Ministry Today | Serving and empowering church leaders

Top 20 Influencers

How 20 of today's most prominent leaders are changing the face of the Pentecostal/charismatic community.
A number of well-known faces have graced the covers and editorial pages of Ministries Today in the last 20 years. Where would the church be today without the influence of these spiritual giants? Leaders such as Oral Roberts, David du Plessis, C.M. Ward, Judson Cornwall and Jamie Buckingham impacted not only the Pentecostal/charismatic community, but also the world.

So as the editors of Ministries Today prepared to celebrate our publication's 20th anniversary, we thought we would take you on an insightful journey to examine the movers and shakers who are influencing the Pentecostal/charismatic church in today's postmodern era.

There are, of course, so many great leaders it's next to impossible to narrow it down to just a few. Some of our picks might surprise you--not all of them are charismatic. But all of them are impacting charismatic circles in extraordinary ways. There is no arguing that the following 20 leaders have inspired us, challenged us and in many ways caused us to rethink what it means to "do church" in today's culture.

T.D. Jakes

He's considered a ministry phenomenon. Bishop T.D. Jakes--pastor of the 26,000-member Potter's House Church in Dallas--not only oversees one of the largest churches in the United States, but he also is a best-selling author and celebrated TV preacher known for his savvy soul-winning.

But don't let his accomplishments fool you. This one-time ditch digger-turned galvanizing preacher has had his share of hardships and disappointments. Maybe that's why his signature message, Woman, Thou Art Loosed! has helped millions of people find inner healing and freedom in Jesus Christ. And though his cutting-edge ministry landed him on the September 17, 2001, cover of Time magazine--the headline of which positioned him as "the next Billy Graham"--it's his sheer love for the gospel that has pointed millions to the Savior.

John C. Maxwell

John C. Maxwell is a sought-after motivational speaker and one of the most highly respected voices on leadership development in the church today. The author of more than 25 books, many of which have become best sellers, Maxwell's influence bridges denominational barriers. His books 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Becoming a Person of Influence, The Success Journey and The Winning Attitude help godly men and women become effective leaders.

Early in his ministry, Maxwell used his unique abilities to help grow churches in the Wesleyan movement. In 1981, he became the pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego. In 1995, he resigned from a successful pastorate at the church to devote his energy and expertise to a company he founded called The INJOY Group. Speaking to large ministries and Fortune 500 companies, this leadership guru is determined to make a difference in the lives of leaders.

Stormie Omartian

Her name is synonymous with prayer. Stormie Omartian has called a nation to its knees by influencing everyone to pray. Her book The Power of a Praying Wife was No. 1 on the Christian best-seller's nonfiction paperback list for more than six months. The Power of a Praying Husband and The Power of a Praying Parent have been Nos. 2 and 3 respectively, according to her ministry, and rightfully so.

Omartian's disarming honesty and powerful messages were birthed out of a turbulent childhood scathed by emotional and physical abuse. With her Miss America looks, this well-known speaker and author is using her troubled past to help generations of people move beyond a bitter life to a better life saturated in prayer.

Joyce Meyer

No one ever could have imagined that an unassuming housewife from St. Louis would one day become one of Christendom's leading Bible teachers. Noted speaker and author Joyce Meyer couldn't even have predicted her own success.

Meyer came on the scene in 1980 when she resigned an associate pastorate at Life Christian Center in St. Louis, Missouri, to focus full time on her Life in the Word ministry. According to the ministry, her TV program is available to approximately 1 billion viewers. She is the author of 52 books, and thousands of people flock to her conferences.

With a radio program that airs on 300 stations, a new ministry headquarters and literally tons of audio and video messages, Meyer continues to enlighten people with the truth from God's Word in a humorous, down-to-earth style that has caused her to be one of the most beloved speakers around the world.

Beth Moore

She is considered by many to be the most influential woman minister in America today. Beth Moore's in-depth teaching of God's Word coupled with her quick-wit delivery has endeared literally millions to her. Everyone from staunch Baptists and Methodists to Pentecostals and charismatics flock to huge venues to hear the spiritual truths spoken by the 45-year-old former Sunday school teacher.

A best-selling author and member of First Baptist Church of Houston, Moore uses anecdotes and testimonies from her own life to help set people free from bondages that keep them from experiencing lifelong freedom in Jesus Christ.

Kenneth Hagin Sr.

For decades Kenneth Hagin Sr., the forerunner of the Word-Faith movement, has taught millions of people to believe God for supernatural healing and blessings.

In the early years of his ministry, he traveled extensively throughout the United States and abroad conducting Holy Ghost services and healing crusades. When he wasn't on the road winning souls to Christ, he was running his popular Campmeeting, which still draws huge crowds to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In 1974, Hagin put his own faith into action when he started the Rhema Bible Training Center, which has more than 21,000 graduates worldwide. His teachings have influenced many of today's well-known leaders. At 85, "Dad Hagin," as he is affectionately known, is still preaching strong as he challenges believers around the globe to live by faith.

Rick Warren

Rick Warren may be a Southern Baptist preacher, but that hasn't stopped charismatic pastors from putting their denominational differences aside to attend Warren's popular events that focus on growing healthy, purposeful churches. Pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, California, Warren is the author of The Purpose Driven Church, which has sold more than a million copies since its release in 1995.

More than 10,000 churches in 83 countries have adopted his purpose-driven church model, and more than 175,000 church leaders have been trained through conferences, DVD, satellite and the Internet, according to his ministry. Warren recently published another book titled The Purpose Driven Life, which is designed to help readers discover their purpose and ultimately their God-given destinies.

Tommy Barnett

Tommy Barnett and his son Matthew shared a dream of one day opening a church where hurting people could find help for their wounded souls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It wasn't long before Tommy and later Matthew watched their vision, the Dream Center, become a reality.

Cutting-edge ministry isn't new to Tommy Barnett, however. He's known worldwide for his innovative approach to winning souls. Pastor of Phoenix First Assembly of God in Arizona, Barnett preaches to some 14,000 churchgoers weekly, and his church offers more than 200 outreaches to those in need.

Barnett's Master's Commission, a ministerial training program, equips thousands of people for ministry and is modeled across the country just as the Dream Center is. Though he has a knack for growing huge churches, Tommy Barnett's real heartbeat is seeing hurting people find refuge in Jesus Christ.

Jack Hayford

A true scholar and theologian, Jack Hayford, founding pastor of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California, is probably the most respected leader in Pentecostal/ charismatic circles today.

As the author of numerous books, including Living the Spirit Formed Life and general editor of the Spirit Filled Life Bible, he is looked to for guidance and mentoring among pastors and leaders worldwide. His balanced, scholarly approach to biblical truth and application from a Pentecostal perspective has had a profound influence on the Pentecostal/charismatic movement in this generation.

In addition to his numerous books, including The Leading Edge (published by Charisma House), Hayford is a senior editorial adviser for Ministries Today magazine.

In keeping with his vision and ministry thrust, Hayford founded The King's College and Seminary, where ministry students receive accredited educational training and pastoral nurturing. As an instructor and mentor to leaders who attend his School of Pastoral Nurture and annual Autumn Leadership Conference, he stresses the need for integrity in daily living, marriage and family, and ministry.

Andy Stanley

He may be the son of one of the most well-known, prolific Bible teachers in the country, but this Dallas Theological Seminary graduate is earning his own keep in the body of Christ. Andy Stanley, son of Charles Stanley and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, is making his presence known not only among evangelicals, but also among charismatics who have embraced his creative approach to reaching young people and the unchurched.

Founder and pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, not far from Atlanta, Stanley is a popular speaker and has written several books, including Visioneering: God's Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Personal Vision and The Seven Checkpoints: Seven Principles Every Teenager Needs to Know among others. This innovative young preacher challenges leaders to push the envelope and to be creative in the way we "do church" in this generation.

Jamal-Harrison Bryant

Jamal-Harrison Bryant is making waves in the African American Episcopal (AME) Church and beyond. It's not just because of his Pentecostal leanings or because the ministry he leads, The Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore, mushroomed from 43 members to more than 5,000 in two years. What really keeps people talking about this 31-year-old former high school dropout is the fact that his congregation is made up mostly of 18- to 40-year-olds.

Postmodern from an African American perspective, Bryant heads an empowerment machine with a stated mission to empower the world educationally, politically, economically, spiritually and culturally. Majoring on relevance, Empowerment Temple hosts mime, hip-hop, poetry and drama ministries, and Bryant is working to open a chain of black-owned and -operated gas stations in a project known as Power Gas.

Though the church meets in an auditorium at Coppin State College, a building project is under way, with plans for a school and community center. Whether planning voter-registration drives or teaching financial planning, Bryant is a dynamic preacher who casts a clear vision that will likely keep people talking for many years to come.

Loren Cunningham

It is impossible to hear the word "missions" without thinking of Loren Cunningham. More than 42 years ago he founded Youth With a Mission (YWAM), the well-known organization that trains men and women to be missionaries in countries throughout the world. He started the ministry in 1960 with one goal in mind: "to know Him and to make Him known."

The organization now has some 12,000 volunteers who are based in more than 135 countries, according to ministry statistics. Missionaries take the gospel to places as far away as Papua New Guinea. Although he no longer serves as president of the organization, Cunningham, now 67, is still making disciples of people through books, missions trips and ministry events. He's hoping to encourage everyone he can to tell a dying world about a living Savior.

Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard's New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has come a long way since he started it in his basement in 1985. Today the 8,700-member congregation has some 700 small groups, and Haggard's cell-group concept--commonly known as free-market groups, which he explains in his book Dog Training, Fly Fishing, & Sharing Christ in the 21st Century--has revolutionized the way churches around the country approach ministry.

Haggard is not only known for his small-group model, however. In 1998 he oversaw the completion of the World Prayer Center, which focuses on strategic evangelistic prayer to impact the nations and is located on the church campus. He speaks around the world and is a prolific writer. Known for his straightforward, practical advice in books such as Primary Purpose: Making It Hard for People to Go to Hell From Your City, Haggard has prompted pastors to join in the spirit of unity to win their cities to Christ.

Eddie L. Long

Bishop Eddie L. Long became the pastor of a staunch Missionary Baptist church in Georgia in 1987, but it wasn't long before he bucked tradition to embrace the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Through the years, he has influenced a multitude of Baptists to live the Spirit-filled life.

Today, Long is pastor of New Birth Cathedral, a 25,000-member church located in the suburbs of Atlanta. Leading a 21st-century megachurch, Long and his wife, Vanessa, are reclaiming cities with an international TV program and dozens of ministries that cater to people from both affluent and poverty-stricken neighborhoods. With a 10,000-seat state-of-the-art facility and a timely word for the body of Christ, Long is using every resource available to take the message of Jesus to the nations.

C. Peter Wagner

C. Peter Wagner is one of today's most noted theologians and respected leaders in the prayer and spiritual warfare movement. Through his teachings and popular books, he has armed countless pastors and leaders with spiritual weapons necessary to overcome strongholds in their cities. He has impacted the church worldwide through his apostolic network of leaders and teaching on the New Apostolic Reformation.

His books, including Praying With Power, Breaking Strongholds in Your City and Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, help to produce stronger believers and more effective churches in the United States and abroad. Having served as a missionary to Bolivia for 16 years and a seminary instructor for 30 years, Wagner uses his knowledge to train and equip Christians to take their communities and ultimately their cities and states for Christ.

Jim Cymbala

His book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire and his church's famous choir have had a profound impact on Christians throughout the body of Christ. But long before a best-selling book and an award-winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir were on the radar screen, Jim Cymbala and his wife, Carol, made the choice to stay faithful to God's call in the midst of ministry challenges.

It was 1971 when the couple assumed leadership of the dilapidated inner-city church in Brooklyn, New York--a congregation of about 20--but today the fast-growing church is influencing people around the world and was even featured in a recent issue of Time magazine. The racially diverse church is a model of multicultural ministry.

Bill McCartney

Former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney made great strides as he led his team to victory through the years. But when he retired from coaching in 1995, he used that same zeal to form Promise Keepers. What started as a huge men's gathering quickly spawned into a men's mega-movement impacting the nation.

McCartney used his national platform to challenge the church to repent for racism. His call for unity prompted Christians across the nation to address the sensitive issue. His ministry to men and his model of racial unity are still being duplicated today.

John Bevere

His voice calls Christians back to holiness and commitment, and is being heard loud and clear. John Bevere, husband of popular speaker and author Lisa Bevere, travels the country preaching and teaching. But the father of four has also gained recognition as a respected author.

His book The Bait of Satan (Charisma House) has sold more than 305,000 copies since its release in 1994. Other books, including The Fear of the Lord, have been printed in Hindi and Tamil and distributed to pastors in India. Bevere's message of no compromise, integrity and adherence to biblical truth is leaving an indelible impression on the body of Christ and is much-needed in the Pentecostal/charismatic church today.

Tommy Tenney

When an Alexandria, Louisiana, resident named Tommy Tenney called the church to chase after God in his successful book The God Chasers, countless Christians went running to Him. More than 1.6 million copies of the best-selling book have been purchased since its release in 1998. Tenney's encounter with the glory of God prompted a new wave of renewal that is burning in many churches today.

But though his ministry has quickly burgeoned to global proportions, Tenney's underlying message has remained the same: Pursue God with a life that reflects holiness, repentance and a willingness to submit to God's purposes and the Holy Spirit's prompting.

Joel Osteen

It could be said that Joel Osteen pastors the largest church in the United States--the 30,000-member Lakewood Church in Houston. Although he assumed leadership after his father, John Osteen, died of a heart attack in 1999, Joel is holding his own as an innovative pastor.

The racially diverse church offers every outreach ministry imaginable. Joel's down-to-earth demeanor and conversational delivery of the Word of God and message of faith have sent multitudes his way. He is one of the most prominent--and innovative--"rising stars" in today's charismatic movement.

Valerie G. Lowe is an associate editor for Ministries Today and Charisma magazines.

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