#11: Preaching and Evangelism with Dr. Merritt

Recently, we had Dr. James Merritt on the podcast to discuss the importance of preaching and evangelism in our churches and communities. Listen in for some practical and compelling truth with regard to living out the Great Commission.

Transcript

 

Dr. Smith:
Dr. Merritt, thank you for being with us here in Maryland/Delaware. Our convention has been blessed by your presence. You are a preacher and you’ve been a preacher and a pastor for a good while. And you mentioned earlier today, laying your preaching out a year in advance, planning it out. How did you come to that routine? And has that always been part of your routine? I’m asking this to understand some of your methodology, and I’m also asking it because I’m not sure of the priority that a lot of guys give to preaching today, whether it’s revitalization or fresh church plan.

Dr. Merritt:
Well, first of all, Kevin, there’s a great question. I do agree what you just said. No, I did not do it. Probably the most part of my ministry. I didn’t. I’m not even sure, really, I’m sure I read something somewhere or something jogged me and I realized that’s a great idea to do. So, I normally, that’s the only work thing I do. I take the month of July off. That is the only thing I do of a work nature on vacation.

Dr. Merritt:
It’s not really that hard because what I’m doing before that, Kevin, is I’m talking to my staff and getting ideas, “Guys, what do you think the church needs to hear?” I’m talking to key leaders in the church. What are you sensing? What are you hearing? And then, out of my reading and I listened to a lot of different speakers and all, I think God begins to warm things in my heart.

Dr. Merritt:
And so, I realize that obviously there are always certain themes that you need to hit on, your devotional life, evangelism, giving, marriage, the family, raising kids, cultural issues, those kinds of things. So, I’ll play through and think through. What I do, I call it the big rocks in the jar. So, what do I already know that I’m going to be preaching on? So, for example, I’m going to do three weeks in November on stewardship and giving. And four weeks before Easter next year, I’m going to do a mini version of the life of Jesus, birth, life, death, resurrection. So, I put the big rocks in there. And then, I’ll have some one offs here and there, and then I’ll take some Sundays off to let some other guys preach.

Dr. Merritt:
So, that’s how I do it. But the better thing I’ve done, or as good a thing as I’ve done, then that Kevin, and I was able to do it because I’ve been in the ministry so long. I started doing this maybe, I don’t know, five, six, seven years ago. I’m now four to six weeks ahead in my sermon prep. So in other words, if I got sick today, I got four sermons in the hopper right now, four or five.

Dr. Merritt:
I think I’m good till the second Sunday in December right now. The reason I do that is twofold. Number one, I take about a week and a half off at the end of the year. I don’t want to be working while I’m with my family during Christmas. Number two, I don’t want to work in July. So, my hardest months of the year are November and the first December, because I’m actually doubling up and May and June, because I’m doubling up, but it really does pay off.

Dr. Merritt:
And then what I do is, I give my sermons out to some of my key staff people, let them read them ahead of time and let them vet them. Hey, tell me what you like, what you don’t like. We’ve got some younger guys. My son, Jonathan’s one of them. They’re good at saying, “For you, that’s not outdated, but some guys don’t even know who, they don’t know who Ronald Reagan was.” For example, just giving an example, because I want it to be as clean and as clear and as relevant as I can.

Dr. Merritt:
So, that’s what I’ve done. And, I would encourage every pastor, whether you plan a year ahead about are not, the worst case looking back to me is, you’re starting this Sunday’s message Monday. I just think that’s just a bad place to be and I would encourage guys … So what I was able to do, I took about six weeks and I went back and preached old sermons that I hadn’t preached in years. And, it gave me a chance to prepare new ones. And then after that, you’re just on a roll.

Dr. Smith:
Amen. Preparation. So, you have a Ph.D. in New Testament.

Dr. Merritt:
Actually, in evangelism.

Dr. Smith:
Evangelism. And, I have encouraged guys to think about a rotation in the Bible, Old Testament, New Testament, Gospel, systematically, as far as sections of the Bible. How have you thought about preaching?

Dr. Merritt:
Yeah, and I think that’s a great way to do it. And,.here’s the amazing thing, and I don’t know whether it’s just the way God providentially works it out, but I’m in all of that. I’m not just exclusive. Now this year, I did take the year to preach the four New Testament books, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians.

Dr. Merritt:
But normally, the interesting thing is I probably preach as much out of the Old Testament, if not more than I do the New Testament. And by the way, the reason I used to be … A lot of pastors are afraid to preach out to the Old Testament because I didn’t think I could really … it’s just easier to preach out the New Testament. And one of the guys that really helped me the most was Adrian Rogers because some of the greatest sermons he ever preached were out of the Old Testament.

Dr. Merritt:
And, I began to learn to think, you know what all the Bible’s about Jesus. So, you can really take any part, whether it’s the first five books, Psalms, Proverbs, wisdom, literature, the prophets, it’s all about Jesus. So, that really did help me. The thing that is good about planning your preaching and our preaching through books of the Bible is two things. You avoid being a Johnny one note and preaching your sugar stick, things I love to preach all the time.

Dr. Merritt:
And, it forces you to preach on things that you might not want to tackle. I did a thing, I did a series, one of the best things I’ve ever done. I called it the elephant in the room. And I talked about things that people don’t really like or don’t know how to talk about. I dealt with politics. I preached on racism. I preached on homosexuality, I preached on abortion. We call it the elephant in the room. So, it forces me to kind of get outside. I shared with you I preached on slavery in the Bible just three weeks ago in my church. So to your point, I don’t believe, and this is not slamming anybody, Kevin, but I don’t believe guys take as much … They don’t place as much importance on sermon prep, raw sermon prep.

Dr. Merritt:
And, I think there’s a number of reasons why. I think because of the age of social media and the internet let’s face it, it’s a lot easier if you want to try to do it on the fly than it was years ago. Number two, you are more, particularly if you’re a church planner, you’re more of an entrepreneur. You’re more of the creative, innovative, got to be cutting edge kind of a thinker. And, what can happen is, your sermon preparation, and by the way, your personal evangelism and oh, by the way, your devotional life can tend to slide if you’re not careful.

Dr. Smith:
Yeah. I’m starting to feel old. There’s a difference between a microwave and a slow cooker on the back burner. And, just getting around with the Strong’s Concordance and waddling in the text and just spending all that time. It seems you really have to persuade brothers. So, you serve churches. And I wonder as a pastor, how have you felt. One of our stalwarts back in the conservative resurgence, used to use the phrase of calling out the called. So as a pastor, what have you felt to be your responsibilities as far as calling out or helping people recognize the call to missions or the call to the vocational ministry?

Dr. Merritt:
Yeah. First of all, just using the term is refreshing to hear you say, because people don’t put an emphasis on the call like they used to. I don’t know what the statistic is. It has been for a long time, 1200 ministers of all [inaudible 00:07:54] get out of the ministry every year. And frankly, I think a lot of the reasons why that a lot of pastors, or one of the reasons why a lot of pastors do, is they haven’t been called. There’s a lot of things I know I would enjoy doing. I’m a big college football fan. I’m big Georgia football fan. I’m going to get that in here by the way, and would I enjoy coaching the University of Georgia if could be good at it, I might for a while, but I wouldn’t be fulfilled. It’s not my calling.

Dr. Merritt:
This is my calling. And we all have calling. If you’re a lawyer be called to be a lawyer. If you’re a doctor, be called to be a doctor. But to your point, number one, I take the calling of God very, very seriously. So, I’ve been a little bit different in my approach, right, wrong or indifferent. I never pushed any of my three boys to go into the ministry.

Dr. Merritt:
I push my boys to find God’s will and God’s call for their life. That’s what I did. I’ve tended to do the same thing as a pastor. I guess I’ll put it this way, and I’m not saying it’s right, it’s just me, Kevin. I err on the side of caution when it comes to the call of God. Yeah, I want to call out the called, but I’m not sure that’s my role, and I don’t mean to sound super spiritual.

Dr. Merritt:
I think that’s God’s role. My role is to teach about the importance of calling, how to recognize what the calling of God is on your life and be ready to answer it. But at the end of the day, it’s really up to the spirit of God to do the calling because, and again, I hope this comes out right. I would rather have three people who were really called and stick with it and don’t go into it and one or two of them get miserable.

Dr. Merritt:
It was the emotion of the moment, they got weary of the work or whatever. I’d rather have three that stuck with it than say, I’ve got 50, but 15 of them, that just wasn’t what they wanted to do. I think that can be so disillusioning, if you will. And so though again, I do believe in the concept of calling the called out. I just believe it’s not my role to call the call. It’s my role to explain the call, to explain how to recognize the call. And then, you honestly go to the Lord and you see if the spirit of God is calling you.

Dr. Smith:
So, let me ask you something about being in the Atlanta suburbs. I talked to brothers sometimes that love the Lord and they desire good fruit. And I realize, maybe just because of their background or maybe limits of things they’ve experienced, they struggle leading and pastoring and preaching to what I call middle-class professional class people. I regularly find myself saying to pastors, “You got to figure out how to lead men.” So in your experience, you’re in a large city, a metropolitan area. How have you engaged leadership of what we might call middle-class professionals, white-collar folk?

Dr. Merritt:
That’s another one of those things that I think sometimes we tend to overthink it. I’ll tell you a story. I love this story. There was a young pastor that had been called to his first church and it was in a college town. And, he’s preparing his first sermon, and all of a sudden he had a panic attack, anxiety attack. He calls his dad who was a pastor. He said, “Dad, I’m in deep trouble.” And he says, “What’s the matter?” He says, “I don’t know what to preach Sunday.” He says, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, dad, if I preach on psychology, I got a Ph.D. listening to me in psychology. If I preach on philosophy, I’ve got a Ph.D. in philosophy. If I preach on economics, I’ve got a Ph.D. in economics. What should I do?”

Dr. Merritt:
And he said, “Son, why don’t you just preach the Bible? They probably know very little about that.” I have learned that, whether it’s middle-upper or lower, whether it’s professional or not, people are hungry for truth. And, they want to hear someone who will stand up, even if they may not like it or agree with it. They want to be able to hear someone that will at least articulate what they believe, why they believe it and give solid reasons why they believe it and force that person to think.

Dr. Merritt:
So, that’s really what I’ve tried to do. And then, the other thing again, is to develop and we’re doing it in our church now, to develop a leadership pipeline. So, we’re teaching our staff right now. The way I want to evaluate you is not how much you grow your ministry. How much do you grow your leadership? The way to tell whether you’re successful or not in the ministry, even with a pastor.

Dr. Merritt:
If I lost my student pastor tomorrow, would the work die? If it would, he’s not done his job. I don’t care if they’re running a thousand kids, if he’s got the best small group leaders on the planet. Who could step in for you? Who could step up and take the charge, so to speak? So, I think that’s what we’re trying to do. And I’ll tell you, one of the things that we pastors need to do with staff, is to teach your staff how to be looking out for leaders.

Dr. Merritt:
And oh, by the way, there may be a guy or a gal in your church. They may not be the CEO. They may just be a sales manager, but they’ve got leadership skills nobody’s tapped into before you. You say, “Well, how do you recognize it?” Because he’s the guy or she’s the girl that’s willing to roll up their sleeves and do the dirty work that nobody else will do.

Dr. Merritt:
That’s the mark of a leader. It’s the person that will go out and park the cars in the rain with a smile on his face, or it’s freezing to death or snow’s on the ground and he treats it just like it’s a summer day at Daytona beach. That person’s got leadership ability. Some of the greatest leaders in the Bible didn’t think of themselves as leaders. David, he didn’t think of himself as a leader. He was just a shepherd boy. he didn’t think yourself as a leader. Gideon, man, I’m the least of all, I’m just a runt, but God knew. So, I think those are some big keys to developing leadership in your church.

Dr. Smith:
You have served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. You mentioned earlier that during your presidency, you went to every IMB region and saw different things around the world. If you’re speaking to someone new in SBC life or someone, a young person, particularly maybe someone thinking about vocational ministry, what would you tell them about the Southern Baptist Convention? Because there’s all kinds of things it gets said in media, there’s all kinds of impressions people have. What would you tell them about the Southern Baptist Convention?

Dr. Merritt:
I’ll tell him this. I’d say, first of all, there is no perfect church. There is no perfect denomination. Anything that’s big has big problems. If you’ve got a big family, you got big problems. If you’ve got a big church, you’ve got big problems. You got a big denomination, you got big problems. I say that goes with the territory.

Dr. Merritt:
Here’s what I would say, I would say, “But let me tell you what you’re getting in the Southern Baptist Convention. You’re getting a convention that stands. They’re the vanguard of standing for biblical truth in a day and age when there’s not a lot of it anymore. Number two, you’re standing with a convention that believes in taking the gospel around the world. Number three, you’re part of a convention that is both big enough and strong enough and yet humble enough to admit its flaws. Who’s always willing at the end of the day to correct its mistakes and knows that we’ve never yet arrived and we’re not going to arrive. We’re trying to be better than ever for the kingdom of God.”

Dr. Merritt:
And so, you can go to sleep at night as a Southern Baptist and know, yes, there’ll be things about the convention you don’t like. I’m telling you as a former president there’s things about the convention I don’t like. And, there are things I would change if I could change them. That said, when you look at the big picture and you look at the fact that we have more missionaries still on the field, than any denomination in the world, that you can go to any seminary you want to and not have to worry about that the divinity of Christ or the inerrancy of the scripture or sexual morality being taught correctly.

Dr. Merritt:
None of that’s ever going to be in question. When you know that you’re going to be a part of a denomination that the gospel is above all, when you realize that you’re going to be a part of a denomination that knows, racially, we’ve not arrived yet. We got a lot of progress to make, but we’re admitting we’re doing it. And, that we’ve got to make progress and we’re taking steps to make progress. Then you can go to sleep at night and know, no, it’s not the perfect denomination. I won’t even say it may be the best denomination, but I would challenge you to go find a better denomination to do the things I just talked about.

Dr. Smith:
There’s capacity, there’s breath. And there’s the optional foundation that is so needed in what I call Americanized Christianity. You use a phrase, I don’t want anything to get in the way of the Gospel or the ability to share the gospel with someone and St. Louis, Phoenix, I can’t remember where it was, but it was a few years back and we had a controversial issue. And, I remember a stand that you took. I remember some bold statements that you made. And, I remember those statements were not necessarily about the issue we were talking about. They were about the Gospel. So, can you flesh that out? I don’t want anything to hinder me from being able to share the Gospel with someone.

Dr. Merritt:
Yeah. The incident you’re talking about, it’s amazing how it’s such a God thing because I wasn’t planning on doing anything when I went to that convention. It was over the Confederate flag. It was a resolution about the flag. And the full story of that, I’ll try to tell as quickly as I can, there was a resolution that the resolution committee brought forth about the flag. And I heard Dr. Mohler on a panel very candidly say he felt like it was pretty weak. And so, when I walked over to the convention, so I had not planned do anything. I walked over the convention center and I read it. I was very disappointed. I saw it as a weak resolution. I texted Danny Aiken, one of my best buddies. I said, “Danny, I’m thinking about speaking to this. I just feel convicted to speak to it.”

Dr. Merritt:
And he texted me back and he says, “Would you be willing to do it?” And I said, “Yeah.” Well, he texted Russ Moore. Russ texted me and said, “Would you be willing to help us craft something?” And I said, “Sure.” And he said, “Give me what you got.” Well, I’ve still got my cell phone. I just typed some notes and things I wanted say, sent it to Russ.

Dr. Merritt:
And Russ said, “That sounds great to us. Get to a microphone. Hope you get to speak.” Well, what people don’t understand, those microphones are random. Just because you’re a former president of the convention, you’re in lined up behind everybody else. I had no idea that I’d get to speak to it, Kevin. So when sure enough, as the Providence of God would have it, Ronnie was the president, Dr. Floyd. And, as the Lord would have it, my mic came up and I was speaking in favor of the amendment to this resolution.

Dr. Merritt:
And, I just simply made the statement that all the flags in all the world is not worth one soul coming to Christ. And of course, that was kind of like to say, a Gettysburg moment. And, that was it. And what’s so amazing, I had … this is a funny story. I didn’t really realize what I’d done. And, I hear about it. I guarantee you Kevin, once a month somebody brings it up to me. They remember this huge African American pastor. The guy probably weighed 300 pounds, was six feet eight. I’d never seen the guy before he came running to me and I didn’t know what he’s going to do. And, he grabbed me and lifted me, put me in a bear hug. He was bawling his eyes out. He said, “I’ve never met you Dr. Merritt, but thank you for what you did.”

Dr. Merritt:
And I’m saying that not because … it was a God thing, hadn’t planned to do it. But my point is this, God did teach me another lesson that day. And that is, I can’t think of anything Kevin, that’s more important than the Gospel. Here’s a good example in our church. When George Bush was elected president, the Sunday after his election, I called my church to their knees. We prayed for George Bush. When Barack Obama was elected president, we got on our knees. We prayed for Barack Obama. When Donald Trump was elected president, we got on our knees. We prayed for Donald Trump.

Dr. Merritt:
Other than that, that’s the only time I mentioned anything about anything politically. I’m going to major on the Gospel. I don’t want anybody of any color or race, creed, or political persuasion to say I can’t come to that church because of that pastor and what he says. I’m just not going to do that.

Dr. Merritt:
I have my own convictions. I’ve got my own beliefs. And I tell guys, “You want to ask me a question? I’ll answer the question. Nothing’s off-limits. I’ll tell you anything you want to know, but I’m not going to make the political personal, and I’m not going to preach politics because that’s not what God’s called me to do.” And, I just think it’s so important. We hear that more and more and I know that makes some people upset. That’s okay, but that’s my conviction.

Dr. Smith:
When you look out at the church world, church life, you’ve been a fruitful pastor. What makes you optimistic and what gives you hope and encouragement and what is maybe something that you put on your prayer list and perhaps gives you concern?

Dr. Merritt:
Yeah, let me take the latter one first. In fact, I won’t call his name. I can give you his initials. You know who he is, but he’s one of those prominent SBC leaders we have. And, I agree with him. He said, “When I look at the church, I do feel despair.” And here’s why … I’ll get to the optimism in a moment, but one of the, Good to Great. If you’ve read the book Good, Great. One of the marks of good to great is you face the brutal facts.

Dr. Merritt:
The brutal facts are we are in a culture war and we’re losing the battle, to call it. What are you going to call it? Who would have ever thought … if I’d have told you 20 years ago that we would legalize gay marriage, you’d have said I’ve lost my mind. If I’d have told you that there was going to be a gay man running for president, you’d have said we’d lost our mind. And, we could talk about all these sins of other guys.

Dr. Merritt:
I’m not just picking on those sins, but my point is it’s a different day. And as you well know, the fastest growing religious group in America are the nuns, 26% now, at an all-time high. And the truth of the matter is, the most committed people in my church are probably there 75% of the time. That’s just the way it is. When I was a boy, when we were growing up, you wouldn’t dare have a cheerleader practice on Sunday morning or a cheerleading competition. You wouldn’t have football practice on that, you didn’t do it.

Dr. Merritt:
They don’t care. Those days are gone. We, clergy used to be the most respected man in town. Those days are gone, a different day. So, when I look at the culture and I look at the church’s response and some of the ways we think we should respond, so we just won’t talk about this issue anymore, or we’ll compromise and cave on this issue. That’s discouraging.

Dr. Merritt:
The encouraging thing is this. The darker it is the brighter the light can shine. And the last time I checked, the Gospel has not lost its power. The last time I checked, the word of God is still a sword sharper than a two-edged sword that could cut you, soul and spirit. The last time I checked, Jesus Christ is still Lord of this universe. And so, I’m optimistic because here’s the last thing I know Jesus himself said that the gates of hell will not prevail against us if we will stay off the defensive and stay on the offensive. Now, winning doesn’t necessarily mean, oh, so James, what you’re saying is tons of people will come back to the church. No, when you read Second Timothy and First Timothy, maybe just~ the opposite will happen.

Dr. Merritt:
Jesus never measured his success by the number of the crowds that followed him, never did. As a matter of fact, it got so low one time, it was just opposite. Are you going to check out too? And, there wasn’t a whole lot of cheering going on when he was being crucified by the way. But where I am optimistic is, it’s not much church, not your church. It’s not Southern Baptist Church. It’s God’s church. And at the end of the day, when everything else on this planet is lifting ashes, governments, colleges, scientific laboratories, militaries and armies, the one thing we’ll still be standing is the church.

Dr. Smith:
Last question, you were on a panel at the SBC in Birmingham that were talking about Christian unity. And one thing that is characteristic of my ministry, has just been a burden for Ephesians 4:3, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace. What insights do you have about that for a denomination of 46,000 plus churches, 46,000 plus pastors. You’re in a very large state convention. Georgia’s one of our largest state conventions.

Dr. Smith:
Ideally, I think, hey, look, we have the Baptist faith and message and this is an Ephesians chapter three, four through six, one Lord, one faith, one baptized … So, let’s stand on this doctrinal platform and be flexible in other places. Some people worship on Sunday morning, some have Saturday night services. We have purpose driven type situations, not in … we are a large denomination. And so, what are some keys or what things do you think can guide us in unity? And I’m asking this with some backdrop, because I didn’t think we had a good testimony in 2016, and I’m nervous about 2020. And, I want us to be God’s people. What exhortations or encouragement do you have towards Christian unity?

Dr. Merritt:
I talked about this to the church, my church yesterday Philippi was a very diverse congregation. People don’t realize this, but when Paul said grace and peace, which he said in a lot of his letters, why did he do that? It was a signal. Grace was the greeting you gave to a Gentile. Peace, Shalom was a greeting you gave to a Jew. So, I know right off the bat in Phillipi, they had one of the greatest diversities you could have in the early church, Jews and Gentiles, talk about diversity.

Dr. Merritt:
If it had not been for the Jerusalem council, you’d have had the first Jewish Baptist Church of Jerusalem and the first Gentile Baptist Church of Jerusalem, had not been for the Jerusalem council. So, here’s what I told our church. Thee message that will bring a church together, the magnet that will draw a church together and the ministry that will keep our church together is the Gospel.

Dr. Merritt:
So, you’re asking me. The key to unity is what you’re unified around. If we find our unity in a political party, eventually our unity will fray because the party will fail you. If we build our unity around a candidate or a person, eventually that person will fail you and the unity will fray. If we build our unity around a philosophy, eventually somebody will philosophically disagree and we’ll fray.

Dr. Merritt:
But, if we’ll build our unity around the Gospel and the great commission period, I’m going to focus on sharing the Gospel. I’m going to focus on the great commission. I want to focus on reaching people for Christ. Can I tell you just one last quick story? One of my favorite stories, the peace committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, they’re having this big meeting. Adrian was on one side, a man named Cecil Sherman was on the other side and pastor First Asheville.

Dr. Merritt:
Cecil was an unabashed unashamed liberal. So one time, I had a lot of respect for him because he was honest. He’s a liberally … he’s a liberal. And so, they’re having this meeting. And so, in the meeting, he and Adrian, they were good friends, but they didn’t see eye to eye. And, they were talking about the seminaries and they were talking about how we got a problem we got to deal with. Dr. Sherman got so aggravated with Dr. Rogers. He leaned across the table and he said, “Adrian, if you don’t compromise, we’ll never get together.”

Dr. Merritt:
And, Adrian Rogers in his own inimitable way said this. He said, “Cecil, we don’t have to get together. I don’t have to be the pastor at Bellevue church. I don’t have to be the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I don’t have to live, but I will not compromise the truth of the word of God.” I would say to Southern Baptist, we don’t have to be unified.

Dr. Merritt:
We don’t have to get together. We don’t have to stay together. We don’t have to be together, but there’s one thing I will not do Southern Baptist, I’m not going to let anything less than my passion for, and my focus on the Gospel, the great commission and the truth of God’s word. And if long as we’ll all agree that’s the number one thing, we can work through anything else?

Dr. Smith:
I’m talking about when you mentioned the word distraction. Romans two says that the name of God is blasphemed among the heathen because of Israel. Y’all say don’t commit adultery. You commit adultery. Y’all say don’t steal. And so, sometimes I feel like I’m encountering people who perceive caring well and addressing our exposure in certain areas of sexual sin and abuse and things as being a distraction from our work. And I think, it’s unrighteousness that has to be addressed to be fruitful in our work. But, I certainly highly respect your wisdom and your experience. How do you see how we’ve received everything’s happened since the Houston Chronicle?

Dr. Merritt:
I appreciate that. Again, this may surprise you. That’s part of the Gospel to me. That’s part of the Gospel. The Gospel doesn’t ignore sin. Why is the Gospel, why do we call it good news? Because there’s bad news. What’s the bad news? We live in a world of sexual abuse and child abuse and we still have slavery as you well know. We live in a world of lying and stealing and killing and murdering and terrorism.

Dr. Merritt:
It’s part and parcel. And, Paul even said himself very clearly, let judgment begin at the house of God. Well, we can’t ask anybody to clean up their house until we’re ready to clean up our own. And, it’s never wrong to do what’s right, Kevin. And the fact of the matter is, it’s not a distraction to own up to where we have failed, to own up to issues like that, that we’ve not been sensitive to, whether it is the race issue, whether it is the sexual abuse issue.

Dr. Merritt:
It is not only un-Christ-like, and it’s not only cowardly. It goes against the spirit of the Gospel. So we’re not going to deal with it. No, here’s what all about the Gospel. The Gospel deals with everything. It deals with everybody. That’s why, whether you have had an abortion, whether you were or have been, or are a white nationalist, whether you are a misogynist, it doesn’t matter.

Dr. Merritt:
There’s hope in the Gospel for you. But, a part of the gospel is repentance. It’s amazing that Jesus, the very first message Jesus ever preached, nobody would deny Jesus was Gospel. He was the embodiment of the Gospel. What’s the first thing he preached? Repentance. The first words out of his mouth as a preacher, repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. You know what Jesus would say to this issue? Repent, repent. So, not only do I not think it’s a distraction, I applaud President Greer and those that have been behind this movement.

Dr. Merritt:
I think it’s been a great thing and a wonderful thing. It’s been painful, but that’s okay. They’re growing pains. I don’t mean numerically, but spiritually. We’re still growing spiritually and they’re growing pains and I think they’ve been necessary. And, I think they’ve been good.

Dr. Smith:
Pastor Dr. James Merritt, Crosspoint Church, Duluth, Georgia. Thank you so much for coming to Maryland, Delaware. You are down in the heart of Southern Baptist land and touching all those other states, and you came up here to share the word of God with us and we are so grateful. God bless you, my brother.

Dr. Merritt:
Kevin. Thank you. And, thank you for the tremendous leadership you’ve given to this convention. I’m the president of your fan club. I love you more than I could ever tell you. Thank you for the invitation.

Dr. Smith:
Amen.