Now when the Pharisees gathered to [Jesus], with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches). 

And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them,“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” (Mark 7:1-9)

Worshiping The Way They Want To By Making God Be Who They Want Him To Be

As I monitor the rapid apostatizing of mainstream evangelicalism, and document it here at Apprising Ministries,  I’ve told you that a major root cause for all of this has been evangelicalism never fully repented of its inherent humanism. That’s an important reason why it so quickly embraced the Church Growth Movement (CGM).

By humanism I’m referring to the propensity to turn the Gospel backward until it’s about man instead of Christ. One highly influential arm of the man-centered CGM, vomited out of the spiritual cesspool Fuller Theological Seminary by the late 1960’s, is the Seeker Driven/Purpose Driven movement a la Bill Hybels and Rick Warren.

The other has been the sinfully ecumenical neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church operating within the now upgraded Emerging Church 2.0. This movement was pioneered by the EC trinity of apostates, Living Spiritual Teacher and EC guru Brian McLaren, universalist pastor Doug Pagitt, and his friend Dr. Tony Jones,

You need to know that the former has remained in the forefront of apostasy. It’s done so by morphing now into a hybrid theology as “vision-casting” SD/PD multi-site megachurch prophet pastors like Craig Groeschel, whom Steven Furtick claims as his pastor, are embracing the Word Faith leaders like T.D. Jakes and Joel Osteen.

After attacking sola Scriptura and leaving its lasting legacy of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM), the later would prove to become largely irrelevant after developing its newer, more clearly delineated, postmodern Progressive Christian theology—a Liberalism 2.0—known as “big tent” Emergence Christianity.

That’s why in the list to follow you’ll not see any of these Emergent vipers on it. However, they bear much responsibility for the continuing drift away from the authority of Holy Scripture; particularly within the younger sectors of evangelicalism. Indeed,  we are witnessing a sad state of affairs today in the visible Christian church.

Particularly in America where we see so many of its influential evangelical leaders have now erected a “thing,” what Jesus called tradition in our opening text; i.e. an idol they have named evangelicalism. And the American church is hardly alone in her spiritual idolatry as we are now witnessing a world-wide spread of apostasy.

However, the true child of God recognizes that this idol of evangelicalism is really not the Christianity of the New Testament. Now you’re in the proper vantage point upon the battlefield in order to better discern just how sad a list of cult of celebrity evangelicals you’re about to witness. Maybe not all; but certainly most to follow.

First, let me introduce you to Thom Rainer, who compiled this list. Rainer:

is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. (source)

If you didn’t know, Lifeway comprises the official publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. The fact is, Thom Rainer happens to be very respected within mainstream evangelicalism well beyond the SBC; and so, he’s in a very good position to compile such a list by accessing some real evangelical heavyweights.

Rainer begins by informing us that he:

conducted an informal survey of over 30 persons, simply asking them to name the most influential evangelicals in America today. Though my choice of the respondents was subjective, I do have confidence that the men and women who gave me these names are very knowledgeable about the evangelical scene in the United States.

The respondents represent a cross section of denominational and non-denominational churches and entities. From my perspective, those I surveyed are clearly evangelicals themselves. Among the criteria I gave them, I included the following:

  • Limit the responses to Americans.
  • The names must represent living persons.
  • Name at least eight persons.
  • Only include evangelicals. I did not define “evangelical.”
  • Think “influential” rather than just those with whom you agree.

The problem with any list such as this one is the names you omit. Many well-known evangelicals did not make this top twenty list. I realize that another list done by another person would likely yield some different names. (source)

We wouldn’t quibble about his last statements; however, being the high profile personality Thom Rainer is, he would have access to many other well-respected, and very knowledgeable, mainstream evangelical leaders. As I leave you to peruse Rainer’s list in full at his site, I am only going to make a couple of quick comments.

I already mentioned that lack of people associated with the Emerging Church. Now, we do see major SD/PD leaders Bill Hybels and Rick Warren along with Craig Groeschel and Andy Stanley. What you may not know is at the launch of the EC both Groeschel and Stanley were approached by Doug Pagitt to attend meetings.

Warren was also instrumental in lending bis support to the early EC while Groeschel and Stanley shied away; at least publicly. What all have in common is the practice of charismania and possibly even CSM.1 On the list are a couple of important mentors of the openly charismatic New Calvinism in John Piper and Tim Keller.2

Matt Chandler, president of Acts 29 Network, along with Louis Giglio and his Passion youth movement also hold much sway with this young, restless and reformed camp as well.3 In addition we find hyper-charismatic quasi-elder Beth Moore and her friend and CSM proponent Pricilla Shirer, as well as her dad Tony Evans.

Lastly, I draw to your attention hyper-charismatic Word Faith prosperity preachers T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, and Joel Osteen. As I warned recently in On Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism and Charismania, mainstream evangelicalism has already embraced CSM and is now even beginning to succumb to hyper-charismatic excesses.4

As you think about how the world perceives the 20 most influential evangelicals on Rainer’s list, consider the following words from Charles Spurgeon, an early precursor of today’s megachurch pastors. A man who fought the liberals of his day and never compromised the Gospel one iota in order to curry favor with unbelievers.

For this is the future of the faithful Christian today who dares to stand against sinful ecumenicists masquerading as evangelicals and to boldly proclaim the evangel (good news, the Gospel) of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone of the Cross:

[M]ay we [not] forget that we endure a second set of tribulation because we are Christians. Ishmael was not mocked, but Isaac was, for he was born after the promise. Esau’s posterity never suffered bondage in Egypt, but Israel must be trained by hard service.

Persecution is for the righteous, wicked men are in honor among their ungodly associates. Slander shoots her poisoned arrows, not at the vicious, but at the virtuous. Birds do not peck at sour fruit, but they wage war upon the sweet and ripe. Holy men must expect to be misrepresented, misinterpreted and often willfully maligned—while hypocrites have their reward in undeserved homage.

Carry what load you choose upon your shoulders and no one will notice it unless, indeed, they obey the good old rule and “respect the burden.” But if you take up Christ’s Cross and bravely bear it, few will respect the burden, or praise the bearer! Graceless men will add weight to your load, for the offense of the Cross has not ceased.

The seed of the serpent still has enmity against the Seed of the woman, and one and another will commence biting at the heel which treads the sacred way of Christ. It is the nature of the wicked to hate the righteous, even as the wolf rages against the sheep. This world cannot be the friend of the friend of God unless, indeed, Belial can have concord with Christ—and this we know is impossible! In one form or another, the Egyptian will oppress the Israelite till the day of the bringing out with a high hand and an outstretched arm.

If today the enmity is restrained in its manifestation, it is because the law of the land, by the good Providence of God, does not now allow the rack, the stake, or the dungeon. Our Lord said to His first disciples, “In the world you shall have tribulation,” and He explained it to mean that men would put them out of the synagogues.

Yes, that the time would come when those that killed them would think that they did God service! Tribulation of that sort remains up to the measure in which it is not hindered by Divine Power. The spirit out of which it sprang cannot die till men are renewed. A man’s foes are still they of his own household. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (source)

Further reading


  1. Consider e.g. John Piper, Rick Warren, & Foster-Willardism.
  2. We do know that New Calvinism both encourages CSM and is charismatic e.g. Tim Keller and Contemplative Spirituality and Mark Driscoll and Neo-Calvinist Contemplative Spirituality and Acts 29 Pastor Matt Chandler on being a Reformed Charismatic.
  3. I show you how the enemy is using youth movements to bring about a false unity e.g. Francis Chan Declares, “I love Mike Bickle of IHOP.
  4. Take for example Word Faith Heretic Cindy Trimm Receives Award from Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Prophet-Pastor Craig Groeschel and an Evangelical Gangsta’s Paradise and Steven Furtick Thanks Word Faith Heretic Joel Osteen for Inspiration.