Faith and Power

Sam Rainer

January 6, 2008

While on vacation I read Michael Lindsay’s book, Faith in the Halls of Power. In the book, he discusses how numerous evangelicals have reached high-profile leadership positions in some of the most powerful circles in the United States. Lindsay spent five years interviewing 360 of these influential Christians in America. His conclusion: evangelical influence is more prevalent than many tend to believe or report. He found four major arenas in which these Christian leaders maintain this power in secular society: politics, media/arts, academia, and business. Though the book covers a variety of topics, let me share with you a few of his findings about this evangelical power group that I find particularly fascinating:

  • Over half (56%) of these power figures came to Christ after age 17. And about one-quarter of them were not raised in churchgoing homes.
  • The top 5% of all evangelical donors give half (51%) of all charitable dollars given by evangelicals.
  • Many within this group acknowledge that the church was the first place where they expressed their talents. Through the church, they were given the freedom, support, and encouragement to practice, fine-tune, and improve upon their skills that they now utilize in their positions of power.
  • Among this group of leaders, 60% have switched denominations and/or churches. This church-swapping figure increases to 80% among younger leaders.

What I gleaned from his book regarding the church is that God has given the body of believers a unique opportunity to influence culture. As Lindsay states, these leaders are not overtly marrying their faith and work, using their positions to ramrod Christianity to the forefront of the institutions they lead. Rather, they feel a call to influence individuals through their personal witness.

These leaders accept Christ later in life than most, and some have no church background. This decision to follow Christ for them was one that required much thought and reflection. As a result, they tend to view their faith seriously and hold Scripture’s commands in high regard. This level of spiritual maturity is evident in their giving (which Lindsay was able to obtain from most of the interviewees).

What is disheartening about this group is that while they initially connected with the church (utilizing their gifts and abilities within the local body), many of them swap congregations. Some of this church-hopping may be due to the transient nature of their careers, but it cannot account for all of it.

The church, through the influence of these leaders, has a unique opportunity to engage our “elite” culture with the saving message of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that the church and this power group are able to connect for the furtherance of the Kingdom.

2 comments on “Faith and Power”

  1. Thanks very much for engaging my book, Sam. I’m glad you liked it, and I hope your readers will check it out as well.

  2. Sam Rainer says:

    Michael – and thanks to you for providing a window into part of our culture that needs to be engaged. It was an enjoyable read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *