Dwight A. Moody
Some weeks ago, Baylor University announced their list of 12 Most Effective Preachers in the English-Speaking World. This was a reprise of the same sort of list they issued some twenty years ago. Familiar names are on this list: pastors Timothy Keller of New York City, John Piper of Minneapolis, Otis Moss III of Chicago, Andy Stanley of Atlanta, Tony Evans of Dallas, Alistair Begg of Cleveland, and Ralph West of Houston.
Several are professors: Joel Gregory at Baylor, Barbara Brown Taylor at Piedmont College in Georgia, and Tom Long, recently retired from Candler School of Theology in Atlanta.
Charles Swindall of Dallas is now an itinerant preacher and also one of four who made the list 20 years ago. One has died since the survey was conducted in the fall of 2017: the well-known author, preacher, and professor Haddon Robinson, most recently of Gordon Conwell Seminary near Boston.
It is a notable list, not least because it features several ministerial entrepreneurs who launched their own ministry from nothing: Keller, Stanley, West, and Evans, for sure.
And it also is very predictable—most on this list are brand names in American Christianity: Swindall, Taylor, Piper, Long.
But this list of 12 is open to much criticism: like, only one woman among the 12? And nobody from the west coast, let alone Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa (to name a few other English-speaking countries). But four from Texas, Really? And worse: no Pentecostals, no Lutherans, no Roman Catholics. How can this be?
And finally, nobody under 40. Moss is the youngest at 47 years old, several are retired, and one is dead!
Because I have been working with millennials for the last 20 years, I have a few names to add to this list. Not that they are the most effective young preachers, but I predict in the coming years you will hear about them. All are in North America and I admit at the outset this is a demerit for the list.
I’ll start with Rachel Brocker Langford, a Lutheran preacher trained at the Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary and now pastor of the Emmaus Lutheran Church in Eugene Oregon. Joshua Pennington, educated at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky and Assembly of God Seminary in Missouri; is a Pentecostal pastor in Joplin Missouri, at Christpoint Church. Add Mary Alice Birdwhistell of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco Texas to the list and Reginald Sharpe of the House of Hope in Macon Georgia; She was trained at Truett Seminary in Texas and he at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Tennessee.
Two Roman Catholics to pay attention to are Scott Woods of Toledo Ohio and Shayne Duvall of Louisville Kentucky, both pastors. Both come out of St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana.
Go to Omaha Nebraska and take a listen to Patrick Messer at Plymouth UCC church; he was educated at Duke Divinity School. Then drop in to Lexington Kentucky and meet Michael Swartzentruber at South Elkhorn Christian Church, affiliated with Disciples of Christ. He earned his divinity degree at the University of Chicago.
There is none better among this rising generation than Dominique Robinson, an Atlanta-based, itinerant elder of the AME church, educated at Candler Seminary in Atlanta. Or Willie Francios III a Morehouse man with a divinity degree from Harvard. He is pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville, New Jersey. What about Patrick Garcia, lead pastor of Crossroads Christian Church in Evansville Indiana, affiliated with the Independent Christian Churches. He comes out of Cincinnati Christian University. Finally, I conclude my list of 12 young preachers of promise with a recommendation of David Telfort, pastor of Layfayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn New York and a graduate of Yale Divinity School.
But there are other names: Brooks, Jones, Violette, Hartman, Best, Biggerstaff, Rice, Pollard, Childs, Rice, and Booth. Don’t be surprised if these names appear on some future list of 12 Most Effective Preachers in America.
Who knows what combination of luck, talent, health, character, judgment, and providence will enable these young ministers—or any others in the early stages of their careers—to survive and thrive as people of influence and impact. We pray for these that they may reach their potential and succeed in their calling to preach the gospel, believe the gospel, and live the gospel. The world certainly needs people like these young preachers of promise.