LYNCHBURG, Va. (BP) — Vice President Mike Pence and preacher Jerry Vines urged the largest graduating class in Liberty University’s history of more than 20,000 graduates to faithfully live out what they have learned at Liberty in a world that desperately needs strong Christians.
“I say, not so much as your vice president,” Pence told graduates during their commencement ceremony May 11, “but as your brother in Christ, if what you’ve seen and heard and learned in this place has also taken hold in your heart, go from here and live it out. America needs men and women of integrity and faith now more than ever.”
Vines, former Southern Baptist Convention president, addressed the students at the baccalaureate service May 10.
After receiving an honorary degree from Liberty, Pence spoke highly of Liberty’s commitment to Christian values, the Falwell family, and the opportunity to address the graduates.
“Like many of you graduates here today I was raised in a church home, but by the time I got to high school, I was one of those people who still went to church but was just going through the motions,” Pence said. “I decided to go my own way. I got to college and met some people who I could tell had something I lacked. The only way I could describe it is joy.”
Pence told the graduates a story about how he became curious about Christianity and asked a friend where he could find a cross like the one that he wore around his neck. He said his friend told him about the true heart change necessary to follow Jesus.
“You have to wear it in your heart before you wear it around your neck,” Pence said. “A few weeks later I put my faith in Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and it’s made all the difference.”
Pence reminded graduates about the recent Christian persecution both domestically and around the world. He urged them to live a life characterized by faith and love in these divisive times.
“We need faith that unites on a foundation of grace,” Pence said. “We need to show that we can love God and our neighbor at the same time through our words and our deeds. Decide here and now to stand firm.”
David Jeremiah, pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church and founder and host of Turning Point Radio and Television Ministries, gave the commencement ceremony closing prayer.
Vines, who has been a member of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees since 1988, encouraged the graduating class to make progress physically, intellectually, socially and spiritually wherever they are for the rest of their lives.
“We place an emphasis upon the spiritual here,” Vines said. “You can be a champion for Christ wherever God chooses to place you. He has given you a plan and a purpose. It is called a commencement service, it is not the concluding of your life, it is the continuing of your life,” Vines said.
This was Vines’ fifth time speaking at Liberty’s baccalaureate service and first since 2007, when he also officiated Jerry Falwell Sr.’s funeral service a few days later.
Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. announced that Liberty had acquired the stained glass windows of both Vines and Falwell that were recently removed from the chapel at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. During the baccalaureate service, Falwell said the glass windows will be displayed in the Falwell museum on campus. Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development, also was a special guest at the baccalaureate and commencement services.
Vines concluded his remarks with a Gospel presentation and a reminder for the Christians in the audience to grow daily in their walk with God.
“Let me encourage you to have a devotional time every day in your life. Spend some time reading the Bible and letting God talk to you,” he said. “Spend some time every day in prayer and you talk to God. It is there that you draw strength. It is there that you draw closer to the Lord.”
Liberty University is in partnership with the SBC of Virginia.