Baylor University’s Truett Seminary Announces 12 Most Effective Preachers in English-Speaking World

Most Effective Preachers 2018 graphic
Graphic by Brooke Battersby, Baylor University
May 1, 2018

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WACO (May 1, 2018) — The 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world have been identified in a survey by the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Scholars of homiletics made the selections from nearly 800 nominees.

The preachers were chosen based on how well their preaching represented seven criteria determined by members of the Evangelical Homiletics Society (EHS) and the Academy of Homiletics (AoH), composed of homiletics professors.

(WATCH: Truett Seminary announces 12 Most Effective Preachers from survey, May 1, 2018)

It has been more than two decades since the 1996 Baylor University survey to identify the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world. In 2016, the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching sent the 1996 criteria to hundreds of professors of homiletics for their input on criteria for the new survey. After a survey establishing the criteria, members of both homiletics societies were asked to nominate as many as five preachers who demonstrate the criteria in their preaching.

Those casting votes in the survey numbered 179 — more than 30 percent of the approximately 500 members of the EHS and AoH. Results were chosen from 39 individuals who received the largest number of nominations.

Four of the preachers selected in the 1996 survey also were chosen in the new one. The most effective preachers, listed in alphabetical order, are:

  • Dr. Alistair Begg, senior pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, a position he has held since 1983. He is also the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, is heard on the radio and read online around the world. Begg is a Council member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. For “outstanding dedication to preaching, church leadership, and evangelism,” Cedarville University’s Westminster Theological Seminary bestowed Begg as an honorary Doctor of Divinity. In addition to Begg’s pastorate and preaching, he has written numerous books.
  • Dr. Tony Evans,founding pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas. The church began with 10 members meeting in his home in 1976 and has grown to a membership nearing 10,000. Evans is the first African-American to earn a doctorate in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary and has taught classes at DTS. Evans is a pastor, speaker, author, radio and television broadcaster, and he has been the chaplain for 30 years for the NBA basketball team the Dallas Mavericks.
  • Dr. Joel C. Gregory, holder of the George W. Truett Endowed Chair in Preaching and Evangelism at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He recently was recognized by Baylor and his peers for his 50th preaching anniversary. He brought the concluding message at the Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa, in summer 2017. He serves on the Baptist World Alliance Commission on Worship and Spirituality. In that connection and with Baylor University Press, he edited and was lead author of Baptist Preaching: A Global Anthology.
  • Dr. Timothy Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York. Keller is also the Chairman of Redeemer City to City, which starts new churches in urban cities worldwide. Christianity Today has said, “Fifty years from now, if evangelical Christians are widely known for their love of cities, their commitment to mercy and justice and their love of their neighbors, Tim Keller will be remembered as a pioneer of the new urban Christians.” Keller has authored several books, with a few making The New York Times bestsellers list.
  • Dr. Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching and Director of the Early Career Pastoral Leadership Program at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia. His introductory textbook, The Witness of Preaching, has been translated into several languages and is widely used in theological schools around the world. In 2010, Preaching magazine named The Witness of Preaching one of the 25 most influential books in preaching for the last 25 years. Long gave the distinguished Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale, published in his 2009 book “Preaching from Memory to Hope.” He was named one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world by Baylor University’s 1996 survey.
  • Dr. Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois. He is a preacher, activist, author, and filmmaker. Moss is an ordained minister in the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the United Church of Christ. He is on the board of The Christian Century Magazine and chaplain of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor Child Advocacy Conference. Moss has written numerous poems, articles and books. His work has also been featured in the Huffington Post, Urban Cusp and The Root.

  • Dr. John Piper, chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Piper is a pastor, author, and leader the website desiringGod.org. He served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis for 33 years and has authored more than 50 books, many of them best sellers and award winners. Piper has made most of his books freely accessible through his online ministry.
  • The late Dr. Haddon Robinson, the Harold John Ockenga Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston. Robinson wrote more than a dozen books, including his hallmark text, “Biblical Preaching,” still used by seminaries and Bible colleges around the world. In 2006, he was recognized by Christianity Today in the top 10 of its “25 Most Influential Preachers of the Past 50 Years.” In 2008, he received the E.K. Bailey "Living Legend Award." In 2010, Preaching magazine named him among the “25 Most Influential Preachers of the Past 25 Years.” Robinson, a longtime faculty member and former President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, died July 22, 2017. He was named one of the 12 most effective preachers in Baylor’s 1996 survey. (Though Robinson died, it was decided to keep his name on the list because it represented the views at the time of the survey.)
  • Pastor Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Community Church, Buckhead Church, Browns Bridge Church, Gwinnett Church, Woodstock City Church, and Decatur City Church. He is also the founder of North Point Ministries, a worldwide Christian organization. A survey of U.S. pastors in 2010 by Outreach Magazine identified Andy Stanley as one of the top 10 most influential living pastors in America.

  • Dr. Charles Swindoll, a pastor, author, educator, and radio preacher. Swindoll is the senior pastor at Stonebriar Community Church, in Frisco, Texas. Swindoll was named Clergyman of the Year by Religious Heritage of America, 1988. He ranked second in the 2009 survey by LifeWay Research as the biggest influence in the lives of Protestant pastors. His reach is through preaching, teaching, radio and more than 70 publications, and he has been awarded four honorary doctorates for his contributions to ministry. He was named one of the top 12 preachers in Baylor’s 1996 survey.
  • Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest, professor, author and theologian. She has served on many faculties, including the Certificate in Theological Studies program at Arrendale State Prison for Women in Alto, Georgia. Taylor has been awarded nine honorary doctorates. In 2014, TIME magazine placed her in its annual TIME 100 list of most influential people in the world. She was named one of the 12 most effective preachers in Baylor’s 1996 survey.
  • Dr. Ralph Douglas West, founder and senior pastor of The Church Without Walls in Houston, Texas. The church began with 32 members and now embraces 24,000-plus families meeting in three locations and conducting six services each Sunday. West serves as adjunct professor of preaching at Truett Seminary. Through publications, television and the internet, his messages are available across the world and are witnessed by thousands beyond his church each week.
  • “Of great interest is the diversity represented in the new survey, especially with regards to ethnicity and ministry,” said Truett Seminary’s W. Hulitt Gloer, Ph.D., professor of Christian Scriptures, The David E. Garland Chair of Preaching and director of the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching. He noted that three of the 12 are African-American. Pastors were chosen predominantly, with four academics.

    Criteria selected for determining effectiveness in preaching included:

    1. Biblical/Exegetical. This quality entails careful study of selected biblical texts, including an awareness of grammar, syntax, history, culture, literary and theological aspects.

    2. Relevance. A sermon should bridge the gap between a text’s meaning in its historical context and its meaning for the contemporary hearer in application to everyday life.

    3. Person of the Preacher. The preacher’s life and ministry should demonstrate authenticity, integrity and commitment to the Christian faith so that the sermon is never questioned or compromised by the preacher’s character.

    4. Theological/Orthodox. The effective preacher’s sermons should proclaim the truths of the Christian faith in keeping with Christian theological and ethical tradition.

    5. Sermon Form. Sermons should employ a form/structure/shape allowing the text’s meaning to be exposed in an understandable, engaging way from beginning to end.

    6. Effective Communication. The sermons should communicate the text’s central truths with accessible language and effective images and illustrations.

    7. Delivery. The sermons should skillfully employ a style authentic to the preacher and appropriate for the hearers, never superseding the content but enabling hearers to better understand it.

    “We noticed rather quickly that there were changes in the criteria,” Gloer said. “Yet, while some changed, some remained the same. One of the chief reasons for the survey is to ask ‘why’ and to open the door for research to answer that very question. Two reasons that certainly play a part relate to changes in the cultural, social, economic, and religious landscape of the preacher and developing understandings of the nature of preaching.”

    The survey aims to examine the factors which have precipitated the changes both in preaching and the teaching of preaching “so that we may continually be becoming more effective,” Gloer said.

    “In a world where talk is cheap and there seems to be no end to it, the preacher has to recover the priority and power of the word,” he said. “The Hebrew understanding of words is that they both say something and do something. They have the power to bless and to curse, to wound and to heal, to build and to destroy. In fact, the worldview you function with is predicated on the words you know. Words are the tools of the preacher and that gives them incredible power.”

    Jared E. Alcántara, Ph.D., an ordained Baptist minister and assistant professor of homiletics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, noted that “Today's preachers live in a rapidly changing world and, at least statistically, they already preach in an intercultural church with an intercultural future. To meet the demands before us, we will need the same biblical, exegetical and theological proficiency that we have always needed in the past, but we will also need more improvisational, cultural and intercultural proficiency than we have right now. This historical moment forces us to learn how to preach timeless truths in timely ways before diverse communities.”

    Apart from the inherent interest in such a poll, “this survey helps to identify, if not further solidify, some of the most skilled homileticians in the English-speaking world,” said Todd Still, Ph.D., Professor of Christian Scriptures, holder of The William M. Hinson Chair of Christian Scriptures and holder of The Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran Delancey Chair of the Dean of Truett. “Additionally, it signals Truett’s ongoing commitment to studying and promoting the best in preaching. To the extent that the survey is helpful in highlighting and extending inspired and inspiring preaching, we are grateful and gratified.”

    For more information, visit baylor.edu/truett/12preachers or contact Maxcey Blaylock.

    ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

    Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

    ABOUT GEORGE W. TRUETT THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

    Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary provides theological education leading to the Master of Divinity, the Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, the Master of Theological Studies, or the Doctor of Ministry degrees that are centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ and consistent with historic Baptist commitments to prepare persons to carry this gospel to the churches and the world. Within the M.Div. degree program, students can choose concentrations in Biblical Studies and Languages, Family Ministries, Ministry Leadership, World Christianity, Worship Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Sports Ministry and Theology. Truett Seminary also offers five Joint Degree programs – an M.Div./MSW and MTS/MSW through a partnership with Baylor’s School of Social Work, an M.Div./Master of Music through a partnership with the Baylor’s School of Music, an M.Div./MBA through a partnership with Baylor's Hankamer School of Business, an M.Div./J.D. degree through a partnership with Baylor’s School of Law and an M.Div./M.Ed. and M.Div./MA through a partnership with Baylor’s School of Education. Visit Truett Seminary to learn more.

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