By Ben Merold
(From our series “The Best or Worst Advice I’ve Ever Received.”)
The best advice I ever received came after I moved to Southern California in 1969, during the peak of a Pentecostal movement in that area. The movement was very sophisticated in its approach and seemed to touch every segment of that society. There were many good things about this, but there were also things that became very divisive to the work of a New Testament church. As a result, I went through a lengthy period of pressure and frustration in my ministry.
One morning I accepted an invitation to go for a drive with an older man in our congregation. He took me through the part of the country where another Pentecostal movement had taken place many years before. He pointed out buildings and locations that had been prominent in those years. However, most of the influence of the movement had faded away.
When this older gentleman brought me back to my office, he said, “Ben, keep on doing what you are doing, and keep trying to do it better.”
That statement, in a sense, saved the day for me. I decided to pray better, preach better, program the church better, and make everything in my ministry better. I still follow that advice. It has made me a better leader in every way. I’m still working at it, and while his advice was very simple, it still serves me well.
The worst advice I ever received came at the beginning of my first local church ministry. A man in a leadership position told me never to preach about money. He emphasized that such preaching would drive people away from the church, and then he said this: “You just keep the sheep healthy and you’ll get a good crop of wool.”
At first that sounded like great wisdom. However, as I continued giving thought to this matter, I determined this advice would never work if we applied it to the great doctrines of the New Testament. Those things that have to do with Jesus Christ and his church must be preached, and Christian generosity is a part of them.
I set about to study the biblical concepts of money and giving, and I began to preach them. I did not hesitate to mention saving money, paying your debts, and giving to the Lord’s work.
I always announced sermons on this subject ahead of time, and contrary to what I had been told, attendance never went down. In fact, people were often won to Christ as a result of these so-called “money sermons.”
I once read, or heard, a motto that I adapted to my ministry. I still believe it and I still use it. It goes something like this: “Many things in the Lord’s work are successful in direct proportion to the amount of money we have available for their financing.”
I am not taking away the value of prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit, but I am saying it takes money for world evangelism and growth in the local church.
Yes, we need to do everything in our power to make the Lord’s sheep healthy. But sheep must be taught and protected from their enemies. One of our greatest enemies is materialism, and biblical teaching on the use of money can overcome it.
“Don’t preach about money,” he said. That was really terrible advice.
Ben Merold is minister-at-large with Harvester Christian Church, St. Charles, Missouri.