Discipling and Developing Leaders Cross-Culturally

Lesson Materials

In this session, David looks at differences in culture from a Western Perspective. Sharing stories from his own travels and others, David illustrates how culture is every part of our lives through how we dress, how we interact with others and more.


TEACHING ON CULTURE | Session 5  - Discipling and Developing Leadership Cross Culturally 


1/ Discipleship and Worldview Change


    • Disciple making involves a worldview change and not just external behaviour changes.  Without a worldview change, repentance and conversion in the biblical sense has not really taken place (that is not to say that a person is therefore not “born again”; they could still definitely belong to Christ – “The Lord knows those who are His” 2 Tim 2:19, people can be saved on a fragment of knowledge).  Our mission is to “make disciples” or, expressed differently to lead the nations “to the obedience of faith”.  Trying to change external behaviour without worldview change leads to “legalism” and “externalism” – of nominal “Christians” in Pakistan.  Lent story.


2/ Gospel Change - Churches Look Different


If worldview change, then a contextualised church and contextualised godly behaviour will look different, stylistically etc. and will reflect the local culture but the gospel will have affected the deepest level so the difference in cultural expression represents a totally valid model of New Testament values and a Biblical Christian worldview.



Explain (including explaining contextualization) and show where we may have failed to effect change at deepest level by concentrating on other levels.  Hence why that had not happened in Pakistan water bottle story.  So also legalism and food offered to idols stories.  Story from Papua New Guinea re “get God off your back”.


Hence to copy the externals of a local church in another culture (e.g. Western in 3rd world settings) could actually not involve worldview change.  Similarly we get so used to our own (Western) worldview that we don’t appreciate where our church life and discipleship is affected by our own worldview – e.g. consumerist expectations, divided rather than holistic view of life and family “private” Christianity, gospel assented to, decision made, but not affecting whole of life.


“Such changes are important as evidence of conversion, but it became clear that these did not necessarily mean that underlying beliefs had changed.  People could adapt their behaviour to get jobs, win status, and gain power without abandoning their old beliefs.  They could give Christian names to their pagan gods and spirits and so “Christianize” their traditional religions. [1]


3/ Changing Worldview and Making Disciples


How did Jesus and Paul do it?  


A) By telling stories - importance of changing the story by which people live – so close link between this and teaching on oral culture.


    • N.T. Wright suggests that this worldview is housed in stories deep within.  He talks in terms of a battle of stories.  If people change their story to take account of another story or interpretation then the battle for worldview has been won.
    • Jesus was changing the story of his hearers through his teaching and parables.  So the Hebrews worldview said that they were the special people of God, to be kept pure by purification rituals, circumcision, and the law until God sent His Messiah who would overthrow the yoke of captivity (then represented by the Romans) and the kingdom of God would be established by force resulting in Israel as top nation.


Examples of Jesus undermining the story:

        • Preaching at Nazareth
        • Pharisee and tax collector
        • Kingdom like a mustard seed
        • Temple – not a stone left upon a stone – compare teaching in John 4 to Woman of Samaria.
        • The Vineyard and the Tenants


    • Similarly nations today have stories that justify their beliefs – stories often falsified.
    • Paul in his writings develops Old Testament stories in the light of the coming of Christ which reinterprets the stories so he can say “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the eyes has come”.  1Cor: 10: 11


B) By apostolic and prophetic revelation - foundations


Who we are in Christ:-

    • New people of the future
    • People of the age of the Spirit
    • Power over sin – not in Adam, now in Christ
    • Ethical effect of this, Galatians 5 
    • One new man – tribal, caste, class, racial differences overcome
    • New family – the new Israel of God


Paul prayed for people to understand this Ephesians 1:17-18 and their change of worldview – hence change of behaviour accomplished as a result e.g. Ephesians 4:1, 20-24


 C) By demonstrating a different lifestyle


    • John 13:14-15 – What you have seen your Lord and teacher do, you should do.
    • Be ‘imitators of me’, 1 Corinthians 4:6 you know how we lived among you for your sake.  You became imitators of us and the Lord (‘...because our Gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.  You know how lived among you for your sake’ 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6, ‘We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.’ 1 Thessalonians 2:8)
    • This applies to character and skills – both aspects of disciplemaking.  So Jesus healed the sick and disciples used similar pattern.
    • The importance of good foundations in a new believers life – but for some these foundations can take a long time to lay – but still need to be laid.  (Heb 6:1-2)


Discipling is primarily corporate in New Testament


    • Jesus and his disciples – connected and encouraged as a group.
    • Personal sins put off.  What is put on as a corporate identity? (‘...and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator.  Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.’ Colossians 3:10-11)


4/ Vital Keys in Discipling and Mentoring Leaders Cross-Culturally


    • Modelling is so important.  Leaders and workers need to be seen to serve.
    • The need to be relational – we need to plan in time each day “for interruptions”.
    • We need to be much more “physical” in our touching, hugging etc.
    • There needs to be a creating of trust by being trustworthy.  Do we keep our word?  Are we seen to do so?
    • “Feeling understood” is key to good relationships.
    • Admission of our own mistakes breaks the shame barrier.
    • Sharing our lives with hospitality and meals as part of church meetings.
    • Many cultures are indirect – can cause offence by being too direct e.g. Nathan and David.
    • Meals – some cultures honour more by going to their house than by inviting them to yours.
    • Young people tensions.
    • Multi-generational cells.
    • Again watch unconscious signals of superiority, watch language “they” “them”.


5/ Developing Leaders Cross-Culturally


Leadership “signals” differ from culture to culture so this is one of the hardest things to do.  Often we fail to raise up leaders from other cultures because we are not looking for the right signals.  E.g:


    • Pushing oneself forward, taking initiative, joining in the discussion are signs of leadership in a Western culture.
    • Some other cultures, more group oriented, don’t need this because if one person has expressed the point of view shared by others, they don’t need to explain it again in a different way!  E.g. story of decisions in giving of Americans and Africans.
    • Looking at you in the eye story.
    • Whether you are respected is much more relevant to many cultures.
    • Different views of age and maturity but this can also be a stronghold.  Jesse in 1 Sam 16 – “the youngest!”
    • Influence is different from initiative – yet instruction is needed.
    • Who do people in that culture look to – not necessarily the able young Bible teacher.


6/ Leadership is Contextual


    • Paul believed passionately in reproducing leaders.
    • He appointed leaders quickly when needed.  It is interesting to compare the qualifications for elders in Timothy and Titus.  What is the main difference?  In Timothy it says “not a new convert” (and “ability to teach”) – why, because this may lead to pride.  That was missing from Titus, why?  Because they were all new converts in Crete where Paul had left Titus.  Similarly in Acts 14.  Contrast Ephesus which was a mature church.  Most of us come from mature churches where many mature Christians would not be elders.  What was important for Titus in Crete was change of characterIt says:


      • Not arrogant
      • Not quick-tempered
      • Not drunkard
      • Not violent etc.


    • Greek could be translated “no longer”.  In others you appoint people who have demonstrably changed (and have the gift of leadership and respect of others).  Eldership is therefore also contextual cf Istanbul and Catford.


7/ Godly Character however is always required whatever the culture. So leaders are to be examples in calling etc.


Good leadership is essential for missional communities of disciples. They are to be examples in calling, character, hard work and mission. In Timothy it actually says “must have a good reputation with outsiders”.

Basically these elders had to have a good knowledge of the truth and a godly character.  Also need to be those with leadership gift because all Christians should have godly character.  So:


    • Not able to be accused (doesn’t mean perfect).
    • A one-woman man – integrity sexually.
    • Managing home well – Having literally “faithful” children not necessarily “believing” – see Greek and French translation.
    • May not be a brilliant teacher in new scene in Crete (was necessary in Ephesus according to 1 Tim 3) but must know the truth and be able to resist error.


8/ Leadership Style is often modelled on the culture, rather than the Bible.



© David Devenish

Discipling and Developing Leaders Cross-Culturally - Teaching on Culture - Session 5 - Bournemouth - March 2015

[1] Paul G Hiebert, “Transforming Worldview”, p.10