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Ralph Reed, 35
Executive director, Christian Coalition

"Vote for Ralph Reed: The Little Giant" was the motto of the then junior-high politico wannabe who was running for student council. Today, as executive director of the Christian Coalition—which represents, says Time magazine, "the most thorough penetration of the secular world of American politics by a religious organization in this century"—Ralph Reed is no longer a wannabe. In 1989 Reed met Pat Robertson, who asked for the young doctoral student's advice on how to revitalize his supporters after his failed presidential bid. After follow-up conversations, Robertson handed over his mailing list to Reed, which Reed translated into a community-based, local-issue-driven groundswell of politically active conservative Christians. Today his advice is solicited by a spectrum of leaders and politicians, usually Republicans, though he insists that CC members are not in the lap of the GOP: "They're conservative, religious people that are pro-life." Reed says he hopes that the CC will be a "long-term participant in American public life," working "to see a day when the sanctity of innocent life is enshrined in our laws and in the Constitution."

Bruce Main, 39
Founder, Urban Promise

When Bruce Main was a freshman at Azusa Pacific University, he asked himself, "Where in the U.S. are children and teens most needy?" After college and Fuller Seminary, he and his young bride, Pamela, moved to the economically depressed city of Camden, New Jersey. Nine years later he is still there, heading the organization he founded, Urban Promise, with its 30 full-time paid and volunteer staff and an annual budget of $1 million. The ministry sponsors job workshops, after-school programs, summer day camps (for nearly 1,000 children), and two gospel choirs. It also gives high-school students tours of historic African-American colleges. "With a 60 percent dropout rate in our high schools here, and with less than 4 percent finishing college," says Bruce, "we are excited that 15 of our youth are now freshmen and sophomores in college, and that 70 percent of our current high schoolers are now seriously considering college." The next big project for Urban Promise: a Christian school in Camden to open September 1997. Tony Campolo, who first inspired Bruce to consider urban ministry when he spoke at Azusa, notes: "Bruce has created and developed one of the most significant urban ministries in America."

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Michael Teague, 37
C.O.O., Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles

When Michael Teague goes to his office at the Union Rescue Mission in L.A. every morning, he is motivated by the conviction that "today's rescue missions are as integral to cities throughout the United States as were Good Samaritans on the road to Jericho some 2,000 years ago." Now chief operations officer at the largest rescue mission in the U.S. (annual budget: $14 million) and a sought-after consultant to other shelters, including one in Capetown, South Africa, Teague is convinced that today's rescue missions need to go far beyond the stereotypes. Union, for example, sponsors job-training and addiction-recovery programs as well as runs a health center, a transitional-housing complex, and a youth center. "Today, less than 5 percent of the rescue mission population fit the stereotype—middle-aged, Caucasian alcoholic," he says. "Instead, the fastest-growing population served is women and children, who make up one-third of all homeless people in shelters today. Minority men between 30 and 35 years of age make up another one-third of this population, with over 80 percent of them addicted to chemicals." With a background in business (B.A. in business administration and three years as a financial analyst for Texaco) and ministry (a seminary degree, five years as an associate pastor, and three years at a Seattle rescue mission), Teague, says Stephen Burger, head of the International Union of Gospel Missions, "has moved quickly through the ranks of rescue mission leadership and is one of the outstanding young leaders in urban ministry today."

DC Talk: Toby McKeehan, Michael Tait, Kevin Smith, 31, 29, 28

Take three good-looking college students, put them together to form a Christian rap group, and chances are you would end up with a flash in the pan. But since their debut album in 1989, DC Talk has moved beyond flash to phenomenon. Their 1995 release, Jesus Freak, entered the Billboard Top 200 at number 16, making it the highest-ranked debut ever for a Christian album. It also tallied record-breaking first-week sales, at 85,000. (By comparison, recent releases by Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant sold 51,000 and 55,000 respectively in their first week.) But Toby, Michael, and Kevin say they are less concerned with gold and platinum than with the thousands of teens in their audiences. "We've made it our goal to be missionaries to our generation," says Toby. "We thought, 'If we speak their language, they're more apt to listen.' For our generation, the language is music." Recognizing the inherent dangers that come with success, Toby adds, "My number-one prayer has been for God to put a team of people around us who will keep us accountable. God has answered that prayer. We travel with a team of guys, including a pastor, who are willing to challenge us spiritually as well as creatively."

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E. Bailey Marks, Jr., 34
Director, Youth at the Crossroads

Teens were dying of AIDS in Malawi. Could Campus Crusade help? Crusade's workers in Malawi answered by developing an AIDS-prevention teacher-training curriculum, and Marks, working in 1994 for Crusade's international division, spearheaded its use in areas outside Malawi. Now the program runs in nearly 20 countries, including Hungary, Honduras, Hong Kong, and Lithuania. In these countries, 2,100 teachers have been trained. These teachers, in turn, have reached 125,000 students with the aids-prevention message, 25,000 of whom have made decisions for Christ. With HIV infection rising at a staggering rate in some parts of the world (some areas of Africa are afflicted with a 20 percent infection rate; an estimated 10 million Asians will be infected with HIV by 2000; and the rate of HIV infection is up 60 percent in India since 1993), Marks hopes Youth at the Crossroads will have trained 250,000 to 375,000 teachers in more than 50 countries by 2000. About 22 million students would be exposed to the program's philosophy—that the only way to stop HIV is through abstinence, that this requires character and value transformation, which is best accomplished through a "personal relationship to Christ." Says Marks: "AIDS is a social problem that ultimately is a spiritual problem."

Steven W. Fitschen, 39
Executive director, National Legal Foundation

When founder Robert Skolrood retired last year after a decade as head of the Virginia Beach-based National Legal Foundation, he convinced the NLF board his successor did not need to be a lawyer. Enter Steve Fitschen, who had earlier spent eight years as a forester. Still working on his law degree, Fitschen has rejuvenated the public-interest law firm, which, like the Rutherford Institute and the American Center for Law and Justice, pleads religious-liberty cases. Fitschen, who formerly served as ACLJ's executive vice president, says that NLF uses a "principled rather than pragmatic approach, from a theologically conservative point of view." While NLF is still small, it is influential. This year, NLF helped introduce the Defense of Marriage Act in Congress, which was passed and then signed into law. Many viewed NLF as being on the fringe for proposing impeachment of the six Supreme Court justices who voted to strike down Colorado's Amendment 2. NLF assistant administrator Steve Magnuson says it seemed too far-fetched for anybody else to address, "but Steve researched it, got the idea moving, and sold it to others." Pastor Pat Crowder, who started a cell-based church with Fitschen, agrees: "Steve is good at seeing opportunities that others have missed."

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Miroslav Volf, 40
Theology professor, Theological Seminary

Called the "Croatian Theology Wonder," Miroslav Volf is considered by many to have one of the most fertile and provocative Christian minds today. Born in Osijek (in present-day Croatia) and raised in Communist Novi Sad (in present-day Serbia), this son of a Pentecostal pastor eventually earned a master's degree at Fuller Theological Seminary and a doctorate at the University of T?n, studying under J?Moltmann. Now on the Fuller faculty, Volf stays in touch with his homeland by taking teaching tours to Europe. His theological genius is in recasting "molds." In Work in the Spirit: Toward a Pneumatological Theology of Work (Oxford), he critiques Luther's doctrine of "work as vocation" and offers instead a theology of work based on Paul's doctrine of spiritual gifts. In Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Abingdon), he suggests that the liberation theology categories of "oppression and liberation" are inappropriate in the contexts of cultural plurality and strife. Another major work, on the Trinity and community, is forthcoming this year. Volf locates his theology in "classical Protestant Christianity, with a dose of Anabaptist sensibilities" and says that he does theology "for the sake of God and of God's kingdom," but also "because it is so much fun."

Darryl Starnes, 38
Evangelism director, AME Zion Church

When Darryl Starnes was growing up, his family would gather each morning before dawn to hear their grandfather, a minister, lead the family devotions. During one such devotion time, Starnes met Christ, and since then he has been preoccupied with evangelism. That burden has led to his being elected to serve his entire denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, as director of evangelism. The 1.2 million-member body has excelled in social ministries, says Starnes; now it aims to complement that strength by entering the next century with aggressive evangelistic efforts. His office, Starnes believes, "must set the spiritual climate from which soul-winning sprouts." Until his new appointment, Starnes served as pastor of the historic Metropolitan AME Zion Church in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. While there he gained recognition as an exceptional orator. Observes the denomination's bishop, Richard K. Thompson: "Brother Starnes is a preacher anointed with power and conviction, undergirded by thorough preparation." Adds his former professor, Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School: "He is a magnetic leader, a quick learner, a deep thinker, a highly effective preacher, and a very warm-hearted individual."

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Dwight Gibson, 37
North American director, World Evangelical Fellowship

"I always wondered about the places around the world these stamps were coming from," recalls Dwight Gibson about his first-grade stamp collection. Now, as North American director for World Evangelical Fellowship, an international association of evangelical associations, Gibson is the one licking foreign stamps in his effort to foster communication among international believers. Especially concerned with issues of religious freedom, Gibson was the force behind WEF's International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, which many North American churches participated in this September. Before coming to WEF he worked for the Slavic Gospel Association, where he was struck by the impact and unity of the local churches in the Soviet Union. What he saw drives his vision today to "create a local church that is international." Observes Gibson, "We're missing a connectedness of the body of Christ. We need to understand what it means that when one rejoices, we all rejoice, and when one suffers, we all suffer."

A. C. Green, Jr., Reginald "Reggie" White, 33, 34
Green, Jr. - Forward, Phoenix Suns
White - Defensive end, Green Bay Packers

Ferocious competitors on the court and gridiron, these professional athletes have leveraged their success and wealth into vibrant Christian ministries. A. C. Green, the Phoenix Suns' scrappy 6' 9", 11-year veteran of the nba, heads the A. C. Green Youth Foundation and the Athletes for Abstinence program. His video, book, and personal lifestyle—a single, traveling professional athlete who refuses to live promiscuously—challenge young people and other athletes to a life of purity and integrity.

At 6' 6" and 300 pounds, Reggie White of the Green Bay Packers holds the career record for quarterback sacks. When he was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year for last season, the press played up his moniker of "minister of defense" in reference to his position as associate pastor of his home congregation, Inner City Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. There he runs a summer sports camp for inner-city children and supports a variety of programs, including one that funds inner-city community-development banks. This past January, when his church fell prey to the rash of black-church burnings that swept the South, Reggie emerged as a national spokesperson calling the nation and church to face racism where it exists and raising money to rebuild destroyed churches. "The only thing that overcomes racism," he says, "is the love of God and the unity amongst the 'brethren.' "

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Michael Horton, 32
President, Christians United for Reformation

Michael Horton believes evangelicals need a second Reformation. At age 13, Horton experienced a spiritual crisis while reading the Book of Romans, wondering, "How can I be right before God if I continue to be a sinner? How do I know I'm in a state of grace?" To find answers, Horton began devouring books on Reformation theology, and it wasn't long before his reading turned into writing. To date, he has authored eight books, having completed a draft for his first book when he was only 15. "Evangelicalism as a movement," he has persistently warned in his books, "is rushing headlong toward theological ambiguity, which is another way of saying apostasy." As a sophomore at Biola University, Horton formed Christians United for Reformation (CURE) and eventually began a radio show, "The White Horse Inn," now broadcast nationwide on 30 stations, as well as a magazine, Modern Reformation. Horton is also copastor of Christ Reformed Church of Placentia, California, and vice chair of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals-another organization decrying the loss of evangelicalism's Reformation roots. Despite the multiplicity of his titles, his goal remains singular: the recommitment of evangelicals to the solas of what he hopes was only the first Reformation.

Kathy Rowlett, 36
Area director, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Before becoming a Christian her junior year at Wake Forest University, Kathy Rowlett says she was a "very wild and intimidating person." While age and regeneration have done some mellowing, she still attacks her work, always willing to cross boundaries—whether political or personal—if it serves the gospel. When still a fledgling in the faith, she volunteered for two years to teach missionary kids in Mexico, and later, under InterVarsity, she organized and led a group of students on a summer evangelistic trip to Kiev State University in Ukraine; the trip was so successful that every summer since then other students have repeated it. Today, after 11 years as an InterVarsity staff member (mostly at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill), she is seen as "a spiritual director in the movement for other staff and leaders in InterVarsity," says Kim Green, a fellow staff worker and friend. Also, as the only female on both the Chapel Hill staff and her current team, she is a role model for many female students and staff. "People seek her out," Green observes, because "she moves beyond just programs and asks the harder questions about the messy parts of staff members' and students' lives." For her part, Rowlett says simply, "I love to invest in people. That's my philosophy of ministry."

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Star Parker, 39
Founder, Coalition of Urban Affairs

Star Parker, a former welfare mom who robbed a liquor store and had four abortions and a fifth child by age 23, never dreamed she would one day battle the social system on which she had depended. "I was living my ho-hum life, dropping my kid off at government-funded daycare, then hanging out at the beach and getting high all afternoon," says Parker. But while trying to get work "under the table" at a Christian black-owned advertising agency, she ended up getting saved. Then she heard a preacher ask what felt like a question from above—"What are you doing on welfare?" he boomed—and the next day she canceled her welfare checks. Parker went on to earn a marketing degree, publish a magazine for black Christians, and found a conservative social policy research center. Now a pastor's wife, Parker has debated the Reverend Jesse Jackson on CNN about moral decline, defended school vouchers on Larry King Live, and decried welfare on Oprah. Her forthcoming autobiography is titled I Can't Cry Racism (Pocket Books). Parker hopes African Americans in the church will become more involved in making public-policy decisions. "In every area where we have social ills," she says, "the church has the best track record in keeping people on the straight and narrow."

M. Craig Barnes, 40
Pastor, National Presbyterian Church

In Washington, D.C., every moment is an occasion for gaining power. Into this atmosphere, at the 2,000-member National Presbyterian Church where presidents and senators often worship, Craig Barnes preaches God's grace and sovereignty. "Every Sunday all these high-powered people tell the world in the prayer of confession that they are sinners in need of a Savior," says Barnes. "Then they hear the declaration of pardon and jump to their feet to sing the Gloria. That is high drama." Just nine days after accepting the call to National Pres, Barnes learned he had metastatic cancer. Now, after surgery and radiation therapy, Barnes believes he has been healed. "It was a wonderful opportunity for the pastor to be a symbol of the truth that God's good sovereign faithfulness is our only hope," he says. But he had to struggle with the meaning of God's sovereignty as his associate pastor's son died of cancer even as Barnes's health improved. His openness has endeared him to many. Says one parishioner: "You never come out of a Sunday service without feeling like he has been there [suffering] with you. That's why someone so young can lead a large congregation like this, because he's felt the pain."

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Susan Bergman, 39

Bergman's memoir Anonymity (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is the literary equivalent of exploratory surgery. In it she recalls her discovery of her father's dual life as both a music director in an evangelical church and a closet homosexual who was the first recorded victim of AIDS in New York. Looking at both her own and her father's lives, she asks: "Pretense—is that the unforgivable sin?" Schooled at Wheaton College and Northwestern University (Ph.D., literature), Bergman was awarded the prestigious Pushcart Prize. Evangelical scholar Mark Noll calls Bergman's book a refreshing "proof that solid up-to-date narrative form can wrestle with perennial Christian realities." Bergman's latest project has just been released, a collection of essays she edited called Martyrs: Contemporary Writers on Modern Lives of Faith (Harper San Francisco). Her introduction to the book was CT's August cover story.

Greg Lillestrand, 35
National director, Worldwide Student Network

"At the end of life when all our pursuits are finished," Greg Lillestrand and his wife, Charmaine, asked themselves when they graduated from college in 1984, "what would we regret most deeply for not having given our all?" The answer was full-fledged service for Christ. In the years since then, the Lillestrands have focused their efforts on the 60 million students in universities worldwide, serving with Campus Crusade for Christ in Yugoslavia, Romania, and Russia. In the former Soviet Union, Greg pioneered the start of new campus ministries, and today there are 54 national staff in more than 20 locales. Now national director of Crusade's Worldwide Student Network, Greg hopes to open 400 more overseas chapters in the years ahead. Described as a "Bill Bright-type" leader, Greg remains mindful of three lessons he says God taught him in Russia: "I can never outgive the Lord; when God moves, nothing can stop him; and no matter what is occurring in our lives, God is never caught off guard."

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Kelly Monroe, 36
Founder, Harvard Veritas Forum

Today Harvard University is known as one of the main gatekeepers of secular orthodoxy, but Kelly Monroe has documented those who are Finding God at Harvard (Zondervan/HarperCollins). Monroe has edited a collection of 40-plus spiritual autobiographical reflections by Harvard alumni, professors, and speakers that represent what Monroe sees every day in her work as a chaplain to Harvard's graduate students. Struck by the fact that Harvard was founded by the Puritans so that students would know truth in the person of Jesus Christ, Monroe and her friends banded together in 1992 to refocus on the university's original mission. They called the group Veritas Forum. "We wanted to create a place where students could ask their deepest questions about the art of life, a place where we could explore the unity and beauty of the truth of Jesus Christ." Since the founding of Veritas Forum at Harvard, Christians at 20 other schools, including Oxford in England, have opened their own forums modeled after Veritas, reaching an estimated 30,000 students.

Peter Cha, Dave Gibbons, 37, 34
Cha - Copastor, Parkwood Community Church
Gibbons - Pastor, NewSong Community Church

Successful pastors do not usually jump for jobs with less pay and no guarantees for success. But both Peter Cha and Dave Gibbons left established positions to start churches for mostly second-generation Asian Americans—Cha in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and Gibbons in Irvine, California. Aware that a majority of Asian Americans are unchurched (despite many being raised in the church), Cha and Gibbons not only pioneered new ministry models, but also created Catalyst, a networking organization for pastors ministering to second-generation Asian Americans. The conferences have drawn so many pastors and laypeople in their first five years that they plan to hold two separate regional conferences next year. "Asian-American Christians in ministry are in a phase where we need to find direction," says Susan Kim, a regular participant in the conferences. "People have been very blessed by the ministry of Peter and David."

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David P. Gushee, 34
Ethics professor, Union University

Two years ago, when David Gushee and his wife learned the baby they were expecting would be stillborn, they chose to have labor induced rather than "have the fetus dismembered by an abortion doctor." The procedure, they felt, "would have been an offense to the dignity of our child's life." Gushee, who is associate professor of Christian studies at Union University (Jackson, Tenn.) and "one of the most thoughtful and well-prepared ethicists in the evangelical world today," according to Union's president, David S. Dockery, has displayed such moral sensitivity since childhood. In high school he saw a film on the Jewish Holocaust and "was shattered to know I lived in a world where people could do this to other people," he remembers. "So when I became a Christian, I was very practically and ethically oriented. I believed that if Christianity was true, it must hold the answers to human suffering." His Ph.D. dissertation at Union Theological Seminary (N.Y.) and his first book, The Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust (Fortress), examined why some Christians, under Hitler helped Jews but others didn't. "The question that drives my academic work is, 'What is it the church is supposed to be doing in a suffering world?' " says the Southern Baptist former professor and acting associate theology dean at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. For him the answer has included being the principal author of his denomination's widely quoted 1994 statement on abortion-clinic violence and helping draft the historic 1995 SBC Resolution on Racial Reconciliation.

Alvin C. Bibbs, Sr., 34
Urban ministries director, Willow Creek Community Church

Alvin Bibbs ventured into a Chicago neighborhood to start a Young Life group and found an Uzi pointed at his head. Five gang members told him never to come back: "This is our turf."

"You might have won today," Bibbs told his assailants, "but this is not your or my turf. This is holy ground." Bibbs was never threatened again. It was not the first or last time he would overcome opposition. The first was making the leap out of Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing project and into a successful sports and academic college career. Next it was becoming Young Life's first African-American regional director for a major city, during which he helped the organization see areas where it could be more sensitive to racial issues. Now, as founder of Hoop Dreams Foundation, he provides college scholarships for athletic students, and as director of Local Compassion and Urban Ministries at Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, he raises members' awareness of social justice and racial issues. "I am driven by the question: 'How do we bring people together?' " says Bibbs, who is ordained. "God calls us to reconciliation, so my goal is to help make what is not seen—God's unity and call to reconciliation—visible."

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Dan Owens, 40
Evangelist, Luis Palau Evangelistic Association

Dan Owens seemed an unlikely candidate to become an evangelist. Other children ridiculed him because of a speech impediment and because of his excess weight. By the time he had become a teenager he had fallen in with a carousing crowd. But at 17, Owens became a Christian, later attended Multnomah Seminary, and then became youth pastor for a Portland church. It happened to be the church that evangelist Luis Palau attended. In 1986 Palau asked Owens to join the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association, and Owens agreed, planning to stay for only a couple of years. Yet, in 1992, he became LPEA's first associate evangelist. Today he is recognized as the apparent successor to Palau, who turns 62 this month. Owens has visited 35 countries with Palau, preaching at nightly crusades, training counselors, and organizing the campaigns themselves. Owens is handling much of the preaching this month in a Lahore, Pakistan, campaign. "He touches the conscience without being negative." Palau says of Owens. "Yet he is a winsome person with a good spirit. He commands attention without being egocentric."

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