(3:25 p.m. Thursday—This article has been updated at the bottom with visitation and funeral information.)
By Jim Nieman
Ben Merold, 96, a beloved minister in Christian churches and churches of Christ for almost three-quarters of a century, died Wednesday morning, Nov. 16, according to a Facebook post from Harvester Christian Church, St. Charles, Mo., where he served as teaching pastor and minister-at-large.
Merold was senior minister with Harvester from 1991 to 2008. In that role, he helped grow the church from an average of about 200 to more than 3,000 before stepping aside at age 83.
Prior to serving with Harvester, Merold served as senior minister with Eastside Christian Church in Fullerton, Calif., retiring at age 65 because, as Bob Russell recalled in a 2021 appreciation of Merold, “he’d seen many sad examples of guys in their older years dragging down what they had taken years to build up. He stepped aside because he wanted to avoid being more of a hindrance than a help.” While Merold served with Eastside, the church grew from about 185 in weekly worship attendance to more than 3,000.
Merold served in the Marines during World War II. In a 2007 interview with Christian Standard, he recalled that after the war, his uncle, Leroy Trulock, “led me into the ministry as well as leading me to Christ.” Merold began preaching in 1948. As an evangelist, he conducted more than 500 revivals.
He received his education at Johnson Bible College, Knoxville, Tenn., and Lincoln (Ill.) Christian College. Located ministries also included a student ministry at Assumption, Ill.; a 5-year ministry at Villa Grove, Ill.; and a 13-year ministry in Sullivan, Ind. He served as president of the North American Christian Convention in 1978.
He is survived by his wife of more than 70 years, Pat Merold. (In a 2018 article, the Merolds shared about their love and devotion for one another . . . and their disparate skill sets that blessed their ministry.) He is also survived by one son, Mark; two daughters, Vanda Yorks and Eleanor (Arlen) Pope; seven grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by two sons, Mike and Joe; and one grandson.
In the 2007 interview, Ben Merold said he’d like to be remembered “as a church builder and a friend of the small church.” To that end, he conducted seminars for small churches and stayed in touch with participants afterward.
“I tell them [pastors of smaller churches] to be patient,” Merold said. “Change doesn’t happen immediately in the smaller church. The larger church, as a general rule, can bring change about faster than the smaller church. I tell them to strive for small victories—that it will strengthen the faith of the people to see that they can do something. I tell them to strive to be a turnaround church—a church that has been stagnant and now grows 10 or 15 percent a year.”
In an interview with then-editor Mark A. Taylor at the 2014 North American Christian Convention, Merold said, “I think the large church ought to reach out to the small churches and try to . . . help them grow. I think a church can grow as large as it wants to grow and still have an interest in the smaller churches around them, and especially the smaller churches of our brotherhood.”
“Ben’s preaching combined biblical clarity, practical application, and a sincere love for people,” said David Faust, senior associate minister with East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis. “As in the life of Moses, some of the most impactful years of Ben’s ministry happened after he reached what many today consider retirement age. His example encourages the rest of us to be faithful and fruitful as we grow older.”
For 10 years, Merold helped Bob Russell lead monthly retreats for ministers, until just over a year ago when Merold no longer was confident making the drive from Missouri to Louisville, Ky.
“Ben loves the Lord and has remained faithful to him all his life,” Russell wrote on his blog last year. “At a time when so many high-profile leaders embarrass the kingdom of God with immorality, passivity, or extravagance, Ben has stood firm on God’s Word and continued loving people. He is finishing strong.”
Christians across social media shared tributes to Ben Merold:
• Matt Merold (grandson)—“73 years of faithfulness to his wife, Pat, and 70+ years of growing God’s Kingdom and influencing countless pastors to do the same. So much could be said, but nothing more important than ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’”
• Barbara Thackston Rendel with Wally Rendel—“Our dear friend, preacher and servant of Jesus died today. Many mixed emotions for many of us who knew him. Praise be to God for all that he meant to, and accomplished for, the Kingdom! The landscape of Heaven is much fuller today because this man lived for Jesus!”
• Brian Jobe (who succeeded Merold at Harvester Christian)—“What words can even describe the life and legacy of a man like Ben Merold? Many come to mind. A Godly Warrior. . . . A Humble Servant. . . . A Man of Valor and Honor. . . . More than any of these others, I, personally, am blessed to be able to say on a day like today: Ben was a Mentor and True Friend.”
• Beaver Terry—“As a 21-year-old youth minister, [I was asked by Ben] to spend the day with him as he made a trip to Indianapolis. I will never forget that day and the car ride from Connersville, Indiana, to Indy and back. In those few short hours, he shared so much good advice with me. To date, that was one of my most special days in ministry. Well done, Ben! You lived a life worthy of your calling!”
• Roger Storms—“One of my heroes in the faith and mentors in ministry has received his heavenly reward. Ben Merold, a great man of God . . . and a mentor for preachers for generations, will be missed, but his influence will continue. Well done good & faithful servant.”
• Barry Cameron—“Ben was one of the greatest preachers, leaders, and church builders I’ve ever known. . . . He held more revivals and helped more churches (especially smaller ones) than anybody I’ve ever known. I met him when he held a revival at my home church in Muskogee, Oklahoma, back in the 1970s. He has spoken at every church I’ve ever served, and our paths have crossed tons of times over the years. When we moved to Texas in the early 1990s and were struggling to get above 800, I called and asked if I could come up and pick his brain on how to do what he had done. . . . He said, ‘Be here Thursday.’ . . . [H]e gave me 19 things we needed to do to grow. I went home and did every one of them and [we] blew past 1,000 and beyond. I’ve shared those with hundreds of fellow preachers over the years. . . .”
• Faron Franklin—“The number of changed lives because of his ministry numbers in the thousands. The number of ministers helped by him is too numerous to mention. I learned so much from him when he did a revival for me years ago. We sat for long periods of time. I wanted to soak up his knowledge. The best sermon I ever heard on the plan of salvation was that week of revival. . . . Ben could speak to a few people gathered at a coffee shop or he could speak before thousands at a convention. . . . He always had a pulse on the Restoration Movement and what was happening in our brotherhood. He was gentle and kind. He has answered his last call: the call home. Enjoy your reward my friend. Pray with me for his wife, Pat, and his family that they will be comforted.”
Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles, Mo., will host public visitation for Ben Merold from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, and from 10 a.m. until the 11 a.m. services on Tuesday, Nov. 22. The funeral service will be livestreamed. The church has created a dedicated webpage with funeral information, www.harvester.cc/benmerold.
Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard.