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The 25 Most Influential Pastors of the Past 25 Years

By Michael Duduit | Founding Editor of Preaching and Dean of the College of Christian Studies at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. He’s been blessed to hear every one of our 25 “influencers” preach either in person or via recording.

#10 W.A. Criswell

As pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas for more than 40 years (he became Pastor Emeritus in 1995) W.A. Criswell helped create a model for a successful urban church rooted in strong biblical preaching. The church grew from 7,800 to 25,000 during his pastorate, at one point becoming the largest congregation in the world. For more than 50 years, Billy Graham had his membership at the Dallas church.

Criswell was an expositor who preached through books of the Bible throughout his pastoral ministry. He founded Criswell College as a place to train a new generation of Bible preachers. Rick Warren, who felt Criswell's influence as a young man, has called the Dallas preacher "the greatest American pastor of the 20th century."

#11 John Piper

As Pastor of Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., John Piper has been a powerful influence on young pastors through his writing and speaking. Mike Milton says: "His messages are examples of solid, biblical exposition. His passion for missions and preaching has influenced many for the advancement of the Kingdom of God."

#12 Charles Stanley

Pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, and widely known through his "In Touch" radio and TV ministry, author  of several books Charles Stanley was third in LifeWay's recent survey of most influential living Protestant pastors.

#13 Stephen F. Olford

Born in Zambia to British missionary parents, Olford ultimately ended up in the United States as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in New York City, where he modeled an urban ministry centered on biblical exposition. He later established a training center for pastors which impacted thousands in equipping them to be faithful preachers of God's Word. Cliff Barrows said, "Stephen Olford left his footprint upon my heart and life, as he has on people around the world. I thank God for this dear man who has impacted Billy's life and my life all these years."

#14 William A. Jones

Pastor for more than 40 years of Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn, William Jones was a powerful (and deep) voice in the African-American church. He was cited by Ebony as one of the nation's best Black preachers and was in constant demand as a speaker and evangelist. He was a past President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention and founder of the National Black Pastors Conference.

#15 Bill Hybels

Founding Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and pioneer of the seeker-sensitive church movement, Bill Hybels' writing and resourcing of other churches through Willow Creek Association has touched the lives of thousands of pastors. John Huffman says Hybels should be recognized for "modeling what it is to be a passionate communicator and vision caster who has rallied a whole generation—with new preaching methods and organizational styles—to reach those who otherwise would not have been as open to the gospel."

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