“Unknown” Leaders

“Unknown” Leaders

In an interview the other day I was asked where some of the “unknown” leaders are right now—folks whose leadership is thus far a well-kept secret, but are people who the rest of the Christian world should know about.

Instead of naming names, I talked in general terms about a whole generation of presently “unknowns.” While I spend most of my time at Fuller, I also make many visits to college and university campuses, as well as to other seminaries, both in North America and elsewhere. I am extremely optimistic about what the emerging generation of Christian students are going to bring to the global church. They are creating a new agenda. They are enthusiastic about worship. They care deeply about the issues of justice, peace, and the care of creation. They are passionate about leading people to Christ. They have deep convictions, while also having a strong commitment to engaging in dialogue with folks from other faith communities. We are soon going to see a new spirit of leadership in the Christian community as these emerging leaders take over!

But we also need to wait for another kind of “unknown” leader to show up. I was once asked by a magazine what I thought was the most important religious event of the previous year. I gave the kind of example they wanted, but I also added a further thought. It may be, I said, that the most important religious event of the previous year occurred in a bedroom at three o’clock in the morning in an inner-city apartment, when a young black woman, struggling with complex issues in her life, got down on her knees and yielded her will to Jesus Christ—and in doing so set herself on a course that would bring about amazing things for the cause of the gospel.

I am excited by the new generation of soon-to-be leaders in the Christian community. But I am even more excited by the thought that the Spirit is raising up leaders right now who are unknown to any of us but who are being prepared for leadership by the One who is at work also—and perhaps even especially—in the secret places.


  1. I often wondered if the “known” leadership is something of a personality cult, but just a less intense form of it. I really do think God has not called everyone to the spotlight (though we should not shun it if he does) but rather to work in the shadows–behind the scenes–on the sidelines. I don’t know if that young black women will do amazing things. It might just be giving a mite. But amazing things may result as a part of her faithfulness.

    Comment by Brandon Blake — October 29, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

  2. Richard,

    I could not agree more with the fact that some of the most significant Christian leaders that will emerge are not yet Christians. Even now they are being shaped by God in the small corners of life. It is a humbling reminder that in all my efforts at identifying and developing leaders, God is, and always has been, at work shaping lives that will uniquely serve his purposes.

    Comment by Dennis Easter — October 29, 2008 @ 9:04 pm

  3. Brother Yun, a leader in the revival home church movement in China says this in his book called Living Water, Chapter 6 “The Person God Uses”:
    “Since leaving China I have come to see there is a serious misunderstanding among many Christians around the world when it comes to being a worker in God’s Kingdom. In the West, especially, the gospel has been intellectualized to such an extent that there is almost no mention of true faith and trust in Jesus anymore. Academic qualifications and speaking ability are held in high regard, while spiritual maturity, character and the call of the Holy Spirit have been relegated in importance and largely consigned to being irrelevant when it comes to God’s work….The Lord Jesus calls people who realize they cannot function at all apart from His grace and empowerment…….We look for the strongest most attrative, most educated, thinking that God’s work can be accomplished through human effort. God, however, cleary uses a different set of scales when he weighs a person. He looks at the character and heart of each individual.” ” pg 59 – 61

    These are the kind of leaders you are talking about, Dr Mouw, and lets continue to pray for more
    leaders to come forward and lead. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Comment by Linda Lee — October 30, 2008 @ 5:12 pm

  4. Dr. Mouw,

    Thank you for your dedication to raising up a generation of revolutionary leaders. I join with you in eager anticipation for the fruit of such labor, and wait expectantly for the glory of the Kingdom.

    – Jerry DePoy Jr.

    Comment by Jerry DePoy Jr. — November 2, 2008 @ 7:34 am

  5. Thanks Richard for these encouraging words. As Rick Warren says, “it is not about me.”

    Comment by James Kim — November 3, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

  6. Dr. Mouw:

    Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.God bless.

    Comment by connie Z.D. — November 7, 2008 @ 2:19 am

  7. I’m a Fuller guy from the early 80’s. I got to your blog through a link from one of those ‘unknown leaders.’

    After reading through your posts, with all due respect, I was disappointed.

    I look forward to the time when those younger future leaders replace a generation of American evangelicals that allied themselves far too closely with money and ‘respectability’ and right wing politics.

    I don’t expect my comments will get through the filter (your comments section is suspiciously supportive). Just another way you may not get what’s happening on the ground.

    Comment by Tom Pratt — November 7, 2008 @ 9:12 pm