A new Barna Group study illustrates that no single Christian leader captures the attention of the nation’s population. When asked to identify the single most influential Christian leader in the U.S. today, two out of every five Americans (41%) are unable to think of anyone who would meet that description.

Billy Graham is the name mentioned most often in response to the unaided survey question (a measure often described as “top-of-mind” awareness). One out of five Americans names the octogenarian evangelist, with 19% of adult residents identifying Mr. Graham as the nation’s most influential Christian leader.

Half as many adults (9%) believe “the Pope” or Pope Benedict to be the most significant Christian leader in the nation. Nearly the same proportion (8%) considers President Barack Obama to hold this prominent role.

One out of 20 U.S. adults (5%) think that Joel Osteen is the most significant Christian leader, more than double the proportion that name Charles Stanley (2%) or Joyce Meyer (2%). A variety of individuals – including pastors, ministry leaders, authors, politicians, and other public figures – are considered the highest ranking Christian leaders by 1% of U.S. adults each. These include: Franklin Graham, George W. Bush, T.D. Jakes, Oprah Winfrey, James Dobson, and Maya Angelou. All other individuals are named by less than 1% of Americans.

Subgroup Findings

Some differences emerged in a review of the findings by faith segments and by age of respondent as noted below:  http://www.barna.org/culture-articles/536-us-lacks-notable-christian-leaders

““There is an interesting but not surprising commonality among those top Christian leaders in this study,” noted Hanacek. “All of them have a strong media presence – whether through their own active ministry efforts or through various types of media coverage.” Those organizations and individuals who aspire to lead and serve on a broad national scale will clearly need to make effective use of all types of media and communications technologies.”


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