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

  • Ryan Reveley says on

    I do not agree that Osteen, Jakes, and Meyer belong on this list. Jakes should not be considered evangelical due to his views on the Trinity. Osteen does not belong because he does not preach the Gospel, which is a big requirement to being an evangelical. Meyer’s teachings are questionable at best. I’m not saying these people do not love Jesus, but they do not teach His Gospel. If they are allowed on this list, then we need to rethink what evangelical means. If evangelical means to simply love Jesus, then evangelical becomes a much broader classification than it has been in the past. This is not a matter of being politically correct; Jesus was not politically correct. This is a matter of representing Christ and His Gospel. When we change His Gospel, it no longer is the Gospel.

  • Rachel Held Evans should be included, even though she has never been to seminary.

  • I would have REALLY clarified what you mean by “influential”. A rapper is far more influential than an accademic, at least on the street.

    If you’re talking “who has the voice of the masses”, I’d add some names like Ken Ham (His name is synonymous with the most polarizing issue in American Christianity), Mark Driscoll (like it or not, he sells a lot of books and almost has half a million people following him on Twitter), Marcos Witt (former worship pastor at the Spanish Ministries at Lakewood and HUGE presence in the Spanish speaking community), Kim Walker Smith/Jesus Culture (Jesus Culture is easily becoming as influential as Lecrae), the folks from Duck Dynasty, Carl Lentz (Hillsong NYC – Anyone who suggests that the pastor of Justin Bieber, Vanessa Hudgens, June Ambrose and Tyson Chandler doesn’t have massive influence is kidding themselves).

    I’d probably subtract Al Mohler and Tim Keller and Matt Chandler and Priscilla Shirer. They’re popular and influential, but Tim Keller isn’t influential on the same level as Ken Ham…not even close. Just looking at their respective Alexa rankings, TimKeller.com and Redeemer.com combined get around 240,000 visitors a month with 1.2 million page views, but AnswersinGenesis.org gets 2.3 million visitors a month with 11.6 million page views.

    A whole LOT more people are paying attention to Ken Ham than Tim Keller; the numbers don’t lie.

    In the same way, Duck Dynasty has an exponentially greater number of ears than Al Mohler does.

  • I wouldn’t give Osteen and Meyers credit for being evangelical. Evangelicals themselves reject their teachings. I question whether or not they are even believers…the phrase “false teachers” comes to mind.

  • I noticed you specifically didn’t include a definition of “evangelical”. That says it’s up to the respondents of the survey to include their own definition of what an “evangelical” is. The survey is an interesting one, and it shows a varied response as to what defines “evangelical”. What one person includes, another excludes.

  • Charles F. Stanley and J.D. Greear

  • Nadia Bolz-Weber

  • Tim Smith says on

    I haven’t read all of the comments to see if they’ve already been mentioned, but in a discussion of influential evangelicals I would mention Chris Hodges and Rick Bezet, who pastor large churches and are also leaders of the Association of Related Churches.

  • John Pipes says on

    I think this list says more about the state of America Evangelicalism, just because they are influential doesn’t automatically mean they are a good influence. Just curious, but did anyone mention their own pastor? I know that my pastor is one of the most influential evangelicals in my life.

  • Your list is incomplete without Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. Alistair Begg, Dr. Michael Horton, and Dr. Steve Lawson.
    All these reformed pastor/teachers have a great influence in spreading the truth of God’s Word and have written numerous books.

  • Although not widley mentioned within any of the previous comments, Mark Driscoll has been among the most influential evangelicals over the last ten years. While some objections may be raised as to his character and/or methodology, his influence in evangelicalism, especially among the young and reformed, is undeniable. I have seen some of the residual effects of his ministry impacting many of young church planters and pastor/teachers.

    R.C. Sproul, Alistair Begg, and Wayne Grudem ought to be added to the list as well. They have certainly impacted my life, helping me to see more clearly the glorious grace of God in Christ Jesus.

    I also think that it is interesting that people began to “bash” T.D. Jakes. Did he not renounce modalism and attest to a classic trinitarian perspective concerning the Godhead? I do agree that the travesty of the health, wealth, and prospertity gospel (the false gospel that it is) has been a tremendous detriment to evangelicalism. However, that does not negate the influence that these border-line heretics, if not full-on heretical, have on Christianity at large. Alas, the call for more Gospel-centered living, within, and without the church.

    Thanks for the research Dr. Rainer.

    – Troy

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