of church.

The survey method in frames of our research is based on a series of questions to the research participant. This method helps to look deeper into the problem being studied, asking specific questions to the people involved in it. The scope of surveys application in social research is extensive and includes the following (these tasks were set in frames of our empirical study):

  • The early stages of the research, work on the intelligence plan, when using the data of the interviews the variables related to the problem being studied are established and working hypotheses are put forward;
  • Obtaining data to measure the relationship of the studied variables; refinement, expansion and control of data obtained both by other methods and by one or another form of survey.

The survey method has several significant advantages. In particular, the use of the sampling method during the survey reduces the number of respondents, but not to the detriment of the quality of the information received. The sample population (the number of people who will be interviewed) is formed by the researcher according to certain rules and reflects the characteristics of the general population (all people who could potentially be interviewed).

A correctly compiled sample guarantees reliable information while minimizing the cost of the survey. In addition, the survey method allows obtaining empirical material convenient for statistical processing and generalization. It should be noted that the representativeness of the sample is its ability to accurately reflect the characteristics of the population under study. Strictly speaking, representativeness is not a single, common property of the entire sample, but the nature of the distribution of answers to a particular question in the questionnaire. That is, the distribution of answers to a particular question is representative.

The chosen research paradigm in this case is positivism, which is a philosophical doctrine and a direction in the methodology of science, that determines empirical research as the only source of true, real knowledge. Positivism is a philosophy of positive knowledge that rejects theoretical speculation and speculation as a means of obtaining knowledge. Based on a set of empirical data, researchers are trying to generalize the theoretical level.

Due to time constraints, the study was limited to interviewing just about thirty individuals. However, the sample size can be considered enough to achieve both informational and theoretical saturation in the research project. It was expected that answers collected from the respondents will be sufficient to find consistent patterns in data sets and that a theoretical framework is fully represented in the answers.

An empirical cross-cultural study led to the conclusion that there is an objective need to form a new model of church leadership in an intercultural environment that combines the features of a transformative or innovative leadership style. In this case, the leader, first of all, should be a transformer, showing creativity, relying on an objective assessment of what is happening. He should lead church members from one result to another result, focusing them on “high performance” in Christian ministry and development.

The results of theoretical research and their practical understanding in the course of empirical research served as the basis for the development of a new leadership model that fits into the modern paradigm of organizational development of the church, based on the influence of cross-cultural differences (Fig. 3).

Types of leadership in a multicultural team, depending on taking into account the influence of the cultural component and the nature of the relationship “leader – followers.”
Fig. 3. Types of leadership in a multicultural team, depending on taking into account the influence of the cultural component and the nature of the relationship “leader – followers.”

According to the proposed model, the types of leadership in a multicultural team depend on two fundamentally important factors. This is taking into account cross-cultural differences and the nature of the relationship between the leader and his followers. The first factor, the cultural component, has a great influence on the processes of leadership, interactions as members of the sermon and ministry, motivation, and other basic processes of church leadership; in addition, various cross-cultural interaction strategies are possible.

The figure shows two most polar points of view: from ignoring the influence of cross-cultural differences to their complete synergy, which is the most promising, from our point of view, and, at the same time, represents a vital quality for the leader of a multicultural collective.

The second factor is the nature of the relationship between the leader and followers. Let us consider the features of these relationships depending on two cultural parameters: universalism-particularism and neutrality-emotionality. The combination of these parameters gives a neutral – universal ‑ type of relationship based on trust and mutual respect and an emotionally particularistic type of relationship, which is characterized by a large influence of the emotional component and the performance of the work significantly depends on the nature of the relationship and the surrounding context.

Thus, the main idea of the proposed approach when developing a new leadership model is to take into account the cultural parameters characterizing the characteristics of the relationship between the leader and followers, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the peculiarity of the interaction of representatives of different cultures. The combination of two parameters allows distinguishing four types of leadership:

  1. Leader-harmonizer.
  2. The traditional leader.
  3. A leader with positive charisma.
  4. A leader with negative charisma.

The leader-harmonizer builds his relations with team members on an emotionally neutral basis, within the framework of an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect, which implies a strong relationship between the leader and team members, where each in turn relies on each other. A harmonization leader must have the ability to understand, practice, and harmonize cross-cultural differences, achieving a synergistic effect.

The model of harmonizing leadership, considered from the perspective of increasing the effectiveness of organizational and cross-cultural interaction (Fig. 4), assumes the presence of three components: a leader with certain leadership abilities, followers, and a situation in which the leader and team members interact. Their intersection gives the optimal combination of these groups of factors necessary for the leader-harmonizer.

Multicultural Team Leadership Model.
Fig.4. Multicultural Team Leadership Model.

The church leader in a multicultural community is that key figure on whose leadership abilities and behavior the efficiency of managing a multicultural group of followers and the success of the functioning of his church as a whole and its expansion in collaboration with the local community largely depend. Therefore, the proposed leadership model in a multicultural team assumes that the leader and team members (followers) have a certain type of interaction that is consistent with the creative solution of tasks and ministry problems in the community context in which the participants of this process are located.


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Andrews, Edward D. The Evangelism Handbook: How All Christians Can Effectively Share God’s Word in Their Community. Christian Publishing House, 2017.

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DeYmaz, Mark. Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices of a Diverse Congregation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2007.

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Drost, Paul. “Church Planting: A Strategic Method for Increasing Missional Effectiveness in the Assemblies of God.” PhD diss., Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, 2015.

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Easum, William M., and William Tenny-Brittian. Effective Staffing for Vital Churches: The Essential Guide to Finding and Keeping the Right People. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012.

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Gallet, Wilma. “Social Connectedness: The Role of the Local Church in Building Community.” Pointers: Bulletin of the Christian Research Association 26, no. 4 (2016): 1-5.

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Perry, Marg. “How Can the Life, Ministry, and Teaching of the Apostle Paul, Address the Development of Cross-Cultural Leadership Practice That Is Biblically-Based, and Informed by Relevant Secular Theory?” Journal of Contemporary Ministry 4 (2018): 105-119.

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  1. David R. Dunaetz and Kenneth E. Priddy, “Pastoral Attitudes that Predict Numerical Church Growth.” Great Commission Research Journal 6, no. 1 (2013): 241-256.
  2. Mark DeYmaz, Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices of a Diverse Congregation (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2007).
  3. Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson, On the Verge: A Journey into the Apostolic Future of the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).
  4. Alan S. Gutterman, Cross-Cultural Leadership Studies (NY: Business Expert Press, 2019).
  5. Ibid.
  6. Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (Baker Books, 2006).
  7. David J. Bosch, Witness to the World: The Christian Mission in Theological Perspective (Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2006).
  8. Jeff Christopherson and Mac Lake, Kingdom First: Starting Churches that Shape Movements (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2015).
  9. William M. Easum and William Tenny-Brittian, Effective Staffing for Vital Churches: The Essential Guide to Finding and Keeping the Right People (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012).
  10. Mark Branson and Juan F. Martinez, Churches, Cultures and Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011).
  11. Paul Drost, “Church Planting: A Strategic Method for Increasing Missional Effectiveness in the Assemblies of God.” PhD diss. (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, 2015).
  12. Chi-Yue Chiu et al., “Cross-Cultural Competence: Theory, Research, and Application.” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 44, no. 6 (2013): 843-848.
  13. Maria Triana, Managing Diversity in Organizations (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2017).
  14. Michael A. Moodian, Contemporary Leadership and Intercultural Competence: Exploring the Cross-Cultural Dynamics Within Organizations (Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications, 2008).
  15. Triana, Managing Diversity, 42.
  16. Moodian, Contemporary Leadership, 60-62.
  17. Rob Elkington et al., “Leadership as an Enabling Function: Towards a New Paradigm for Local Church Leadership in the 21st Century.” In Die Skriflig 49, no. 3 (2015): 1-14.
  18. Edward D. Andrews, The Evangelism Handbook: How All Christians Can Effectively Share God’s Word in Their Community (Christian Publishing House, 2017).
  19. Triana, Managing Diversity, 55.
  20. Ibid.
  21. DeYmaz, Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church.
  22. Tayo Rockson, Use Your Difference to Make a Difference: How to Connect and Communicate in a Cross-Cultural World (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2019).
  23. Kleber D. Gonçalves, “Transforming Discipleship: Opportunities in Following the Master in a Postmodern World.” Journal of Adventist Mission Studies 12, no. 2 (2016): 277-289.
  24. John Hayward, “Church Growth via Enthusiasts and Renewal.” ResearchGate. Web.
  25. Rockson, Use Your Difference.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Gutterman, Cross-Cultural Leadership, 18-24.
  28. Branson and Martinez, Churches, Cultures and Leadership.
  29. Ibid.
  30. Ibid.
  31. Todd M. Johnson, “Seven Signposts of Hope and Challenge in Global Christianity.” Connections 5, no. 1 (2006): 22-25.
  32. Mary Ho, Global Leadership for Global Mission. How mission leaders can become world-class global leaders. Web.
  33. Marg Perry, “How Can the Life, Ministry, and Teaching of the Apostle Paul, Address the Development of Cross-Cultural Leadership Practice That Is Biblically-Based, and Informed by Relevant Secular Theory?” Journal of Contemporary Ministry 4 (2018): 105-119.
  34. Drost, “Church Planting: A Strategic Method”.
  35. Branson and Martinez, Churches, Cultures and Leadership, 65.
  36. Ibid.
  37. David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2006).
  38. Gonçalves, “Transforming Discipleship”
  39. Wilma Gallet, “Social Connectedness: The Role of the Local Church in Building Community.” Pointers: Bulletin of the Christian Research Association 26, no. 4 (2016): 1-5.
  40. Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: Collapse and Revival of American Community (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2000).
  41. Heidi R. Unruh and Ronald J. Sider, Saving Souls, Serving Society: Understanding the Faith Factor in Church-Based Social Ministry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
  42. Schneider, Jo Anne. 2006. Social Capital and Welfare Reform: Organizations, Congregations, and Communities. NY: Columbia University Press.
  43. Eric W. Hayden, Spurgeon on Revival: A Pattern for Evangelism Today (Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2018).
  44. Hsiu-Ching Ko, “Cross-Cultural Leadership Effectiveness: Perspectives from Non-Western Leaders.” Management and Organizational Studies 2, no. 4 (2015): 1-15.
  45. Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson, On the Verge: A Journey into the Apostolic Future of the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).
  46. Timothy Keller, Serving a Movement: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016).