Third-Culture Leadership Emergence of Believers of Muslim Background in Marseille, France

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This research examines the essential leadership emergence processes at work in believers of Muslim background (BMBs) in Marseille, France, by seeking to understand the impact of third-culture identity and critical life experiences on their emergence as contextualized leaders for the church.

The study applies leadership emergence theory in a contextualized form to the BMBs in Marseille. The BMB is shown to be a third-culture leader facing challenges of integration and urbanization while navigating a spiritually hostile environment between two cultural extremes: the ambient hyper-secular French culture on one side and the Muslim North African culture on the other.

Interview, survey, focus group, participant observation, and case study methodology are combined to investigate this leadership emergence context. The findings reveal three areas of influence impacting BMB leadership emergence: (1) their conceptual understandings of leadership, (2) their personal critical life experiences, and (3) their communal critical life experiences. Findings regarding their conceptual understandings of leadership confirm the primacy of the shepherd metaphor and the caretaking characteristics of these leaders. Personal life experience findings include third- culture identity struggles and the experience of persecution. Communal life experience findings demonstrate the central place of family/community church dynamics and the essential role of mentoring in the formation process.

The conclusions show that the emerging leader of Muslim background in Marseille is a third-culture leader who can be optimally developed in a third-culture leadership emergence church environment. Key insights from the findings inform a change strategy for trainers, emerging leaders, and the local church. The three elements vital to a change strategy are as follows: (1) a paradigm shift from an individual to a communal vision of training on the part of the leadership trainers, (2) a decision of emerging BMB leaders to embrace third-culture identity, and (3) the local church’s transition to a third-culture vision for leadership emergence. While the immediate application is context specific, certain insights could prove valuable to similar leadership emergence contexts.

Degree Name

Doctor of Intercultural Studies (DIS)

First Advisor

Fleming, Charles

Document Type





Christian leadership, Leadership, Cross-cultural studies, Intercultural communication, Missions to Muslims, Missions, Leadership, Religion, France, Marseille


Christian Denominations and Sects | Christianity | Missions and World Christianity


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