37csi_Merold_JN1

You Need to Know About Ben Merold

There have been a ton of people that have helped me out along the way, and it’s time to give some honor where honor is due. I’ve written some of these types of blogs before. There’s one about my dad here, and one about my mother here. And even one about an old coach I had here. But there are plenty of other folks who have been there for me through thick and thin, and it’s time to give them some credit.

37csi_Merold_JN1The name Ben Merold will be familiar with some of you. He’s been a preacher in the Restoration Movement churches since the King James Bible was fresh off the newly invented printing press, or so it seems. His resume is well documented, leading East Side Christian Church in Fullerton, California for a couple decades before moving to Harvester Christian Church in Missouri at the age of 65. The church of fewer than 200 grew to 3,500 before his retirement. The Christian Standard did an excellent interview with Ben prior to his resignation that you can read here(The Christian Standard website also gets credit for this photograph of Ben)

I was a young minister in Florissant, Missouri when Ben resigned his post at Harvester. I remember sitting at my desk one day thinking there was a legend of the movement that lived twenty minutes from me that I had never met. I got in touch with his secretary and asked him to lunch. I figured I’d get a “no.” He was kind of a big deal and probably had no time for me, I reasoned. To my surprise, he agreed to the meeting. It was a wonderful arrangement. I’d ask a question, stuff some food in my mouth, and listen to Ben answer.

Thus, I got to know one of the most humble, wise, generous men I’ve ever met. Over the course of a half-dozen lunches I grew to respect and love Ben in ways that are hard for me to articulate.

First, the man can flat out preach. I mean really preach. I would easily place him in the Top 3 preachers I have ever personally heard, and that includes the really famous ones with YouTube channels and Twitter followers and book deals. He’s kind of like Daniel Day-Lewis in that way. If you ask most people who the best actor out there is, very few will say Daniel Day-Lewis. If you ask actors who the best actor is, they always say Daniel Day-Lewis. Same with Ben. Ask a bunch of people who their favorite preacher is, they’ll list off a bunch of different names. But if you’re in Restoration Movement circles and you ask a bunch of preachers who the best preacher is, most of them will mention Ben.

More personally, I can’t get over Ben’s generosity. During the time we were meeting and eating, I know for a fact that he met with at least two other young ministers in our area. This was on top of his booked-solid travel schedule and personal life. He led leadership retreats and filled the pulpit for people all over the midwest. He began to serve again at Harvester Christian Church when asked to by their new lead pastor. He may have retired, but he had plenty going on. Why he saw fit to eat BBQ with a young youth minister he’d never served with is something that still makes no sense to me, but I’m sure grateful.

Perhaps most notably, Ben was incredibly wise. He guided me through some difficult times with calm assurances and reasoned thought. He was completely honest, but in a folksy sort of way that never sounded harsh or critical. He had a complimentary tone that never came across as empty flattery. He encouraged me to take a preaching job but remained excited and supportive when I revealed I was going to stay in student ministry. All Ben ever did was dish out wisdom by the wheel barrow full. I’m better for having spent time with him.

big-benIn London, England, the clock known as Big Ben stands out in the London skyline–a fixture in that place that is irreplaceable. Known for it’s reliability, the clock is still ticking despite it’s age. Completed in 1858, the clock tilts slightly now because of excavation nearby. Still, the clock functions as it’s meant to. So strong and reliable is Big Ben that even during The Blitz of World War II, the clock never missed a beat. Tourists stand and gaze at it, paying it due homage.

It seems to me that Ben Merold is a lot like that clock. Through cultural shifts that happened on his watch and right beneath his feet, despite attacks of trials in his life and the overall discouragement that comes from being in church leadership, and regardless of his age (which is significantly less than the clock’s, despite my earlier jabs), Ben Merold keeps on ticking. He might be tilting a little from age, but he hasn’t fallen down just yet. He’s a fixture in the skyline of our movement that all members of Christianity would do well to stand and stare at for a while.

Because of his wisdom, his generosity, and his longevity, Ben Merold is someone you need to know.

14 comments

  1. Titus ~ what a huge compliment to one of the greatest men of our time! You are wise to recognize his wisdom!! Great job young Timothy!

  2. It was a privilege to sit under him and listen to many sermons from him. What a great man of God he is. Thanks for putting this into words.

  3. Great testiment Titus. Ben was my first introduction that the Acts church was still God’s plan for today, the one who inspired me to go into ministry, & a major catalyst to why I am back in in today. But there is also something about your willingness to show your care to me in a time of need that reminds me you have some of Ben’s same quality for your generation.

  4. Your thoughts about Ben remind me of when he first came to Eastside Christian Church. I had been attending but was not satisfied with the preaching and other things and was ready to leave. Well, when Ben came what a change. From dynamic sermons to radical changes the church began to grow. I left in 1974 due to another state due to a job change and not see the ongoing growth he generated. I do know that it was the Holy Spirit working through Ben that grew that church. In the last 40 years there have two pastors that have influenced my life and Ben was one and I thank God for that.

  5. I had the honor and privilege and blessing of being under his tutelage the 17 years he was at Harvester. Not only is he a gifted preacher and teacher, he had a servant’s heart. He taught me what it meant to serve others. Really serve. He taught me more about scripture in his 17 years at Harvester than I learned in the previous 24 years studying scripture. He was also a pastor and knew how to pastor his flock. As busy as he was he made time to make house calls. I am truly blessed for having known him.

  6. I met Ben and Pat Merold when they came to Eastside Christian church in 1967-68. I was almost ten-years-old. Pat taught our Sunday school class – a bunch of pretty rowdy boys. Ben preached on Sunday morning and Sunday night. I had never attended a church before coming to Eastside. It changed my life – and the life of my family. As a young boy I was pulled into Ben’s sermons and Pat’s lessons. They taught me to love Jesus and to tell others about Christ and how he loved them. Ben baptized me, my mother, and my three brothers in 1968 – this event changed the direction of our family. Jesus came into our lives and changed us. I am thankful and so blessed to have met Ben and Pat Merold and to have experienced their love for Jesus. Thank you for sharing your encounter with Ben.
    I just came back from a visit with a few friends and their wives. We all attended Eastside together in the mid to late 1970s – some still worship there today. They are all good Christian men and women – they have raised good Christian children. They love Jesus and serve him every day. They are the legacy of Ben and Pat’s love for young people. They taught all of us how to love and serve Jesus.

  7. I remember Ben coming to Union Christian Church in Terre Haute, In where I live when I was young. I thought he was a wonderful speaker and could have listened to him for hours. He was a good friend of our minister, Floyd Miller. It is a pleasure to have those memories of Ben. My best to him.

  8. I’ve been in the Restoration movement all my life and in 1996 my wife and I put our membership with Harvester Christian Church. For the next sixteen years we enjoyed serving under Ben’s leadership. I was blessed and honored to serve as an elder for a few of those years. The most enjoyable years of serving Christ have been under Ben’s leadership. One of our sons passed away this year and Ben and Pat have been right there encouraging us. They know what it’s like, they have lost two of there three sons. I have never known anyone like him and doubt if I ever will.

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