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Jerry Falwell at Southeastern predicts bright days for SBC

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Sounding at times like a military commander, Jerry Falwell commissioned students at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary March 18 to stand for what is right in the anti-Christian culture he has been attacking for more than four decades.

Employing his characteristically candid style, Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va., and founder and chancellor of Liberty Baptist University, proclaimed “there has been a changing of the guard and the liberals know it,” referring to the shift to theological conservatism within the Southern Baptist Convention over the last decade.

Falwell predicted the Southern Baptist Convention’s brightest days are ahead.

“I thank God that one day, Virginia, the most liberal of all Baptist states in the nation, and North Carolina, who has the dubious distinction of being number two worst, will have the best because of Southeastern producing the pastors, the mentors, the leaders who will replace the duds with good Bible teaching and Bible preaching pulpits,” Falwell said. “You’ll have to get used to me,” he explained, “I say exactly what I think and what I believe.”

Affectionately described by Southeastern President Paige Patterson as his “mentor of worldwide rabble-rousing,” Falwell told students attending the Wake Forest, N.C., seminary: “If popularity is what you’re choosing, fellows you’ve chosen the wrong profession. God has called you to be faithful.

“Your message is to be counter to the culture,” Falwell continued. “Nothing is changed. We are still in the minority. We will be until the rapture occurs, and then we quickly move into the unanimous majority. But until then, we have a work to do. We preach against sin and we attack the culture when the culture attacks Christ.”

On Wednesday, March 19, CNN was scheduled to air an interview at 9 p.m. Eastern on “Larry King Live” featuring a discussion between Falwell and Larry Flynt, founder and publisher of Hustler magazine. Several years ago, Flynt depicted Falwell in a derogatory cartoon published in his pornographic magazine. The “Larry King Live” program, which was first aired in January, received a positive response from viewers around the world, Falwell said.

“I had an opportunity to share Christ with him (Flynt) six weeks ago on that program and to show the love of the Lord to a man who is in the garbage business, pornography. … The joy of preaching the gospel on these talk shows is you do it on their nickel and you’re fishing in a hole that is filled with people, multitudes who know nothing of our gospel, and it’s a joy to do so.”

A week ago, Falwell appeared on ABC News’ “Nightline.” When asked his opinion about television evangelist Robert Schuller affirming President Clinton with the Isaiah 58:12 passage, “Thou shalt be called a repairer of the breach,” Falwell said he responded by saying: “I think the president is the breach, the most pro-abortion president in our history who has surrounded himself with gays and lesbians in high places.

“I think that a man who is president needs to take a stand for the sanctity of human life from conception to eternity,” Falwell told the Binkley Chapel audience. “I believe that a man who is in political leadership must be a mentor in his own lifestyle and must believe that family begins when a man and a woman legally marry and all sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is immorality, whether premarital, extramarital, heterosexual, homosexual. It is all sin.”

Preaching from 2 Timothy 2:1-5, Falwell exhorted Southeasterners to remain “tough” and “well-conditioned” in their faith. “That means you don’t know how to quit. You never sound retreat. You ignore your feelings and emotions.”

Rising at 5:45 a.m. every morning to spend an hour with God, Falwell said, has helped secure his strong personal walk with God.

“Forget how you feel. Forget that another 30 minutes (of sleep) would be nice. If you’re sleeping to 8 o’clock in the morning, you’re in cardinal sin,” he joked.

Saved as an 18-year-old college sophomore majoring in journalism, Falwell said his life was changed radically upon conversion, noting, “I did not grow up in the home of a fundamentalist Baptist preacher.” His father was an agnostic who worked in the nightclub business and was the largest distributor of illegal whiskey on the East Coast. His grandfather was an atheist as well.

At age 63, having served as pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church 41 years, leading the church to grow from 35 members to several thousand, Falwell said he doesn’t plan on ever retiring from the ministry.

“Don’t ever live on memories,” he preached. “Don’t ever build the latter part of your ministry on the things you learned in the early part.”

“You are training now to be mentors. That’s what seminaries are training grounds for, mentors, teachers, pastors, educators. You are the men and women who will lead the Christian society and provide mentorship for the saved and the lost for another 40, 50 or 60 years.”

Falwell mentioned several mentors in his life and ministry including the late theologian Francis Schaeffer, his teacher of “social activism” concerning issues such as abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and the breakdown of the family.

“He taught me to be a troublemaker,” Falwell said. “You and I can change the world if we’re willing to do it God’s way.”

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  • Lee Weeks