Abstract: The successful leadership of ethnic pastors in ethnic churches is usually under-theorised, as if their position and authority are self-explanatory, because they are ‘one of them’. The author presents a case from a Charismatic church of Roma/Gypsies in the Czech Republic where one religious leader has changed the shape of a local community of converts from a kinship-driven community to an ethno-religion. Whereas the leader based his political capital on his ‘Gypsiness’, he paradoxically succeeded thanks to the fact that he was not ‘one of them’. The author traces back this process of political empowerment by religious means, and delineates the strategies of hierarchical ordering of the local Roma through a Bible school. By focusing attention on a particular individual who operates within the fields of power and recreates these structures through their own strategies, I point to an aspect of the political–religious dichotomy that has been neglected in the sociology of religion.