A couple of weeks ago, Truett Seminary at Baylor University identified the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world. The criteria for ranking these preachers involved exegetical and oratory skills, whether or not they were "relevant" to contemporary culture, theological orthodoxy, and personal life. I was eager to look over this list, primarily to see if perhaps I made it, but also out of curiosity to see who else might be included.
To my shock and dismay, I was NOT recognized as one of a dozen most effective preachers. But here's who made it: Dr. Alistair Begg, Dr. Tony Evans, Dr. Joel C. Gregory, Dr. Timothy Keller, Dr. Thomas G. Long, Dr. Otis Moss III, Dr. John Piper, the late Dr. Haddon Robinson, Andy Stanley, Dr. Charles Swindoll, Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor, Dr. Ralph Douglas West.
Not only was I not included on the list, I was not even consulted as to who I thought should be on the list ... I've been doubly insulted and wounded. There are some on this list who I might possibly consider, but in reality I suspect the truly most effective preachers in the English-speaking world would be names none of us have ever heard. I'm pretty sure that man who labors in the tiny church in rural South Dakota yet faithfully each week encourages his congregation in the gospel would be on my list. As would the pastor in the Florida retirement community who weekly gives Gospel comfort to grieving family members who've lost a loved one or friend. I'd likely include the military chaplain who preaches Christ to those service men and women in the Middle East who don't know if they'll live to see another day. I'd definitely include the college campus pastor who weekly proclaims the Gospel to students wrestling with intellectual, sexual, moral, and relational problems. That retired pastor who is willing to donate his time and energy to that little church who simply can't afford a paid preacher would make my list. I'd include that preacher who is faithfully proclaiming the historic and orthodox Gospel in a denomination that has slid far into theological liberalism. Surely the pastor who week in and week out expounds the covenant faithfulness, grace, and love of God to His people, despite the fact that his wife died of cancer 5 years ago and he's left raising 4 young children by himself would make my list. And that Gospel preaching pastor who stayed with his congregation for many years even though the neighborhood has gone through substantial ethnic, social, and economic change is on it. And that preacher who was parachuted into a pagan community, who constantly proclaims grace, yet hasn't seen a conversion in the past 4 years since he started is making my list. I could not leave out the preacher who went over and washed a church member's car so she would have a clean car to ride home in after a month-long stay in the hospital.
There are many others who I would add to my list of "most effective" but likely none of them would be names any of us would know. They've not written or published books, their sermons are not available online, they won't be featured speakers at the next conference we attend, we wouldn't even recognize them if we sat beside them on a bus. But these are the ones I consider to be the most effective preachers. Sure, there's a part of me that would like to be known as a fine orator, exegete, theologian, and relevant ... and all that is very important and not to be ignored. But at the end of the day I think I'd rather be known as one who washes feet.