WHO'S "IN" AND WHO'S "OUT"?
The refusal of an empowered laity has proven the
greatest failure of today’s church. The co-dependency of skeptical
pastors—protecting their own financial interests—and lazy
laity—protecting their own membership privileges—has become an
insidious addiction. Because of this cozy collusion, the more
fervent and faith-filled entrepreneurs are finding their way outside
Or, more to the point, how can "submerged"
followers ever deserve to be "emerging" leaders?
But how can laity become leaders if they haven’t
been to seminary or bible college? How can they share Scripture with
integrity if they haven’t studied Scripture with integrity? And, how
can they expect respect if they haven’t been certified for respect?
After all, our nation was founded on enlightened
understanding. The ability to think coherently and systematically
was fundamental to "knowing" anything. As a result, our great
schools—which began as seminaries!—were prerequisites to serving God
But something happened. Academic credentials in
the "world of Spirit" lost credibility. They persuaded less because
they were believed less. C. S. Lewis put it this way:
You cannot study Pleasure in the moment
of nuptial embrace, nor repentance while repenting, nor
analyze the nature of humor while roaring with laughter.1
Yet, emerging leaders (especially those who only
study "religion") assume that everyone outside their "boat" is
uninformed and must be informed—that everyone else is out of touch
with the philosophical trends and must be filled in—and that
everyone not clued in on the facts must be clued in.
They don’t realize the world has changed—that
there’s a different story about who is "in" and who is "out"—that
they may be confusing the rescuers with those needing rescuing. They
don’t realize that we’ve shifted to an oral culture—that the new
spirituality is "unthinkable"—that an emerging world prefers an
authentic amateur to a trained professional.
Too many emerging leaders don’t realize the
world’s demand for a new kind of "influence."
Yes, we need wisdom! But true wisdom is more a
matter of how to "be" than how to "know." It is an embedded knowing,
an incarnate Truth. For that reason, life itself makes leaders.
Faith in the midst of failure, sorrow, and crisis forms their
essential character. So aspiring leaders need mentoring or
"on-the-job training" more than facts or information. And, the
quicker spiritual seekers find their ministry the quicker they
Today’s emerging leaders harbor illusions, as
well, about who’s in charge. Inspiration, obviously, has nothing to
do with religious "pecking orders." Whether we’re certified or
simple, it’s the Spirit that’s in charge. For example, visions are
revealed, not simply created. And, true originality is the privilege
of God alone, not simply the product of someone’s talent or
In other words, we point to Truth only out of the
Power to which we point.
Whether ordained or ordinary, all of us have
known a Power obviously not ours, a quickening from
we-know-not-where. We only know that it is a self-authenticating,
autonomous force—a manifest presence, an indwelling reality. For it
claims us, shapes us, compels us. . . .
To lose ourselves in the performance of
an obligation which we accept, in spite of its appearing on
reflection impossible of achievement . . . (is) a clue to
Uncertified Spiritual Giants
Who are the leaders with wisdom? Those whose
lives confirm wisdom. Who are the leaders with esteem? Those whose
lives earn esteem. Who are the leaders with character? Those whose
lives show character.
Ordinations and degrees—scholarships and
schools—politics and positions certainly help. But they’re not the
true source of spiritual maturity. That’s the reason the Lord of
History compels the "uncertified" to become spiritual giants—the
"unauthorized" to move in incarnate power—the "unentitled" to speak
with prophetic boldness. . . .
. . . for "The manifestation of the Spirit is
given to everyone for profit."3
"Everyone" includes the unrefined, the unwashed,
the unwanted—the outsiders, the ethnic, the alien—the nobodies, the
hopeless, and the least among Christ’s brothers and sisters. In
fact, history’s anointed have most often included people at the
margins. Today’s India, for example, shows God "working
predominantly through women and uneducated people."4
More to the point, God does not play second
fiddle to any religious edifice, presumption, or pigeonhole. A
careful reading of Scripture confirms this. Indeed, this truth
proves the very origin of the church.5
The more we move into the 21st century, the more
we’ll look for leaders with depth and character. And we’ll find them
anywhere Spirit takes on body and body takes on Spirit.
In other words, wherever the "Word is made
There is, therefore, in Christ and in the
Church no inequality . . . ‘all these things are the work of
one and the same Spirit’ . . . (the laity) are in their own
way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly
functions of Christ.6
The Real World
Who says spiritual leadership is limited to
"religious" leaders? Who says personal ministry is limited to
"official" ministries? Who says sacred space is limited to
"designated" spaces? And who says sacred time is limited to
Beyond doubt, prophetic voices speak through any
voice. Caring hearts embolden any heart. A manifest Spirit manifests
in any place. And a move of God moves in any time.
In other words, secular work and sacred ministry
should fit seamlessly together. The regeneration of Christ overlays
our whole reality. We’re not compartmentalized! We do what we’re led
to do—anywhere, anytime.
Even the factory floor becomes a hotbed of
creativity or an epicenter of ennobling causes. Every job, of
course, begins with applied data and learned skills. But soon it
becomes a matter of people, relationships, widening communities,
passionate "living," and shared visions.
So what if it’s a secular job?
A secular business, after all, may be the best
choice for the mission-minded. For successful businesses must
respond to global pressures, and their widening influence becomes an
open door for compassionate leaders. More important, though, the
laity are "where it’s at." Their very vocation—the web of their very
existence—is where the least, the last, and the lost are found.
The laity are called in a special way to
make the Church present and operative in those places and
circumstances where only through them can it become the salt
of the earth . . . (Their ministry) takes on . . . a special
In other words, the laity "work for the
sanctification of the world from within." They "consecrate the world
itself to God."8 Their world is the real world.
Yet, we usually associate ministry with a church
"program": "Remember, work is work, and church is church. So if
you’re going to be in ministry, you’d better be in church."
The church says, for example, "Come join our
conversation," but history demands, "Join my conversation!" The
church says, "Be a volunteer next Sunday," but history insists, "Do
something—anywhere—RIGHT NOW!" The church says, "Mission is among
friends in the church," but history declares, "Mission is among
strangers outside the church."
Our "community," clearly, is far larger than we
Who Was That Masked Man?
On-the-spot ministries in the real world reveal
self-evident advantages. Wherever the laity are "on call," they
see—first-hand—the hidden opportunities. And, with personal
immediacy, they offer better solutions and faster results than any
It’s a "Spirit of spontaneity." These laity are
like football quarterbacks who call "audibles," or new plays, right
on the line of scrimmage. Their decisions are proactive, spontaneous
responses to facts on the field.
These let-loose laity also enjoy the advantages
of widespread communities—open systems of networked believers—hubs
of connectivity built around common visions. Their fluid spiritual
partnerships are built around missions, not ministries. And they can
accomplish results far larger than the closed systems of any one
church or any one denomination can accomplish.
They resemble the far-flung networks of
"bloggers" that now outpace even giant news syndicates. In other
words, the guys sitting at computers in their pajamas are focusing
the flow of world news. Their spheres of influence are living
organisms that mobilize the mavericks of creativity and innovation.
Hopefully, emerging church leaders will "get it."
They will grasp a real world served by the entrepreneur rather than
the religious recluse. They will place a far greater emphasis on the
promises of their own unleashed laity.
Surely, that’s what Scripture intended.
Christians are "sent." They "go out" rather than "come in." They are
an "on call" immediacy. Like Philip, in the story of the Ethiopian
eunuch,9 they jump into the "chariot," mentor for a
minute, purify the moment, then disappear.
We especially need this "real world ministry"
today. For the church has lost considerable influence. In fact, a
whole generation has left—only 16% of 18-22 years olds are involved
in formalized religion.10 Freedom of religion has turned
increasingly toward freedom from religion. And there are places
where traditional missions—or in-your-face salvations—are flat out
Plainly, no one—including the Holy Spirit—likes
But the laity—freed from formal constraints—can
still reach the secular world. And they’re already doing it—but not
by the "rule book." Their ways can be far more transparent. When
done in a caring yet hidden way, the world sees through it to the
Lord. In other words, their message is not a program, a religion, a
building, a culture, a doctrine, a system, a style, a club, or a
Put another way, their message doesn’t have to be
"religious" in order to be "religious."
These transparent moments are transformational
moments where anything and everything speaks. They are "works of
art," where the "arts" and the "artists" are never noticed. They are
like watching something catching fire—seeing the familiar turning
strange—or seeing the strange turning familiar. More important,
though, they are powers that operate outside of organized religion.
. . .
. . . for "The wind of the Spirit blows where it
It’s All About Courage
None of this is possible if we can’t release the
laity from the constraints of the typical church. It can’t be done,
in other words, if we refuse to abandon the stereotypes that have
hobbled the laity for so many years. Yes, there are times when the
laity should follow. But there are also times when the laity should
It’s all about courage! Assuming today’s
spiritual leaders have this courage, then the laity need the same
courage to let go of the same past. And then—perhaps more
important—they need courage to hear their unique calling for the
future. After all, they are "both called and empowered to be
extensions of the Incarnation"12—to become more than they
ever thought they could be.
The courage in emerging leaders to build courage
in emerging laity is an urgently needed bridge to tomorrow’s church.
Such courage presents a strange paradox. It’s the
courage of both humility and risk—selflessness and
audacity—submission and trailblazing. It’s the courage to hazard
God’s Power while hastening His
Presence. It’s the courage, in short, to risk
downloading heaven to earth.
Of course, the laity also need courage to stand
alone—unaided, self-directed—yet submitting to the leading of the
Spirit. Then, it takes even further courage to "get involved," to
participate, to risk
vulnerability. And, finally, it takes profound
courage to speak prophetically—to speak of "nonexistent things . . .
as if they [already] existed"—to give form to the "substance,"
"evidence" and "proof" of things we do not see.13
When they saw the boldness . . . of Peter and John . . .
they recognized that they had been with Jesus.14
So the laity are sent out—yet supported. On their
own—yet encouraged. And, they rightfully expect this backing.15
As in a great symphony orchestra, when individual players have a
solo, everyone—including the conductor—works in a supportive role,
always helping to "empower" the soloist’s vision.
Loosening constraints on the laity seemingly
leads to a leaderless band of "outlaws." And giving up controls of
"everything spiritual" seemingly unleashes uncontrolled chaos. Yet,
once emerging leaders get past these fears, their influence will
increase, not decrease.
They continuously refire the laity’s fires. And,
while doing this, they faithfully come alongside in long-term
One spiritual leader by himself, for example,
can’t solve the problems of a million people, but a million people
networking together can solve a multitude of problems. This happens
when churches morph from organizations into organisms, when the
laity shift from volunteers into networked entrepreneurs.
That means mentors constantly re-envision the
This new relationship with the laity is more than
a good idea, more than a good strategy. It is life itself—the very
lifeline of the laity—the only true relationship with God. For the
correlation of Creator and creation—eternity and history—is the
ultimate goal of every sentient being.
Unloading the Burden
Faith, in other words, is not a mere idea—it’s
not impersonal knowledge "about" God—and it’s not the socially
acceptable study of religious societies and doctrinal minds. It is
not a timeless notion detached from history—it’s not a navel-gazing
monologue—and it’s not a mere toleration of timeless traditions. It
is not a second-hand reverie—it’s not the passion of proxies—and
it’s not a vicarious hand-me-down from clerical surrogates.
Faith, instead, is in-your-face. It is powerful
and personal—spontaneous and transcendent—close and up-front. It is
filled with inspirations, insights, felt-meanings, and sudden
disclosures. It does not sit on the sidelines. It is totally
involved, intimately engaged.
Of course, there are times when faith is
This relationship—this new definition of a new
laity—is the only thing that distinguishes the Judeo-Christian God
from every other religion. For our God is the only Creator-God, and
He created us to create. In other words, we are "coauthors" in a
world not so much a "Creation" as a "Creating."
But, sooner or later, faith is
what-are-you-going-to-do-right-now? It compels us to
participate—challenges us to act—moves us to respond. For we are
living manifestations, contingent realities, reciprocal agents. And,
we are driven to unload these burdens in the very moments of our
Are You Persuadable?
Change is the price of survival.
We must re-examine our most deeply held delusions
and turn away from our most outdated structures. At the same time,
we must responsibly create the emerging guidelines for mentoring and
supporting eager entrepreneurs. Yes, structure, education, and
resources will always remain a necessity. But they will differ from
the past. They will prove, for example, far more flexible and far
The Lord of History is releasing the constraints
on today’s laity. And, it’s evident why! The advent of supercomputer
intelligence and pagan spirituality will leave lethargic leaders so
far behind that Spirit-inspired entrepreneurs will be the only ones
left who can walk with empowerment in the real world.
Those who are persuadable—and those who stake out
this new frontier—will be the true "emerging leaders" of the 21st
"Let them not, then, hide this hope in the depths
of their hearts."16
© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt
1. C. S. Lewis, quoted in Leanne Payne, Real
Presence (Grand Rapids: Baker Books,
2000) p. 133.
2. Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge:
Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press, 1958) p. 324.
3. 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 19-21.
4. A careful reading of the original Greek in
Matthew 16:15-18 reveals Jesus founded His church on spiritual
revelation—not position or personality, intellect or intelligence,
education or training.
5. Dr. Victor Choudhrie, a surgeon in Madhya
Pradesh, India, quoted in Friday Fax Newsletter, 2005,
6. Vatican II Council, Dogmatic Constitution of the Church,
November 21, 1964
7. Vatican II Council.
8. Vatican II Council.
9. Acts 8:29-40.
10. Dick Staub, "An Open Letter to CFC Friends,"
CULTURE-WATCH, March, 2006
11. John 3:8 (my paraphrase).
12. C. S. Lewis, pp. 143, 144.
13. Romans 4:17, New International Version
& The Amplified Bible; Isaiah 46:10, The
Amplified Bible; Hebrews 11:1, King James
Bible & The Amplified Bible.
14. Acts 4:13, The Amplified Bible.
15. Vatican II Council.
16. Vatican II Council.