News Articles

Unified church can convince the lost, Merritt tells Promise Keepers rally

PHOENIX (BP)–God cannot help a church that is not unified in heart and spirit, James Merritt, former Southern Baptist Convention president and pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Snellville, told a group of 9,000 ministers and Christian leaders gathered for a Promise Keepers’ pastors conference in Phoenix Feb. 18-20.

Merritt said unity is something God desires for and demands from his people, and it’s the one thing that Satan fears and works day and night to undo.

“It is something for which Jesus himself prayed just before he went to the cross,” Merritt said in his address. “It is the one thing that the Bible says will convince people that the church has something the world does not.”

Unity differs from union because union is when people are bonded without a particular common bond, Merritt said, and it differs from uniformity because that’s when everyone looks alike, sounds alike and thinks alike. And unity differs from unanimity because in unity people can still have differing opinions. By unity, Merritt said, he meant a oneness of heart, a similarity of purpose and an agreement on the basics of Bible doctrine and truth.

“Satan cannot defeat a unified church because there is no place where he can attack the body,” Merritt told the crowd at the Bank One Ballpark. “Every flank is covered; every side is protected. Even the gates of hell cannot prevail against a church united in its love for the Lord Jesus Christ and its love for one another. But one by one, divided against each other, any of us and all of us can be picked off by his fiery darts.”

The conference theme, “Come Near to Me,” reflected the biblical call for pastors and God’s people to be reconciled to God and to each other in the same way Joseph was reunited with his brothers in Genesis 45:4.

Among the other speakers at the Promise Keepers conference:

— Moody Bible Institute President Joe Stowell acknowledged the racial challenges facing the nation and the Christian church worldwide. “Are you ready to face the risks?” he asked. “You are going to have to embrace someone who is not like you in order to win your city.”

— Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, said, “Don’t let your culture get in the way of your message. Spiritual truth must take precedence over cultural differences.” Evans said the goal of the Kingdom is to show people what heaven looks like, even if it means fixing their actions while their feelings catch up to them.

— Bruce Wilkinson, author of the best-selling book “The Prayer of Jabez,” returned from his new home in Johannesburg, South Africa, to remind Christians in the United States of the AIDS pandemic sweeping the African continent. “Will you go this year to Africa to see for yourself how to help?” he asked.

— Promise Keepers president and founder Bill McCartney said, “Who is really the luckiest guy in the world? He’s the pastor of the local church,” recalling Lou Gehrig’s famous farewell.

Promise Keepers is planning 18 men’s conferences for 2003, and a complete list can be viewed at www.promisekeepers.org.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: COME NEAR TO ME.

    About the Author

  • Staff