For several years I have been writing vignettes of Christian leaders who personify a generation of evangelical emergence and influence in American life. This collection is an exploration of the lives and public impact of 50 influential evangelicals from 1976 through about 2011 (or perhaps the death of Chuck Colson in 2012).
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 included. 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, Evangelical Climate Initiative, Flourish, International Fellowship of Christians & Jews, and the communications consultancy that my wife, Debbie Payton-Jewell, and I have had, Rooftop MediaWorks. I have also been a writer for Christianity Today and a regular observer and writer on the intersection of faith and culture.
And I 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 beginning in 1976 was 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 presidential candidate 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 a pivotal generation than The Evangelicals.
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