Layman's mentoring instilled passion for Bible, Falwell tells NAMB staff

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--Jerry Falwell's passion for the Bible and biblical teaching has its roots in his own discipleship just over 50 years ago, the Lynchburg, Va., pastor and conservative icon shared with staff members of the North American Mission Board Aug. 8. Coming from a family with no history of Christianity, Falwell accepted Christ on Jan. 20, 1952, after hearing evangelist Charles E. Fuller on the radio and finally attending a local church.

"Someone in the church began mentoring me within five days. He gave me a copy of Oswald Chamber's 'My Utmost for His Highest,' and all of Andrew Murray's writings," Falwell said, along with a number of biographies and writings of Christian leaders through the centuries.

"Then he put me on a Bible memorization program of one chapter a week," he added. "... I was introduced to all those books and writings, and by mid March -- with all that soaking in my soul -- God had called me out of journalism, into the ministry."

Since then he said he has maintained the discipline, reading the Bible through completely each year, memorizing Scriptures and "reading, reading, reading, reading."

"If you're going to live in the supernatural, you've got to get up a little earlier than the others do," he said. "You've got to go the extra mile."

Falwell, senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church and chancellor of Liberty University, told the story as part of a chapel sermon based on Luke 4 about what it takes to "get out of the box" and "live in the supernatural" as a Christian leader. Today, he said, the basic teaching of the Bible too often gets neglected.

"I am certainly for meeting the needs of people, and I am certainly for removing any and all barriers that might keep people from coming -- but not to the extreme that we minimize the importance of the teaching and preaching of the Word of God," he said.

"We've got to fill the minds of the children, the adolescents, the adults with the facts of the gospel, the facts of the divinity of Christ, the facts of the inerrancy of Scripture, the facts of biblical morality and decency, world evangelism. ... And then by the preaching of the Word of God, that teaching is driven south to the heart, where regeneration, where fire occurs," Falwell said.

"We can package it in a way that we get the yuppies and we get the modernists. But we cannot package it in such a way that it isn't found, and isn't understood, and isn't honored, and isn't clearly declared that the Word of God comes first."

In a word of advice for pastors, Falwell also pointed to the importance of one of the basic disciplines of starting a new church -- knocking on doors, letting people know of the pastors' availability, and ultimately leading them to faith in Christ. When he started Thomas Road Baptist Church in 1956, he made it a goal to visit at least 100 homes a day six days a week, often from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. The congregation grew to more than 800 members in the first year.

"Doctors and preachers don't make house calls anymore, and those that do get all the business," he quipped, noting that people often respond only later, when crisis hits.

"Everybody's in trouble," Falwell said. "And they want to meet somebody who cares enough to come knock on their door. And you leave behind some literature and your home phone number. ... They're not paying much attention that day perhaps, but when the stars fall out of their heaven, the phone rings." "God is not impressed with buildings and budgets and programs," he added later. "... The only thing that impresses him is people ... all kinds of people. And if you'll get involved in winning people to Jesus, you'll get his attention. And he'll do things for you he doesn't do for others."

Falwell also stressed the importance of Christians using platforms that God has given them to further the cause of Christ. When he became a regular fixture in the national media through his leadership of the Moral Majority in the 1980s, he said he made just such a commitment.

"I told the Lord years ago that, 'If you'll let me go on those shows, I'll always share your gospel,'" Falwell said. "... And to this present day, they know it's coming, ... the message of the gospel -- the death, burial and resurrection of Christ -- and I'm speaking to the greater public in prime time on their nickel."

Falwell also challenged leaders to not be afraid to ask great things of God. He noted how he asked God when Liberty University was founded that it ultimately could send out 5,000 senior pastors and 2,500 missionaries.

"I'm about halfway on my goals, but about 70 percent of my lifespan," Falwell said. "So I've had to ask the Lord to get this thing stretched out a little bit or either let's start doing something on a bigger scale.

"Ask God for big things, and trust God to do it for you," he said. "Nothing is too hard for him."

(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at Photo title: ADDRESSING NAMB STAFF.

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