Gospel Today Magazine has listed it's 20 Top Christian Leaders of the last 20 years. In general I normally never take these lists serious, mostly because one never knows what the criteria was for how they determined who should make the list or not. Also, after observing these lists for years now, it seems that the primary criterion is a BIG church! I know, big Surprise right! To be sure, there are your occasional throw in none maga church figures depending upon the list and the list makers. These are people like Rev. Eugene Rivers , Rev. Al Sharpton , and Rev. Jesse Jackson (all civil rights leaders), or the often effeminate Bobby Jones and incomparable Kirk Franklin (mega gospel music stars), or Jane and Paul Crouch (the owners of Popular Christian broadcasting and the founders of much ecclesiastical chicanery). The other throw ins are normally leaders of major religious institutions like the National Baptist Convention USA, the National Baptist Convention of America, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Church of God In Christ etc. I must add that there are lists which are exceptions to the rule like Belief.net’s list which I find to be much more interesting and thoughtful. They normally present a collection of scholars, activists, denominational leaders, and influential pastors. Big Ups to Belief.net.
Then there’s Gospel Today’s list.
G.T’s list included all mega church pastors, gospel music stars, and televangelists. Tragedy! This either means Gospel Today is bias toward mega television ministries or that these ministries are actually the cultural trendsetters and influencers of Christian culture. I don’t think the answer to this question is either/or, I actually think it’s both/and. Gospel Today is biased toward mega ministries (mainly because they depend on these ministries for support and advertising) and popular Christian culture is highly influenced by the actions and mentalities of the mega church culture. Don’t take this is as a rant against mega churches, I serve on the leadership of a suburban mega church, so I’m as complicit in this conundrum as the next person. On a certain level I think most of us church leaders are infected by the problematic American capitalistic cultural bug of BIGGER is BETTER! Lord, help us all!
Whatever the case, here is # 20 and 19 on Gospel Today Magazine’s Top 20 Most Influential Christian Pastors and Leaders of the Last 20 years. In my opinion 20 and 19 are scores more influential than 1, 3, 4, and 5 but I’ll let you be the judge.
20/Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie
She is the first female to be elected as a bishop in the 200 year history of the AME church. It’s hard to make a list without including Bishop McKenzie, so this one was a no brainer. Besides being a very powerful figure in multiple sectors of the Christian community (academic and parish) she is also one heck of a preacher and administrator. I am in full agreement with her placement on the list.
19/Pastor (former Congressman) Floyd Harold Flake
Again, you can’t talk about the last 20 years of Christianity without mentioning pastor Flake. His Allen Cathedral AME church in Jamaica Queens, New York is a model for congregations all across this country. Perhaps no church has done more in the area of community development and public engagement as Allen. In fact, Flake has been so successful administratively he has written a book about African American church administration that has received a welcome reception among the many sectors of the church. I personally have a humongous amount of respect for Pastor Flake. I had the opportunity to watch and observe his kindness and grace as a young teenager when I served as youth spokesperson for Congresswoman Corrine Brown and as a minister at the St. Mark A.M.E church in Orlando. No matter whether it was on the floor of congress when he spoke or in the pulpit of our local church where he often preached, pastor flake always exemplified what it meant to be a leader and communal servant. You’re the man Rev. Flake.
I will present the rest of the list throughout the remainder of the month. Stay tuned.