20 June, 2024

Beloved Christian Minister Ben Merold Dies

by | 16 November, 2022 | 7 comments

(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. 


  1. Raye Knoll

    Thank you for sharing the various comments on Ben’s life. I know these are just a razor-thin slice of what could be published with unlimited time and space! We were blessed to find his church, Harvester, in 2005. I remember being blown away by his preaching . . . it was like a college course on the Bible, but it was completely understandable to us. When he preached, I remember always being disappointed when he was done–we wanted to hear more! He was so humble I doubt he realized how amazing he was in the pulpit. Heaven gained a special man today. He helped countless thousands in their walk with the Lord. Well done!

  2. Aubrey Priddy

    I first heard Ben Merold years ago at the Cavalier’s Men’s Retreat in Yale, VA. Phil Forehand was chairman of our retreats and brought in the best ministers to preach. Ben was one of them. Thank you for your faithful service.

  3. Melissa Ottney (Pinkston)

    This great man came to preach at Bluff Creek Christian Church in Greenwood, Ind., as a guest speaker and my mother (Barbara Pinkston) was taken by surprise as this man did the funeral of her first baby in 1954 in Sullivan, Ind. She has a letter Ben wrote to her in 1954 of some of the things he spoke about at her baby’s funeral that she has kept in her Bible all these years. ✝️

    She also recalled Ben performing several of her siblings’ weddings.

    It really is a small world.

    This man will be received to the Lord as a good and faithful servant.

    Blessings for peace to his family.

  4. John Bowen

    I consider Ben Merold to be one of the greatest men I have known and someone I respected and looked up too. I was blessed to be on staff at Harvester Christian Church for 5 years in Media Ministry. Because of that I got to work with Ben in a way that few did. I would get his handwritten sermon notes and put them together for onscreen visualization. Often we would have discussions to make sure that the points and sub points that I had set up flowed correctly with his sermons. I am beyond grateful to have had that special time with Ben. Ben was a shining example for the Kingdom. I remember he would often say about church services, that if there was not something within the service that he did not necessarily like, for example a contemporary worship song, then the service was being catered to him, and not doing all it should to reach the lost. His heart for the church was a light. The Kingdom has gained a pillar of the faith that I am forever thankful to have known. Well done good and faithful servant.

  5. Galord Smith

    I praise God for Ben and the influence he has had on my life. His preaching, teaching, and encouragement to me and the rest of the Harvester Christian flock is so precious. He was a giant in the faith who served the Lord well. Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” Ben was the epitome of a faithful servant. I look forward to our shared blessed hope and reunion.

  6. Shelby Krietemeyer Ponder

    I met Ben and Pat in 1995. My husband and I were new to Harvester. I was a new mother and my 2 month old little girl was crying, while I was trying to keep my composure in the tiny Harvester hallway. Ben, to my surprise, came out of the sanctuary from the back. He could see the frustration and asked if he could help. Calmly, he took Logan from my arms and quietly began walking her up and down the tiny hallway. (No audience. Just kindness from a stranger.)

    My daughter instantly could feel his calm, and stopped crying. Being a nervous new mom, wanting everything perfect. The quiet stranger turned to me and said, “If you tense up when she is crying, she will feel it. Relax, enjoy being a mom. God has bestowed upon you a big task, be a Godly mother for her.” He smiled and handed her back to me. Kevin Daniels (my cousin and music minister at the time) came out to check on me and I asked, “Who was that man?” He smiled and replied, “That’s Ben Merold.”

    Months later, I found out that my Aunt Marlene Holland was the pianist at the Christian church in California where Ben had preached. They had been friends with Ben and Pat for years. Ben would often call Marlene to the piano after they had left California. He would say, “I hear Marlene Holland is in the house, come on up here and play for us.”

    I also remember hearing from my late grandfather (Luke Perrine), that “Ben Merold” wanted my grandfather to preach at the North American Christian convention in 1979. (Ben was the President of the NACC).

    I was 8 years old at the time, and my grandfather had just had open heart surgery at Cleveland Medical. We were not sure my grandfather would be strong enough to take on such a task. Months later, the quiet request from “Ben Merold” became a huge reality for my grandpa. I remember as a young child thinking, “who was this Ben Merold person?” You talk about the ties that bind?

    Here we are 26 years later (42 years after the North American Christian Convention; to that 9 year old girl) saying good bye to the “quiet man,” in that tiny Harvester hallway. To a new frustrated mother. Ben was my life line that Sunday morning. Who could have imagined “that man” my grandfather had spoken so highly of would one day be my saving Grace.

    What felt like embarrassment for a new mother turned into a spiritual life lesson.

    God knew that moment would come. Over 40 years later. My grandpa would have been so proud in that moment Ben to call you FRIEND. He WAS proud of you.
    Ben took just a brief moment to love and care about two strangers with whom he had never met in that tiny Harvester hallway.

    Ben, thank you for being my hero that day. Thank you to Pat who has been a beacon and woman of faith and living example through their unimaginable loss. The commitment in their marriage is awe-inspiring. Never inconvenienced. Thank you both for your humility over the years. Ben was a servant for his country and to God. He loved people and loved Pat. Thank you for being extraordinary teachers and loving so fiercely, quietly. That IS my Ben Merold story. He will be greatly missed.

  7. Gary Wanner

    Mr. Ben Merold was truly a Giant in the Faith. He served very humbly and cared about everybody. He was very wise and offered counsel to everyone who asked. In all of his years with Harvester Christian Church he was always willing to offer his help and wisdom to anyone in need. He based all of his teachings on inspiration from the Holy Spirit. He preached with great passion and conviction. He always emphasized that God’s Holy Word was [what] the world is all about. Ben Inspired my life and his walk with Jesus Christ was important to my heart and soul. Ben will now lie down with his fathers and enter his final home with peace and happiness. I will miss you, great man of God. Your teachings will carry on long after your homecoming.

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