First, let me list the top ten responses:
1. Billy Graham
2. Chuck Swindoll
3. Charles Stanley
4. Rick Warren
5. John MacArthur
6. Barbara Brown Taylor
7. David Jeremiah
8. Max Lucado
9. John Piper
10. Andy Stanley
What I find interesting about this list is not that I don't think these individuals are influential (clearly they are), but I wonder about the relative homogeneity of the list. All of the preachers listed here are white and all but one is a man. Seven of the ten are from either Georgia or California. That seems a bit odd to me.
In addition, pastors of several of the largest churches in the country are not listed here, most notably Joel Osteen, Bill Hybels and T.D. Jakes. In the case of Osteen, we can say what we will about his theology and teaching methods but hardly a person in America (Christian or not) has not heard of him as a result of his television program and best-selling books.
The director of the company that did the study said this:
"The lack of diversity -- the top picks were nearly all white male Southern pastors -- however, surprised Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.Perhaps the reason the study came out the way it did was because those that were questioned are those that listen to mainstream Christian radio and are exposed to mainstream Christian publishing. Other groups like Pentecostals, African Americans and Hispanics, to name a few, are simply not represented in this sample. I wonder if a company that was unaffiliated with a particular denomination were to conduct a similar survey if they would get the same results. It would be interesting to find out.
"Considering our sample includes liberal and conservative, all races and ethnicities, mainline and evangelical, we were surprised that the list looked like mainstream Christian radio and publishing and was not more representative," Stetzer said.