I appreciated Nohira and Khurana and their approach to leadership. Even dough they addressed a secular audience, they are very inclusive in pointing out essential elements to practical guidance. The author writes about two chapters that are very close to my heart.
1-13 – LEADERSHIP AND CULTURAL CONTEXT
At the start of every age, a new culture confronts us with new challenges. This happens today with postmodernity and multiculturalism. Postmodernity presents challenges for the Church as it becomes more prevalent in the twenty-first century. The main cultural problems that the Church has to face in its mission can be identified, and they are issues that come to mind when analyzing the Church and its mission.
I am doing ministry in a reality that involves the future of the Church in the United States in a very multilingual, multi-ethnic, multi-generational, and postmodern context, pp 2-22. These challenges, in turn, lead me to think of theology, mission, leadership, and structures that can help me understand the impact the Church has on the local community today. How we contextualize the challenges will reflect in the ministry that we have been entrusted with.
How can we address the challenges of contextualization and determine how a church can “be aware and engaged in a context while not defined by the authorities and assumptions of that setting,” pp 68-71 The Church is seeking to be the missionary element that will dive into the culture to find the characteristics that separate the world from the Church.
It has to merge into a new paradigm that is sensitive to the contextualization of its functions without compromising its identity. It has to think in terms of an intercultural mindset to understand culture and contextualization and serve with relevancy in multicultural and postmodern times.
As a Latino pastor seeking to lead a church in a multicultural and postmodern context, I must have a missionary mindset to not only know how to contextualize ministry but to have the ability to depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It comforts me to know that He is guiding me on the right path (Jn 16:14).
There are many other challenges that we have to face when serving a diverse community. At times, the ministry can be tiring, messy, and confusing, but by sharing with different ethnic groups around the community, we have felt an urgency to understand the complexity of the Kingdom of God.
Many pastors prefer to stay in a monocultural church rather than take on a higher level of frustration that is often present in a multicultural congregation.
I have been in ministry for the last twenty-seven, eight of those having been spent in Africa, and the rest in multicultural Latino and Anglo congregations. These years of experience have shaped me in a very unique and special way. God has given me tremendous sensitivity and empathy for all people regardless of their cultural backgrounds.
As difficult as it may seem to lead diverse congregations, I take great joy in doing so. Lee and Kurt quoted William Willimon by relating that “It is a joyful thing to be a pastor, to have one’s life drawn towards dealings that are divine; to bear burdens that are, while not always light, at least more expanded in some vocation that is greater than one’s self,” pp 45.
2- 14 – WOMEN AND LEADERSHIP
One of the five freedoms of the Free Methodist Church denomination is to ordain women into ministry. Historically it has been a value of the FMC theology statement and rooted in the teachings of John Wesley and later carried on to the FMC by its funder B.T Roberts. Since its birth, women, called into ministry by the Holy Spirit, have served in the Free Methodist Church. As early as 1861, when the church was just one year old, the minutes of the Genesee Convention report the discussion of women preaching. Bishop B.T. Roberts believed strongly in the equality of men and women, pp 131
He argued that women should be working side by side with men in building the kingdom of God. His vision was to lead the denomination toward the ordination of women, pp 68-69. In spite of the long-rooted history of this practice, there is still a strong pushback toward the core value of the denomination by some members of the clergy. There is also a new diversity in the membership that comes from many cultural backgrounds such as patriarchy and machismo. That alone added more weight to the long tradition that we are now trying to redefine in practice.
In an independent study of the Free Methodist USA, one of our ministers, Beth Armstrong, found that only 5 percent of females are in higher levels of leadership. Many of the women choose to work part-time because childcare is needed in the home, and also because the pay of their husbands is insufficient. Women are more likely to be willing to take no payment to do ministry work than men because they feel called to do ministry.
The bottom line in Armstrong’s findings is that there is not a lack of desire for leadership, but a lack of opportunity for women in leadership in our denomination. Of the 5 percent in the highest level of leadership, all of them had benevolent male advocates — the males’ voices matter. The men were very supportive of them getting to that level of leadership, but when they did get the position, the men typically felt threatened and removed their advocacy.
In 1974, our general conference passed a resolution, “giving women equal status with men in the ministry of the church,” pp 388. You would expect that this time, a resolution of this kind would resolve the issue in the minds of everyone; however, forty-two years later, the denomination’s position has not changed. On the other hand, outside the denomination, the opposing women in ministry and limiting the leadership roles of women in the local church have become more authoritarian.
Daniel Garcia, A Future of the Latino Church: Models for Multilingual, Multigenerational Hispanic Congregations(Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2011).
Mark Lau Branson and Juan F. Martínez, Churches, Cultures and Leadership (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2011).
Richard Niebuhr. Christ and Culture: (San Francisco: Harper, 2001).
General Conference Minutes 1890.
B.T. Roberts, new edition by Benjamin D. Wayman, Ordaining Women (Eugene, OR, 2015).