“If you haven’t been totally frustrated with someone from another culture, and then gone on to love them and even alter your own perspective, then you will never survive in multicultural ministry.” So says, Rev. Dan Sheffield, Director of Global and Intercultural Ministries for The Free Methodist Church in Canada . Sheffield’s new book, The Multicultural Leader: Developing a Catholic Personality (Clements Publishing, 2005) addresses the challenge of providing congregational leadership in Canada’s multi-ethnic communities.
Based on multicultural church-planting experience in South Africa and research amongst multi-ethnic congregations in Toronto , Sheffield identifies emerging issues and offers a framework for understanding the requirements of leadership in these contexts. He makes a distinction between multi-ethnic and multicultural congregations. He suggests that churches where decision-making is primarily in the hands of one cultural group, despite the presence of many cultures in the congregation should be referred to as “multi-ethnic” – that is, a congregation made up of people from a diversity of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. A “multicultural” congregation will reflect different cultural viewpoints in the decision-making processes and ministry practices of the church.
On the basis of research in leadership studies and in-depth interviews with multicultural ministry practitioners, Sheffield has built a profile of the kind of leaders required for multicultural ministry. The multicultural leader:
envisions the eschatological reality of the multicultural congregation
embeds the multicultural vision in the practices of the congregation
embodies multicultural relationships
embraces cultural diversity
enables intercultural empowerment
Envisioning refers to the leader’s ability to see and communicate a clear picture of a possible future. Embedding refers to the means by which leaders firmly fix the values and practices that they perceive are appropriate to the congregation’s goals. Embodying refers to the ability of leaders to personally live out the values and practices that they espouse. Embracing is understood as that movement of different peoples who desire to be close to others without losing the integrity of their own identities. Enabling refers to the leader’s ability to create an environment in which employees or members feel able to take the steps necessary to act upon the values and practices of the congregation. Empowering refers to the leader’s ability to make resources available to employees or members and to encourage them to make autonomous decisions on the basis of those resources.
The third section of The Multicultural Leader, addresses the learning processes by which people from one cultural perspective move and adjust their worldview to function in a multi-ethnic world. Multicultural leaders must move from a position of ethnocentrism, where one’s own perspective is seen as preeminent over other viewpoints, to ethnorelativism, where one’s cultural viewpoint is just one amongst many.
The promise of Scripture is that one day all nations, tribes, peoples and languages will stand before the Lamb of God. Sheffield suggests this text gives affirmation to the validity of different cultural viewpoints within the body of Christ. The challenge is how can this picture of God’s intention become reality in kingdom communities today, not just at some point in the future? The Multicultural Leader is an attempt to deal with the practical implications of this challenge for church leaders in our diverse Canadian context.
The Multicultural Leader can be purchased at: Regent College bookstore and www.amazon.com
Public Lecture on Multicultural Leadership
The Tyndale Centre for Leadership Development presents a free public lecture & discussion:
Becoming a Multicultural Leader: The challenge of cultural self-awareness
Guest lecturer: Rev. Dan Sheffield, The Free Methodist Church in Canada
Date: Friday, January 28, 2005
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: The Van Norman Worship and Study Centre, Tyndale University College & Seminary – Toronto
Rev. Sheffield will sign copies of his new book, The Multicultural Leader (Clements, 2004).
Rev. Dan Sheffield serves as Director of Global and Intercultural Ministries for The Free Methodist Church in Canada and as Urban Ministry Facilitator for Free Methodist World Missions. He works with congregations in Canadian urban centres as well as in cities around the world, helping rethink the place of the church in multi-ethnic environments. He has been involved in mission and evangelism for over 20 years, including five years in South Africa planting a multicultural congregation.
For more information, please contact the Tyndale Centre for Leadership Development 416.226.6620 ext. 2641.