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Monday, January 16, 2006 

The Church Report "Influential" List Reveals Sad State of Christianity

I received an email today from The Church Report Magazine, which bills itself as "the online resource for Christian leaders, pastors and parachurch executives," in which the magazine promoted its newest edition highlighting "The 50 Most Influential Christians In America." I was extremely shocked and saddened to see that their No. 1 most influential Christian was Bishop T.D. Jakes, a man who has long been associated with a denial of the Trinity as a core doctrine of Christianity. But as a perused the list further, I was even more disturbed to see that No. 2 was Joel Osteen, a guy who embarrassed himself (as well as all Christians) on national television when he couldn't clearly communicate the Gospel to Larry King. Rounding out the top 10 in order were, Billy Graham; Rick Warren; Bill Hybels; Paul Crouch; Joyce Meyer; President George W. Bush; Dr. James Dobson; and Chuck Colson. To say the least, there are a few disturbing names there. The list goes on to mention several other problematic people including, No.19 Robert Schuller; No.29 Paul Crouch, Jr.; No.30 Benny Hinn; No.31 John Hagee; No.34 Marcus Lamb; No.36 Creflo Dollar; No.37 Paula White; No.38 Rod Parsley; No.44 Pope Benedict XVI; and No. 50 Dr. Phil McGraw. When has Dr. Phil ever expressed that he is a Christian?

And while this list would be sad enough if were compiled by The Church Report itself, the magazine makes it clear that these were names voted on by readers. I find this very disturbing that large numbers of Christians see men like T.D. Jakes and Joel Osteen as the most influential among them in America. The only glimmer of hope I saw in this was No.24, John Piper. Suspiciously missing were men like Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Louie Giglio, and J.I. Packer. One could even wonder why Tim LaHaye was not on this list. In the end, this scares and saddens me. It scares me because it seems that the average Christian is still concerned less with the deep truths of Scripture and more with appearance and hype, and it saddens me because so few have been exposed to those men and women who do seek God in a deep and significant way, seeking to know God through Scripture and serve Him in Spirit and Truth. Let's pray that God gives influence in our communities to men and women who do just that.

I am disturbed because I am afraid the number of professing Christians do not even know what Christianity is in Truth. No wonder when we see a list like that, the ones looked up to can not help them either.
The church is at a crossroads now, I think. Either it wakes up and informs people what sin is or the day of itching ears will take over. If people don't know what sin is, they can't know they need a Savior.

I would agree Anon. Understanding that we have a sin problem is the foundation of the Gospel. Those who are poor in spirit and those who mourn are the ones who understand that sin problem and thus they thirst and hunger for righteousness. Some of the problem with some of these leaders is that they are now scared to mention sin, as if the Gospel doesn't make that a central focus. Too many pastors would rather psychologize than evangelize. An encounter with God always begins with repentence and a sense of unworthiness because of sin. Sadly we rarely see that occuring in our worship services today.

I hope that you were only saddened and not suprised. I am afraid this is an accurate picture of our country. My only shock comes from the fact that Piper even made the list.
Adrienne

Well honestly, I was a little surprised to see "Cry for A" Dollar, Paula "hollerin'" White, and Benny "Hair blowin in the" Hinn on the list. After introspection, I do think it has to do somewhat with the magazine's readership and the fact that they allow some of these folks to write articles for them. BTW, you need to pick up a phone and call.

I guess I'm not shocked. Just sad. We trade riches for trash, and truth for lies.

We don't want to hear about our sin. Our failures. We want health and wealth but sifted through some kind of biblical justification.

Hats off to MacArthur and Sproul for not making the list.

Yup....I'm a little cynical.

Mr. Randle,

Thank you for your kind invitation to post on your board. I appreciate you pointing out that the results of the board were not those of the myself of my staff. However, a total vote of 150,000 is a significant number and perhaps should serve as a wakeup call that those who names your suggest are absent are not adept at reaching the populus, regardless of their message/

With response to one on your posters who noted that I allow several of these people to write, I do with a personal invitation and with rules that prohbit the "plugging" of their ministries.

It is easy to be an arm chair quaterback, write a blog and sit back and criticize. What you fail to see is that regardless whether or not you agree with their theology, these people have made a positive impact in the spiritual lives of thousands of people.

Best Regards,

Jason T. Christy
CEO, Christy Media, publishers of the Church Report magazine the CR Daily

Jason,

I'd like to ask a question.

This is not attacking you.

You stated that these people are making a positive impact in the lives of people.

Joel Osteen goes on Larry King. King asks, "Rev. Osteen, do you believe that you have to ask Jesus to be your savior to be saved?"

Osteen's response, "Well, Larry....we need to look at that....."

Holy cow! Is that not a basic tenant of the faith?

How is not answering that question with a "yes" a positive in the lives of people?

Again....I'm challenging your statement....not you personally.

Da Bishop

Well, it seems apparent that a majority of those polled don't see your choices (Mohler, LaHaye?, etc) as being as influential as some of these others.

One thing I'd be interested in knowing is, was the survey as explicitly interpreted as the title suggests ("50 most influential Christians...")?

I mean, Bush, for instance, is highly influential and he identifies himself as a Christian, but that isn't to say that his influences are GOOD influences. Same for Dobson, Graham and even Dr. Phil (if he's a Christian). These are people who are out there influencing the public - for the bad sometimes and certainly in unchristian ways sometimes, but influential nonetheless.

Just because your favorite (or mine) Christian leaders didn't make the list doesn't mean anything except that they weren't seen as influential by the readership of this magazine. Given the list, I suspect it's readership must be made up of people who watch too much TV - especially "religious" TV, as I don't know hardly any of these people, but looking into their names, they seem to be associated with popular TV ministries/shows.

Now, if this list reflected US Christendom at large, that would be troubling to me, as well (although for probably exactly opposite reasons it troubles you - I mean, this list probably at least SOMEBODY you like/agree with, not so for me).

Don't forget mayor Ray Nagin, seeing as how he is now an authority on what makes God mad and what God really wants for the city of New Orleans. Adrienne

Yo, What about Jack T. Chick? An estimated 50 million or so Chick tracts are distributed each year.

It IS sad that those are the most marketable Christians. Dr. Phil is a Christian? I know lots of stay at home moms like him. But... anyway. Not a big fan of most of those guys. I like Bill, although I don't prefer megachurches. I have to give the guy credit, he's got some good stuff to say. But you know what? At least Dr. Mohler isn't on the list. He didn't do a great job tonight on Larry King Live. Well... the part I saw anyway, not that Larry gave him much time to speak. None of those guys said anything of any real meaning.

I like Erwin McManus. I like David Platt. And Dr. Stewart and David are working on a book, or something, I'm told, with regards to Evangeletics, the merger of Evangelism and Apologetics. They preached through that at Edgewater last fall, and it's pretty good stuff. I'd love to see where they take it, and I'd love to see a renewed Christian emphasis on such a hybrid.

Well let me address a few comments on the blog.

To Mr. Christy,
I see that you have made the rounds on the blogosphere -- particularly the Reformed ones. And it seems that at every location you highlight these people's influence as being positive, but I would take issue with whether known charletans, suspected sex offenders, and those who pimp false Gospels can be seen as positive. I am still disgusted with the fact that those who read your magazine see these men as being the most influential and you endorsed them as being worthy of such an "honor". As for your comment, "a total vote of 150,000 is a significant number and perhaps should serve as a wakeup call that those who names your [sic] suggest are absent are not adept at reaching the populus, regardless of their message," I would say that I realize that you are primarily a business man and not a theologian, but surely you understanding that good marketing ploys and at times a compromising of one's integrity and the Gospel message doesn't mean that one is more adept at reaching the "populus", it is in fact something that shouldn't be celebrated, but rather mourned. And I think that is the case with some of those on your list, which is why so many people are upset about it.

Now, as to the comment about being an armchair quarterback, I would dare say that the number of readers of Evangelical Outpost, Between Two Worlds, and other blogs that you have posted at would rival the 150,000 you suggest is a large number. I don't think bloggers are arm-chair quarterbacks, but rather serve as important members of cyberspace. As one who posts a blog (and as a business man), I would think you would celebrate the fact that your list has gotten so much publicity. You apparently felt our blogs and emails were important enough for you to show up to defend your position. I just think that was a rather cheap and defensive shot, which I think was beneath you as a CEO and President of a company that markets to the cybercommunity.

Since this was so long I will post more responses below.

Dan, first I don't want to suggest that I think LaHaye should have any influence. If anything I wish his books would never have been written. However, I am a surprised that he was not listed as influential and Benny Hinn was. There is no doubt that LaHaye has been marketed much more widely than Hinn ever could (unless you include Dateline NBC exposes as part of his marketing plan).

Anyway, I completely agree that the readership of that magazine is reflected in the choices of the most influential Christians, but I was disturbed by two things:
1) That the readership is that influenced by those particular men and women, many of whom even you would agree preach a false Gospel and seek wealth and not the glory of God.
2) That the magazine celebrated these choices and noted that they all deserved this "honor" and "should" be on this list. Honestly, "should" Benny Hinn be on this list, when he rips off the handicapped, promising them if they donate to him in faith they will be healed?


Adrienne,
I think I want to write on Nagin for tomorrow and may do so. How do Democrats get away with saying racially and religiously divisive things, while Republicans are always called on the carpet for them?


Scoobie, good point. Unfortunately, according to Mr. Christy, he is apparently inept at getting his message out there and that is why he didn't make the list.


Joe, I'm not sure of your point is in regards to this post, but I would say in response to you comment on Mohler that I don't think he does that great anytime he is on the Larry King show according to the world's standards. I wish he would give the Biblical perspective like MacArthur does and quit trying to convince lost people that they should hold his position without first being changed by Christ. Still, I do think he is highly influential simply because he is often asked to be on Larry King and other national cable news shows when the producers desire to talk to an Evangelical Christian. To me that speaks to influence (and he doesn't compromise the message of the Gospel like some others when he does it -- for that we ought to all be thankful). Also, one note on the apologetics book, I would love to hear your take on classical methods of apologetics now that you have Emerged. I understand that most of those in the Emerging Church are against classic apologetic methods. Maybe you should do a post or series of them on how you view apologetics working within the Church and throughout the community. I am very interested in how Emergents will be able to really handle postmodernism without the use of apologetics and without being set in a framework of objective truth. I am glad to see that you are excited about the merger of apologetics and evangelism. Honestly, apologetics and theology are the two disciplines that drove me from the church growth movement and continue to cause me to see the Emergent movement as problematic.

Yeah, Dan'l. We agree that there are some poor choices here and it is a sad state of Christianity as viewed by at least these voters.

I'm just saying, consider the source.

What bothers me goes beyond what this article suggests. I have been thinking for years that the influence of Christianity on society has been declining and in some areas has disappeared completely. Speaking of morality in general, there are few global moral leaders anymore. I mean, the Pope is a global voice for morality just because of his position. Gone are the Mother Teresa's, and even the voices for morality like Gandhi, etc.

On second thought, maybe it's a good thing that there are no figureheads for Christianity any more. I mean, Billy Graham won't be around much longer, but maybe it's getting to the point where Jesus becomes the one that we focus our attention on. Our President's may not seek out counsel from someone like Graham (or maybe they do), like they once did, but on an individual, relational level, we need to be pointing people to Christ. Maybe the 50th most influential person needed to be the thousands of Christ followers. Let them have their list, any of them are subject to mistakes. As for me, I'm going to go about following and sharing Christ and teaching others to do the same. If that's influence that is never recognized by my peers then that's even better.

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Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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