Poll: Most Christian Leaders Not an Influential Voice
If you were asked who is the single most influential Christian leader in America, what would be your answer? The results of a survey conducted by the Barna Group between August 1 through 14, 2011, were released earlier this week. According to that report, two out of five Americans cannot think of a qualifying Christian leader.
Of course, the finding of the survey in and of itself is not the real issue. Preachers and churches are not in a popularity test. In fact, Jesus says, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). The point is that false prophets tend to tell people what they want to hear and, hence, are people pleasers. Conversely, true messengers share the Word of God even when it does not set well with those who listen.
On the other hand, the degree to which Christian leaders in America have or have not become an influential voice is a useful indicator. For one of the most important missions of the Christian church is to spread the Christian message throughout the world. To accomplish this mission, Christian ministries must use all means of communication and media available today to proclaim their important message. And the most prominent figure of a local church or a parachurch organization is usually the preacher.
This all being true, this recent survey by the Barna Group suggests that the Christian church’s outreach efforts are not effectively pervading society at large.
Not surprising to me, nearly one out of every five Americans (19%) regards the aging Billy Graham as our nation’s most influential Christian leader. One out of every 20 Americans, 5%, considers Joel Osteen to be that leader. Two percent each say Joyce Meyer and Charles Stanley. No other Christian leader gets the vote from more than 1% of Americans, according to the report.
The results of the survey were based on an unaided survey question. This means that respondents answered the question on their own with no response options. According to the Barna report, this type of response often reflects the first name that comes to the person’s mind, and suggests that a lasting impression on the respondent has been made.
It’s no secret that the society in which the Christian church currently exists is becoming increasingly more complex. And I believe that the Barna report underscores the need for Christian leaders to re-evaluate the effectiveness of their current strategies to impact the world for Christ.