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Stay focused, faithful, firm, Merritt exhorts seminarians


WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Southern Baptist churches need men who remain focused, faithful and firm in their leadership, said former Southern Baptist Convention President James Merritt.

Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., spoke on the importance of strong leadership in a Feb. 18 chapel message at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

Christian leadership involves pressure and does not come without a price, Merritt said in a message from the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah. The devil will work especially hard to attack those in leadership positions within the church, the pastor said.

However, from chapter 6 of Nehemiah, Merritt noted three lessons a minister can learn from Nehemiah’s experience of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.

First, Merritt said, “When some try to sidetrack you, stay focused. God wants you focused. The devil wants you finished. That’s why pastors have affairs and lose their marriages — they can’t stay focused.”

The way to avoid the pitfall of becoming sidetracked, he told the chapel audience, is for leaders to remind themselves they are doing a great work — one given them by the Lord to complete. This awareness will keep them focused on remaining true to the task at hand and finishing the work they have been entrusted with.

Second, Merritt noted, “[W]hen some try to slander you, stay faithful.”

Slander and false criticism are an unfortunate part of a pastor’s ministry, he said. A pastor would do well to prayerfully evaluate all of his criticism and take it to God rather than believing it at face value, he advised.

“If you don’t have a thick skin, get out of the ministry,” Merritt said. “If they lied about Jesus, they’re going to lie about you. If they slandered Jesus, they’re going to slander you, too.”

Third, Merritt pointed to Nehemiah’s example in verses 10-14 to say, “When some try to seduce you, stay firm. Leaders don’t cut and run when the trouble gets high. Nothing will ever kill leadership quicker than compromise.”

Good leadership can mean the difference between a church living and a church dying, Merritt said. “I encourage you today, keep your eye on God’s glory, His Word and His Son, and you will live a life of victory.”
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  • Kyle Smith