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 the church.

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 "professionally."

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 mature spiritually.

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 training.

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 God.2

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 flesh."

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 "announced" times?

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 force.7

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 admit.

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 religious bureaucrat.

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 forbidden.

Plainly, no one—including the Holy Spirit—likes brute force.

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 commercial product.

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 wills."11

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 lead.

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

Networked Entrepreneurs

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 relationships.

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 laity’s vision.

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 passive—simply contemplative.

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 history.

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 more "user-friendly."

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 century.

"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 http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

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 http://www.dickstaub.com/culturewatch.php?record_id=987

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.

Future Church Administrator