Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World


Written by: on March 17, 2023

I recently was discussing my plans for Easter service with the lead pastor. My hope is to try something different. To give some context, the church I attend meets on a campus with four other churches. One of them requested to use the main sanctuary for baptisms on Easter and inquired to see when we might finish our service. That inquiry prompted a thought: is there a better way to celebrate Easter than to celebrate new spiritual life? That pastor and I began to discuss what it might look like for their baptisms to take place as part of a joint worship service. Not wanting to take-over their celebration, we will have that baptism time take place in predominantly Mandarin (their language of choice) with translations happening both through a live translator for parts, and for longer portions (testimonies) just on prepared slides. When I briefed my lead pastor on these discussions, his main concern was a need for me to communicate my hope to the other leaders at our church and to the congregation. The reasoning seemed sound: if people come expecting a “normal” Easter service and are taken completely by surprise, it might be hard to worship. He was asking me to build anticipation by taking any unexpected uncertainty out.

Peter Northouse’s book Leadership: Theory and Practice, outlines and discusses different aspects of leadership as well as leadership theories. The book reads almost like a manual. I imagine it will be helpful to keep it as resource to be referenced. In his chapter on leadership and culture, he explains that there are dimensions to culture. One of those dimensions, uncertainty avoidance, stuck out me most.

“This dimension refers to the extent to which a society, an organization, or a group relies on established social norms, rituals, and procedures to avoid uncertainty. Uncertainty avoidance is concerned with the way cultures use rules, structures, and laws to make things more predictable and less uncertain”[1]

As I chewed on this concept, I realized that Christianity, in the forms that I have been a part of and have observed, has formed its own sort of culture. In the culture of Christianity, there seems to be high uncertainty avoidance. Even in varying forms of liturgy across denominations and individual churches, liturgical practices generally don’t change from week to week at the same church. What seems to be helpful is a general sense of rhythm and cadence in services and weekly programming. I did find it interesting that Northouse notes the United States as having a high tolerance for uncertainty.[2] Perhaps the religious element brings a more careful approach.

Simultaneously, the higher tolerance for uncertainty in the United States can be seen in church leadership structures. In one of my master’s level pastoral leadership classes, we were discussing how to share vision, mission, and values. I shared how at the Chinese church I served at, the leadership could come up with a vision and have a sermon series, but the real work of getting everyone onboard would come in small group and individual conversations. My professor thought this was a terrible leadership structure. It seems that maybe he didn’t understand the different dimensions of culture could influence how leadership happens. Making big decisions in Chinese churches is difficult and takes a long time. It also requires “cultivation built on a level of trust and reliability that comes with a long-term commitment.”[3]

[1] Peter Northouse Leadership: Theory and Practice, (Thousand Oaks : SAGE Publications) 2018, 626.

[2] Ibid, 626

[3] Ibid, 626

About the Author

Caleb Lu

5 responses to “Uncertainty”

  1. mm Becca Hald says:

    Caleb, I love what you are doing for your Easter service. What a beautiful way to celebrate. Our church is doing something different as well. Last year, we went to a Saturday night service and we rent our facility to another church on Sunday mornings. So this year for Easter, we are holding a Saturday Easter service and focusing on the waiting between Good Friday and Easter. I appreciate the thoughtfulness you are putting in to making sure people know what to expect. Given what you have learned from Northouse and culture, how might you respond to that professor today? As you said, he clearly did not understand the cultural frame. What are some ways we can help others go deeper in their understanding of cultural differences?

  2. Caleb,

    Thank you for your post, especially how you ended your post on“cultivation built on a level of trust and reliability that comes with a long-term commitment”

    I remember my bible college teacher saying you had to earn the right to speak into peoples lives.

  3. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Caleb,

    Your post reminds me of Dr. Peter Enns’ book “The Sin of Certainty.” How great is that title? Yes, I too am surprised Northouse notes Americans as having a higher tolerance for uncertainty. That may be due to the history of American expansion under the vain assumption of American exceptionalism. But that’s just my guess.

    What are ways you intentionally lean into uncertainty? I am someone who definitely struggles with the sin of certainty.

  4. Kristy Newport says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on uncertainty avoidance.
    I appreciate your desire to be adaptable in your approach to Easter Sunday service. I hope this Sunday works well. I am sure it will go well with your congregation’s knowledge of a unique service.
    I like David’s question. What are ways you lean into uncertainty?

  5. Caleb – I can’t wait to hear how your Easter worship goes. As the creative director at our church, I’m also in favor of mixing things up. When people experience the unexpected, it is easier to form core memories and I think worship should be part of that! At our church, we intentionally do not follow an order of service that stays consistent. It took some time and rattled feathers to make that change, but I think people pay more attention when they are no acting out of rote behavior. Way to go!

Leave a Reply