Twenty of the Most Influential Evangelicals in America

I conducted an informal survey of over 30 persons, simply asking them to name the most influential evangelicals in America today. Though my choice of the respondents was subjective, I do have confidence that the men and women who gave me these names are very knowledgeable about the evangelical scene in the United States.

The respondents represent a cross section of denominational and non-denominational churches and entities. From my perspective, those I surveyed are clearly evangelicals themselves. Among the criteria I gave them, I included the following:

  • Limit the responses to Americans.
  • The names must represent living persons.
  • Name at least eight persons.
  • Only include evangelicals. I did not define “evangelical.”
  • Think “influential” rather than just those with whom you agree.

The problem with any list such as this one is the names you omit. Many well-known evangelicals did not make this top twenty list. I realize that another list done by another person would likely yield some different names. Here, then, are twenty of the most influential evangelicals listed in alphabetical order.

Matt Chandler — The lead pastor of teaching at The Village Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and prominent author. Chandler’s podcast is consistently in the top five of the leading Christian podcasts on iTunes.

Wilfredo De Jesus — Better known as Pastor Choco, he is the head pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago and the author of Amazing Faith. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in America in 2013.

Ross Douthat — Author, blogger and New York Times columnist. He was a senior editor at The Atlantic and wrote Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.

Tony Evans — Prolific author and senior pastor at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas. He is also founder and president of The Urban Alternative, a national organization that seeks to bring about spiritual renewal in urban America through churches.

Louie Giglio — Pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, speaker, author, and founder of the Passion Movement.

Franklin Graham — President and CEO of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse. Prominent evangelist.

Craig Groeschel — Founder and senior pastor of, one of the largest churches in the United States with 15 locations in five states.

Bill Hybels — Founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, and founder of the Willow Creek Association. Prolific author.

T. D. Jakes — Bishop/chief pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas. Prolific author of many books.

Tim Keller — Apologist, speaker, and the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Author of several books.

LecraeChristian hip hop artist, record producer, and co-owner and co-founder of the independent record label Reach Records. Co-founder and president of the non-profit organization, ReachLife Ministries.

Albert Mohler — President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for more than 20 years. Prominent spokesman in evangelicalism. Author of several books and hundreds of articles.

Beth Moore — Founder of Living Proof Ministries in Houston. The ministry focuses on aiding women who desire to model their lives on Christian values. Prominent author and speaker.

Joyce Meyer — Prolific author and frequent speaker, with many of her appearances on television. Heads Joyce Meyer Ministries, based in Fenton, Missouri.

Joel Osteen — Senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, one of the largest churches in America. Prolific author of several books.

John Piper — Served as pastor for preaching and vision for 33 years at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Retired from the church in 2013. Prolific author. Founder of Desiring God Ministries.

Dave Ramsey — Best known for his syndicated radio show, “The Dave Ramsey Show,” heard on more than 500 radio stations. Authored many books, including four New York Times bestsellers. Focuses on personal financial health.

Priscilla Shirer — Bestselling author and frequent speaker, largely at women’s events. Most common venue is Bible teaching to women. She and her husband, Jerry Shirer, own and run Going Beyond Ministries.

Andy Stanley — Senior pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, and affiliated churches. Also founded North Point Ministries. Prolific author and frequent speaker.

Rick Warren — Senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, one of the largest churches in the United States. Author of several books, including Purpose Driven Life, which has sold over 30 million copies.

Keep in mind that just over 30 persons responded to my questions. In that sense, it is more of a panel than a survey. Though the respondents did not have to offer comments, most of them did. Some of them offered two lists, such as two levels of influence. Others struggled in their own responses, trying to decide whether or not different persons were truly evangelicals.

I appreciate their time and thoughtfulness. Now it’s time to hear from you.

Who would you add to the list?

photo credit: Kat Northern Lights Man via photopin cc

Posted on March 31, 2014

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Lorraine in SFV says on

    And out in California you have omitted Dudley Rutherford of Shepherd of the Hills as well as Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship
    Also where is Charles Stanley
    And what about Lloyd John Ogilvie who was Chaplain of the US Congress from 1995 -2003 or the current Chaplain Barry C. Black
    And how about Dr. Ben Carson – while not a licensed Preacher by the state he certainly is unwaivering about the Truth of the Sanctity of Life
    And then what of Dr. J. Vernon McGee – his “through the Bible” in 5 years is still actively broadcasted …FIFTY YEARS after it began!

  • KinChrist says on

    What is the Truth? All of these evangelical pastor’s have their own Truth? Am I not correct? With over 30,000 denominations today. Who has the darn Truth?

    Truth IS the early Christian Fathers, Baptizing, Confirming and then leading the new believers in to sit at the table of the Lord. Showing them through, Words, Action and Spirit the very words the Lord spoke at the Last Supper. “This is my body… Eat it as me… ” (etc). An enriching and overwhelming experiecnce of our Lord that can leave you speechless, fulfilled and eager for wanting more. “He is the Manna from Heaven” …

    The Division and unrest in the Protestant/Reformed churches just completely negating History and Tradition. When Jesus gave Peter his church, did he give 1,000,000 Bibles to go out to all of the people? NO, that would have caused confusion and unrest. (The Reformation) He sent his Disciples out to help people experience our Lord and to be touched by His Baptismal waters, Confirm their Faith in Him, and then eat His Bread of Life that he so lovingly won us.

    Instead, you pass around a basket of crackers and grape juice in some “ho-hum” ceremony that makes no sense. It leaves people wondering… There is no experinece with Jesus…. Only to discard the left over bread and juice down the drain or in the trash.
    To be an influential Christian Leader how could you negate the VERY WORDS that Jesus so plainly spoke in his Last Supper. Several times he states “This is my body, eat it as me.” Very CLEAR, VERY PRECISE. Several people left the room, claiming they will not “eat of his body or drink His Blood” (those are symbolic of Modern day Protesters/Reformers) those that stayed witness the miracle of his Eucharist and will live in his Kingdom forever.
    When these Preachers go for their Judgement, they may be embarrassed to tell the King of the World. “No, Jesus you didn’t mean what you said. You meant this”….

    God Bless you All!

  • Really a sad commentary of the state of the Christian church when so many apostates made this list. Yes, unfortunately they are very influential, and for the most part that’s not good.

  • Dennis Farro says on

    Some obvious omissions that should be there would be Chuck Swindoll, Josh Macdowell, Ravi Zacharias, James Dobson, and Chip Ingram.

  • Interesting list. Similarly, we also created a list but it is about famous influential pentecostals here:

    I would add in your list Tommy Barnett of Phoenix First.

  • I am not an american an not familiar with all on the list, but can I ask why is Perry Stone not in the list? He is on TBN and people around the world watch his programme and he seem to have quite an impact on the young people and not only. Did I miss the heresy in his teachings? He seems to me to preach the whole gospel and tell some thing like they are and compared with TD Jakes Osteen at al he address the works of the Holly Spirit in a manner untouched by modernity. This to me is a good point because I do think that some things should be kept like they were give to the apostles.

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