Twenty of the Most Influential Evangelicals in America

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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 LifeChurch.tv, 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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144 Comments

  • Chris Gilliam says on

    Thom,

    Can you share the generational percentages of your panel. (% builders, %boomers, %Xer’s % Mill.). I gather from the data that the re is a good mixture, I’m just curious.

  • I am thinking that the list is more the most well known or popular evangelicals in America. The most influential might be someone we have never heard of whose influence in the Kingdom only God knows. Just a reminder that our ways are not God’s ways and our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. Thanks for the article and list.

  • A list of influential people might suggest that we all follow their lead, but the Apostle Paul didn’t fall in line with the Corinthian sectarians’ direction. He challenged it biblically. People on the list are certainly influential, but my concern is that preachers tend to look at pragmatic influence as more desirable than being true to the biblical pattern of leadership. The Noah of Genesis wouldn’t have made the list. 🙂

  • I think for millennials and many 30 somethings will say Francis Chan has been one of the most influential Christian leaders in their generation. How many Asian Americans were asked in your panel?

  • Like others who have already commented, I have to question the inclusion of Jakes, Osteen, and Meyer on the list. I also have questions about how the terms “influential” and “evangelical” are defined for this list. Like other commenters here who have thought outside of the pastor/author box, I would have to agree that Huckabee and Tomlin are certainly leading evangelical influences in America.

  • I would certainly include Mark Driscoll. You may agree or disagree with him. However, I would certainly include him on the list.

  • Just off the top of my head, I would add Kay Arthur, Frances Chan, David Platt, and Jay Adams.

  • Chan, Kyle Idleman, and John Ortberg were the three I first thought were missing

  • mark wood says on

    Thank for putting a list together (even with a slightly informal survey). I am surprised that Francis Chan did not make it. I am also surprised that Mark Driscoll did not make it considering Matt Chandler did.

  • Mark Dance says on

    It is interesting that this panel seemed to naturally gravitate toward evangelicals who influence other evangelicals, which perhaps is why so many chose authors and pastors. Once I started to think of who influences most Americans, it is hard to argue that Mike Huckabee is not one of the most influential evangelicals in America right now.

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