Skip to comments.The 25 Most Influential Preachers of the Past 25 Years
Posted on 09/18/2012 7:34:24 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
When Preaching magazine was launched in 1985, a look at our list of contributing editors gave you a sense of who would be listed among the most influential preachers in America. That original group included Stuart Briscoe, Maxie Dunnam, Jim Henry, David Allan Hubbard, John Huffman, D.E. King, James Earl Massey, Calvin Miller, Lloyd John Ogilvie, Stephen F. Olford, Haddon Robinson, J. Alfred Smith, John Wesley White and William Willimon, along with several more.
Thankfully, many of those preachers are still on the scene, though others have gone to be with the Lord. A quarter-century has brought great changes to the preaching landscape, and todays list of contributing editors includes names that would have been unknown to most pastors 25 years ago: Rick Warren, Bryan Chapell, James MacDonald, Robert Smith, Dave Stone, James Emery White and Ed Young, Jr. (though his pastor dad would have been a good candidate for the original listand is now among our senior consulting editors).
Identifying the 25 most influential preachers of the past 25 years is a challenging assignment. There were some who were major influencers of preaching in 1985 who would be little known to todays new generation of pastors; likewise, there are some major influencers today who werent on the scene 25 years ago. (Actually, some of them were in grade school.) As we were gathering data and compiling the nominations in this process, we tried to ensure balance so neither end of the era is neglected.
Because the primary focus and audience of Preaching magazine has been the American pulpit, this is the context in which these preachers are recognized. Many gifted and influential preachers have served faithfully around the world and, in terms of Kingdom impact, may have touched far more than many of those listed below. We may not know them, but God does.
Here, then, are the 25 most influential preachers of the past 25 years:
He just as easily could be at the top of any list of the most influential preachers of the past half-century; when Preaching cited the most influential preachers of the 20th century (in our first issue of the 21st), Billy Graham came in at number two. In a recent LifeWay survey of the most influential living preachers, Graham topped the list. When considering preachers who have influenced the rest of us, Billy Graham simply stands in a category unto himself.
John Huffman describes Grahams integrity of life and passion of expression that not only led millions to faith in Jesus Christ, but challenged so many of us to be faithful in our ministries. His founding of Christianity Today and his various conferences bringing together evangelicals from around the world make him tops on most of our lists.
The dominant role of media in the contemporary church is reflected in the influence of Chuck Swindoll, whose Insight for Living radio program and countless books have helped a generation of preachers in its understanding of what biblical exposition should look like.
Long-time pastor of First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, California, Swindoll became president of Dallas Theological Seminary and now serves as senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas (a suburb of Dallas). His radio program, books, and Internet resources continue to influence thousands.
Rick Warren is a model and guru for todays new generation of preachers and church planters who are seeking to create churches that will reach the unchurched of their own generation. Founder of Saddleback Church in Orange County, Californianow one of the largest churches in Americahe is widely known as author of The Purpose Driven Church (which shaped the views of thousands of pastors about how the church can be changed) and the huge best-seller, The Purpose Driven Life.
Warrens most significant influence on todays pastors may be through his creative use of the Internet, including his weekly newsletter that has more impact than any other online publication or pastor Web resource I know of. His own sermons, made available via the Web, have become models for many young pastors in the United States and around the world.
A profound influence on the African-American pulpit, Gardner Taylor is a model of eloquence and passion in preaching. He served as senior pastor of Brooklyns Concord Baptist Church of Christ from 1948 to 1990 and is former president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Taylor is now retired and living in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Taylor reflects the influence of a leading pastor prior to todays diverse communications era. He served twice as National Radio Preacher for NBC, delivered the 100th Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching at Yale and has lectured at many colleges and seminaries. In 1979, Time magazine recognized him as one of the seven best Protestant preachers in the nation and conferred on him the title Dean of the Nations Black Preachers. Few black preachers of the past 25 years would have offered a list of great preachers without including Taylor at or near the top of their list.
Radio has been one of the major media tools used by preachers in the past quarter-century, and few have been as influential via this medium as John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and teacher on the Grace to You program.
Never afraid of controversy, MacArthur has engaged in a variety of theological debates through the years via his speaking and writing. His approach to verse-by-verse exposition has attracted many, and through his media influence and The Masters Seminary, which he established, MacArthur is preparing a new generation of young preachers for ministries focused on biblical exposition.
With a remarkable voice and a gift for expressing biblical insights in an engaging manner, Adrian Rogers became widely known through his radio and TV ministries. Bill Bouknight observes that, His Love Worth Finding program is still sending his sermons around the world five years after his death.
Rogers spent 32 years as senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, growing the congregation from 8,000 to more than 29,000. In addition, he served three terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention and was a key leader in the conservative resurgence movement that shifted the SBC in a new direction in the 1980s and 90s.
Haddon Robinson has used the classroom and printed page to exert a profound influence on the American pulpit during the past 25 years. His text Biblical Preaching (Baker) is the most widely-used preaching textbook of the last quarter-century, helping to prepare thousands of young preachers to develop Big Idea sermons. (In the March-April 2010 Preaching, the book was cited as the most influential preaching book of the past 25 years.)
As a professor of preaching at three prominent evangelical seminaries, Robinson further influenced many of those who now teach preaching in colleges and seminaries. Michael Milton writes, Arguably the greatest preacher in North America, Dr. Robinson has influenced pulpits all over America and through his ministry at Gordon-Conwell and Denver Seminary before that.
Although he only founded Atlantas North Point Community Church in 1995, in the past 15 years Andy Stanley has become a major model for a new generation of young pastors and preachers. He has led the way in the development of satellite churches and video venues, trends which are becoming ubiquitous forces in church life in the early 21st century.
Starting as Minister to Students at his fathers First Baptist Church in Atlanta, the younger Stanley adapted many of his insights for communicating with youth in shaping a homiletical style for reaching unchurched young adults. His book Communicating for a Change (Multnomah) offers a guide to his preaching style. Through his leadership at the Catalyst conference, he continues to influence thousands of young pastors in shaping their own ministries. Dan Kimball writes, I also find his preaching refreshing. I never would be embarrassed to have someone who isnt a Christian listen to an Andy Stanley sermon.
Although no longer active due to health issues, in 1985 John Stott was still a major influence on preaching, perhaps even more outside the United States than in this nation. By 1975, he had resigned as rector of All Souls Church in London and assumed a more international leadership role, with a special concern for churches in the developing world.
Stotts book Between Two Worlds (Eerdmans) has been a major influence on our understanding of preaching in the past quarter-century, and Stott himself has been a model of faithful biblical exposition. Mel Lawrenz observes, Stotts teaching is a baseline for me. His ministry is marked by faithfulness and character over a lifetime and a vision to see the majority world with respect long before others did.
As pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas for more than 40 years (he became Pastor Emeritus in 1995), W.A. Criswell helped create a model for a successful urban church rooted in strong biblical preaching. The church grew from 7,800 to 25,000 during his pastorate, at one point becoming the largest congregation in the world. For more than 50 years, Billy Graham had his membership at the Dallas church.
Criswell was an expositor who preached through books of the Bible throughout his pastoral ministry. He founded Criswell College as a place to train a new generation of Bible preachers. Rick Warren, who felt Criswells influence as a young man, has called the Dallas preacher the greatest American pastor of the 20th century.
As Pastor of Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, John Piper has been a powerful influence on young pastors through his writing and speaking. Mike Milton says, His messages are examples of solid, biblical exposition. His passion for missions and preaching has influenced many for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
Pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, widely known through his In Touch radio and TV ministry, and author of several books, Charles Stanley was third in LifeWays recent survey of most influential living Protestant pastors.
Born in Zambia to British missionary parents, Olford ultimately ended up in the United States as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in New York City, where he modeled an urban ministry centered on biblical exposition. He later established a training center for pastors which impacted thousands in equipping them to be faithful preachers of Gods Word. Cliff Barrows said, Stephen Olford left his footprint upon my heart and life, as he has on people around the world. I thank God for this dear man who has impacted Billys life and my life all these years.
Pastor for more than 40 years of Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn, William Jones was a powerful (and deep) voice in the African-American church. He was cited by Ebony as one of the nations best black preachers and was in constant demand as a speaker and evangelist. He was a past president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention and founder of the National Black Pastors Conference.
Founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and pioneer of the seeker-sensitive church movement, Bill Hybels writing and resourcing of other churches through Willow Creek Association has touched the lives of thousands of pastors. John Huffman says Hybels should be recognized for modeling what it is to be a passionate communicator and vision-caster who has rallied a whole generationwith new preaching methods and organizational stylesto reach those who otherwise would not have been as open to the gospel.
Fred Craddock may be part of the mainline church, but his writing on inductive preaching has strongly influenced the preaching style of thousands of pastors over the past couple of decades. In addition, Craddock is an engaging and effective preacher and one of the best storytellers anyone ever will hear.
Not only did Driscoll pastor Mars Hill as it grew from zero to megachurch in Americas most unchurched city in less than a decade, but he also has launched a national network of church planters that is touching cities across the nation. Reformed, emerging, and controversial, Driscoll is a model for thousands of young pastors who read his books and listen faithfully to his podcast sermons. Driscoll may well be an example of how preachers will influence other preachers in the 21st century.
For 30 years as pastor of The Church on the Way in Los Angeles, Jack Hayford provided an example of faithful biblical preaching for his fellow Charismatic pastors. Chancellor of The Kings College and Seminary, which he founded, Hayford also is author of more than 50 books and more than 600 hymns and choruses, including the popular song Majesty.
Now the United Methodist Bishop for North Alabama, William Willimon became widely known among mainline and evangelical pastors as Dean of the Chapel at Duke University. His incisive biblical sermons have influenced many, as have his challenges to his fellow mainline pastors to make sure their preaching is rooted in scriptural truth.
Though most pastors wont know his name, E.K. Bailey was a powerful influence in launching a new birth of expository preaching in the African-American church. Long-time pastor of Concord Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas (until his death in 2003), he started an annual conference that continues to attract hundreds of black pastors each year and gives them the tools to become more effective biblical expositors.
Mike Milton says that through Coral Ridge Ministries and other media and ministry outlets, Dr. Kennedy became the most listened-to Presbyterian minister in history. His Evangelism Explosion movement became a powerful influence for many years on how churches did personal evangelism.
Although she never pastored a megachurch, Barbara Taylor teaches at a small Georgia college and has been a favorite preacher in mainline circles for two decades. This Episcopal priest has written a dozen books with several popular works on preaching, including the publication of her 1997 Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching.
Former pastor of Moody Church and then radio voice of Back to the Bible, Wiersbes teaching through countless booksparticularly his Be series on biblical bookshas shaped the biblical understanding and preaching of thousands of pastors. Billy Graham called him one of the greatest biblical expositors of our generation. Through his books, radio ministry, and conferences, he has been a pastor to pastors for a generation.
After 23 years as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, California, Ogilvie became chaplain of the U.S. Senate, a role from which he retired in 2003. Through the 1980s and 90s, his more than 50 books were devoured (and adapted) by preachers in much the same way as books by Swindoll or Lucado are used today. John Huffman says that Ogilvie has taken seriously the discipline of preaching, extending a solid combination of biblical and relational truth beyond the pulpit into the public arena of the business, entertainment, and political world.
Founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, which has grown to a weekly attendance of more than 5,000, Keller has shown that biblical preaching still can make an impact in a secular urban environment. In addition to his best-selling books, his commitment to church planting has led to more than 100 church plants in cities around the world. Michael Milton wrote, Tim's preaching was for years under the radar, but not hidden from the influencers in media, the arts, and the higher culture of America from New York City. Now his ministry is flowering, and his preachinginsightful, culturally sensitive and yet strongly expositoryhas become some of the most listened-to sermons in America via iTunes podcasts.
So thats our list. Who did we miss? Feel free to add your suggestions in the Comment field below.
I am surprised Mike Hukabee isn’t on that list.
I’ve heard of #’s 1, 2 and 3.
I’m more surprised that Martin Luther King isn’t on it.
A lot of the folks on this list have passed on.
And how about Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI?
The late, great Baptist conservative minister E.V. Hill.
Had he preached in the last 25 years per the article, he undoubtedly would have been.
Very good question and one I was asking myself. No Catholics? Does “preacher” have a protestant connotation?
1. Influential has nothing to do with sound doctrine.
2. Billy Graham, is he a preacher or an evangelist? IMHO a preacher has a flock and tends to them. He has done much to spread the Word, but did he minister to a local body?
3. Rick Warren is a neo-Gnostic. Do we really want to include him?
4. John Stott was just phenomenal.
5. Bill Hybels has done more to destroy the local church and move us towards an model where you can hide in plain sight. A survey conducted in his church in which a majority of memebers said they wanted more doctrine. His reply was they need to be taught to be self-feeders. Not taught, not feed by the pastor.
6. Tim Keller pastors a megachurch, but is committed to planting churches. He is sound in the pulpit and his books are bestsellers. I have worshiped at Redeemer several times. My heresy radar never went off. I think he should be higher than 25, maybe in the top 10.
7. Where the heck is R.C. Sproul? He is one of the drivers of the resurgence of Reformed Doctrine in the US.
8. Also where is James Montgomery Boice and Donald Grey Barnhouse? Their influence spread way beyond 10th Pres in Philadelphia.
Putting people like Driscoll, Hybels and Warren in that list tells us how much things have changed--and not for the better...
My thought exactly. I love Pastor Hagee.
RE: John Stott was just phenomenal.
John Stott ( RIP ) during the later days of his ministry, started to believe in Annihilationism.
For those who don’t know what this means, this is the belief that condemned unbelievers will be annihilated, or destroyed after death, instead of spending an eternity of punishment in hell.
Annihilationists believe the doctrine of endless suffering in hell contradicts the character of a loving God and is inconsistent with God’s final victory over sin. They also argue that in some Bible passages, “eternal” does not refer to the process of punishment but the result.
Annihilationists contend that God grants immortality to the soul and can take it away through destruction.
RE: Where the heck is R.C. Sproul? He is one of the drivers of the resurgence of Reformed Doctrine in the US.
I have always been an admirer of R.C. Sproul (not to say I always agree with him ).
Is there a difference between lecturing/teaching and preaching a sermon?
Sproul is a great teacher, I just don’t know if we have to make a distinction between the two (i.e. preaching vs teaching ).
I would say so. Can you think of some well-known Catholic preachers in the last 25 years? I can't think of any unless you want to list the popes. But I don't think anyone thinks of them as “preachers”.
The fact that Andy Stanley is ahead of his Father makes me suspect this list has at least some bias.
I see Sam Kinison didn’t mke it.
RE: Alistair Begg, and James MacDonald
Maybe the author can’t stand Scottish accents... :)
I see Sam Kinison didn’t mke it.
but not hidden from the influencers in media, the arts, and the higher culture of America from New York City”
I have never heard of Tim Keller...but I sure like that description. I’ll need to look into him....
Just food for thought & prayer...
The Catholics are right to question the lack of Catholic "preachers", but wrong to think they have any.
I was reared in a Catholic family until I received Jesus at the age of 33 (PLENTY of meat for a meal in THAT one .. ) and when I attended my first Sunday morning Sunday school then church service back in 1981, I was floored to hear a man speak the way Pastor Arrowood spoke.
I now know it to be preaching, but back then, totally unchurched and neophitical (if that ain't a word .. it SHOULD be), I was amazed how someone could speak, stay on subject, laugh, cry, chastise and I guess a few more ... just from one or two verses from the Bible.
I never heard that in a Catholic church from a priest.
Just to stir the pot a bit ... Lester Rolloff
Fr. John Corapi before he fell.
***Martin Luther King***
**Had he preached in the last 25 years per the article, he undoubtedly would have been. **
But, but where is Reverend Jesse? Where is Reverend Al? Reverend Wright! Oh wait! They want PREACHERS, not hate mongers!
Beat me to it.
Andy Stanley hosted Michele Obama in his church a while ago. My nephew attends that church and told us about it. I have no respect for him or his church. I guess it’s a very contemporary, airy-fairy place.
Charles Stanley is an amazing preacher. I’m surprised Vernon McGee is not listed. Like Adrian Rogers, McGee has passed on, but his sermons are still being heard every day.
Although calling himself an “apologist” rather than a “preacher”, Ravi Zacharias is the guy I appreciate hearing more than anyone else. Listening to “Let My People Think” really does make you think.
What? Smiley didn’t make the list? Is this the most influential “good” or just influential?
Apostles saw Jesus face to face after Jesus chose 12 from all his disciples.
There is no Apostolic succession in scripture ... none.
Wonder if the DU trolls are foaming at the mouth and spilling their bile yet.
You missed the greatest of all time.
I go to NorthPoint where Andy preaches. They are very, very different styles and target audiences.
Hagee’s a kook. he’s just a few half-notches above that charlatan Benny Hinn.
Maybe that’s why.
RE: I have never heard of Tim Keller...but I sure like that description. Ill need to look into him....
He is the Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, right in the Heart of New York City. That his ministry can attract thousands of people every Sunday in America’s Center of Mammon, speaks volumes about his ability to connect and share the gospel.
You might want to read his book. A modern day classic in my humble opinion:
THE REASON FOR GOD: BELIEF IN AN AGE OF SKEPTICISM
I don’t know all that much about Andy.
I was basing my idea of his church on the fact that I know a guy who is very liberal tho he was raised by good solid Southern Baptists.
He is or was involved in several leftist organizations such as a college lesbian group. His girlfriend broke up with him because he was just too liberal for her.
I know he praises Andy which bothers me.
Possibly corrrrect in the case of Begg. MacDonald does’t seem to have one, though.
Don’t let the belligerant papist and his venomous bile get you down.
Hagee is an awesome preacher. He preaches with clarity and authority.
Hagee is definitely no kook. Nevertheless, as St. Paul reminded us, to *some*, laying out God’s Word forthrightly is offensive.
Well, I am the exact opposite of that guy and love Andy so you can call it even... ;-)
IMO "falling" should knock someone off of the list, which means Charles Stanley should probably come off, too.
Max Lucado is not on this list?
Deeply flawed list.
(BTW -- "succession" wasn't mentioned or suggested above)
Why shouldn't they???
Through Christ's promises and prophecies...
....and each recording of the Great Commission...
The works and wonders of the Holy Spirit have always been...
...And remain God's endorsement for the heralding of the Gospel...
....As well as the affirmation of HIS high calling in the life and expressions of HIS ministry in the life of HIS humble servants.
The principles premises of Ephesians 4:11ff are also germane...
Enjoy your day.
Deeply flawed list.
And no Joel Osteen or John Hagee or Franklin Graham.
Seriously stupid list.
And even though they are NEGATIVELY influential and they are play-acting as preachers, I suppose you should add the race pimping reverends (Al and Jesse) to this list.
I can imagine that there are a lot of pompous little tin-pots who are very surprised that they are not on this list.
I just looked over the list and noticed one name which could have only been left off on purpose.
I have only heard of two of these individuals.