The 20 Most Influential Evangelicals in America

Recently, LifeWay President Thom Rainer compiled a list of 20 of what he thinks are the most influential evangelicals in America.  The list, he says, is subjective (he just asked about 30 friends for input).

Here were the criteria:

–They had to be American

–They had to be living

–They had to be ‘evangelical’ (whatever that means)

–The nominees had to be influential (not necessarily those whom the person agreed with).

Here are the results… see what you think.  (These are in alphabetical order):

  1. Matt Chandler
  2. Wilfredo De Jesus (Pastor Choco)
  3. Ross Douthat
  4. Tony Evans
  5. Louie Giglio
  6. Franklin Graham
  7. Craig Groeschel
  8. Bill Hybels
  9. T. D. Jakes
  10. Tim Keller
  11. Lecrae
  12. Albert Mohler
  13. Beth Moore
  14. Joyce Meyer
  15. Joel Osteen
  16. John Piper
  17. Dave Ramsey
  18. Priscilla Shirer
  19. Any Stanley
  20. Rick Warren

The only one I was not familiar with was Ross Douthat, who is an author and New York Times columnist.

Interesting that Lecrae made the list.

3 women. That will get some fired up.

1 hispanic. 4 African Americans.

Not on the list:  Mark Driscoll (although I wonder if his current woes kept him off this list for a time).

Also not on the list:  James Dobson, Pat Robertson.

No John MacArthur or John Piper either.  (Oops… correction… Piper IS on the list).

And no nod to younger pastors like Perry Noble or Steven Furtick (who also may have been knocked off by controversy).

More notably… no Francis Chan.

A couple of charismatic/pentecostals on the list, but not many.

What do YOU think?  Who else SHOULD have been on the list?

And who should have NOT been on the list?

Are lists like these helpful, hurtful, or just interesting (I fall into the ‘just interesting’ camp myself).

Would love to hear your thoughts.


Read Thom Rainer’s original post here…


  • pietrosquared April 14, 2014 Reply

    Sorry to say this… but… dumb list.

  • Steve Miller April 14, 2014 Reply

    I think this type of list has merit if it is saying, as a leader this is who my people are reading, listening to and being influenced by. It should not be a worldly popularity contest. Influence is not the same as success. In my circles I would add to the list: Francis Chan, Ed Stetzer, Mark Driscoll, Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, Mark Dever, D.A. Carson, William Lane Craig, Justin Taylor, Wayne Grudem, David Platt, and John MacArthur.

  • sweetenlife April 14, 2014 Reply

    None of these people influence me but that may say more about me than any of them. I think the list may be “20 best known by the media”. Piper is on the list though. He influences a lot of Evangelicals I know.

  • Drew Mahan April 14, 2014 Reply

    Where’s Perry Noble?

  • Drew Mahan April 14, 2014 Reply

    John Piper is on the list.

  • Gary S April 14, 2014 Reply

    Those both on this list and the ones left off probably remind us that lists like this are really meaningless and perhaps even dangerous. They tend to put more importance on speakers and names rather than on what God is doing through them Influence and impact are also quite relative terms and not determined merely by how many books one writes or conferences spoken at.

  • Talmadge Hobbs April 14, 2014 Reply

    List are often controversial. And that may very well be a great thing. It does make me want to be engaged by some (most) of whom I’m not familiar. Sadly (or not), it greatly increases my forlorn reading (and listening) list. I might add Thom Ranier. He has truly engaged my mind and spirit. And definitely add Chan and Platt, at least as influencing me.

  • Tom Smith April 14, 2014 Reply

    Greg Laurie? Or is it just that he is Calvary Chapel? (I am Southern Baptist, by the way).

  • Ken April 14, 2014 Reply

    For me, the most influential evangelicals are the ones no one hears about, the ones local to my community. None of the people on that list influence me.

    BTW, John Piper did make the cut.

  • Pastor Rod April 14, 2014 Reply

    My thoughts revolve around whether these leaders are personally known by us. Personal connection doesn’t elliminate influence but it does change that influence. How many of us are influenced by those we rub shoulders with daily or weekly? Are we trading the personal contact for distance and anonymity? Are we becoming too dependant on the influence from a distance at the expence of someone close by that we may disagree with? Could this even be bordering on hero worship? Just my two cents worth.

  • kevin d April 14, 2014 Reply

    at first I thought it odd that John MacArthur is absent from the list… but then, this is not a list of the top 20 theologians of the day, is it?? I don’t suppose there are very many on that list who would be considered “theologians” anyway, so does it tell us anything that theologians are not the most influential people in the church? Maybe – or maybe not – what do you think??

  • It’s all perspective. I’m sure his list derived from those in his circle. Sad to say, many of of Christian circles are not really diverse. Life Way has a little box like so many others. This list would always vary depending upon who was asked. As stated, the list is subjective and I would agree many on here are influencers including Thom Rainer.

    • davepatchin April 14, 2014 Reply

      Latasha, I agree much is in one’s “circles” and perspective. If I may be so bold as to ask your views, who would you add to the list to get it outside the “little box” and a bit more diverse? I know I am influenced by Crawford Lorrits and James Meeks and Tony Evans…but that may be just my personal circle.

  • brianroden April 14, 2014 Reply

    If you expand your Pentecostal/Charismatic definition to include “continuationists” who don’t fall in a typical P/C camp, I count at least 6, almost 1/3 of the list.

    And “Any” Stanley. Does that mean we get to pick between father and son?

  • Dave April 14, 2014 Reply

    This is one list of many that could be made. Rather than try to remove anyone from the list, I would suggest a few additions – controversy or not! Francis Chan, Wayne Grudem, William Lane Craig, Mark Driscoll, Perry Noble, D.A. Carson, and John Maxwell. If I was in my office today, it would be easy to scan the books on the shelf that have rocked my world and make a longer list!

  • Kendall Odle April 14, 2014 Reply

    So does “Any Stanley” mean anyone with the name “Stanley”? 🙂

  • Kathy Widenhouse April 14, 2014 Reply

    Billy Graham

  • Jon white April 15, 2014 Reply

    Where is Rob Bell? Donald Miller? Bill Johnson?

  • Jerry Schaeffer April 15, 2014 Reply

    Not including John MacArthur destroys the credibility of this author’s reasoning.

  • John Blair April 15, 2014 Reply

    Jon Weece, R.C. Sproul, Sinclair Ferguson, Voddie Bauchman

  • Thomas April 15, 2014 Reply

    Silly stuff.

  • JB Davis April 15, 2014 Reply

    I would suggest that Thom Rainer needs to cast his net for more friends to expand his universe. There are plenty of people not thought about on his list who are moving the world for Christ. You know it’s interesting that we always look to the fruit which has grown on the tree before we recognize those who are dutifully sowing seeds which will eclipse what has been done. IBM call Steve Jobs!

  • Rick Wood April 16, 2014 Reply

    Joel Osteen? Really? An Evangelical preacher? I Asked Tom the same thing? He is influential, but not sure where he fits in the evangelical world?

  • Pastor Bill April 16, 2014 Reply

    “Influential” generally implies a positive connotation. In that sense, the list has some skewed listees.

  • Chuck April 17, 2014 Reply

    Not to disparage anyone on that list, but I can’t wait to see Jesus’ list of those who ministered faithfully in obscurity and out of the limelight. Sure, some of them will be American, but most of them won’t be.

  • Jeff McCracken April 28, 2014 Reply

    I would surely have included Bill Johnson, John Arnott, Chuck Pierce, Lance Wallnau and Lou Engle. This was obviously not put together by a pentecostal or charismatic. Seems much more conservative. I was glad to see T.D. Jakes on board. Also, whether you like Joel Osteen or not- he has people talking about the “Good News!”

    • Pastor Bill April 29, 2014 Reply

      I do understand what you mean with the Osteen reference; I’ve heard the same repeated with the “Noah” movie out recently. I have to wonder if blatant disregard for biblical Truth–even if it “gets people talking…”–is really advantageous. I believe it presents more of a roadblock to True truth.

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