Guest / Limited Access /

"In a sense," Billy Graham said in an address launching Christianity Today 50 years ago, "we are almost leaderless" in the evangelical movement. Half a century later, lack of leadership isn't a problem—we may have more leaders than followers.

When the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals in 2001 provocatively named Tim LaHaye "the most influential American Evangelical of the last 25 years" (for the breadth of his bestselling bibliography), few took notice. But since the presidential election, both religious and mainstream media have been trying to map the tricky network and hierarchy of the popeless priesthood of evangelical believers. Evangelicals are now seen as key political influencers, so observers want to know: Who's influencing them?

New York Times columnist David Brooks came early to the fight, challenging fellow journalists to stop quoting Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. "There is a world of difference between real-life people of faith and the made-for-TV, Elmer Gantry-style blowhards who are selected to represent them," he said.

Evangelicals agree. A spring 2004 poll from PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly found that only 23 percent of self-described evangelicals had "warm or positive feelings" toward Falwell—the same percentage they gave "pro-choice groups." Robertson scored higher, at 34 percent, but still lower than labor unions (36%) and far below Pope John Paul II (44%) and James Dobson (40%).

The real spokesperson for evangelicalism, said Brooks, is John Stott, who is "always bringing people back to the concrete reality of Jesus' life and sacrifice."

Christian publications followed Brooks with their own lists. Christian Retailing's "Top Fifty People" shrewdly broke up the names by category, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedA Decision in Ferguson: How Should Evangelicals Respond?
A Decision in Ferguson: How Should Evangelicals Respond?
The grand jury has made a decision in Ferguson, now we have to make ours. How will we respond?
TrendingChristianity Today's 2015 Book Awards
Christianity Today's 2015 Book Awards
Our picks for the books most likely to shape evangelical life, thought, and culture.
Editor's PickWhat Forgotten Christmas Tradition Should Churches Revive?
What Forgotten Christmas Tradition Should Churches Revive?
Rooting our celebration of Christ’s birth more deeply in our lives.
Comments
Christianity Today
Who's Driving This Thing?
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

February 2005

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.