I’m writing material for a new project, which may turn into a book, exploring what I’m calling “The Evangelical Generation.”
This will look at a generation of evangelical emergence and influence in American life, explored through the lives and public impact of individuals who I will identify as the country’s 50 most influential evangelicals from 1976 through the present.
The book will also cite the contributions of many churches, organizations and efforts that have helped define evangelical witness and presence during this generation, but have not had one of the 50 influencers at the helm. I’ll also include observations on some of the individuals who are likely to lead evangelicals in the generation to come.
I have met with, worked with, served as a public relations consultant, or been an employee of at least half of the 50 that I have provisionally identified for inclusion. On the list: Nine are deceased and at least 12 are over 70. The selection isn’t from a poll or a professional study—they are my choices based on many discussions and on my own experience working in the evangelical subculture since 1978. I have seen many of them in action through my positions at World Vision, Prison Fellowship, The Trinity Forum, The DeMoss Group, the Evangelical Climate Initiative, and Flourish, and at the public relations firm I have run since 2002, Rooftop MediaWorks. I’ve been a writer for Christianity Today and a regular observer and writer on the intersection of faith and culture.
And I can relate many firsthand experiences with many of these leaders, including forceful, poignant, and hilarious moments.
My thesis is that in terms of real church growth, spiritual influence, world impact, and cultural involvement, the generation since ‘76 is the most consequential evangelical generation in American history. My purpose is not to paint a rosy picture of evangelical leaders or exaggerate their influence, but to capture this impact on a generation that began in 1976, when Jimmy Carter presented himself as a born-again president and Chuck Colson’s book Born Again was among the best selling of all books that year. I hope to illuminate the personality of these extraordinary modern figures, highlight their strengths and idiosyncrasies, and explore their interplay with a changing American culture. The presentation of these 50 leaders will make the case that there has not been a more vibrant force or political influence on this generation than the evangelicals.
Who should be on the list?