One year ago, we asked you, our readers, to do two things: list the five most influential Christians of the twentieth century and then note five well-known Christians who were most personally influential. We posed the same two questions to historians who belong to the Conference on Faith and History, a group composed of mostly Christian historians who study Christianity's influence in history. We've ranked each of the four lists by the percentage of votes received for each person. Here's what we discovered.


  • John Calvin (yes, the sixteenth-century reformer) garned two votes among readers as most personally influential. These are hyper-Calvinists, no doubt, who firmly believe in the resurrection.

  • Radical demythologizer Rudolf Bultmann did make the top 20 list of most influential. It's clear both readers and scholars believe you don't have to admire a person to recognize how much trouble he may have caused the church this century.

  • The only non-Western Christian to place significantly was China's Watchman Nee.

  • William Cameron Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators (the largest Protestant mission agency in the world) didn't even make the top 20 most influential lists.

  • Same with Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision (the largest non-governmental social service agency in the world).

  • Same with missiologist Donald McGavran, founder of the church growth movement.

Online differences

Responses from general readers (non-scholars) came in two forms, regular mail and e-mail, and we tabulated them separately to see if there might be some differences between the two. Three stood out.

First, pop Christian singer Keith Green tied for eighth on the online readers' most personally influential list (and Bill Gaither, Petra, and Stryper ...

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