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 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

  • Michael Porter says on

    Solid list, although it is quite heavy with Reformed folks. May I suggest some Pentecostal/Charismatic names:

    George O. Wood (superintendent of the Assemblies of God)
    Jentezen Franklin
    Chris Hodges (Church of the Highlands)
    John Hagee
    Perry Stone
    Dr. Michael Brown

  • Brenda Bowman says on

    I agree that, right or wrong, all of these listed are very influential in American evangelical circles…but I would have thought Chris Tomlin would have topped out over Lecrae….Tomlin’s music has spanned more generations than Lecrae’s. My parents (in their 70’s) could sing several Tomlin tunes!

    • Mark Dance says on

      I agree with you Brenda about Tomlin. He currently has a strong multi-generational influence on evangelicals, much like Gaither, Crosby & others have had in their prime.

      I will say that Lacrae is a legit influencer for Millennials.

  • Trevor Huber says on

    Nice informal list. My #1 would be Ed Young, I am obviously biased because I attend Fellowship Church and he is my pastor but his C3 conference has been the launching pad for many influential churches including Steven Furtick who will be speaking at the conference in 2015.

    My extremely biased list:
    1. Ed Young- Fellowship Church
    2. David Hughes- Church by the Glades
    3. Bob Coy- Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale
    4. Steven Furtick- Elevation Church
    5. James MacDonal- Harvest Bible Chapel

  • Jimmy Jackson says on

    I would add Pete Wilson and Steven Furtick to the list.

    • It’s very interesting to peruse this list and note the apostasy of nearly every name here, though I am not familiar with numbers 2 and 3, so I cannot claim this for them. If this is what Evangelicalism truly is then I’ve been identifying with the wrong group. If alive today, I am certain Luther, Calvin and Spurgeon would disapprove of the majority, if not all, of these folks.

      • Kimberly says on

        Dan, Matt Chandler is actually my Pastor at The Village Church, Flower Mound, TX, and I can definitely state that this man is truly a Biblical man of God. Humble, profound, influential. No “name it-claim it” here! In a short time, we’ve grown from 1 church, to 5 huge Village Churches in the DFW Metroplex, each having 2 services on Sat. night, 2 on Sunday, and some on Sunday nights! Not because of “Itching Ears”, but, The Gospel, and to lay down your life at the foot of the cross, and new life in Jesus is the M.O. I have heard Matt use quotes from all three former godly men you mentioned on many occasions to support his teachings. Matt also emphasizes “Racial Reconciliation”, prayer, and loving/serving others. I’m surprised Swindoll isn’t mentioned. I agree about Meyer, Olsteen, and Tilton, tho! God DOES want us to be RICH…….BUT IN CHRIST. 2 Cor: 8:9. – 1Tim 6:10 – Matt 6:31-33 – Matt. 6:19-20

  • Joe Carter really should have made this list. 😀

  • David Platt.

  • There are a couple I would remove from the list. Unfortunately, one of them is an individual who I saw, on a video stream, speak harshly to a fellow believer to make a point.

    I would add Perry Noble, pastor of NewSpring Church, to that list. Noble’s church is estimating that by 2020 they expect to share the gospel with 250,000 people during their Easter and Christmas services. Noble’s church is growing through conversion growth. That is what we would all hope for and pray for, I assume.

  • Two names that have not been mentioned but that would definitely be on my list are Charles Stanley and Alistair Begg. I would also have listed David Platt and Billy Graham as others have noted.

  • I would add:

    David Platt
    Danny Akin
    John Maxwell (although I’m not a fan) 😉
    Francis Chan
    D.A Carson
    Max Lucado
    Sarah Palin (yes, I said that lol)
    Mark Dever
    Fred Luter
    R.C Sproul
    Greg Laurie
    Jan Crouch (again, not a fan at all- but influence of TBN)
    David Jeremiah
    Jim Cymbala
    Ravi Zacharias

  • I would also like to make mention of the following:

    Mark Batterson – Lucy Swindoll – Patsy Clairmont – Dr. James Dobson – Jennifer Rothschild

  • Thom Rainer says on

    All –

    My panel was informal; thus I certainly did not achieve statistical ethnic, generational, or racial representation. Such is the reason I said my survey would likely have big differences than another. This effort was for general interest only.

    • Jim Hampton says on

      Thom,

      Thanks for your post. It’s certainly an interesting list.

      As someone who works with stats/research in my role as a prof, I’m curious about something: Out of the “over 30” people you asked, how many of those were Southern Baptist, or Reformed? I only ask because the list is highly tilted toward people in those traditions (with a few exceptions). One of the problems sometimes with survey work, as you know, is that when the people selected aren’t truly random, one can end up with only a slice of the pie.

      As others have mentioned, without a definition of what is meant by evangelical, it is sometimes hard to define whether someone fits that, as each of us has our own interpretation of what that term means. And perhaps more importantly, we tend to narrow the word to fit our personal definition of what it means, which automatically means excluding segments that others might readily include.

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