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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  • All these names and no mention of Russell Moore? I certainly think he merits a spot on the list. (And if someone did mention him and I missed it, my apologies.)

  • I would put Danny Akin, David Platt, Francis Chan, and J D Greear

  • Mark Dance says on

    This has been an interesting and refreshing discussion. As I think about these influential evangelicals, I am compelled to lift them up in prayer. They are servants not celebrities, like Abraham who was blessed to be a blessing. Thank you Dr Rainer for blessing us daily through your blog.

    “I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2 HCSB).

  • Paul Washer. He is the one whose sermon ideas from the past 5-10 years are the most frequently echoed in sermons I hear today.

  • Some of these names I don’t believe are evangelical, though sadly they do hold an influence on some evangelicals.
    With four of those, I didn’t even recognize the name.
    Only five have had any influence on me personally (i.e. I have read/heard them at least once with general agreement and edification). Some of those five have had more than others. From the list Mohler and Piper have had the greatest influence on me personally.
    Others whom I have been influenced by who are not listed would include Mark Dever, Paul Washer, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, G.K. Beale, Kevin DeYoung, Voddie Baucham and D.A. Carson.

  • You must include Chris Tomlin. He’s the Barry Manilow of the Church. He writes the songs that make the whole church sing. Just reference CCLI for evidence.

  • While not in the same category as most listed or suggested, the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame has created quite a stir lately. Unsure of the scope of their evangelical influence.

  • Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, Johnny Hunt

  • Jennifer says on

    Rachel Held Evans

  • Michael Porter says on

    Some other Pentecostals worth mentioning:

    Carl Lentz
    Judah Smith
    Bill Johnson (Bethel Church)
    Christine Caine (technically Australian, but very influential)
    Mike Bickle (IHOP)

    • Not Judah Smith or Carl Lentz. The are in tight with they are in tight with Justin Bieber who want a to have a “trendy” church”, whatever that is and they have been seen coming out of cocktail lounges with some dubious people. And their preaching is lacking on some real truth. They also some questionable dress. The Word says ” come out from among them and be a separate people and Then I will be your God and you will be my people” and Follow me as I follow Christ” (2Cor. 6:17, I Cor 11:1.) The Greek word is also translated “imitate”.

  • Tim Tolosa says on

    I would definitely add long-standing men of influence (by televised media) Billy Graham, Charles Stanley, and David Jeremiah to this list, but also these teachers who are influencing on a more intimate (personal or small-group study) level David Platt, Francis Chan, Kyle Idleman, James MacDonald, and Mark Batterson.

  • John MacArthur definitely, as well as Bill Craig, D. A Carson, Ed Stetzer, Mark Driscoll, John Blanchard, Donald Whitney, Tim Tebow, Timothy George, Henry Blackaby..

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