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(RNS) The Rev. Billy Graham was named by U.S. pastors as the country’s most influential living preacher, according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research.
The study, conducted last November, interviewed more than 1,000 Protestant pastors by telephone. The participants were asked to “name the top three living Christian preachers that most influence you.”
Graham was cited as most influential by 21 percent of clergy, followed by pastor and author Charles Swindoll, at 8 percent. Charles Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Atlanta, and Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., followed closely behind Swindoll with 7 percent of the vote each.
Graham, 91, has preached to more than 200 million people in 185 countries, written 27 books, advised several U.S. presidents and influenced religious and secular audiences alike.
The lack of diversity — the top picks were nearly all white male Southern pastors — however, surprised Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Considering our sample includes liberal and conservative, all races and ethnicities, mainline and evangelical, we were surprised that the list looked like mainstream Christian radio and publishing and was not more representative,” Stetzer said.
Rounding out the top 10 were: John MacArthur, pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif.; Barbara Brown Taylor, religion professor at Piedmont College in northeast Georgia; David Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego County, Calif.; Max Lucado, minister of writing and preaching at the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio; John Piper, pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis; Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Community Church, Buckhead Church, and Browns Bridge Community Church, all in the Atlanta area.
The survey also asked the interviewees to name the top three most influential Christian “leaders.” Two additional names, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, were added to the list of preachers; Graham remained at the top of that list as well.
By Kimberlee Hauss
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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