2 April, 2023

An Example Worth Following: A Tribute to Ben Merold


by | 1 March, 2023 | 0 comments

Ben Merold, 96, a beloved minister in Christian churches and churches of Christ for almost three-quarters of a century, died November 16, 2022. 

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By Doyle Roth

Ben Merold lived his life fully committed to Jesus. He served God by serving many churches over his ministry career and touching the lives of millions of people. Ben truly was a man of God.  

Don Sanders, leadership development pastor at Harvester Christian Church and director of The Merold Institute, said this about Ben when he introduced him at a graduation ceremony not long ago:  

Ben is a church consultant, a fantastic preacher, an encourager of ministers, a friend to those in need, a mentor, a World War II veteran, an avid Cardinal baseball fan, a farmer, and a pilot. He runs a bed and breakfast with Pat in their home. He is a theologian, a historian, and a friend to countless people. 

Ben Merold is like a rock star. He’s a trendsetter, an influencer, a social commentator. He has urban legends surrounding him, he commands a room, he’s sought after, and he certainly has stage presence! I’m pretty sure Chuck Norris has a Ben Merold poster in his room! 

It was an incredible honor to serve alongside Ben for more than 31 years at Harvester Christian Church. He was my mentor, spiritual father, and dear friend. When I think of Ben, the words of Paul come to mind: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). This verse may not be true of all people, but it describes Ben accurately. As I and others followed him, we learned to follow Jesus more completely.  

In following Ben . . .  

We learned how to pray. His prayers were simple, sincere, and genuine. He didn’t use flowery words to impress others. He was a humble man talking to his God. We often met early on Sunday mornings, and he would ask God to send the Holy Spirit to touch lives and do something unexpected that morning. After praying, Ben was ready for God to answer. Ben was a man of prayer. 

We learned the power of the Word of God. Ben often quoted Matthew 6:33: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Ben believed God’s Word was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and that same Spirit is active in it today. He read his Bible daily. He believed in the truth of doctrine and was constantly seeking the truth of God for all areas of life. Ben prepared his messages and preached believing that people would respond to God’s Word. And when he preached, people did respond. Ben believed God’s Word still has power. 

We learned how to be generous. Ben was the most generous person I have ever met. He was often buying lunch, giving generous tips at restaurants, leaving a note with money for housekeeping in his hotel room, and giving to people in need. He was personally benevolent and led the church to increase in meeting the needs of people in the church and community. He believed a Christian’s generosity is a demonstration of the loving heart of God. God’s love was evident through Ben’s generosity. 

We appreciated marriage. Ben and Pat’s marriage of 73 years served as an example to many people. Though Ben led a busy schedule traveling to churches for years, their marriage was strong. Their love and respect for each other was unwavering. Ben demonstrated sincere love and appreciation for Pat. They kept joy and laughter in their relationship.  

Ben shared that in the houses they lived in, he would drive a large nail into the door going from the garage into the house. When arriving home, he would pause, pray, and make a mental note of taking any stress or problems from the day and hanging it on the nail before going into the house. When he was home, he was a husband, a friend, and a dad. When he would leave for work the next morning, he could “pick up” whatever was hanging there. He said it seldom was as big as he remembered it being the night before. Ben loved Pat and honored her.  

We learned about being a leader. As a teenager, Ben lied about his age and began serving as a Marine in World War II. Those were impactful years, and as a young man he became a leader in battle. After the war, he gave his life to Jesus and was baptized. He went to Bible college and was passionate about leading people to Jesus. He led the churches he served to be passionate about evangelism and to not settle for just meeting together. He was a leader of pastors. His “church growth” videos are classics, and the truth within them are still effective. Ben didn’t walk into a room and demand to be followed. He was committed to God and never lost focus of the mission. People followed his passion for kingdom work. Ben was a leader of leaders. 

We learned to take risks. Ben was not afraid to take risks for the kingdom. He built a great church in Sullivan, Indiana, and then moved to a small church in California. After God used him to build Eastside Christian Church into a large and thriving church, he moved to St. Charles, Missouri, just before his 65th birthday. He set high goals for Harvester Christian Church. The goals were beyond our reach and could only be achieved if we had God’s help. He led us to pray and work hard, and we met every goal he set. He hired committed staff who did not always have great résumés, but he gave opportunities to serve, and great things happened.  

Ben continually looked for new opportunities to serve needs in the community. He was not afraid to address church-culture issues. Ben would often say there should be something in every service he does not like, because if a service were built around his preferred style, others would not like it. Years ago, he pushed ahead on adding guitars and drums into our worship style. In his later years, I know he did not like the volume or the new style of songs in our church, but he was there every Sunday, and he took great delight in pointing out how many young people were coming.  

He loved seeing all ages in worship; he knew how critical it is to change our methods to reach young people for Jesus while never changing the main principles of the gospel. Ben was able to keep a balance and not lose the focus of evangelism. He did not live in the past or make worship about himself. Ben had a strong faith and was not afraid to take risks for the kingdom. 

We saw godly wisdom. At times in ministry, I would tell Ben, “We have some big problems.” But church issues didn’t seem to overwhelm him. He might get frustrated, but he believed God was working and good would come. He often would remind us of this Scripture: 

 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).  

Ben was resolutely forward thinking. He believed Jesus was returning soon and our work as believers is urgent. With eternity just ahead, he would not get sidetracked by negativity or complaining. He loved children, students, and adults of all ages. Every person was important to God and to Ben. Ben was a man of great wisdom. 

We understood grace. He believed God’s grace is for every person, no matter their past. Ben believed God’s grace transforms people and gives second chances. He lived it and preached it everywhere he went. He was not afraid of the messiness of people’s lives. Ben was a forgiving man. I never saw him hold a grudge. He forgave and moved on. Ben was a person of grace. 

We never stop serving. Ben did not believe in “retirement” from kingdom work. There is always someone who needs encouragement or the truth of God’s Word. He continued to lead a Bible study at 95. When we spoke, he would invariably ask, “Doyle, do you have anything I can do to help you?” He loved serving and sharing the Good News of Jesus wherever he was. Ben was still on staff part time at the time of his death at age 96. Quitting was a word Ben did not understand. Ben never stopped serving in kingdom work. 

At the funeral of his good friend Wayne Smith, Ben said, “It is hard to imagine a world without Wayne Smith.” I feel that way now. It is hard to imagine our world without Ben Merold. Ben’s impact in lives across the nation is immeasurable. His legacy will continue in the hearts of his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, his many friends, and the countless people he touched through ministry over the years. Ben has received his crown of righteousness. Until we see Jesus face-to-face, we must continue to follow Ben’s example of sustaining the wonder of the journey and discovering new methods and opportunities to lead people to Jesus. 

The apostle Paul’s words ring true for Ben Merold: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-9).  

Doyle Roth is mobilization pastor at Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles, Missouri, where he has served for 34 years. 


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