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

  • These people may exert great influence over the laity in the church but no one and I repeat no one influences more leaders and thereby more of the church as a whole, than Pastor John MacArthur. If you just took a brief glance at the number of worldwide radio programs in so many languages (GTY), worldwide training centers, worldwide missions program, hundreds of books, best-selling Bible worldwide, software, best selling commentary set, President of one of the most conservative and highly-rated colleges in the U.S. which bears his theology, President of one of the most conservative seminaries in the U.S. that also bears his theology and cranks out hundreds of pastors every year nationwide, keynote speaker at a multitude of yearly conferences at his home church including NANC conference, 4000 pastor- strong Shepherd’s Conference, add to that the recent Strange Fire conference/controversy with multi-faceted responses that it has generated and you still haven’t scratched the surface because the church alone in 10,000 strong. How do you miss that?

  • Wesley Forbes says on

    The issue isn’t whether they “love Jesus” (whatever that means), it’s whether they preach sin, righteousness, and judgment. Do they preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins? Do they confront people with their sin or claim that that’s not their style of “ministry”? Do they tell people that they are sinners deserving of God’s wrath and judgment for their sins and that they can be reconciled to God only through Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the Cross?

    Influential? How about fidelity to the Cross and Scripture? And, yes, determining that does include harsh Biblical criticism of false teachers. And, yes, many of those false teachers are on this list.

  • Some may not classify him as an evangelical, but Pope Francis is showing a lot of people how to be a Christian.

  • Michael Banak says on

    I would add John MacArthur without a doubt. I think several of your names are unfortunately, influential in a detrimental way, pushing Word-of-Faith heresy, etc., but none the less influential in the “American Scene” as you say. I think MacArthur is very influential to a multitude of faithful evangelicals who are not conforming to the world or “American Scene.”

  • I can’t help wondering if a top twenty list is just a hair’s breadth away from a top twenty chart.
    And said chart would beget another chart.
    And then we’d be tracking whose stars are rising and whose are falling.

  • Andy Graham says on

    This list would not be complete without Richard Land, Paul Pressler, Paige Patterson, and David Dockery. These four great Christian leaders have impacted so many lives through their ministry and work.

  • Cecil Underwood says on

    Dr. Rainer, having looked through the whole list of comments, it would appear a valid “survey” is in order as to a consensus of definition for “evangelical.” Today’s conclusion may differ greatly from the definition of the 1940’s.

    Your list of influence should give credence to the results.

    The Lord bless you.

  • I am not evangelical and I don’t know who qualifies, but one thing I’m sure of, the first name on that list should be Billy Graham. Even today, if he says anything, people listen.
    The other evangelical preacher that has a huge influence OUTSIDE of the evangelical community and wasn’t named ONCE is Jack Van Impe.

  • Todd Wilhelm says on

    Janet Mefferd

  • I would hope someone would suggest the name of those challenging the church to rethink its nature/essence in light of a drastically changing context; someone like Alan Hirsch or Michael Frost.

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