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.
More from Thom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Dr. Rainer,

    Before we talk about influential Evangelicals, perhaps it would be good for there to be a common working definition on what an evangelical is. I find it really hard to believe that some of the people on this list would be broadly considered evangelical. Am I wrong to make that kind of assertion?

  • Steve Smiley says on

    I would have included David Platt and Francis Chan. If they are not among the most influencial evangelicals, they should be.

  • Chris Crain says on

    I do think Tomlin deserves another mention. Christian filmography is also on the rise once again. Perhaps those key leaders would be on a list like this.

    Dr. Ben Carson may be another rising influencer.

    Thank you. I always appreciate your articles. This list helps those with their focus on their own setting become aware of movements that have cultural and theological impact.

  • Steve Miller says on

    I think this type of list has merit if it is saying, as a leader this is who my people are reading, listening to and being influenced by. It should not be a worldly popularity contest. Influence is not the same as success. In my circles I would add to the list: Francis Chan, Ed Stetzer, Mark Driscoll, Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, Mark Dever, D.A. Carson, William Lane Craig, Justin Taylor, Wayne Grudem, Dave Ramsey, and John MacArthur.

  • Matt Carr says on

    I would add in their place: Doug Fields (he and simplyyouthministry are hugely influential on evangelical culture, since youth often lead the way); Chris Tomlin (is there anyone who has influenced evangelical worship music culture more in the last decade?); and Mark Driscoll (yes, his rep has taken a hit recently, but he still wields tremendous influence among the YRR movement).

    • Nice catch with Chris Tomlin. Funny how evangelicals think exclusively in terms of pastors and teachers.

    • Maybe Mark Driscoll does technically “qualify” for this list, or the top 50, at least. But it’s a sad commentary on Evangelical health and discernment that he is even in the running. In somewhat different ways, I’d say similarly with Piper, Mohler, and a few others.

  • Great article! Craig Groeschel’s church actually has 18 physical campuses with a 19th almost completed.

  • Matt Carr says on

    While there is no denying the influence of TD Jakes, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyer, I don’t believe they belong on a list of evangelical leaders. Jakes is non-Trinitarian, Osteen never preaches the gospel, and Meyer is known for heretical statements.

    I’d like to see “us” narrow who belongs in a conversation about influential evangelicals.

    • They love Jesus.

      I’m sure if all of your views were out on the table we could some unorthodox beliefs. Same with me.

      Especially if your highly Reformed 😉

      • But Adam, this isn’t a list of 20 most influential people who love Jesus. This is a list of 20 most influential evangelicals. I think it’s fair to question whether Jakes and Osteen belong on a list of evangelicals.

      • Saying that you love Jesus does not makes you an evangelical Christian. Biblical Christianity does include a range of theological differences, but they are all based upon a core foundation of biblical truth. I would argue that the prosperity gospel taught by Osteen, Meyer and Jakes really is outside of that foundation and is a serious issue that affects their credibility in the realm of evangelical Christianity. The God of the Bible is not like Santa, giving us good things that make us happy because we obey. Rather, He gives us good things that make us more like Him; good things that may not make us happy at all, things that may cost us every thing for the sake of His name and things that we would never want. He is more interested in our holiness than our happiness and anyone who teaches otherwise is ignoring Scripture, the history of the church and the plight of fellow believers around the world. Such teaching should not be considered evangelical Christianity because it completely distorts the work of Jesus on the cross and the very purpose for which He came. He didn’t die for me so that I would be happy; He died for
        His church so that His name would be glorified through a redeemed people.

      • Matt and Lucy: While I agree with your concerns regarding Jakes, Osteen, and Meyer, I don’t see how evangelicals can exclude them. They teach the Bible (as they interpret it) and they call people to faith in Jesus. You disagree with their interpretations, but what standard do you have to mark them outside of evangelicalism?

      • Mitt Romney and Glenn Beck “teach the Bible (as they interpret it) and they call people to faith in Jesus”, are they evangelicals too? I agree that these three do not belong on the list. I am sure they wear the label of Evangelical but does that make it true? If Trinitarianism is not a condition for being Evangelical, then what does disqualify someone?

      • To love the Lord is to know Him in the Spirit, by knowledge of the truth of His word.
        1 Cor. 16:22 “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.”

        The N.T. Gospel tells us to excommunicate anyone that teaches false doctrines & heresies, i.e. Prosperity Gospel, Word Faith movement, Purpose Driven Gospel, Latter Rain movement, Contemplative Spirituality, New Age movement, Toronto Blessing, Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Wicca, “Pop Psychology” movement, and the Ecumenical movement – a full force Satanic effort to merge all religions into one “One World Religion”.
        Galatians 1:6-9 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

      • Well stated

    • Thank you for saying what some of us were thinking.

      It would have made my day to see John MacArthur on this list.

  • Ted Olsen says on

    Interesting. I’m curious if anyone who mentioned some of the more Reformed names (Piper, Mohler, and Keller especially, but also Chandler, Giglio, and Lecrae) mentioned Douthat, who is Catholic.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Yes. Douthat was on some lists with some of the names you noted.

    • An Evangelical cannot possible be a Roman Catholic and vice versa. If one can be called the other, then we need to review the most basic definition of the words we are using.

  • Matthew R. says on

    Francis Chan

  • What about Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer? Those guys are pretty legit.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      I did not accept any of the mentions for me from the panel, though I was grateful for the thoughts.

      • I agree… This post is nothing more than promoting False Teachers who are only about Preaching for Money do they can live in their Multi Million Dollar Mansions n Buying their own private Jets…

  • I would include Danny Akin.

  • Thom, that’s certainly an accurate list of the most prominent evangelical voices. Just curious though, what do you see as the value of having a list like this?

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Lawrence: I hope the readers will find value in knowing who others say are influential in America. Sometimes I write for practical guidance; other times I write for the reader’s interest.

      • As a pastor of a smaller congregation, this is a good list to keep in mind when dealing with the various influences of your congregation.

      • Nice list. I appreciated the assembly of this list as there were a few names I’m not familiar with. I’m going to research a few of them now.

      • I would like to think that Pastor Ron Carpenter Jr. , who has served 25 years along side his wife Pastor Hope at Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, SC is as evangelic as ANY I’ve heard preach.

1 2 3 9