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Baylor survey names a dozen who can really preach

(RNS) — A dozen pastors known for their consistently stellar performances in the pulpit  made Baylor University’s list of the most effective preachers in the English-speaking world.

The list of 11 men and one woman, chosen by scholars of homiletics, or the art of preaching, was released Tuesday (May 1).

“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,” said W. Hulitt Gloer, director of the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching at Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas.

“Words are the tools of the preacher and that gives them incredible power,” Gloer added.

The dozen preachers in the top 12 — academics, pastors and authors — were picked from nearly 800 nominees.

Preaching experts in the Academy of Homiletics and the Evangelical Homiletics Society judged how much nominees’ preaching matched criteria that included their selection of biblical texts, the relevance of their sermons, and their ability to deliver them in language people can understand.

It’s been 22 years since Baylor last produced such a survey. Four names appear on both the 1996 list and the one released Tuesday.

The Baylor preaching center sent the 1996 criteria to more than 500 homiletics professors for their input on criteria for the new survey. Members of the two homiletics societies were then asked to nominate as many as five people who met the new criteria. A total of 179 members — more than 30 percent of the membership of those two societies — submitted names. The final choices were narrowed down from 39 individuals who received the largest number of nominations.

The 12 are as follows, in alphabetical order:

Alistair Begg. Photo courtesy of Alistair Begg

Alistair Begg

Begg has been senior pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland since 1983. He is also the Bible teacher on the radio and online program “Truth For Life.” A member of the council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Begg has written numerous books.

 

Tony Evans. Photo courtesy of Tony Evans

Tony Evans

Evans is the founding pastor of Dallas’ Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, which began in his home in 1976 and has grown to a membership of almost 10,000. Evans is the first African-American to earn a doctorate in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. The radio and television broadcaster has been the chaplain for 30 years for the Dallas Mavericks, a National Basketball Association team.

Joel Gregory. Photo courtesy of Baylor University

Joel C. Gregory

Gregory is the George W. Truett Endowed Chair in Preaching and Evangelism at Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary. A preacher for 50 years, he gave the concluding message at the 2017 Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa. He is a member of the Baptist World Alliance Commission on Worship and Spirituality and edited “Baptist Preaching: A Global Anthology.”

Timothy Keller. Photo courtesy of Timothy Keller

Timothy Keller

Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He also chairs Redeemer City to City, a leadership development organization that starts new churches in urban centers worldwide. Keller is the author of several books, some listed among The New York Times bestsellers.

Thomas G. Long. Photo courtesy of Thomas G. Long

Thomas G. Long

Long is an emeritus preaching professor and director of the Early Career Pastoral Leadership Program at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. His textbook “The Witness of Preaching” is used in theological schools across the globe. He also was named one of the 12 most effective preachers in Baylor University’s 1996 survey.

Otis Moss III. Photo courtesy of Dawn Stephens

Otis Moss III

Moss is the senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. The activist, author and filmmaker 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 is a chaplain of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.

John Piper. Photo courtesy of John Piper

John Piper

Piper is chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis. The leader of desiringGod.org has served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis for 33 years. He is the author of more than 50 books.

 

The late Haddon Robinson. Photo courtesy of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

The late Haddon Robinson

Robinson was the former president and Harold John Ockenga Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston. His book “Biblical Preaching” remains in use in Bible colleges and seminaries worldwide. Robinson, who died on July 22, 2017, was named one of the 12 most effective preachers in Baylor’s 1996 survey.

 

Andy Stanley. Photo courtesy of Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley

Stanley is the senior pastor of an Atlanta suburban megachurch with six locations. He also is the founder of North Point Ministries, a global network of more than 30 churches. A 2010 survey of U.S. pastors by Outreach Magazine identified Stanley as one of the top 10 most influential living pastors in America.

Charles Swindoll. Photo courtesy of Stonebriar Community Church

Charles Swindoll

Swindoll is the senior pastor at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. The radio preacher is the author of more than 70 books. He was named one of the 12 most effective preachers in Baylor’s 1996 survey.

 

Barbara Brown Taylor. Photo by E. Lane Gresham

Barbara Brown Taylor

Taylor, an Episcopal priest, author and theologian, has served as a faculty member at institutions including Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology and the Certificate in Theological Studies program at Arrendale State Prison for Women in Alto, Ga. In 2014, she was named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She was named one of the 12 most effective preachers in Baylor’s 1996 survey.

Ralph Douglas West. Photo courtesy of Ralph Douglas West

Ralph Douglas West

Ralph Douglas West is founder and senior pastor of The Church Without Walls in Houston, which has grown from 32 members to more than 24,000 families. He is an adjunct professor of preaching at Truett Seminary. The radio broadcaster is the author of several books.

 

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

17 Comments

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  • No list like this would have been complete or accurate with out Barbara Brown Taylor. Anyone who has ever heard her preach would know that, hence the other two lists on which she has appeared. It is sad that she is the only woman on this list. Perhaps some day our biases about gender will allow more of the great women preachers to appear here….not that any could top Barbara!

  • I don’t know the others, but Swindoll’s “Insight for Living” is magnificent.

  • She is terrific, as are her books. I’ve been reading & re-reading An Altar in the World, and When God is Silent. I heard her speak at the Search for Meaning book festival at Seattle University, and was knocked out.

  • I mean, that’s a lot of white guys there. And Dr. Robinson is now deceased so I’m not sure he should be on the list? (Before people jump on me he was my own preaching professor and was amazing. I loved him dearly.)

  • Apropos…..
    “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3

  • One woman???!! Seriously? C’mon. BBT is fabulous, but certainly there are others that should have been on this list. They should have been embarrassed to publish this male dominated list, not proud of it.

  • It is truly amazing that “the most effective preachers in the English-speaking world” are all from the USA. Not one Canadian, not one Brit, or Aussie, or, heaven forbid, African. I wonder who is in charge of this research?

  • Baylor! It’s 2018! Why does your top 12 list look like it’s from the 1950s? One woman, a paucity of people of color, a bucketload of white men, even one man is dead! You’ve pushed out the authority of Christianity. Give me a break. This list symbolizes everything that is wrong with Mainline Protestantism. Shame on you!

  • Yes, and a number of these men are known to be dismissive of women in terms of accepting their gifts and callings.

  • Would there have been the same reaction if 11 had been women? What if it were the best elementary teachers and 11 had been women?

  • I agree there should probably be more women. However, the problem is that some women and men “feminists” are only satisfied if it’s more than 50% women, which is not only illogical, but also minimizes men’s gifts. In this age, we rarely do that in a conscious way. The balance is off.

  • Bruce Garner complains about the lack of women in this preacher lineup. I am complaining about the fact that, though the survey was supposed to cover the entire English speaking world, according to the article’s author, the list covers only Americans. Africa, particularly Nigeria, is full of amazing preachers that have taught me a lot.
    But, yea, I guess you guys just continue your proud insularity that I have experienced from 1958 to 2001. It seems there is no medicine for it. I’m glad I live elsewhere.

  • Apparently in order to be an effective preacher one must either be pastor of a large church (7), an academic (5), or have published a book or two.

    Are there no exemplary preachers in congregations of 100 people or less every Sunday?

    Are there no exemplary preaches in rural, urban, or under-served locations?

    Are there no exemplary preachers who have published nothing more than a meditation in their parish newsletter?

    These folks are all great communicators and clearly accomplished in their field, and they all add to the mission of the church from their places but when Baylor looks around and counts only the best-sellers and the most broadcast, does this help us raise up and nurture preachers who do the solid work of preaching in the places where most people actually go to worship, hear the Word proclaimed, and are nurtured in their faith… small congregations?

  • The study really should have been entitled “Effective Preachers…In the Public Eye…In America.”
    That would have solved most of the problems you identified.

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