Barbara Walters' most fascinating pastor, Joel Osteen, now tops the list of the 50 Most Influential Christians in America.
Osteen heads one of the largest megachurches in the nation – Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas – and authors a #1 New York Times bestseller, Your Best Life Now. After Walters recently featured him as one of the 10 most fascinating people of the year, the Church Report announced the megapastor as the most influential Christian in its annual report.
"Always humble, Pastor Osteen gives credit to his wife, his staff and his church family for his success and the many blessings of Lakewood Church," the Church Report stated. "Pastor Osteen has a gift for reaching unreached people with his message of positive thought and God's plan for our lives."
Evangelist Billy Graham still ranks high in the list even past his retirement. The 88-year-old pastor is not only influential among Christians but he was also chosen for a record 50th time as one of the top 10 most admired men by the American public, a recent Gallup Poll showed. His eldest son, Franklin Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, placed 14th.
Following the elder Graham on Church Report’s list of the 50 Most Influential Christians in America are megapastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., who ranks third, and Bishop T. D. Jakes – last year's most influential Christian – at the fourth spot.
Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and recognized advocate for the family, moved up in this year's rankings to round out the top five.
Making it to the top 10 are Paul Crouch, founder of Trinity Broadcasting Network; Joyce Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries; Leonard Sweet, professor of evangelism at Drew Theological School in Madison, N.J.; John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn.; and Rob Bell, founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich., respectively.
Bell, who moved up from number 25 last year, came out of a national tour called "Everything is Spiritual" and is slated to release Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections between Sexuality and Spirituality in Spring 2007.
Evangelical pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., dropped to number 16 and President George W. Bush ranked 11th.
The top 50 Most Influential Christians in America list is a result of over 200,000 nominations from readers of the Church Report.