I recently saw a link to Church Report’s 50 most influential Christians of 2007. I was struck by the fact that only a handful of them weren’t pastors or Television personalities. I suppose Church Report’s criteria must not have been on Christians influencing the world, but Christians influencing Christians.
How disappointing. To me the measure of a person’s influence is not how many people within their own bubble they influence, but how big that bubble is. Or how many bubbles they are. Christianity is in great danger of becoming inbred. Less and less people convert into it, more people convert away… We need to move beyond ourselves and back out into the world that we have been called to love.
So I present my own list of influential Christians- people who are out there ministering to the world instead of just Christians.
Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine:
Jim Wallis is more than just an author and theologian. His regular appearances on news networks such as CNN, MSNBC, and FOX are showing the world that not all Christians are cookie-cutter conservatives. His book, God’s Politics: Why the Right gets it wrong and the Left doesn’t get it has helped countless Christian’s reorganize their political thinking and shown countless others that Christianity is ready and willing to move beyond a three issue platform. Thank you, Reverend Wallis, for being there and being you.
Brian McLaren (author, speaker, activist):
Brian has taught a generation of Christians that “postmodern” youth aren’t to be feared, but to be talked to. While his work is largely in the Christian arena, his books and lectures have a ripple of influence that moves far beyond it. I, and many other, youth who left the church with feelings of hurt and anger, have been brought back into the fold. Why? Because people like Brian McLaren listen first and talk second. Thank you, Brian, for teaching people like my former elders that sometimes the Gospel is unspoken.
William Lane Craig (Reasonable Faith):
William Lane Craigs debates, podcasts, and teachings show the world that not all Christians simply accept what they are told. His reasoned and well articulated defenses of Christian faith, from his detailed arguments for objective moral truth to the creation of this world by an “other” being show that faith doesn’t have to be blind. It can be, well, reasonable. Thank you, Mr. Craig, for your intelligence and wit.
Jay Bakker (Revolution Church):
One probably wouldn’t expect the son of Jim and Tammy Faye to be a tattooed punk, but he is what he is. Jay’s Revolution church meets in bars and nightclubs. They don’t do anything according to tradition, but in doing so they may be far closer to what the first church was like than most of the groups that meet in proper buildings and listen to “proper” worship music. Jay’s ministry reaches people that most traditional ministry’s could never get within fifty feet of. Thank you, Jay, for getting the ones that other’s would be all too happy to leave behind. God wants them even if we don’t.
Barack Obama (Presidential Candidate):
HE’S NOT A MUSLIM. He’s a dedicated Christian, and his simplistic message about a re-United States of America has given millions of people hope for a new leaf being turned in American politics. Not only does he live a life of honor, but he shows that some Christians walk the walk and talk the talk in an arena that’s bereft with secrecy and deceit. Politics are dirty, but Barack Obama’s campaign thus far has demonstrated that politicians can still be honorable. Thank you for that, Mr. Obama.
Bono’s dedication to activism and change has far reaching effects. He has raised awareness about aids and poverty in Africa, he has stimulated the minds of the hard-to-reach iPod generation. The results of Bono’s work will not die with him, and isn’t that what every Christian wants? Bono has created something much larger than himself, and in doing so he is opening people’s eyes to God, even if they aren’t aware that’s what they’re seeing. Thank you, Bono.
Scott Adams (cartoonist):
Sure, writing a little cartoon isn’t really influencing the world, is it? But Dilbert brings a little humor into an otherwise dreary world, and Scott Adam’s blogs and books discuss his faith frankly. By simply being himself, being successful and being funny he introduces Christianity into the daily lives of his fans in a non-invasive and non-offensive way. So thanks, Scott, for the laughs and the thoughts. Every little bit counts!
The list could continue, indefinitely, showing the world Christian after Christian who pops up in both expected and unexpected ways. The real influential Christians are the ones who just live their lives with love and grace, who brush up against the world in warmth and comfort instead of judgment and abrasion. The real heroes are the ones that are so easily forgotten. Not every Christian can pastor a megachurch, but we can all have influence. We all do, even if we don’t realize it. So what are you showing the world? Pride or humility? Criticism or love?