Who Is the Most Influential Evangelical in America?

There’s a question of “who is the most influential evangelical” being bantered about by many blogs.

Joe Carter at The Evangelical Outpost is still trying to convince people that Rick Warren is the most influential person in America by highlighting the statistic that the average number of copies sold per week of Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven® Life is 193,700

Drew at Darn Floor says there’s a reason why Rick Warren’s book has sold so many copies. It’s because whole churches commit to doing his 40-day study, and therefore entire congregations will purchase the book. You can’t buy a marketing gimmick like that. Nevertheless, he says, I stand by my earlier assertion. (Drew grudgingly concedes that it’s probably James Dobson).

The answer rests on what is meant by influence, which is something different than popularity or statistics. It has something to do with changing hearts and minds and moving people to action.

While Dobson has a huge radio audience, his reach is greatly limited because he communicates mostly through Christian radio, with some entrees into mainstream radio. He may be having a significant influence on evangelical political action, although I wrote on January 5 , I wish he’s stick to the Focus on the Family mission.

Rick Warren is currently on a popularity trip based on his book and its derivatives. But this will be fleeting (does anyone reading this know where Bruce Wilkinson is today [ministering in South Africa]. A few years ago he was riding Prayer of Jabez to fame). Warren’s impact will be longer lasting than Wilkinson’s, though, because he’s making a real impact on local churches.

But both are, indeed, evangelicals who are having a major impact today on evangelicals. Here are some other categories:

· What evangelical leader do Christian members of Congress go to for advice on applying their faith to life and public policy. Not James Dobson. More likely Chuck Colson.

· The most influential evangelical in America: George W. Bush

· The most effective evangelist of the last year: Mel Gibson

· The most influential cultural conservative in the world is Pope John Paul II

· Having the most political influence on evangelicals: Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity

· The most powerful evangelical in government other than Bush: Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (graduate of Wheaton College)

· Most influential on church worship in our time: Bill Hybels

· The most well-known evangelical: Billy Graham, of course

· The most powerful in Christian media: Stu Epperson at Salem Communications and Harold Myra at Christianity Today Inc.

–James Jewell


About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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