Friday Five Intervew: Tony Merida

I’m always excited to meet new authors, especially new authors who are pastors, and especially new authors, who are pastors, who publish with my friends at New Hope, who has published all my books. I was asked a few months ago to consider endorsing a book by Dr. Tony Merida, entitled, Orphanology, to be released in 2011. I read through the draft and came away very impressed and inspired. It is a thorough handbook on the theology and practice of adoption. For anyone needing a comprehensive biblical and practical book on orphan care and adoption, this will be your book.

Dr. Merida is a Teaching Pastor at Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a dual-campus church of about 3,500 active members. He is also an adjunct professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

I liked the book so much, I asked Dr. Merida to stop by and answer a few questions. He graciously agreed and so here is Dr. Merida and The Friday Five:

1) You wrote the book, Faithful Preaching. Why do you think preaching, what some considered an old-fashioned mode of communication, is still relevant today?

My beliefs about preaching are driven more from theological convictions than cultural assessments. If you listen to many today, they will argue that people won’t listen to preaching (especially long preaching) and that we need to move to more dialogue or more video-driven methods. While I believe that there are places for dialogue (small groups) and a place for video-media tools, we shouldn’t throw preaching out because of what we perceive people want or need based upon the winds of ever-changing culture. Instead, I believe we must take our cue from God’s Word. If we believe it to be the inspired Word of God, then why would we want to do anything other than what it says about preaching? I’m not referring to the form of preaching, but the essence of preaching; that is, standing up, opening a Bible, reading it, explaining it and applying it to people’s lives in a way that they can understand it. Why wouldn’t we do this?

I’ve been given a timeless charge to “preach the Word.” The spoken Word and the written Word have been God’s chosen means of revealing Christ to the world. In fact, God was the first preacher. He spoke creation into existence. He could have done it other ways, but he didn’t. He then created mankind in his image, with the ability to (among other things) talk. He then called Abraham to himself. He then used the prophets to speak to people. They were creative, and spoke the timely words necessary.  When Christ came to earth, like the prophet John the Baptist, he came preaching repentance. As Jesus commissioned his disciples, he urged them to teachand proclaim the Gospel. At Pentecost, Peter preached a really good sermon about Jesus and thousands were saved. Later Paul urges Timothy to “preach the Word” and reminds us that “faith comes by hearing and hearing from the word of Christ.” Paul also tells Timothy in corporate worship that someone should read the Scriptures and then exhort the hearers about these things. We could go on. When Christ returns he is called “the Word of God.” Therefore, preaching is built on a biblical-theological framework. If one starts from the Bible, I think they’ll be led to preach God’s Word faithfully. Is preaching old-fashioned? Yes. But not “1960’s old fashioned.” It’s as old as creation. And until Christ returns, preaching will continue to be relevant. We need to improve at it, to be sure, but folks shouldn’t dismiss it because they see poor examples of it.

2) It seems to me that there is a movement back toward substantive, solid preaching and teaching, even expository. Why is that?

This is related to question 1. I think that where you find a group of people affirming the inspiration and truthfulness of Scripture, you will find a group of people doing substantive preaching. You show your beliefs about the Bible, your real beliefs, by what you practice. Guys who are not teaching the Bible must think that there are other better ways to see lives changed. Besides this, I think some of the more popular younger evangelicals are doing Word-driven preaching, thereby setting an example for others. And I think another reason is probably due to the fact that the slick, seeker, market-driven church has left people wanting more.

3) You have a project coming out with New Hope entitled Orphanology. I had the privilege of reviewing the manuscript and was glad to give it an endorsement. How did this project come about?

Basically, I was preaching on the doctrine of adoption everywhere, and New Hope approached me about writing a book on adoption/orphan care. I thought that this would be a good idea in light of the fact that every time I spoke on the subject I received a gazillion questions about things like: ‘How do you pay for it?’  ‘How do you do orphan ministry in the local church?’ ‘How do you do orphan hosting ministry?’ I wanted to write a book that provide both a theological rational for adoption and orphan are as well as some practical answers to these common questions. With the help of Rick Morton, I think we’ve given a good effort and I hope it helps those interested in these things. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing it, and trying to live it with my five adopted children.

4) Adoption has always been a sort of personal choice/decision made by individual couples, but you seem to think it should be a church-wide calling. Why is that?

Adoption and orphan care is a biblical issue. If you want to obey the Bible, you better care for orphans –  in some capacity. Not everyone will or should adopt, but some can and should. Others may support in other ways. Caring for orphans was a practice that continued after James wrote verse 1:27, as well. From historical documents, we read how people didn’t value human life (like today), and it was the Christians who cared for unwanted children. They received great attention for such sacrificial care. They believed, as we should, that anyone created in the image of God should be valued. So, I believe it to be a church-wide calling like other callings such as stewardship, evangelism, care for the poor, etc. because it’s a biblical issue.

5) What advice would you give to a couple who is thinking and praying about pursuing adoption?

I would tell them to begin by spending time reading the Scriptures and praying about the matter. I would encourage them to look at God’s concern for the fatherless throughout the Bible in general, and to take detailed look at the doctrine of adoption in particular. During the search phase, they may also begin reading literature on adoption and talking to adoptive parents. Once a decision is made, they would need to select a country in which to adopt. After deciding on this, they can then choose an adoption agency with which to work. From there, it’s a great adventure, one that should be bathed in prayer for God’s strength and wisdom because orphan care is warfare. They should expect opposition and struggle from every side, but God’s grace is sufficient for their weakness.