Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions New Era, Old Models: Top 10 Christian Leaders of All Time

New Era, Old Models: Top 10 Christian Leaders of All Time

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

Dr. King’s birth name was Michael Luther King and he later changed his name to Martin. He followed his grandfather and father as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga. This strong Christian and civil rights activist led peaceful marches in several southern towns where Negro Americans were unequally treated. He was the youngest man ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and he donated the over $50,000 prize money to further his civil rights cause.[4] He was assassinated in 1968.

  • Dr. King was best known for his civil right activism, which cost him his life.
  • Dr. King was founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., and Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.
  • Dr. King once said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. 

Dr. John Vernon McGee (1904-1988)

Dr. McGee pastored churches in Georgia, Tennessee and Texas before settling at the Church of the Open Door in downtown Los Angeles, Calif., where he first aired “High Noon Bible Class” on a little radio station. When he retired from the church, his radio ministry exploded and he began teaching “Thru the Bible,” reaching more than 400 stations in the United States and Canada daily. It soon was broadcasted in more than 100 languages and available worldwide on the Internet. His good ol’ fashioned expository teaching is as relevant today as it was in 1967 when he began the broadcast.

  • Dr. McGee is best known for his deep southern drawl as broadcasted on the “Thru the Bible” radio show.
  • Dr. McGee, better known as just “J. Vernon McGee,” is founder of “Thru the Bible,” and even though he has gone on to be with the Lord, his voice continues to broadcast the five-year Bible study program.
  • Dr. McGee once prayed: Oh, God, help me to always preach so that it can be said, ‘I never knew Jesus was so wonderful.’” [5]

Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899)

Mr. Moody was a visionary, and his success came because of his ability to choose the proper people to put into leadership. He had great dreams of getting rich in shoe sales, and as a young man was approached by his Sunday school teacher with the gospel of salvation. He accepted Jesus as Lord and from that time on devoted his life to serving the Lord. He was involved with the YMCA, Mission Sunday school, and even evangelized Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was a turning point in his devotion to God; it was that event that helped him to know that he needed to preach the Word of God to the world. His approach was nondenominational, and because of this, he was able to reach all peoples, regardless of religious ties, with the Gospel of Christ.

  • D.L. Moody is best known as the Founder of Moody Bible Institute, formerly known as the Chicago Evangelization Society.
  • D.L. Moody also opened Northfield Seminary for Young Women; Mount Hermon School for Boys; and Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions to reach Europe and South Africa. [6]
  • D.L. Moody once said: “Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of East Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal—a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.” 

Evangelist Lester Roloff (1914-1982)

Brother Roloff was saved when he was 14 years old. He paid his way through Baylor University with four gallons of milk per day from his beloved jersey cow “Marie.” He became the Pastor of People’s Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1969 where he began his outreach to troubled teens and adults. He fought the state of Texas for eight years because he did not want the state to control his church ministries. He won that battle and the Lester Roloff homes continue today as an outreach of People’s Baptist Church.

  • Brother Roloff is best known for his battle and protection of the People’s Baptist Church’s ministries in Texas.
  • Brother Roloff is the Founder of Rebecca Home for Girls, Anchor Home for Boys, Lighthouse for Men and Boys and the Jubilee Home for Women.
  • Brother Roloff once said: “This is going to be the greatest day of my life” and it was—as his plane crashed and he went home to be with his Father in Heaven on November 2, 1982.

Evangelist George Whitefield (1714-1770)

Pastor Whitefield was a clergyman at the Church of England. He was small in stature but known for his huge preaching voice. He is said to be one of the greatest evangelists of all time[7]. He was the spark of America’s first Great Awakening. If you do not know the history behind George Whitefield (pronounced “Whitfield”), you should read about it to learn that he had an amazing way of simplifying the message of Christianity to a very large population. He is a great contributor to our heritage.

  • George Whitefield is best known as an aggressive evangelist who was the fire behind America’s Great Awakening.
  • George Whitefield was the Founder of the movement called Methodism.
  • George Whitefield said: The reason why the Son of God took upon him our nature was the fall of our first parents.”

Do You Have One to Share? What influential Christian leader comes to your mind? Did I leave it off the list? Leave a comment and share with us.


[1] March to Zion

[2] Penn State Law Review

[3] Jesse Jackson. (2011). Biography.com. Retrieved 07:32, Oct 27, 2011 from this link.

[4] Martin Luther King Jr. (2011). Biography.com. Retrieved 07:57, Oct 27, 2011 from this link

[5] ThruTheBible

[6] Moodyministries.net

[7] Here

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Pam Williams is a wife, mom and grandmom. She and her Pastor-husband serve together at Selah Mountain Ministries in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a freelance writer and Christian blogger and hosts a weekly online radio broadcast as well. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Christian Education.Other interests include bird-watching, gardening, crafting and technology. Her motto is “Christianity is not for just once a week; Christianity is for Every Day.”