My thoughts are in Italics while the article is in standard font.

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.

This raises the question who is leading the nation?  

Some differences emerged in a review of the findings by faith segments and by age of respondent as noted below:

  • Evangelical Christians are more likely than average to name Billy Graham (35%), Joyce Meyer (12%) and Franklin Graham (5%) as the most influential Christian leaders in the U.S. today. No evangelicals consider Pope Benedict, President Barack Obama, George W. Bush, T.D. Jakes, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, or Charles Stanley to hold this role.
  • A majority of adults who are atheists and agnostics (65%) or of a non-Christian faith (52%) are unable to think of anyone they would name as an influential Christian leader.
  • Those of another, non-Christian faith are more inclined to name Charles Stanley (7%), George W. Bush (4%), or Oprah Winfrey (4%) as the most significant Christian leader.
  • Protestants are more likely than average to name Billy Graham as the most significant leader (31%), while Catholics are just as likely to name the Pope (32%).
  • Elders, ages 66 and older (31%), and Boomers, ages 47 to 65 (27%) are more inclined to name Billy Graham as the most influential leader, while younger adults – Busters 28 to 46 (12%) and Mosaics 18 to 27 (4%) – are far less likely to do so.

Today we follow movements not people, the emergent movement, the green movement, etc. These movements have key people at the forefront however those people are simply leading the charge. Is this wrong? Perhaps not but within the church it leaves room for heresy to arise and go left unchecked. Peter, Paul, and the other apostles led the early church and confronted heresy as it arose as we can see in the epistles. There was a movement was Christianity that was led by a select group, the Apostles. This group was called to disciple others and to correct misconceptions of who Christ is. When questioned Paul called on his authority not because he took it but because it was placed on him by God (Galatians 1.1-2). See also Paul’s defense of his ministry in 2 Corinthians 10-11. God appoints certain individuals to lead his people and scripture gives guidelines for what that looks like.

Although most Americans can name someone they consider to be a highly influential Christian leader, few leaders have made such an impression on the population. “Looking at the big picture, only a limited number of individuals come to mind when Americans consider leadership of Christians on a national scale,” remarked Hanacek. “However, bear in mind that a different type of measurement such as aided awareness, in which respondents are asked if they ever heard of a specific name, may have yielded different results.”

In the end this information is useless unless we can point to Christ in some way and I don’t think you can draw clear conclusions from this study, but it could be a useful tool when looked at with other information of the church today. Is our nation’s spiritual health good or bad? Are we following God or ourselves? Who are you being influenced by and where does their authority come from?

Source page – The Barna Group – Nov 21 2011