They may not yet be household names, but these rising Evangelical figures should certainly be on your radar in the year to come. The Institute on Religion & Democracy has identified seven increasingly influential men and women we predict will impact Evangelicalism for good in 2017.
Some are wordsmiths and theologians. Others orators, homeschool moms and policy advocates whose passion is connecting with people in and outside of the Church. In no particular order, they are:
During President Barack Obama’s first term, Michael Wear served in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Wear then directed all faith-based outreach during President Obama’s successful 2012 re-election campaign. Whether or not you agree with Wear’s politics, his rapidly growing influence within Evangelicalism is undeniable.
Wear is theologically conservative on issues like abortion and marriage and has spoken out about some antagonistic attitudes towards conservative Christians within the Obama Administration. His anticipated book Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America hits shelves January 17 and has garnered praise from a wide range of Evangelical figures including Timothy Keller, Lou Giglio, and Russell Moore. Wear is slated to speak at the upcoming Evangelicals for Life conference in Washington, D.C. and his commentary on faith and culture have appeared in Christianity Today, The Atlantic, USA Today, and Relevant Magazine.
#2 Anne Carlson Kennedy
In addition to being a minister, a minister’s wife, and homeschool mom to six children, Anne Kennedy hosts Preventing Grace, one of the most popular blogs on the Evangelical Channel at Patheos.com. Although many Anglicans already recognize her name, Kennedy is reaching a broader audience within Evangelicalism.
Kennedy delivers humorous and practical writings on theology, politics, culture, and family. I increasingly find myself floating back to Kennedy’s blog in thirst of her sensible commentary on the latest religion news story. On any given day, you will nearly always find Kennedy’s blog posts under the “Editor’s Pick” or “Most Popular” sections of Patheos Evangelicals’ homepage. In fact, as I write, her latest post is listed under the “Trending” section. Kennedy is also the author of the new book Nailed It: 365 Sarcastic Devotions for Angry or Worn-Out People.
Travis Wussow was appointed the new vice president for public policy and general counsel for the Southern Baptists Convention’s (SBC) Ethics and Religion Liberty Commission (ERLC) in September 2016. Wussow is no stranger to the ERLC, having formerly served the public policy arm of the SBC as the first Director of International Justice & Religious Liberty in Jerusalem. Prior to joining the ERLC, Wussow served as executive pastor for the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas and as an International Justice Mission Fellow.
#4 Trillia Newbell
Trillia Newbell is another mom who isn’t slowing down in her ministry. She’s the author of Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves, United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity and Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts.
She is the Director of Community Outreach for the Southern Baptists’ ERLC, a contributor to Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and more. Newbell’s observations on theology, womanhood, racial diversity, and family are increasingly heard at Christian conferences and colleges including True Woman, The Gospel Coalition Women’s conference, the ERLC’s National Leadership Summit, and Southeastern Theological Seminary. She is also a scheduled guest speaker at the 2017 Evangelicals for Life Conference in Washington, D.C. You can learn more about Newbell’s work on her website: http://www.trillianewbell.com/meet-trillia/.
#5 Chelsea Patterson
Her day job has her running the halls of the U.S. House of Representatives working on foster care and adoption policy; two policy concerns that Chelsea Patterson happily takes home with her at night. Adopted as a newborn from Bucharest, Romania by Evangelical parents in North Carolina, Patterson has an extraordinary testimony to tell. Moody Publishers thinks so too.
Patterson is currently working on her first book set for publication in 2018. In the meantime, the young Southern Baptist contributes regularly to the Gospel Coalition, 9 Marks, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s blog, and Patheos’ Evangelical channel on issues ranging from culture and current events to suffering and grief. She has also shared her story at Liberty University’s commencement ceremony, local churches, and joined several radio programs. Patterson and I previously worked together at the pro-life organization, Concerned Women for America. You can visit her website chelseacpatterson.com or follow her on Twitter @Chelspat.
#6 Garrett Kell
Pastor Garrett Kell is not “brand new” on the Evangelical scene, but his influence is certainly on the rise. Kell previously told the Institute on Religion and Democracy that he “grew up in a United Methodist church but didn’t care much about God.” That was until college, when, after helping a former girlfriend choose abortion he encountered grace through Jesus Christ soon afterward.
Kell now serves as the pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. In 2016, Kell recounted his testimony at the Evangelicals for Life conference in Washington, D.C. He also tackles tough theology and culture questions including abortion, adultery, transgenderism, pornography, and racial reconciliation. You can find his commentary on The Gospel Coalition, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission blog, and his own website garrettkell.com.
Jennifer Cannon-Murff is an adjunct professor at Regent University and the president of Millennials for Marriage, a faith-based non-profit working to change the younger generation’s distorted perspectives on marriage. Murff’s research and writings on marriage, education, motherhood, and famiily have been cited by the Christian Post, Christian Broadcasting Network, Christian Today, and the Institute for Family Studies. A homeschool mom of four young children, Murff also works to revive homeschooling among Millennial parents with plans to launch a new program “Homeschool Helpers” in 2017.