Bob Merritt: ‘No Leader Is Immune’

Each year, we speak with several Outreach 100 pastors in an effort to collect their honest observations about the church, their ministries and their experiences.

Eagle Brook Church in St. Paul, Minnesota

I have to constantly keep my No. 1, 2 and 3 gifts in front of me, fulfill those and do almost nothing else.
My top three are teaching, leadership and wisdom. Teaching is extremely hard and consumes about 30 hours of my week. And because of the internet, the bar keeps going up. I have to keep getting better. So I focus almost all my energy on that, and either delegate or say “no” to almost everything else. Someone is disappointed with me every single day, and that’s OK.

As a young pastor I listened to Chuck Swindoll every day in my office. Chuck was ahead of his time with applying biblical truth to everyday life. But I owe so much to Willow Creek and Bill Hybels. Because of Willow Creek, my vision for what church could be immediately changed.

Most criticism has a nugget of truth in it, but I have to let my emotion dissipate before I can appreciate what it is. Usually the critic has been offended by something I said or did. I might disagree with their position, but they were still offended. So I almost always start my response with, “Thank you for taking time to write; I am so sorry that I offended you.” Many people are shocked that I took the time to respond, and most are appreciative, even apologetic, when I start out with kindness. My goal is to win them over.

What concerns me most is leadership failure. How many more leaders of highly visible churches have to fail, burn out or get fired and tarnish the name of Christ before we acknowledge that no leader is immune? No leader can lead well, teach well and restore well while preaching 45 times a year, crisscrossing the country on speaking gigs, leading massive building campaigns, authoring books and then taking selfies and tweeting endlessly about what coffee they drank that morning. If a leader’s flame is out before age 50, everybody loses.

As diverse as people are, there will be a diversity of church experiences. No one kind of church can satisfy the ever-evolving kinds of people. With that said, people are people. Every human being has the same needs for Jesus, salvation, worship, forgiveness, love, acceptance, hope and inspiration. Everyone needs great teaching. Everyone needs a place. Everyone needs community. But the size and style of how those needs are met will vary.

Read more Candid Conversations with Outreach 100 pastors »

St. Paul, Minnesota
Twitter: @Bob_Merritt
Founded: 1949
Affiliation: Baptist—Converge Worldwide (BGC)
Locations: 6
Attendance: 20,719
Largest: 12