RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–James Merritt’s church is deeply involved in missions, but he says it took an overseas trip to Bolivia for him to really “get it.”
“I had heard there were people who worshiped gods on totem poles, but it hadn’t really registered” until he spent time with Southern Baptist missionaries in Bolivia, Merritt said.
The Southern Baptist Convention president made the remarks during an Oct. 18 meeting with International Mission Board leaders at IMB headquarters in Richmond, Va.
Merritt is pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Snellville. The 12,000-member congregation is a member of the IMB’s Global Priority Church network and devotes two staff members to missions promotion.
His trip to Latin America was the first Merritt plans to make as part of his commitment to visit IMB missionaries in all 15 of the board’s overseas administrative regions during his tenure as SBC president.
Now that he’s visited nine of the regions, a lot of things have become clear to him. One is the importance of the pastor’s involvement in an active missions program.
Merritt said pastors need to understand they have a unique ability to promote missions in a church.
“Motivate your people. Get them over there,” he said. Help them get “their hands dirty, their feet wet. The only people who can really push missions are the pastors.”
Merritt also has been impressed that God can use virtually anyone on a missions project.
“God can use you in incredible ways” in a country where you can’t speak the language, he said, noting that any church member “can be used in an incredible way.”
On a recent mission trip to Kenya, a deacon from Merritt’s church — who had never witnessed to anyone before — led more than 100 people to Christ.
Merritt has been most impressed with the passion of the missionaries he’s met during his visits.
“I haven’t met a missionary who doesn’t have a literal, consuming compassion” for the people they are trying to reach, he said.
And missionaries depend on our prayers too, he said.
“I got prayer cards from missionaries everywhere I went. And they’re serious about it. One told me, ‘I’m not going to give you this card unless you’re going to pray.'”
Learn more about the Global Priority Church challenge: http://www.imb.org/GlobalVision/GPC/default.htm.
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— Visit FBC Snellville’s website: http://www.fellowshipofjoy.org.