Cell Leadership-Pt.4


Cell Leadership-Pt.5

Do Not Dominate The Cell Meeting  

            This is where most cell leaders  fail. I cannot count the number of small groups that I have attended in which the cell leader has controlled and dominated the entire meeting. [1] The cell was more like a mini-Sunday church service with the pastor  performing his preaching role.

            In contrast,  effective cell leaders are communicators. His goal is to draw out the other cell members. In Ecuador, I remember asking one of my key  section leaders to speak at one of our leadership training meetings. He told the cell leaders present that the goal of the leader during the cell meeting is to talk ten percent of the time and stir up the members to speak ninety percent of the time. Perhaps, these figures are high, but the point is clear.

           The following table presents principles that are helpful reminders to cell leaders eeking to lead their groups into greater discussion and participation: 



1.     The leader should not answer her  own questions

·        Give others a chance to answer

2.     After  asking the questions, the leader should give the group time to think

·        Normally people to think through a number of possibilities

3.     The leader should not fear silence in the group

·        Cell leaders tend to fear silence more than the cell members.

4.     After the first response, the cell leader should ask the group if there are additional  responses

·        Some people get warmed up slower than others. A cell leader should not move on too quickly.


Maintain The Flow Of Participation  

            In order to maintain the flow of communication among all participants in the cell group,  the cell leader should be trained concerning how to draw out more participation. She must know how to tone down the talkers and draw out the non-talkers. Richard Price and Pat Springle wisely advice,

Excessive talkers will drain the life of a group. First, no one has an opportunity to contribute while they are talking. Second group members will come to resent his or her comment and behaviors….As the leader, you need to deal with the situation created by the excessive talker. You can begin with a subtle approach, but later you may need to be more direct 1991:116, 117).  

            The subtle approach involves:

1.     Sitting  next to the one who talks to much in order to give the person less eye contact

2.     Calling on other people to give their opinion

3.     Redirecting the  conversation away from the talker when he or she pauses

            However, if the indirect route does not produce results, ultimately the leader must directly deal with the talker. First,  one on one, and if that doesn’t work, the leader will need to inform the section leader.

            On the other hand, there are those who have more trouble communicating their thoughts and feelings. The leader can draw out these people by:

1.     Looking  at them more often during the cell meeting

2.     Calling upon them by name to comment on the topic  

Guide The Group Into Deeper Levels Of Communication  

            Although the cell meeting does not have to be a “feeling oriented” meeting, there should be transparency.  Perhaps, this word transparency or intimacy helps to  distinguish between the Sunday celebration service and he cell group. During he celebration time, it is okay to be unknown and lost in the crowd. In the cell group, each person becomes known.

            The cell group should provide the atmosphere in which each person is free to express his or her true self. At first, the sharing might cover the latest weather or sports.  However, the cell leader should direct the conversation to  deeper levels. There are several way to do this.

            First the leader herself  should know about the various levels of communication. Judy Hamlin explains these various levels in the following manner  (1990:54-57):

1.     Level One:     Climate, family, etc.

2.     Level Two:     Information or facts

3.     Level Three:   Ideas and opinions

4.     Level Four:     Feelings

5.     Level Five:      Sharing what is truly happening in our lives                                         

          She gives an excellent example of these various levels in the following table:  

TABLE 10  






Mary: Hi Rebecca, How was the weather in  Florida?

Rebecca: Most of the time it was just great.

Mary:  You must have had a great time.

Rebecca: Yes, I did, but you know I was thinking about the famine in Ethiopia and it  really made me think about the serious problems in the world. Do you think much           about the fact that many people die for lack of food?

Mary: Yes, for me it is a very sad situation. When I see all the hungry people on television, it    really  makes me sad. Especially because we’re not doing more to the change the situation..

Rebecca: For me, the famine is not something that I just see on television. My sister became      anorexic. Last month , she died.


              Understanding the levels of communication will help the cell leader to know where to go.  However, transparency  will never happen unless the leader herself is willing to share some of her   own deep struggles. If the leader always wants to give the best impression of herself, the other cell members will do likewise. Hocking says,

   Learn to admit your mistakes in the presence of the group and to apologize sincerely when things go wrong or do not turn out the way you expected….admitting failure in the midst of success is a key to good leadership. Learn to be open and honest before others. They’ll love you for it (or at least fall over backwards out of shock!) (1991:63).  

Respond Properly  To Each Member  

            I touched on this point earlier, but it is so important that it deserves more analysis. The leader must  be careful to give a positive answer to the one who responds. If the cell leader criticizes someone’s response, others will be more hesitant to respond. [2] There is always a way to respond positively, even if someone’s answer is wrong.

            It is also helpful for the leader to give a brief summary of the responses before moving on to the next question. This will give a sense of finality to the discussion.  

Ask Stimulating Questions  

            If participation is so important in the cell group, it behooves the cell leader to make sure that her questions are interesting. At Bethany World Prayer Center, the questions are prepared by Pastor Larry Stockstill, but they are tested  in a small  group before being presented to the cell leader. This is the ideal.

            The leader should at least have in mind two principles about the questions that she asks:

1.     Open-ended questions are  preferable to closed-ended questions.  

There are might be a few questions that illicit a yes/no, right/wrong response, but the majority of the questions should allow the cell members to share their opinions and experiences.

2.     Application questions are preferable to observation/interpretation questions.

Proper Bible study involves Observation, Interpretation, and Application. Although all are essential to good Bible Study, in the cell group, application is primary. [3]   Therefore, if the passage is about forgiveness, the questions should allow the cell members to share experiences when they needed to forgive someone or when they felt forgiven, etc.  


            Rather, than an information gathering time or an adult Bible study, the cell group is a dynamic event in which the “church can be and experience the church” while ministering one to another. The cell leader’s chief role is to guide the group into participation and interaction which leads to true Christian fellowship. [4] This is not an easy task.  North American culture places a high value on personal sharing and vulnerability, but this is not the case in Latin America.  In Latin America, there is more  ‘image’ pressure (tough guy) that hinders the Latin American from opening up.  However, in both cultures, the more a perspective cell leader can learn about small group dynamics the better equipped he or she will be in successful cell leadership.

Chapter 5: Helpful  Paradigms  for top leadership in cell ministry  

            In the last chapter, I had cell leaders in mind when setting forth  various leadership principles. Here, I move up one level to top leadership (i.e., section leaders, zone leaders, district leaders, and senior pastors). This is primarily  because the following paradigms only apply best to upper level leadership (e.g., the Shepherd/Rancher concept). [5]  

Shepherd/Rancher Paradigm 

The Shepherd/Rancher concept was first coined by Lyle E. Schaller (Wagner 1984:59).  This paradigm has many similarities to the Jethro model, but perhaps is easier to grasp—especially for pastors who are trying to pastor their congregation on their own. The background of this concept is the  real world of pastors and ranchers.  Simply put, a pastor cares for individual sheep while a rancher cares for those who are caring for the sheep.  A pastor of a  single flock of sheep gives individual attention to each of the sheep in the flock. Such a  pastor is limited by his physical capacity to care for the sheep. In contrast a rancher has a number of pastors or sheep hands under his care who do the actual work of shepherding the flock.  Both the shepherd and the rancher care for the sheep; the difference is that one  does the actual caring and the other administer those who do the actual caring. 

Span Of Care  

Most pastors in North America and Latin America behave  like pastors of individual flocks. They feel  responsible to care for each and every sheep under them. However,  they can only physically and spiritually care for so many before the task  becomes unmanageable.  How many people can an individual pastor truly care for? Some would say up to two hundred people (Wagner 1984:58).  However, Carl George disagrees. After talking about how most lay people depend on the pastor figure, he says,

The underlying assumption behind these attitudes is that a pastor or skilled lay leader can provide adequate care for a group of 50-100. In reality, he or she cannot. What actually transpires is a limited intimacy and a limited accountability. Over time, many people grow dissatisfied and disillusioned, not understanding why it’s so hard to go deeper in feelings of caring and belong (1990:67).  

My point here is that even if an individual pastor thinks that he can care for an entire congregation, in reality he or she cannot provide adequate care for the entire flock.

            If a pastor tries to care for the entire church by himself, studies have proven that the church will probably not grow beyond two hundred people. Peter Wagner says, “But in order to get   through the 200 barrier and sustain a healthy rate of growth, the pastor must be willing to pay a price too high for some: he or she must be willing to shift from a shepherd mode to a rancher mode” (1984:58-59).  

Transitioning From Shepherd To Rancher  

            To better understand the transition process from pastor to rancher,  it is helpful to examine the characteristics of both pastor and rancher. The following table helps us to see the differences:


(Adapted from George 1993:85-108)                                                                                          

Traditional Pastor


·        Tries to personally satisfy all of  the  needs

·        Believes that he is responsible for everything

·        Participates in every meeting

·        Depends on the compliments of the  others

·        Does not delegate much

·        His vision is limited by what he  can  do

·        See the congregation as individuals and not as groups of people

·        Does not possess clear church growth goals for the church.

·        Focuses on small groups to care  for   the church

·        Is the leader of the church and is not afraid of making changes

·        Delegates with flexibility. Is more concerned with the results that the process

·        Is able to say NO to ministry opportunities, if there is someone else that can do it.

·        Creates roles for the congregation to fill

·        Wants the people to be free from dependence upon himself

·        Is an excellent administrator. Reserves time for planning and prayer

·        Raises up and trains the leaders of     the small groups


            There are several key changes that must be made if a pastor is going to move from being the sole pastor to a rancher. First, he  must be willing to delegate.  This is very difficult for many pastors today. A pastor’s self worth is often  derived from  the dependence that the congregations displays  towards him. There is a feeling that the church could not go on without him or her. However, to become a rancher, there must be the willingness to pastor the church through other people. Today’s ranchers, or large church pastors, still have a heart for the sheep. However, they like physical ranchers, realize that they must do it through under shepherds.

            A second major change is to train lay people to do the work of the ministry.  This is  Scriptural. Paul says in Ephesians 4: 11,12, It was he who gave some…to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”  According to these verses, a pastor’s role is to train others to do the work of the ministry. The opposite is also true. The pastor must not do it all  himself. A true rancher will  spend the majority of his time training others  (George 1993:105). 

 Ranchers In The  Cell Church Today

            I believe that the rancher paradigm is uniquely suited for cell ministry today. George wisely says, “The goal of the pastor whose church is based on cells is to pastor those who are  pastoring the church” (1993:196). In the cell church, the senior pastor  does not even attempt to develop face to face, pastoral relationships with individual members of the congregation. Rather, he is committed to meeting face to face with  those who are caring for those who are caring for the congregation. [6] This is why it is not uncommon to hear of cell churches that have between 30,000 and 700,000 people. In these churches there is a hierarchical system of care which touches lives in a personal way. I believe that the cell church offers the best hope for smoothly transitioning a pastor from the Shepherd Motif to the Rancher Motif. 

Situational Leadership 

Hersey and Blanchard have popularized a model of leadership called situational leadership (1988:170).  This model could be very  beneficial for top leadership  in the cell church.  


According to this model the leader must study every situation to determine how he or she should lead. In other words, there is no one style of leadership that will always be effective. The effectiveness of the leader is determined by how well he sizes up the situation and then applies the correct leadership style to meet the needs of his followers in that particular situation.

Although most leaders have a propensity for  being either  task oriented or relationship  oriented  (Anderson and Mylander 1994:100), it is also possible to adapt one’s style of leadership  as the need arises. The situational leader, therefore, tries  to determine how much task guidance the followers need and then  to balance  that with the proper amount of relationship support. The amount of task guidance and relationship support that the leader gives is dependent on the maturity of the follower (s).

By task guidance I'm referring to the leader's responsibility to give  "expert" guidance so that the follower can successfully complete his task. This might be described as one way communication from the leader to the follower (Hersey and Blanchard 1988:172). By relationship support I'm referring to the leader's responsibi­lity to give emotional/social support to the follower while he is completing the task. This could be described as two way communi­cation (Hersey and Blanchard 1988:172). The maturity level of the follower is determined by his ability to complete the task (knowledge & skill concerning what to do) and his willingness to complete the task (level of confidence, desire, and commitment).

The "task" does not necessarily need to be measured in terms of quantity (although this is often true of management). The task might be seen in a variety of ways including: educating students,  helping God's people grow in spiritual maturity, developing leaders, training children, etc.

Hersey and Blanchard have developed a chart which helps the leader match the follower's level of maturity with the approp­riate amount of task/relationship behavior the leader needs to demonstrate in order to effectively lead. The following table will help clarify the relationship between relationship and task guidance: 

TABLE 12  


(Adapted from Hersey and Blanchard 1988:182)  

3                        HI RELATIONSHIP


 Share ideas and  facilitate in decision making


HI TASK                                              2


 Explain decisions and provide opportunity for clarification


4                    LOW RELATIONSHIP


   Turn over responsibility for decisions and implementation


HI TASK                                              1


 Provide specific instructions and closely supervise performance










In the above boxes, the TASK (HIGH OR LOW) and RELATIONSHIP (HIGH OR LOW)  refers to how the leader responds to the follower in each situation. For example, if the follower has the ability to perform a particular task, but lacks confidence in doing it, the leader will want to be very supportive (high relationship), but give little direct  guidance (low task), as is seen in the upper left box.

The idea of Hersey and Blanchard is that as the maturity level increases the leader can move from telling to selling to participating and finally to delegating (Hersey and Blanchard 1988:177-179). Neil Anderson adds an important clarification,

   It is important to note that a good leader never stops being a loving, relational person, regardless of the maturity of the followers. The point is that immature people need instruction and supervision. As they mature, they want and need more involvement in the decision-making process. As they start to assume more responsibility, they need the emotional support of their leader. When they have been fully delegated the responsibility, they may resent the constant interference and intrusion of the one who entrusted the ministry to them….On the other hand, if you are new in your ministry, do you appreciate it if your senior pastor is unavailable to you, leaving you alone to sin, or swim? (1994:97). 

Application To Cell Ministry 

            The great thing about this leadership model is that it does not prescribe only one kind of leadership style.  It says that an effective leader adjusts his style  according to the needs of  the follower.  If the person is competent and highly motivated, the leader should not lead in a directive, authoritative way.  Rather, he should show respect, support, and confidence toward   the person. If the unmotivated and incapable, the directive style is needed. [7]

Top leadership in the cell ministry (section leader, zone leader, district leader, and upper level  pastor (s) must understand  the maturity and confidence levels  of  those under  them  in order to lead more effectively.  With  new or   uncertain   cell leaders, the top leadership must give  precise, step by step leadership (telling).  With those cell leaders who know what they are doing and are very  motivated, top leadership can simply encourage and provide a respectful support.

For example, suppose a section leader had  five different cell leaders under her care. Two of those leaders are highly competent and very motivated, two of them lack proper understanding of how to lead a cell but want to learn, and the final cell leader lacks both  motivation and expertise. The section  leader can  spend less time with  the two highly competent and motivated leaders (showing admiration and support is often sufficient). In fact, perhaps the section leader might delegate other  responsibilities to them.  For the two who are willing but lack expertise, the  section’s leaders style become very relational but also provides  the needed information.  Finally,  with the  cell leader  who is  not confident and lacks the proper skills,  the  section leader  gives directive, step by step counsel on how to lead the cell group, but does not go to great length to establish a personal relationship with the person.

            In Latin America, some leaders  feel they have to be the  strong, authoritative caudillo leader at all times. The situational leadership model provides a needed correction to this mentality. On the other hand, North American leadership tends  to being overly democratic. At times, the leader must behave in a directive, authoritarian style---depending on the needs of the followers.


            As a missionary to Latin America, this particular chapter is very important. As I minister in Latin America for the next four years, I realize that all of the great leadership theories  will  be meaningless  to my ministry  if do  not  apply to the cultural traits that exist in Latin American leadership.   Moran and Harris have concluded that, “Leadership is learned and is based on assumptions about one’s place in the world. Managers from other business systems [cross-cultural] are not ‘underdeveloped’ American managers (1982:62). We shall see that  culture plays a significant role in shaping leadership style.

General Latin Leadership Traits 

Olien reminds us that,  “Anthropology has divided the world into ‘cultural areas’ for the purposes of study. A culture area is a geographical space within which the people share a number of traits at a given point in  time” (1973:2). Just as anthropology generalizes cultural traits across a large area, in this section, I will attempt to make some broad, general statement about Latin American leadership. However, I am also very aware that not all Latins will precisely fit into these stereotypes.


            Latins are generally very authoritarian. Usually,  there is a clear distinction between leader and follower. In fact, this characteristic is one that has been passed down from  generations past—namely, the Spanish conquistadors.

Emphasis On Control And Power

There seems to be built into the Spanish psyche a desire to control, to be in charge. Dealy feels that it is this goal that drives the Latin American, in contrast to being a successful doctor, lawyer, businessman, or any other profession (1992:62). Dealy says,  “Only a vigorous public power stance fully satiates the Latin’s desire for acclaim, just as the economic category ‘millionaire’ uniquely approaches gratification of the capitalists sense of total success (1992:62-63). He goes on to say,

In North American eyes good government would make the Post Office turn a profit; in Latin American eyes a good firm would, like a strong political movement, establish a monopoly of power over every competitor” (1992:107).  

Geyer confirms this, 

In Latin American politics, it has been not the man who seeks to unite and to compromise and to heal wounds who was admired but rather the man who wielded total power---that classic Spanish type, the caudillo or strongman. Power could not be shared;.. (1970:96).

Caudillo Style Leadership

         The spirit of the conquistador is now seen in the Latin American caudillo. The caudillo in Latin America’s history refers to the self-proclaimed military officer that were supported by nonprofessional armies (Silvert  1977:25). However, in a general sense, the caudillismo has popularly come to refer to any highly personalistic regime which is under the control of a charismatic leader (Silvert 1977:25).  Gereats defines this term by the words, ‘daring’, ‘aggressive’, and ‘strong’ (1970:47).

It is this  spirit that guides much of the leadership in Latin America. There is a tendency to exercise control and domination instead of leading by example and servanthood. [8] Gareats  says, “Most Latin American leaders, whether in the political sphere or in ordinary life, give the appearance of being strong men” (1970:48). [9]

Christian Caudillo Leadership 

            For the most part, Christian Leadership follows the same pattern of authoritarianism in Latin America. It is not uncommon to find strong, caudillo type leaders in pastoral positions in Latin America. Wagner says, “Speaking of Latin America, a culturally-relevant leadership pattern which has evolved there is that of the caudillo….in a Christian way, their leadership system follows the pattern of the secular caudillo (1984:90-91). Berg and Pretiz have observed the same phenomena in the grass roots churches that they have analyzed throughout Latin America. They say, “…the authoritarianism of the GR pastor is comfortable for people accustomed to their country’s power-wielding President, or even perhaps dictatorships” (1996:144).

            However, the rigid, controlling, and negative  element of the secular caudillo pattern  has been largely transformed by  Christian virtues.  Wagner calls it a transformed  “servant-caudillo” pattern (1984:91) and others  call it “charismatic caudillismo” (Deiros 1992:169 in Berg & Pretiz 1996:215).

            Another way of describing the pastor role in Latin America is that of the “godfather” or the benevolent patron (Berg & Pretiz 1996:215). In the days when haciendas were much more common, the owner-boss  was the ultimate authority. At the same time, he protected his workers, defended them in legal problems, and stood as their “godfather” at family occasions. For the most part, Latin American pastors are looked up to, respected, and obeyed. Berg and Pretiz write, “In the lower-socio-economic levels, people trust the pastor who may even hold all church properties in his name. They are “used to authority,” said a Peruvian pastor” (1996:215). Like most everything, there is a negative side to an absolutist, controlling pastoral image and caution is needed on the side of both laity and clergy.

Assigned Status 

Latins respond to leadership in a much different way than North Americans. In Latin America, there is a much greater  respect for position and status  than competency . Lingenfelter and Mayers describe the Latins propensity toward assigned status in these four ways:

1.     Personal identity is determined by formal credentials of birth and rank.

2.     The amount of respect one receives is permanently fixed; attention focuses on those with high social status in spite of any personal failings they have.

3.     The individual is expected to play his or her role and to sacrifice to attain higher rank.

4.     People associate only with their social equals.

Climbing The Ladder 

Perhaps the ladder concept can shed light on the Latin American’s concept of social status. In North America,  people aspire to climb the ladder of success. Employees are encouraged to dream and plan to rise rapidly in the company. However, in Latin America, one’s assigned status oftentimes prevents that from happening.

The concept of social status in  Latin American culture means that each person is  placed  on a particular rung of the ladder in relationship to everyone else (Mayers 1976:23). There is no ‘climbing the ladder’ because of  the assigned social status that each one receives at birth.

North Americas often say that  if anyone, regardless of race or  social status,  will simply ‘pull himself or herself up by the bootstraps’,  there are unlimited possibilities.  The upward ladder is there for any worker to become the boss, president of the company, or even president of the United States.  In contrast, Latin America has removed that ladder. A person is assigned his or her status from birth onwards.  Geyer perhaps judgmentally states, “…Latin America has far fewer racial attitudes; but it does suffer from a closed and inviolate class system (1970:7). [10] 

Spanish Supremacy 

As in many Latin American countries, there are a tiny minority of  pure Spanish descent who wield tremendous leadership power.  They are the ones who steer the major centers of power in Latin America, course both politically, economically, and socially (Ecuador in Pictures: 1987: 38)     

Historic Development  

This disparity did not develop over night. The process began  years ago when the Spanish conquered the Indian population. For almost four hundred years the strong, soldierly Spaniards live along side their conquered Indian slaves.  An inevitable attitude of superiority began to develop (Weil 1973:101,102). . Schodt writes, "The grafting of Spanish rule onto the conquered Inca society established a colonial system with a large Indian underclass and a small   Hispanic elite... (Schodt  1987: 17)." 

Even though binding ties have been severed with Spain, yet the spirit of elitism still strongly remains through her descendants. The idea that a person’s blood line positions him or her for power is still  widespread throughout Latin America. Dealy states,

…while our forefathers [North Americans] alternately ignored the Indian, stole his land, or drove him out, Spanish settlers inducted them into a social hierarchy: They became a personal work force to till the soil and were brought into homes as mistresses and table servants” (1992:62).  

This social hierarchy is still very important in Latin America today.

Rangel calls this social structuring the cancer of Latin American society today (1987:16). Instead of ignoring the Indians or extermination them (as in the case of the North Americans), the Latin Americans grafted them into their society. They became indispensable. 

Privileged Status

For example, the  "whites" who occupy the top rungs of power in Ecuador place a high emphasis on purity of race-whether or not this can  be proven.  Within the white group, even more important than one's exact racial traits, is one's socioeconomic status and evidence of an urban European life-style (Weil 1973:66).  Many of these creoles or pure-bloods are vocal about their pure blood and resulting privileged status (Urbanski 1978:170). 

The Underclass 

            I use this terminology simply to describe those under the ruling class white race. Although these could be divided into middle and lower, those distinctions do not always hold true in Latin America due to the importance placed upon blood lines and a person’s position at birth.


Underneath the umbrella of this small elite upper class is a large underclass consisting of Mestizos, pure Indians, and Negroes. Mestizo status falls somewhere between the white higher class and the Indian lower class. Although they are below the white race, they are mixing with it. (Weil 1973:66). The Mestizo race came as a result of the mixed marriages between the Indian woman and the conquistadors. Yet, it is probably more accurate to say that most of the offspring were less the result of formal marriage as the result of rape and concubinage (Elliott 1984:201).

Indigenous Peoples

The pure Indians are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to authority and power. The government has tended to disregard their distinct differences and customs and lump them  together as a "depressed group" (Weil 1973:67). This attitude of powerlessness can clearly be seen in their behavior towards whites. Indians, while talking with whites remove their hats, lower their heads and speak in soft tones.  They assume a passive, submissive role which has been instilled in them from childhood. However, in their own communities, the whites and Mestizos are the butt of    their jokes (Weil 1973:67).

Assigned Status And Cell Ministry 

            There are a few considerations  that this concept of Latin American assigned status presents for effective cell ministry.   

Formation Of Groups  

            It behooves cell groups in Latin American to be organized  along homogenous lines so that  communication in the cell might be maximized and that non-Christians will be readily attracted. Potential members should be allowed to pick their own cell group according to personal preference. Any type of forced gathering  of members into heterogeneous groups is not wise in Latin America. [11]

Giving Birth

            These status considerations must also be taken into account in the birth of a new group. It would be a fatal mistake to force a group to give birth  against natural cultural lines (whites with indigenous people, etc.). Rather, the new cell groups should be formed  according to natural cultural patterns. 


This cultural aspect especially affects how Latin leadership set goals. Basically, Latins have a far more idealistic view of life than do North Americans. In other words,  Latins are not eternal optimists like many North Americans. Nida states, "Latins have been preoccupied with death and are very pessimistic due to the decades of suffering” (1974:43)."  Latin Literature reflects this way of thinking. Rarely does a Latin novel have a happy ending—the hero usually dies, the romance falls apart, or the “bad guy” wins.

North Americans are known for their pragmatism, their propensity to act now and think later. Just the opposite is true with regard to Latin Americans. Nida notes that Latin American’s tend to be far more  philosophical  (1974:43). Concerning this quality, Plaza says,

Another basic Latin American characteristic derived from both the Indians and the Iberians is the emphasis on contemplation rather than action. The cultural anthropologist Kusch has pointed out that in Quechua the verb ‘to be’ means ‘to stay put.’ The Latin American has traditionally tended to have a static outlook, because for him time is an ever-recurring phenomenon, with no connotation of urgency. This is directly contrary to the dynamic concept expressed by the Anglo-Saxon saying ‘Time waits for no man’ (1971:23). [12]   

             There is a tendency for Latin Leadership to set high, unrealistic goals. They might feel that  a lesser, more reachable  goal would not be worthy to dream about or declare to the congregation. .

North American pragmatism and optimism does not have to be at odds with the idealism of Latin American. I believe that it can be complimentary. However, there must be give and take and lots of sensitivity to bring about a working solution.

Comparative Studies on Latin American Leadership 

            Most of the material analysis of Latin leadership thus far has been more general and anecdotal in nature. However, there are some scientific studies on leadership styles is various cultural contexts. I will be focusing on those aspects that are most relevant to this current tutorial.  

Research By Dr. Geert Hostede  

I am indebted to the work done by  Dr. Geert  Hofstede on cross-cultural leadership patterns. Dr. Hofstede looks at four aspects of  cultural values as they relate to organizations and leadership. These are: Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Individualism, and Masculinity.   

Power Distance

            Power distance deals   with  the style of leadership decision making,   the liberty of a subordinate to disagree with his  boss, and what kind of style the subordinates prefer (Hofstede 1990:92). High power distance refers to a large gap between the leader and follower (true in Latin America); whereas low power distance suggests close relationships (nearness) between leader and follower (true of U.S.). The research done by Hofstede in this area suggests that the level of power distance is more culturally determined than anything else. Different societies place different values on such areas as prestige, wealth, and power (1980: 92).  Hofstede discovered that places like Mexico and Venezuela have double the power distance than places like the U.S. or most European countries (1980:104). [13] A study in 1967 of Peruvian workers and U.S. workers showed clearly that Peruvians were not nearly so concerned as U.S. workers that their boss demonstrate democratic, participation oriented style leadership (Hofstede 1980:115).

 The following table shows some of the authoritarian—democratic values between countries with a high power distance level versus those with a lower level: [14]    

TABLE 13  


(Adapted from Hofstede 1980:119)  

Countries with High Power Distance:

Mexico, Perú, Venezuela, Colombia, etc,

Countries With Low Power Distance:

U.S., Netherlands, Sweden, etc.

¨      Managers show less consideration

¨      Managers show more consideration

¨      Employees fear to disagree with their boss

¨      Employees less afraid of disagreeing with their boss

¨      Managers see themselves as benevolent decision makers

¨      Managers see themselves as practical and systematic; They admit a need for support

¨      Subordinates favor a manager’s decision making style to be more  autocratic-paternalistic

¨      Subordinates favor a manager’s decision making style to be more consultative, democratic, and give and take

¨      Close supervision positively evaluated by subordinates

¨      Close supervision negatively evaluated by subordinates

¨      Higher and lower educated employees show similar values about authority

¨      Higher educated employees hold much less authoritarian values than lower-educated ones.

¨      Students put place high value on conformity

¨      Students place high value on independence

              The research done by Hostede only confirms the earlier comments concerning the tendency in Latin America to be more authoritarian and power conscious. I see this is as one of the reasons why the hierarchical cell church  structure (Jethro system) works so well. At the same time, it explains why it is so hard for cell leaders not to dominate the meeting. They are accustomed to maintaining distance between themselves and those under their charge.  Oftentimes, there is a greater desire to control the group  rather than serving it.   

Avoidance/Uncertainty Paradigm  

            The name that Dr. Hofstede has coined is certainly not self explanatory. The  idea  here is how a culture deals with change and tradition Is there a tendency to live with change (US) or avoid it (Latin America).   The issues that he researched were (1980:164):

1.     Rule orientation: Agreement with the statement: A companies rule should not be broken---even when the employee thinks it is in the company’s best interest.

2.     Employment stability: Employees statement that they intend to continue with the company a) for two years at the most b) from two to five years.

3.     Stress, as expressed in the answer to the question, “How often do you feel nervous or tense at work?”.

            As was the previous case, the countries in which I will be doing my case study research scored very high in the uncertainty/avoidance continuum in comparison with the more industrialized nations as the US and  most European countries. [15] The following table gives a summary of the values in high uncertainty/avoidance countries versus low ones: 

TABLE 14  


(Adapted from Hofstede 1980:176-175)  


Perú, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela


US, Sweden, Denmark, India

¨      Pessimism about people’s amount of initiative, ambition, and leadership skills

¨      Optimism about people’s amount of initiative, ambition, and leadership skills

¨      Initiative of subordinates should be kept under control

¨      Delegation to subordinates can be complete

¨      Competition between employees is emotionally disapproved of

¨      Competition between employees can be fair and right

¨      Conflict in organization is undesirable

¨      Conflict in organization is natural

¨      Preference for clear requirements and instructions

¨      Preference for broad guidelines

¨      Less risk taking; fear of failure

¨      More risk taking;  Hope of success

¨      Lower ambition for individual advancement

¨      Higher  ambition for individual advancement

¨      Managers should be selected on the basis of seniority

¨      Managers should not be selected on the basis of seniority

¨      Loyalty to employer is seen as a virtue

¨      Loyalty to employer is not seen as a virtue

¨      More emotional resistance to change

¨      Less  emotional resistance to change

¨      More worry about the future

¨      Less worry about the future

              It must be remembered that Greece, Belgium, and Japan scored higher than any of the Latin American countries. However, these points add insight concerning how Latin view  leadership, ambition, competition, change, and general leadership skills.  


            This term needs little definition. It involves how cultures view self-orientation versus collective orientation. It is not surprising that out of the thirty-nine countries studied in this statistical analysis, the US rated the highest on individualism. On the opposite extreme the Latin American countries  were among the least individualistic. [16]   It is interesting to note that the US had one of the lowest power distance ratios and highest individualism ratios (not much separation from leadership and follower—and high individualism )  while most of the Northern Latin American countries had high power distance and low individualism (lots of separation between leader and follower and lots of conformity and group orientation).  In Latin America there is a definite ‘we’ consciousness instead of the ‘I” consciousness so prevalent in the US.  The following table will help clarify these distinctions:

TABLE 15   


(Adapted from Hofstede 1980:230-231)  


US, Great Britain, Canada, Australia


Venezuela, Perú, Colombia, Mexico

¨      Need to make specific friendships

¨      Social relationships predetermined in terms of ingroups

¨      Individual initiative is socially encouraged

¨      Individual initiative is socially frowned upon; fatalism

¨      Managers endorse “modern” points of view on stimulating employee initiative and group activity

¨      Managers endorse “traditional” points of view, not supporting employee initiative and group activity

¨      Emotional independence from company

¨      Emotional dependence from company

¨      Managers aspire to leadership and variety

¨      Managers aspire to conformity and orderliness

¨      Students consider it socially acceptable to claim pursuing their own ends without minding others

¨      Students consider it less socially acceptable to claim pursuing their own ends without minding others

              The group consciousness so prevalent in Latin America help us understand why small group ministry works so well in  Latin America. This study confirms my suspicion that cell group evangelism would be far more acceptable and effective in Latin America than an individualistic approach. On the other hand, cell group multiplication needs to be handled with great care in that change seems to be more difficult and long term commitment to the group is far higher .  


            Here Dr. Hofstede examines the role that gender plays in the leadership of society. He states, “The predominant socialization pattern is for men to be more assertive and for women to be more nurturing” (1980:261). He goes on to say, “Male behavior is associated with autonomy, aggression, exhibition, and dominance; female behavior is associated with nurturance, affiliation, helpfulness, and humility (1990:263).

            Interestingly enough, there was not a distinct, noticeable difference between US culture and Latin American culture. [17]   Under this category, I will not even provide a table because I do not believe that it would be helpful. However, Hofstede does provide excellent insight into his findings and the machismo factor so common in Latin America by the following comment,

   The one concept from the anthropological literature which can be directly associated with masculinity is “machismo” (a need for ostentatious manliness) which is usually attributed to Latin American countries, especially Mexico….The Latin American female counterpart to machismo is “Marianismo”: a combination of near-saintliness, submissiveness, and frigidity (Stevens, 1973). In the HERMES data, some Latin American countries score far to the masculine side---Venezuela, Mexico, and Colombia---which fits with the machismo image. Argentina and Brazil, however, score in the middle, while Peru and Chile score more feminine. Private discussions with Latin American spokesmen confirm that machismo is more present in the countries around the Caribbean than in the remainder of South America (Hofstede 1980:289).  

            The three previous categories presented by Hofstede have challenged me to rethink my own cultural  leadership style  in the light of Latin American culture.  However, this category had  the opposite affect. Perhaps, the machismo  paradigm of Latin America is overplayed. According to this study, North Americans  are just as masculine oriented as the majority of Latin American countries.

With regard to women in cell leadership roles, It remains to be seen  how  Latin culture (specifically thinking of Ecuador) will accept their  ministry---especially as it involves women leading mixed groups of both women and men.  

Research By Robert T. Moran And Philip R. Harris  

            North Americans trying to do business in Latin America have come to realize that understanding Latin leadership patterns and attitudes is absolutely essential. Robert T. Moran and Philip R. Harris, two experts in the field of international management believe that success in business only comes when North Americans “…try and enter into the foreign manager’s life space and perceive situations as that person might do” (1982:298). They offer an excellent synthesis of the differences between North American  business patterns versus Latin American business patterns. The following table represents just some of the cultural patterns presented in their analysis:  


(Adapted from Moran and Harris 1982: 299)  




·         The individual can influence the future “where there is a will there is a way”

·         Life follows a preordained course and human action is determined by the will of God

·         Planning, scheduling

·         An individual should be realistic in his aspirations

·         Ideals are to be pursued regardless of what is reasonable

·         Goals setting

·         We must work hard to accomplish our objectives (Puritan ethic)

·         Hard work is not the only prerequisite for success; wisdom, luck, and time are also required

·         Motivation and bargaining

·         Commitments should be honored (people will do what they say they will do)

·         A commitment may be superseded by a conflicting request, or an agreement may only signify intention, and have little or no relationship to the capacity of performance

·         Negotiating and bargaining

·         One should effectively use his time (time is money which can be saved or wasted)

·         Schedules are important but only in relation to other priorities [people and family are often the priorities]

·         Long- and short-range planning

·         A primary obligation of an employee is to the organization

·         The individual employee has a primary obligation to his family and friends

·         Loyalty, commitment, and motivation

·         The employer or employee can terminate their relationship

·         Employment is for a lifetime

·         Motivation and commitment to the company

·         The best qualified persons should be given the position available

·         Family considerations, friendship, and other considerations partially determine employment practices

·         Employment promotions; Recruiting; Selection; Reward

·         A person can be removed if he does not perform well

·         The removal of a person from a position involves a great loss of prestige and may only rarely be done

·         Promotion

·         All levels of management are open to qualified individuals (an office boy can rise to become company president)

·         Education or family ties are the primary vehicles for mobility

·         Employment practices and promotions

·         Competition stimulates high performance

·         Competition leads to unbalances and to disharmony

·         Promotion

·         Change is considered an improvement

·         Tradition is revered and the power of the ruling group is founded on the continuation of a stable structure

·         Planning

·         Persons and systems are to be evaluated

·         Persons are evaluated but in such a way that individuals not highly evaluated will not be embarrassed or caused to “lose face”

·         Rewards

·         Promotion

          These comparisons further add  and confirm what has been said thus far about Latin authority patterns, change dynamics, group consciousness, and the priority of people and family  over work and prosperity. 


[1] I am beginning to realize that this is especially true in Latin America where the spirit of the Caudillo (macho domination) is so common. Control seems to be more  important in Latin America.

[2] I will never forget one cell meeting that I observed (Republic Church in Quito, Ecuador). The leader had a small correction for every answer—the answer was almost right but not quite right.  Towards the end of the meeting

[3] The expository teaching of the Word of God and various Sunday School classes all have their proper place in the church facility. However, in the home cell group, it seems best to emphasize Bible application.

[4] I am referring here to the normal believer oriented cell  meetings here. If the emphasis is on  unbelievers, the goal will not be intimate fellowship.

[5] Normally, in the cell church if one has arrived at a top leadership position, it is because he or she has mastered and been successful in leadership principles at the cell leader level.

[6] In many cell churches today, there are upper levels of management, so that the pastor actually trains for those who are over five cells, etc. and not the actual cell leader personally. 

[7] When we first arrived in Ecuador,  we were highly  motivated and prepared (lots of pre-training). A senior missionary was assigned to us who treated us like babies who needed to be told everything and watched over. This person’s leadership style was offensive to us and was not effective. However, some new missionaries who lacked confidence and talent  might have needed this time of directive  leadership style. According to Hersey and Blanchard, the effective leader is able to adapt his leadership style according to the needs of  the follower.

[8] In the El Batan Church I saw several of these ‘power confrontations’ first hand between the board (made up of successful businessmen and the pastors). I was amazed by the open boasting  among these ‘powerful people’ of their  power and influence. The situation became so pronounced that in June, 1996 this powerful board left the church (partly asked to resign by the national church) along with 200 people and formed their own new church under Alfredo Smith.

[9] This is especially true with regard to cell-based ministry. The  issue of authority, both from the pastoral leadership perspective  as well as it relates to cell leadership, seems to come up on a repeated basis. 


[10] This has been confirmed in my own personal experience.  We ministered in the  El Batán church in Quito, Ecuador. This church happened to be more middle to upper class. Yet, I soon discovered that the higher class people of that church struggled with accepting and submitting to the national pastors who came from a lower class. I witnessed this superior attitude and disrespect time and time again. In fact, the only pastor that the upper class of the church has ever accepted was an Argentine who appears very ‘white’

[11] We divided our cell groups into the major departments in the church (University, young married couples, adults, etc.). This worked well and members with similar backgrounds were free to join the group of their choice. 

[12] Perhaps another aspect of this conflict between idealism and realism is the tendency to say ‘yes’ when there is no concrete intention to fulfill that commitment  How often did we forcefully agree on a plan of action in the pastoral staff meeting, only to see those plans fall by the wayside. How often did various workers tell me they were going to fulfill something only to have a change of plans later on. Again, I must be very careful here not to over generalize, yet, it does seem that there is a wider gap between idealism and realism in Latin America than in North America

[13] For example, the Power Distance scores for Mexico were 81, Venezuela 81, Colombia, 67, and Perú, 64; whereas the USA had a power distance level of 40, Great Britian, 35, Denmark, 18.

[14] Hofstede lists 18 characteristics. Here I have only listed those values that relate most to my present study on leadership.

[15] Some scores: US-46; Great Britain-35; Sweden-29; Australia-51; In contrast to Perú-87; Colombia-80; Venezuela-76;  At the same time, this study was not so easy to label because of countries like Belgium-94; Greece-112; Japan-92.

[16] Here are some of the scores most relevant to who I am as an American and a missionary to Latin America: US-91; Great Britain-89; Canada-80; Italy-76  versus Venezuela-12 (the lowest); Colombia-13; Perú-16; Mexico-30.

[17] Here are some examples of scores: US-62; Japan-95 (highest); Austria-79; Switzerland-70 in comparison with Latin American countries: Mexico-69; Colombia-64; Peru-42; Venezuela-73; Spain-42; Chile-28.







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