Can the outlooks of two generations coexist in one church? James Merritt, 59, serves as senior pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia. His son, Jonathan Merritt, 29, joined the church staff in 2008.
In many respects, they couldn't be more different. James represents the Boomer generation's approach to faith in Christ. Jonathan's Christian faith was forged in a postmodern context. When they start talking about theological or political issues, the sparks fly—so much so that James's wife (Jonathan's mother) has to leave the room and let them go at it.
But underneath their intense differences, there's a profound respect for each other. Each has a passionate drive to share the gospel and influence the world for Christ.
Leadership Journal's Matt Woodley met them in James's famous "Georgia Bull 'Dawgs' room," where he asked them about outreach, compassion, justice, and evangelism.
Jonathan, you recently wrote that Fred Rogers is a model Christian communicator for your generation. In your words, Mr. Rogers "was a devout Christian who almost never explicitly talked about his faith on the air, but the way his show infused society with beauty and grace was near biblical." James, how would you evaluate Mr. Rogers's ability to reach people for Christ?
James: On the one hand, I love Jonathan's spirit in that article, and I agree that our world is better because we've had positive cultural influences like Mr. Rogers. Television certainly needs more people like Fred Rogers. I also understand that the show wasn't supposed to be explicitly about Jesus.
On the other hand—and this is just an observation, not a criticism—much of what Mr. Rogers communicated in his program could have been communicated by an unbeliever who ...