10 Most Influential Christian Leaders of All Time

by Pamela Rose Williams · Print Print · Email Email

No doubt the greatest Christian Leader of all time is Jesus of Nazareth, the Savior of the world. As time passes we are blessed by the influence of certain other Christian leaders that leave a legacy unparalleled by any other. No matter what the denomination, most will agree that some Christian leaders have had a huge impact on our community, our nation and even our world.  As I look at all the Christian leaders that have been and even still are today, I have chosen those that I believe are ten of the most influential Christian leaders of all time.

Featured Leader:

Elder John Leland (1754-1841)
John Leland was a faithful minister of the gospel for sixty-seven years. Leland was what some would call a “circuit preacher” traveling on foot or horseback from Massachusetts to South Carolina. He traveled more than a hundred thousand miles in his preaching journeys [1].  He was most famous for his plight for religious freedom in the United States of America. In 1787 Leland was a great supporter of James Madison as he pursued his election to the Virginia Convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution and to adopt the Bill of Rights. He endorsed Mr. Madison and convinced many fellow Baptist’s to do the same because he knew Madison would pursue a federal amendment for religious freedom. Elder Leland spent more than 60 years fighting for what has commonly been called “separation of church and state” in the United States today. Elder Leland wrot
e his own epitaph: “Here lies the body of JohnLeland, who labored 67 years to promote piety and vindicate the civil and religious rights of all men.” [2]

William Carey (1761-1834)

A self-taught English cobbler William Carey set out to evangelize the people of India. When Carey was called to missions the vision of world evangelism was not clear in England. He was, in fact, considered to be the father of modern Protestant missions. Carey’s first six years on the field were nothing short of outrageously awful. He survived malaria, dysentery and cholera. During his years in Bengal, he and his family tolerated inhabitable conditions, disease, grief, and wild animals. He buried 2 wives and one young child in the field.

  • Williams Carey was best known for penning the original translations of the Bible into Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit, and parts of it into 29 other languages and dialects.
  • Carey was co-founder of Serampore College and a member of the Baptist Missionary Society
  • One Famous Quote of William Carey is: “I can plod, I can persevere to any definite pursuit.”

Dr. Jerry Falwell (1933-2007)

Dr. Falwell had a vision to train young people for Christ. He was a faithful husband, father and grandfather as well as a servant for the Lord. In 1985 he hoped to see Liberty University train 50,000 students.  Today more than 70,000 students are enrolled in onsite and offsite classes, thereby fulfilling his vision. Dr. Falwell often took heat for his pro-life, pro-family and favor for a national defense stance, but stuck to his guns. He was a strong supporter of seeing Ronald Reagan elected as President of the United States.

  • Dr. Falwell was best known for his radio and television ministry “Old Time Gospel Hour” and as the Founder of Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.
  • Dr. Falwell was also the Founder of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA.
  • Dr. Falwell often said that his heart was to “train young Champions for Christ”

Rev. Billy Graham

Billy Graham is an Evangelist, best known for his televised crusades. He preached the message of Christianity for forty years. He was advisor to several American Presidents. It is believed that he has led thousands to profess Jesus Christ as personal Savior.

  • Rev. Graham is best known for his worldwide evangelist crusades
  • Rev. Graham is Founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA)
  • Rev. Graham once said: “It is not the body’s posture, but the heart’s attitude that counts when we pray”

Rev. Jesse Jackson

As a civil rights activist and minister, Rev. Jackson has been in the limelight for both for his accomplishments and for his controversial stand on popular political topics.  He was with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at his march in Selma, Alabama. And in the 1980’s he became the leading spokesman for African Americans.

  • Rev. Jackson is best known for his civil rights activism, but also twice ran for President of the United States.
  • Rev Jackson is Founder of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition whose goal is to seek equal rights for African Americans and women.
  • One famous quote of Rev. Jackson is: “We must not measure greatness from the mansion down, but from the manger up.” [3]

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) 

Dr. King’s birth name was Michael Luther King and he later changed his name to Martin.  He followed his grandfather and father as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  This strong Christian and civil rights activist led peaceful marches in several southern towns where Negro Americans were unequally treated.  He was the youngest man ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and he donated the over $50,000 prize money to further his civil rights cause.[4] He was assassinated in 1968.

  • Dr. King was best known for his civil right activism, which cost him his life.
  • Dr. King was Founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. and  Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL
  • Dr. King once said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter 

Dr. John Vernon McGee (1904-1988) 

Dr. McGee, pastored churches in Georgia, Tennessee and Texas before settling at the Church of the Open Door in downtown Los Angeles, California where he first aired “High Noon Bible Class” on a little radio station.  When he retired from the church his radio ministry exploded and he began teaching “Thru the Bible” reaching more than 400 stations in the United States and Canada daily. It soon was broadcasted in more than 100 languages and available worldwide on the Internet.  His good ole’ fashioned expository teaching is as relevant today as it was in 1967 when he began the broadcast.

  • Dr. McGee is best known for his deep southern drawl as broadcasted on the “Thru the Bible” radio show
  • Dr. McGee, better known as just “J. Vernon McGee” is Founder of “Thru the Bible” and even though he has gone on to be with the Lord, his voice continues to broadcast the 5 year Bible study program.
  • Dr. McGee once prayed: Oh, God, help me to always preach so that it can be said, ‘I never knew Jesus was so wonderful.’” [5]

Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) 

Mr. Moody was a visionary and his success came because of his ability to choose the proper people to put into leadership.  He had great dreams of getting rich in shoe sales, and as a young man was approached by his Sunday School teacher with the gospel of salvation. He accepted Jesus as Lord and from that time on devoted his life to serving the Lord.  He was involved with the YMCA, Mission Sunday School and even evangelized Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.  The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was a turning point in his devotion to God, it was that event that helped him to know that he needed to preach the Word of God to the world. His approach was nondenominational and because of this he was able to reach all peoples, regardless of religious ties, with the Gospel of Christ.

  • D. L. Moody is best known as the Founder of Moody Bible Institute formerly known as the Chicago Evangelization Society
  • D. L. Moody also opened Northfield Seminary for Young Women; Mount Hermon School for Boys; and Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions to reach Europe and South Africa [6]
  • D.L. Moody once said: “Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal- a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.” 

Evangelist Lester Roloff (1914-1982)

Brother Roloff was saved when he was fourteen years old.  He paid his way through Baylor University with four gallons of milk per day from his beloved jersey cow “Marie”. He became the Pastor of People’s Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1969 where he began his outreach to troubled teens and adults. He fought the state of Texas for eight years because he did not want the state to control his church ministries. He won that battle and the Lester Roloff homes continue today as an outreach of People’s Baptist Church.

  • Brother Roloff is best known for his battle and protection of the People’s Baptist Church’s ministries in Texas.
  • Brother Roloff is the Founder of Rebecca Home for Girls, Anchor Home for Boys, Lighthouse for Men and Boys, and the Jubilee Home for Women.
  • Brother Roloff once said: “This is going to be the greatest day of my life” and it was — as his plane crashed and he went home to be with his Father in Heaven on November 2, 1982

Evangelist George Whitefield (1714-1770)

Pastor Whitefield was a clergyman at the Church of England. He was small in stature but known for his huge preaching voice. He is said to be one of the greatest evangelists of all time[7].  He was the spark of America’s 1st Great Awakening. If you do not know the history behind George Whitefield (pronounced “Whitfield”) you should read about it to learn that he had an amazing way of simplifying the message of Christianity to a very large population. He is a great contributor to our heritage.

  • George Whitefield is best known as an aggressive evangelist who was the fire behind America’s Great Awakening.
  • George Whitefield was the Founder of the movement called Methodism
  • George Whitefield said: The reason why the Son of God took upon him our nature, was, the fall of our first parents.”

Do You Have One to Share? 

What influential Christian leader comes to your mind?  Did I leave it off the list? Leave a comment and share with us.

Sources:

[1] March to Zion

[2] Penn State Law Review

[3] Jesse Jackson. (2011). Biography.com. Retrieved 07:32, Oct 27, 2011 from http://www.biography.com/people/jesse-jackson-9351181

[4] Martin Luther King Jr.. (2011). Biography.com. Retrieved 07:57, Oct 27, 2011 from http://www.biography.com/people/martin-luther-king-jr-9365086

[5] ThruTheBible

[6] Moodyministries.net

[7] http://www.higherpraise.com/preachers/whitefield.htm

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{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack Wellman October 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Wow, great list. I still listen to Dr. J. Vernon McGee. Love that man. Look forward to meeting him someday. I would add Jonathan Edwards who is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian. Edwards played a very critical role in shaping the First Great Awakening, and oversaw some of the first fires of revival in 1733–1735 at his church – First Church – in Northampton, Massachusetts. Thanks Pam. Well done.

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Pam Williams October 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Thanks Jack, Jonathan Edwards was on my “long list” had to leave him off because I could only list 10! I much agree with you on his contribution and influence during that 1st Great Awakening. Wow, what it must have been like to be present at that revival. AMEN!

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Salil Sharma October 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm

I may be a little biased here(being Indian) but how could you NOT mention Mother Teresa???

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Pam October 31, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Hello Salil, Thank your for posting your question. As I shared with Jack in a previous comment here as I gathered my list I began with many people. I had to pair it down or else this would have been a really, really long article. I like that you mentioned Mother Teresa, who was actually born “Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu”. She lived between 1910-1987. She was best known for her care and dedication to the rights of the poor and helpless. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and indeed she ranks right up there with these others. She will stand in history with them. How could I “not” include her? Well, I had so many to choose from and she simply did not make my short list.
Thank you for reminding us of this sweet, loyal and dear lady who is beloved by not only Indians, but by all the world. I pray blessing on you!

Read more: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/10-most-influential-christian-leaders-of-all-time/#ixzz1cOToOvS0

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RJ November 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm

What a biased and laughably incomplete list. Are there no history books where you’re from? Where’s Augustine of Hippo? Saint Thomas Aquinas? Saint Paul? Constantine? Martin Luther wasn’t influential enough for you? John Wycliffe? John Calvin? Jacobus Arminius? John Wesley? Saint Clement of Rome? Saint Origen of Alexandria? Saint Peter?

Seriously.

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Pam November 4, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Hello RJ. Thank you for the list of names that you provided. Choosing only 10 was a challenge, no bias intended. Thanks for taking time to comment.

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Mr A Cotton August 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm

I agree with RJ. I only know one out of the Ten that`s Dr Martin Luther King,and i notice that they are all American bar two.
You said “Choosing only ten was a challenge”
I don`t think that was much of a challenge.

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Mike September 8, 2015 at 4:51 pm

I agree with RJ… although I don’t find it necessary to be as rude as he was, so I apologize on his behalf. I would have Included Calvin, Luther and of course William Tyndale in my top 10. I also love the idea of including Edwards, but I understand why you didn’t. Thanks for taking the time to write up a list. And again… sorry for RJ.

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Sharon beall February 12, 2018 at 1:35 pm

the lady that thought it was bias is obviously catholic. How can someone be included that worship graven images, and thinks that Peter was the first infallible pope. In the case of John Calvin, he tortured and murdered those that were true to the scriptures. Great man? Really? I though the list was good. My favorite lately has been J. Vernon McGee. I will have to listen to some of the others. Thanks.

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Jack Wellman February 12, 2018 at 1:41 pm

Hello Sharon. Almost all of the great leaders of the past had a few skeletons in their closet, and John Calvin was not exception, but even the great Martin Luther has a strong dislike of Jews and was not kind to them at all, so all of us have shortcomings, but I so agree…Dr. J. Vernon McGee, whom I still listen and learn from, is among the greats, no doubt.

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Brian April 3, 2018 at 6:36 pm

Sorry for the time lapse. I totally agree with suggestions made by this gentleman. One must consider that many, if not all, of those mentioned were servants of the Lord during very trying and dangerous times for The Protestant movement. I will vote for any of our classic reformers at the top of any listings of greatest theologians.

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Salil Sharma November 22, 2011 at 12:48 am

All people mentioned are strictly faithful in nature. But I guess Dukle Godfrey(1st Crusade0 deserves a special mention

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wosen petros(peter) January 19, 2012 at 3:17 am

thank you for your list…i have got many historical information. I want to ask you that can you make any information on enfleuncial contemporary evangalists on facebook? Or can i gate any info from u about web sites? Thank you

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Pam January 19, 2012 at 9:32 am

Hello wosen petros, I am sorry but I do not understand your question. Are you looking for other sources for influential contemporary evangelists?

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Apostle Leo Brosius July 1, 2012 at 10:15 am

Thanks
For the listings it is wonderful to see great christian leaders of our time , I also write to work with any of the listed Christian leaders ministries or church here in Liberia
Looking forward to hearing from you
I am from Liberia We4st Africa

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Siyanda Walter Mda September 8, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Great ommission of Paul, the Apostle. I think you should reconsider your list Pamela, seriously.

If you remove Paul’s writings from Scripture, ninety percent of Christianity falls with it. I regard Paul to be the father of Christianity, with Jesus Christ the pillar.

Other notable absentees from your list are Martin Luther, John Wesley and Charles Haddon Spurgeon. You did not do a proper research on this Pamela. Surely Charles H. Spurgeon can even be a contender in the top five list.

Also, I don’t think Jesus Christ should be on the list. For the list to be fair, it must consist of only human beings. Jesus is more than that. If you put Jesus on the list, then there is an infinity gap between him and the second person.

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Pamela Rose Williams September 8, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Hello Siyanda –

Thank you for your comments and opinion. Just so you know I purposely chose some leaders that would make you think. You’ve listed some great leaders as well.

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Mr A Cotton September 9, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Yes i would have put St Paul at the top of the list because there would have been no Christians without St Paul. It evan says in the bible that St Paul taught the Pagans,and the Gentiles while St Peter taught the Circumcised.
According to your list they would have not been Christians.

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Pamela Rose Williams September 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Hello Mr Cotton. There really is no connection whatsoever regarding the list and Peter and Paul’s salvation status. I believe you took a huge leap there and I am not seeing the connection.

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Mr A Cotton September 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I am merely pointing out that i agree with RJ and Siyanda Walter Mda that St Paul wrote quite a lot in the New Testament.
Has said above ninety percent of Christianity falls with it. I wasn`t talking about salvation status. I to would class St Paul has the father of Christianity
That St Paul made many Christians through his work,and still does. I hope you see the connection now.

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JERRY WAMSLEY September 13, 2012 at 10:20 am

HE IS A CHRISTIAN LEADER WHO BROUGHT SO MANY ENCOURAGING STORIES OF MEN AND WOMEN OF FAITH TO US. (FOCUS ON THE FAMILY)

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Ngozi Udeh December 30, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Dearly beloved, these are in Pam’s opinion 10 most influential Christian leaders, please be nice. We all know this debate will not end if we turn it into one. Mr. Cotton and Siyanda all have good points and there are even more. I would have thought smith wiggleswoth would make it to this list coming home to my Africa pastor Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian church of God should make it too but it is not my article. Pamela weldone it was quite informative and encouraging.

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Mr A Cotton January 1, 2013 at 4:13 am

They are Pamela`s choice not mine,and i can`t do anything about it.
I would say it`s a bit like a football manager`s job. He has go t to pick a 11 player`s. The team selection gets printed in the paper,thats when people moan. What did he pick him for he`s useless. They win the game,and,through my experience nobody moans,regardless who the manager picked.
So i would say Pamela has picked her team to be the best. Pamela is the manager. The only way it would really get into a serious debate is to pick one,and then i would pull this guy to pieces. I am not like that,because i have respect for Pamela and her choice.

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Frank January 4, 2013 at 11:43 pm

It was my understanding that the founder of Methodism was
John Wesley not Whittfield.

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A. S. Mathew May 3, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Please don’t think that I am trying to be critical of your selection of influential Christians. If we are looking at them in the international influence, only four can be qualified:-
William Carey who was the father of the modern missionary movement, Billy Graham the international Minister with so great influence all over the world, Dwight L. Moody with international fame, likewise George Whitefield. The rest are quite known in a totally different level among the Christian community of the world.

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Jesus Sedon jr July 9, 2013 at 6:54 pm

I dO’nt think Jesus will acknowledge his servants this way, after all we’re all God’s servants and only God knows who’s great and whose not for only God can see our hearts. Undeniably these men had a great contribution to Christianity.

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Chimezie August 4, 2013 at 9:37 am

Good to have gotten folks commenting on a faith-based topic and not on ephemerals. However, the compiler could have done better. As America-centric as the list was, where is Kenneth Hagin, E W Bounds and Lester Sumrall. A list of christian leadership and influence that excludes Paul of Tarsus, Apostle Peter, John The Evangelist, St Augustine of Hippo, Josephus and Origen would not doing itself any service.

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Jack Wellman August 4, 2013 at 10:00 am

Hello Chimezie. Maybe you didn’t know that Josephus was NOT a Christian but a Jewish historian hired by Rome to record the antiguities of the Jews. Flavius Josephus fully defected to the Roman side and was granted Roman citizenship. He became an advisor and friend of Vespasian’s son Titus, serving as his translator when Titus led the Siege of Jerusalem, which resulted—when the Jewish revolt did not surrender—in the city’s destruction and the looting and destruction of Herod’s Temple (Second Temple). Therefore, he was not a Christian nor was he ever one to begin with.

As for Kenneth Hagin, he was a Word of Faith preacher. He claimed to be a prophet called by God Himself. Kenneth believed in the following beliefs: Christians are little gods. Jesus didn’t pay for our sins on the cross and he had to finish the job of atonement in hell. If Christians are not healthy and wealthy it is because of their lack of faith or knowledge. Christians have control over their lives by the words that they speak. If they speak sickness and poverty they will be sick and broke. Therefore, if a Christian speaks blessings and healing they will be healthy and have wealth. He may have been influential but influential in a bad way, according to the vast majority of Bible scholars, seminary professors and pastors.

So Josephus and Hagin obviously do not belong among the most influential unless you talk about their being a bad influence on Christianity…perhaps they could be among the most bad-influencing for Christianity.

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Chimezie August 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm

@ Wellman. I am really curious with authority on which your inferences are derived. You apparently have not taken cognizance of what it is to be influential. You surmised that Josephus was a persecutor but how come he is one of the most quoted and referenced authorities on the history of Christianity. Take away his treatise and chronological work on such momentous issue like the historical Jesus and you would left with a lacuna that would have affected the rise of Christianity. It is particularly instructive that Josephus’ accounts provided a corroborative perspective that further authenticated the accounts of the Bible. You may need to convince me why Josephus chose not to contradict the accounts of the Bible when he could have in all probability done so to appease his Roman masters as you were trying to make us believe. As for your protestations on Kenneth Hagin, I will try to put your assertions in perspective. I am a sort of an authority on Kenneth Hagin having perused over 40 books written by him. I am yet to come across the kind of picture you were trying to paint let alone learn that Hagin elicited the kind of widespread condemnation you were alluding to. Why do you adopt such negativity to such a fundamental like faith. Hagin did seminal work on faith:so did Apostle Paul and Martin Luther. If certain circles had doctrinal and theologically issues with Hagin, the likes of Billy Graham and most figures on the list also had respective areas of divergence. The foregoing hardly affected their standing. There should a better way to appreciate a God’s general with seventy-year field experience!

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Jack Wellman August 4, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Thank you again for your comment. I never said that Josephus was a persecutor of Christians but simply said that he was not a Christian as you said he was. I do not need to instruct anyone about Josephus not contradicting the Bible but Josephus did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, so isn’t that sufficient? He was not a Christian though and that is what I said and was correcting your statement about him being one of the most influential Christians in history. He was not but he was influential but not an influential Christian, which is what the article was about my friend. Right?

As for Hagin having well documented disputations with his ministry, you added “Billy Graham and most figures on the list also had respective areas of divergence” so please tell us what they were for I have not heard of such. Hagin’s teachings have been very controversial, both in charismatic/Pentecostal circles and in the wider evangelical community. He is considered by many to be (after E.W. Kenyon) a father of the “Word of Faith” and “Positive Confession” movements, which critics summarize as “name it and claim it.” Hagin put it differently: “Say it, Do it, Receive it, and Tell it.” Such teachings, critics said, subordinate God’s will to man’s, and lead to a prosperity theology that puts an emphasis on temporal wealth. Critics also assailed Hagin for his comment that “The believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.” Really!? We are as much of an incarnation as Jesus was? Where did Graham or the other men listed in this article ever state such blaspheme?

What you say, Word-Faith teachers claim, determines everything that happens to you. Your “confessions,” that is, the things you say — especially the favors you demand of God — must all be stated positively and without wavering. Then God is required to answer (Charismatic Chaos, p. 281). Word-Faith believers view their positive confessions as an incantation by which they can conjure up anything they desire: “Believe it in your heart; say it with your mouth. That is the principle of faith. You can have what you say” (Charismatic Chaos, p. 285).

In an early-1990s edition of his magazine, The Word of Faith, Hagin clearly delineated his heresy of “positive confession.” The article was entitled, “You Can Have What You Say”:

“Often you create your own negative situations yourself with wrong thinking, wrong believing, and wrong speaking. So start believing according to God’s Word. Then begin making positive confessions of faith and victory over your life. … You will never receive anything from God beyond the words you speak. … If you don’t like what you have in life, then begin to change the way you are thinking, believing, and speaking. Instead of speaking according to natural circumstances out of your head, learn to speak God’s Word from your spirit. Begin to confess God’s promises of life and health and victory into your situation. Then you can begin to enjoy God’s abundant life as you have what you say!”

This was not a slip of the tongue or some new doctrine. This is at the heart of the Positive Confession (PC) movement today, also known as the “name-it-and-claim-it” gospel. The Positive Confession movement is a charismatic form of Christian Science. This can be substantiated by simply comparing the similarities in their common beliefs. Positive Confession is basically warmed-over New Thought dressed in evangelical/charismatic language. (Other well-known PC’ers besides Hagin’s most successful protégé, Kenneth Copeland, are Charles Capps, Frederick K.C. Price, Robert Tilton, and David Yonggi Cho. Many of them are graduates of Hagin’s RHEMA Bible Training Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.). Since you said that you are “an authority” on Hagin, then you must know all this…all well documented, even from his own mouth. Where is your evidence on these other Christian men?

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Ricky May 21, 2014 at 8:21 am

Hi Brother,

I have viewed your website and some of the discussions following the articles with interest, and thank God for the biblical insight you have on there, for all to see. God bless you for that.

Just regarding the positive confession issue on Kenneth Hagin et al, I would just say that the emphasis is not on whatever words you may like to think up yourself and confess them. On the contrary, I repeatedly see that their belief is that you confess the Word and promises of God…you cannot really argue with that unless you are seeking to deny that “the Word of our God stands forever”, surely.

I think the main issue with your theological slant is that your biblical handing is excellent, but you seek to always limit the role of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts and the miraculous for today. I even heard one Brethren preacher say you cannot take teaching from the Book of Acts, which is heresy as far as I can see.

May God continue to bless and use you, and guide us all into deeper communion with Him through the Spirit of knowledge and revelation.

May December 10, 2013 at 9:19 am

Pope Francis, the pope of social justice.

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franklin December 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm

apostle paul,smith wrigglesworth,john.g.lake, should definitely be included and about ” the say it thing” negative words bring negative things the bible says in proverbs18:21& 1st peter3:10 says it also its in the SCRIPTURE also proverbs6:1,2,3 its scriptural to say that what u say could shape or life.

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Bakundukize Dieudonné January 4, 2014 at 8:20 am

I think that Reinhard Bonnke from Germany, is among the most influential christian leader of all time, because he has traveled the whole world, especially Africa in preaching the Gospel with power and miraculous healing. I love how he preaches the Gospel with boldness, clear examples, and a sense of humor. For me is among the greatest evangelists of all time

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Kelly January 30, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Thanks for your list Pamela. But I would include the Apostle Paul most certainly. How about Peter? And Thomas? (yes,
Thomas probably went all the way to India with the Gospel). A list of the most influential Christians of ALL TIME that doesn’t include Martin Luther, well I don’t know what to say. And I think there’s been a Pope or two (whatever you might think about Popes) that have have been quite influential as well (Pope Pius XII comes to mind). I think your list is a bit too restricted if you’re talking ‘global’ and for ‘all time’

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Erkki Anttila July 12, 2015 at 8:57 am

Today there are many persons who work hard around the Globe. I have been listening to some of these evagelists at Finland, Europe.

Perhaps You could publish a list of 100 or 500 or 1000, so I can find new websites?

Evangelists who have most influenced me here in Finland are:
– Peter Youngren
– Rodney Howard-Browne
– John Bevere
– Don Waldo
– Aik, from St. Petersburg
– Hanki, from Indonesia
– Suki, from indonesia
– Darrell Stott, from the USA
– Martti Ojares, from Finland, TV7 http://www.TV7.fi

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Sarah October 31, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Thank you for the list. As some did not realize, this is actually a list of strictly modern era leaders (of the last few hundred years) who impacted the world. I’d also strongly consider John Wesley and John Calvin. I think only Christian leaders with proven character should be on the list so I would delete Jesse Jackson, the political activist and adulterer. If it were a list of the 10 most influential Christian leaders of all time then St. Paul, who wrote a majority of the New Testament would have to top it.

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Elaine November 22, 2015 at 2:11 am

Saints: Paul, Peter, John, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and James

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Nette April 26, 2016 at 2:10 am

Thank you for this list and I know it’s quite a hard task to pick your top. I would like to mention Paul of Tarsus, St. Augustine, Martin Luther and John Calvin.

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MATTHEW HADLEY June 22, 2016 at 10:13 am

By far the greatest pastor/teacher today is Dr. John MacArthur.

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Jack Wellman June 22, 2016 at 11:01 am

Amen Matthew. Great choice sir.

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Martin Saavu November 16, 2016 at 10:07 pm

Most recent influential speaker. How about Dr. Myles Munroe from the Bahamas?

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Debbie Gowtham January 21, 2017 at 6:02 pm

Jesse Jackson? Like many of his contemporaries who claim the title Reverend…he’s actually an activist. I would never consider him a spiritual leader as in pastor…Bible teacher…theologian, etc.

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Michael Harris February 17, 2017 at 1:19 pm

You probably should have named the article the 10 Most Influential Mainstream Evangelical Christian Leaders of All Time, because it really is not representative of those who have had the most influence on the world. I think of the reformers, I think of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, I think of Mohammed, and Ghandi….whether you agree with their teachings or not, they certainly had much more influence on the shape of religion in this world that many you have named. I appreciate your list, but to tell you the truth half of them have never made it on my radar and I believe i have a fairly god sense of world religion.

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Jack Wellman February 17, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Thank you Mr. Harris. I suppose we could have called it “10 Most Biblical Christian Leaders of All Time” but yes, Joseph Smith and Mohammed had great influences, but not for good. One is a false prophet and the other the creator of Islam, but of course, not all Muslims are radical but Mohammed was brutal to anyone who claimed to be a Christian. It was never the other way around. If they never made it on your radar, you were at a different altitude perhaps, because these men were godly men who stood firm on the Word of God and that included praying for their enemies, doing good to those who hate them, and asking God to bless those who curse them (Matt 5). For certain, Jesus was the most influential Person in human history. So, yes, I see why the title could be changed and you make a valid point sir. Thank you Mr. Harris.

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Michael Maddox February 18, 2017 at 7:46 pm

Aimee Semple McPherson.

She came along at a time when rapid mechanization of both machine and the mind was replacing belief in God. The “isms” of communism Nazism and fascism were rapidly gaining momentum. Evolution was part of school curriculums. Religion fought back with esoteric movements led by gurus, prophets, messiahs and messengers. However, of all of these, only 1920-1940’s era Aimee Semple McPherson was able to demonstrate any type of journalist publicized miracles that astounded witnessing hard boiled reporters. These miracles were in the form of numerous faith healings. Not inventing a new religion, she attested to Jesus Christ yesterday, today and forever of old time Gospel Christianity. According to Daniel Mark Epstein, (Sister Aimee: The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson (Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1993), p. 111): “The healings present a monstrous obstacle to scientific historiography. If events transpired as newspapers, letters, and testimonials say they did, then Aimée Semple McPherson’s healing ministry was miraculous…”

Persons could deny a Jesus Christ who lived 2000 years ago as an invention of myth. Once people saw the miracles, McPherson was doing in His name, it became another issue for them altogether. Christianity became real again.

And yes, Hell was there all the same, yawning wide for the recalcitrant. However, rather than scare them away from that dark place as so many of her contemporaries were doing, she invited them to dine at the Saviours table, enjoying its bounty in the warmth and light. According to Biographer Matthew Avery Sutton, she was an important component in the Resurrection of American Christianity, rescuing it from the fire and brimstone caricature evangelical Christianity was fast becoming.

Her charities gave housing to the homeless, food to the hungry and jobs to the unemployed assisting perhaps as many as 1.5 million persons io the depth of the Great Depression recognized that while Jesus’s kingdom was a spiritual one, the Church should endeavor help people in physical need.

Indeed, scandals rocked her ministry, however, we have to ask how many of these were actually her fault. Modern scholarship suggests, for example, her much publicized 1926 kidnapping indeed happened; and its controversy the result of her advisories prodding an over zealous Los Angeles DA office to treat it as a fraud instead.

Sometimes it is one’s ideological enemies who can best tell the time. H.L. Mencken, not at all a friend of Christianity, did however have a keen sense of justice and said “Los Angeles will remember the testimony against her long after it forgets the testimony that cleared her.”

Or perhaps from Charles Lee Smith, president and founder of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism. Smith, who had previously debated fundamentalists John Roach Straton and William Bell Riley, added her to his list. Opening the debates, he said, “I have met the leading Fundamentalists of the nation … and I am frank to admit to you that Aimee Semple McPherson is the greatest defender today of the Bible and Christianity…. She has an extraordinary mind,” he added, “particularly for a woman.”

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Jack Wellman February 18, 2017 at 8:07 pm

Thank you Mr. Moaddox, but please understand that there are large problems with Mrs. McPherson. In the first place, the Foursquare Church, officially known as International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, is a Protestant denomination founded by Aimee Semple McPherson in the 1920s and it derives its name from what McPherson called the “Foursquare Gospel: Jesus is the Savior, Jesus is the Healer, Jesus is the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is the Soon-Coming King, but what is troubling about Foursquare’s Declaration of Faith is it begins with “We believe that the Holy Bible is the Word of the living God; true, immutable, steadfast, unchangeable, as its author, the Lord Jehovah; that it was written by holy men of old as they were moved upon and inspired by the Holy Spirit.” This Declaration, penned by Aimee Semple McPherson, contains twenty-two sections including, to mention just a few, “The Eternal Godhead,” “Salvation Through Grace,” “Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” “Divine Healing,” and “Tithing and Offerings.” Virtually every belief and statement on the church’s web site contains a scriptural reference supporting it.

However, there are concerns with some of the beliefs of the Foursquare Church that do not line up with Scripture. According to their Creedal Statements and Declaration of Faith, they believe in “the free moral will power of man, who can backslide, apostatize, and be lost,” which is a rejection of the biblical doctrine of eternal security. The Bible clearly teaches that a true believer cannot lose his/her salvation or apostatize (John 10:28–29; Romans 8:30; 1 John 2:19).

They also believe in “Divine Healing through the atonement,” which would disagree with the understanding that, while spiritual healing is in the atonement, physical healing does not necessarily occur until the glorified state. Isaiah 53:5, which is then quoted in 1 Peter 2:24, is a key verse on healing, but it is often misunderstood and misapplied. The context of 1 Peter 2 makes it clear that Peter is speaking of spiritual healing. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). The verse is talking about sin and righteousness, not sickness and disease. Therefore, being “healed” in both these verses is speaking of being forgiven and saved, not physically healed.

Further, the Foursquare Church believes “in the personal Baptism of the Holy Ghost as received by the apostles,” which, as explained elsewhere on their website, means that they believe the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a “second blessing” subsequent to salvation. Along with this, they believe that all of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit are active in the church today. The majority of biblical evidence supports the indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon salvation, and while there are subsequent “fillings” of the Spirit throughout a believer’s life, there is only one baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that occurs at salvation, therefore Mrs. McPherson does not belong in this list because she is nowhere near having a top-10 impact, unless you are talking about problematic Christianity in the 20th century.

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Michael Maddox February 19, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Thank you for your quick reply. Yes , the Reverend Robert P. Shuler published a pamphlet entitled McPhersonism, which purported that Aimee Semple McPherson’s “most spectacular and advertised program [faith healing] was out of harmony with God’s word.” intriguingly, in later years Shuler’s stance against McPherson softened, even speaking at the Angelus Temple. His son was supported in his ministry by the Foursquare gospel Church. The scripture issues that you bring up are multi- interpretative. Since they do not tamper with the Salvation message, the Bodily Resurrection of Christ, Virgin Birth, his Divinity and other aspects that define the fundamentals of being a Christian, they are just part of the opinionated fruit salad diversity that is Christianity.

Pentecostals and other charismatic denominations maintain that miracles shall continue until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. McPherson’s results tend to support this as they were sustained over time with many thousands of testimonials and supported by news articles, even requiring the Los Angeles are hospitals to hold back in reserve ambulances on McPherson’s “stretcher day, ” where the worst cases were taken to her parsonage for healing prayer when she offered it a few times a year. Nevertheless, in his 1934 debate with Aimee Semple McPherson, Ben M. Bogard said miracles and divine healing, as taught and manifested in the Word of God, ceased with the closing of the apostolic age (which was around the year A.D. 70), after which overt miracles were no longer performed on earth.

Numerous historical examples exist though, of Christian missionaries performing miracles afterwards that led to the conversion of unbelievers. For example, Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson (935-986?) was chronicled by Widukind of Corvey, writing during his lifetime, that Harald was converted by a “cleric by the name of Poppa” who, when asked by Harald to prove his faith in Christ, carried a “great weight” of iron heated by a fire without being burned.

While these stories are hard to co-corroborate because of antiquity, there exists later stories, most notably Joan of Arc(1412-1431) whose “God” adventures are well documented, written and related by the people who rode with her as well as extensive court documents.

Or perhaps Padre Pio investigated extensively by two popes, so remarkable were his miracles people who did not know him were skeptical. Many divine healings were attributed to him as well. Some of these included bi-location and levitation. He was best known for his stigmata, wounds appearing on his hands suggesting the Crucifixion of Christ. After death his wounds healed completely. Many conversions to Christ are attributed to him.

Graham Greene, English novelist (1904-1991) regarded by some as one of the great writers of the 20th century, attended one of the Padre’s masses but declined to meet him personally, as at the time he was carrying on in an illicit affair “I didn’t want to change life by meeting a saint. I felt that there was a good chance that he was one.”

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Jack Wellman February 19, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Thank you sir. Yes, God is still doing miracles but it is never by the person, rather by God’s power, but when God deems to do so and not at the whim of anyone. Many of these “miracles” done by McPherson were found out to be frauds, but again, this lady does not belong in a list of the top 10 most influential Christian leaders. Perhaps she could be in the top 10 of the most controversial ones. Focusing on Christ and being His disciple supersedes anything else.

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Michael Maddox March 26, 2017 at 11:33 am

Yes, there is Arno Clemens Gaebelein, ie The Healing Question, who writes of failed healings, though it is not clear he understands what divine healing actually is. Clearly not all prayers to God are answered as we would like them to be neither are all divine healings manifest unless by the command of Jesus Christ whom Mrs. McPherson gave all credit to. This could hardly be called fraud in the sense of a deliberate deception as the word implies. Biographer Daniel Mark Epstein was looking for such fraud in the instance of Aimee Semple McPherson but found none. Epstein ‘s interview:

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1993-04-26/features/1993116164_1_semple-mcpherson-aimee-semple-sister-aimee

“There is no doubt in my mind,” he says “that this was a great and courageous woman, whose religious inspiration was totally authentic. I tried to find some evidence in the voluminous newspaper accounts of her healings, of fraud. There is none. Instead I found hundreds of pages of newspaper documentation of reporters who were overwhelmed by what they saw at the healing services. The famous phrase used back then was ‘those who came to scoff stayed to pray.’ ”

The gypsies (Romani) were an unreached ethnic group inside the United States since the late 1800’s. Two biographers of McPherson, Epstein and Edith Waldvogel Blumhofer both write of this; and as a result of divine healing of a Romani tribe chief and his mother; Romani by the thousands came to Mrs. McPherson, and were brought to Christ. With a reputation for cunning and slight of hand, the presence of so many converted Romani as the result of her faith healings; are a tsunami of proof attesting to genuineness of her divine healing ministry.

Billy Sunday, (1862 – 1935) who visited with Mrs. McPherson at her parsonage; and Uldine Ultey a convert of McPherson, were said in 1927 by the New York Times as the most influential revivalists of that time period. Ultey(1912–1995), in turn converted Dr John Sung (1901–1944), eventually returned to China and became a significant evangelist, leading perhaps as many as 100,000 Chinese to Jesus Christ in three years, laying the foundation for today’s huge Christian population there.

In other news, in an upcoming post, another candidate for the list: Jack T. Chick.

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Believer April 15, 2017 at 6:24 am

“1 In that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”
2 Jesus called a little child to himself, and set him in their midst,
3 and said, “Most certainly I tell you, unless you turn, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
4 Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
5 Whoever receives one such little child in my name receives me,”

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Jikky Renji January 9, 2018 at 11:36 pm

Perfect quote….the right answer to all the questions ……

why look for the greatest in the list, when God wants us as meek and childlike….

Judging others by their acts is not for us to do….Let God be the final judge

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George Varkey July 19, 2017 at 10:22 am

You can add one more great man to the list. Mr. Charles (Chuck) Swindoll may be one of the few authentic Christian preachers alive today.

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Jack Wellman July 19, 2017 at 11:00 am

Very good sir. I agree.

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Faith Hope November 25, 2017 at 7:49 am

This list implies that the 10 greatest Christian leaders of all time other than Jesus all lived after the 1600s. I suggest Ms. Williams provide an explanation for why her opinion is thus. Until then, this webpage would more appropriately be titled 10 greatest Christian leaders after 1700. I also find it interesting that she included Jesus in the discussion but chose her list to the exclusion of other persons by whose leadership Christianity obviously would have not be what it became– not only Paul/Saul of Tarsus (as mentioned above), but also James (leader of the church of Jerusalem) and Peter.

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John Arno December 5, 2017 at 10:08 pm

No such list is complete without the Apostles and more recently, Ravi Zacharias, president and founder of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

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pat harrison January 15, 2018 at 4:22 pm

Please take Jesse Jackson OFF the list !!!! He is NOT worthy !!!!!

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Calvin Cosnahan March 1, 2018 at 10:32 am

As a matter of correction:

John Wesley, not George Whitefield, is known as the founder of
Methodism.

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Jack Wellman March 1, 2018 at 10:36 am

Thank you for your comment Mr. Cosnahan but the fact is Wesley was invited to join the evangelism ministry of George Whitefield (1714-1770), a fellow preacher and minister in the Church of England. Whitefield, also one of the leaders of the Methodist movement, is believed by some to have had more of an influence on the founding of Methodism than John Wesley. Whitefield, famous for his part in the Great Awakening movement in America, also preached outdoors, something unheard of at the time. But as a follower of John Calvin, Whitefield parted ways with Wesley over the doctrine of predestination, so Whitefield and not Wesley may have indeed been more influential in the “movement of Methodism” than Wesley was. It does not say Whitefield was the founder of Methodism.

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jason March 30, 2018 at 10:41 am

Dear sir,
you have missed D.G.S Dhinakaran of India

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Jack Wellman March 30, 2018 at 11:47 am

Thank you. Yes, Jason, but we were limited to only 10.

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Brother Larry April 9, 2018 at 5:33 am

Thank you for your article. Your original list is inspiring. I may not know all of them; this gave me an opportunity to think of how Great our GOD is, and how wonderfully HE used the vessels mentioned in the list. I observed how many others were inspired to share their view points; and as shooting the messenger is not the way to say thank you, neither instigating debate over the right or wrong-ness of the ‘initial list’; I must say that many more great believers were brought to light and are worthy of mention. Great Job! Thank you again! Peace and Joy to you, in Jesus’ Name.

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Sherman October 24, 2018 at 10:13 pm

How could you leave off Pastor/Teacher Chuck Smith?

Kathryn Kuhlman?

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Jack Wellman October 25, 2018 at 8:34 am

Because they are not known by most. I’ve been in the ministry for 40 years and never even heard of them. Sorry but they might be influential in your life but not of all time.

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