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Survey: Graham and Warren Influence Church the Most

Jan 19, 2005

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Billy Graham and Rick Warren, both Southern Baptists, hold the top two spots on a list of leaders who pastors say have the greatest influence on churches, according to a survey by The Barna Group.

Barna asked the pastors to name three individuals whom they believe have the greatest influence on churches and church leaders in America. While the pastors listed more than 300 different names, just 10 of those leaders were chosen by 4 percent or more of the ministers, Barna said in a Jan. 14 news release.

Graham was chosen by 34 percent of respondents, Warren by 26 percent. President Bush was named by 14 percent of pastors, and James Dobson was selected by 11 percent. Others on the list, in order, were Bill Hybels (9 percent), T.D. Jakes (7 percent), John Maxwell (6 percent), George Barna (5 percent), Pope John Paul II (5 percent) and Max Lucado (4 percent).

Graham led among mainline, Baptist and Pentecostal pastors. The December survey was based on telephone interviews with 614 senior pastors from various Protestant denominations.

Pastors were also asked to rank individuals they believed would be the most trusted spokesperson for Christianity, and again, Graham topped the list with 58 percent of pastors naming him. Dobson was second with 20 percent, followed by Warren with 14 percent. Others were Jakes (7 percent), Charles Swindoll (6 percent), Jerry Falwell (6 percent), Hybels (5 percent), Charles Colson (5 percent), D. James Kennedy (4 percent), Bush (4 percent), Pat Robertson (4 percent) and Lucado (4 percent), Barna found.

Again, Graham topped the list among mainline, Baptist and Pentecostal pastors. “Billy Graham has been a consistent presence in the minds and hearts of church leaders and the public at large for many years,” researcher George Barna said in a statement. “However, many of the other leading influencers in the Christian church are relative newcomers to such widespread impact. Names like Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, Franklin Graham, John Maxwell, Joyce Meyer and Will Willimon would not have appeared on the list a decade ago.

“It is also interesting, though, how relatively few names — less than two dozen — show up on the two lists, across multiple segments of the pastoral community. That suggests that the influence of these leaders is both broad and deep,” he said.

Barna observed that longevity played a role in whether certain people were ranked highly as trusted spokesmen for Christianity. Most people on that list are 60 or older, while the most influential list is comprised of mostly younger leaders.

Denominational background was another factor when pastors selected the top leaders. Baptist pastors added Falwell, Adrian Rogers and John MacArthur to their list of the most influential people, while Pentecostal pastors chose fellow Pentecostals Joyce Meyer, G.E. Patterson, Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson and Paul Crouch, Barna found.

Among Baptists, the top 10 list for the most trusted spokesperson for Christianity began with Graham, followed by Dobson, Warren, Falwell, Swindoll, MacArthur, Bush, Jakes, Lucado and Colson.