PART THREE - - -25 Most Influential Evangelicals

Evangelicals in America - Noll & Winter

The Intellectual Exemplar

T he scandal of the evangelical mind Mark Noll wrote a decade ago in a book bearing precisely that title,”...... is that there is not much of an evangel-ical mind.” Noll wasn’t subscribing to the old caricature of conservative Protestants as Scripture-handcuffed rubes. True, he was merciless in describing the anti-intellectual streak that led many mainstream arbiters to put quotes around the term evangelical scholarship. But his book went on to argue that the problem was not intrinsic—that a “high” view of the Bible and high-level participation in American intellectual life could coexist.

Noll is proof. His powerful yet evenhanded work on the evangelical role in Amer-ican history earned him a guest professorship at Harvard. The Atlantic Monthly, another blue-chip validator, called his book America’s God “almost certainly the most significant work of American historical scholarship” in 2002. He has also been an institution builder co-founding the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College, a leading Christian school, and helping corral millions in grant money for other intellectual outposts. The community as a whole, he says, has not overcome its general torpor. But he is encouraged that ever more scholars are surmounting this to do what he calls “first-rate work” by anyone’s standards. “And hundreds of younger people:’ he adds, “are coming along7

A Global Mission

W ith his impassioned call in 1974 for Christians to serve the world’s “unreached peoples” by looking beyond national borders, Ralph Winter revolutionized what remains (even today) the true lifeblood of Evangel-icals—missionary work overseas. Even at 80, Winter generates new strategies from his California-based Frontier Mission Fellowship. Trained as a civil engineer, linguist, cultural anthropologist and Presbyterian minister, he describes himself as a “Christian social engineer.” Working through the William Carey International University and the U.S. Center for World Mission, which he founded, he is produc-ing a new generation of Christian message carriers, some native, ready to venture out to places with such ready-to-be-ministered flocks as Muslim converts to Christianity and African Christians with heretical beliefs. Says Winter: “It’s this movement, not the formal Christian church, that’s growing. That’s our frontier:’

Evangelicals in America

God’s Lobbyist

Y ou can chart Richard Land’s clout by his phone log. The 58-year-old Texan, the Southern Baptist Convention’s main man in Washington, recalls that the Reagan Administration returned his calls promptly; the first Bush White House less so and Clinton’s staff (eventually) not at all. Now? The men around his longtime friend George W Bush don’t sit around waiting for Land’s call. They reach out to him, individually and as part of a weekly teleconference with other Christian conservatives, to plot strategy on such issues as gay marriage and abortion.

Land, who helped engineer his 16-million-member convention’s 1979 shift from moderacy to hardline conservativism, has a hand in most of its key policies, from its 1995 apology for having supported slavery to its 1998 statement that wives should submit to the leadership of their devout husbands. Since arriving in Washington in 1987, Land has cultivated dozens of sympathetic members of Congress. Princeton and Oxford-educated, he is as formidable a public spokesman as he is in Washing-ton’s corridors and regularly battles culture-war foes on venues such as Meet the Press. “People think they’re going to be dealing with some bootstrap preacher,” says Larry Eskridge, associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Evan-gelicals at Wheaton College. “But he can match pedigree and training with the best of them:’

Keeper of “The Faith”

I nvitations to the White House are becoming regular occurrences for Stephen Strang. The former journalist, 54, has been a Bush favorite ever since his homegrown Christian publishing house, Strang Communications, released The Faith of George W Bush, the first spiritual biography of the President, in 2003. “We didn’t write it to help Bush, but it no doubt helped elect him” declares Strang.

In the world of Christian publishing, Strang combines a sense of mission with sharp business acumen. Over the past 30 years, he has built his company, based in Lake Mary, Fla., into a $33 million business that churns out seven magazines and 100 books a year. Niche offerings like The Bible Cure health series are wildly success- ful, but the company is seeking more crossover hits like G P Taylor’s Shadowman-cer which has been hailed as Harry Potter’s “Christian cousin:’ Strang’s lead publication, Charisma, chronicles the fast-growing charismatic movement and has become powerful enough to wrangle a Bush interview last year.

Evangelicals in America

Opening Up the Umbrella Group

A t a meeting with President Bush in November 2003, after nearly an hour of jovial Oval Office chat, the Rev. Ted Haggard, 48, got serious. He argued against Bush-imposed steel tariffs on the grounds that free markets foster economic growth, which helps the poor. A month later the White House (dropped the tariffs, haggard wasn’t alone in faulting the policy, and he doesn’t claim to be the impetus, but as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, he gets listened to. He represents 30 million conservative Christians spread over 45,000 churches from 52 diverse denominations. Every Monday he participates in the West Wing conference call with evangelical leaders. The group continues to prod the President to campaign aggressively for a federal marriage amendment. “We wanted him to use the force of his office to actively lobby the Congress and Senate, which he did not adequately do:’ says Haggard. He is also working to broaden his group’s agenda. A document issued last fall offered a theological justification for civic activism by U.S. Evangelicals, calling on them to protect the environment, protect global religious and political freedom and human rights, safeguard wholesome family life:’ care for the poor and oppose racism, Says Naggard: With the growth of Evangelicalism worldwide, we have to be involved in political and social action to impact the culture worldwide

A High-Fidelity Messenger

L ong before Rush Limbaugh proved that radio listeners would flock to unapologetically opinionated chat, 10-year-old Stuart Epperson was reading Bible verses from a radio station his brother built in their family’s Virginia farmhouse. By age 36, Epperson had bought an AM station in Roanoke, Va., that would be the beginning of a religious and political broadcasting powerhouse. Salem Communications, the company Epperson, now 69, later founded with his brother-in-law Edward Atsinger, owns 104 radio stations in 24 of the top 25 U.S. markets and reaches an estimated 5 million listeners a week. The broadcaster’s stations offer Christian music and teaching, as well as conservative talk shows that engage listeners not just to consider hot-button issues like abortion and stem-cell research but also to weigh in with letter-writing campaigns and phone calls to politicians.

Evangelicals in America

Pioneering Mass Appeal

W here do pastors go to learn how to make a stirring performance for their flock? There is an oracle of the presenters art, and his name is Bill Hybels. Founder of the Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago suburb of South Barrington, Ill., Hybels was a pioneer in attracting an upscale, youthful following with an informal yet rousing and contemporary service. Now 52, he leads a network of 10,500 churches and trains more than 100,000 pastors each year. But, he says, spawning a movement that helped fuel the rise of Evangelicalism wasn’t his intent when he took an entrepreneurial approach to overhauling the average church service 30 years ago. His goal was simply to hook nonmember “seekers:’ who dropped by on Sunday hoping for spiritual connection. His formula of live bands’ performing contemporary Christian tunes, easy-to-follow sermons, short services—and free child care—now attracts 17,500 worshippers each week, and membership has grown to more than 6,000. Some conservative Evangelicals denounce megacongregations as devotion lite, delivering plenty of entertainment but asking for little commitment. However, for the millions of worshippers who want relevant spirituality delivered with the same custom-fitted, on-demand convenience they get from secular merchants, Hybels’ creation is the answer to their prayers.

Paradigm Shifter

A sked at a conference last spring what he thought about gay marriage, Brian McLaren replied, “You know what, the thing that breaks my heart is that there’s no way I can answer it without hurting someone on either side 7 You might call his a kinder and gentler brand of religion. At a mere 48, McLaren, a non-denominational Maryland pastor; qualifies as elder statesman of a movement called the “emerging church Its disciples, mostly 35 or younger and including mainline Christians and Catholics, have in recent years moved from cyber bulletin boards to pulpits of their own. Their goal: to de-construct traditional church culture yet remain true to Scripture. A typical emergent church service is likely to include digital imagery and open dialogue.

McLaren’s 2001 book, A New Kind of Christian, resonated with ministers worldwide and is enormously popular in seminaries. If his movement can survive in the politicized world of conservative Christianity, McLaren could find a way for young Evangelicals and more liberal Christians to march into the future together despite their theological differences

The Almighty’s Attorney-at- Law

I f God is heading to an appeals court, Jay Sekulow is likely to be sitting at the counsel table. His Washington-based American Center for Law & Justice has argued and won several high profile religious-freedom cases, including Supreme Court decisions that allowed Bible-study clubs on public school campuses and that protected the right of anti-abortion demonstrators to rally outside abortion clinics.

Sekulow, 48, who was raised Jewish but converted to Christianity in college and now considers himself a “Messianic Jew,” formed the law center with a group of other conservative litigators in 1990. Today the 700,000-member center has become, with a budget of $30 million ,a powerful counterweight to the liberal American Civil Liberties Union. The group’s latest battles are supporting the congressional ban on partial-birth abortions and pushing, in an unusually bold and public way, for President Bush’s judicial appointments. “The President has shown the kind of nominees he likes for the courts,” explains Sekulow,“and I’m very comfortable with that”

American Evangelists


A though his home base is All Souls Church Langham Place in London, John Stott is one of the most respected and beloved figures among believers in the U.S. Stott, 83, was present at the creation and is a principal framer of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant that sketched out what was then called neo-Evangelicalism. Stott practices a pious austerity that, were he Catholic, might be called saintly. He plunges the rich royalties from his more than 40 unassumingly brilliant books into a fund to educate pastors in the developing word. He lives in a two-room flat, except for four months a year spent writing in a Welsh cottage that until 2001 was lit by gaslight. His ministry board fitted it with electric lights, but most Evangelicals would have said he was sufficiently enlightened—and had enlightened them—already.

—By Cathy Booth-Thomas/Dallas, Massimo Calabresi and John F. Dickerson/ Washington, John Cloud and Rebecca Winters/New York,/ and Sonja Steptoe/ Los Angeles. With reporting by: Amanda Bower/New York, Rita Healey/ Denver, Sean Scully/Philadelphia and Elaine Shannon/Washington


TIME Magazine

February 7, 2005. (Pgs. 34-45)

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