The Jerry Falwell I knew

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)--The home-going of my friend Jerry Falwell, a great man of God, has given me occasion to reflect on the Jerry Falwell I knew. Most knew him as the man who was on "Larry King Live" or "Hannity and Colmes," speaking for Christ and morality. Even in the most hostile situation, Dr. Falwell just kept smiling and kept speaking out on the issues of the times. He never compromised his convictions. He always expressed love for those who were on the opposite side of whatever issue.

But I was privileged to know a Falwell many did not know. I knew Jerry Falwell, the family man. His great love for his wife of nearly 50 years, Macel, and for his two fine sons, Jerry Jr., now chancellor of Liberty University and Jonathan, now pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, and Jeannie, a skilled surgeon. He was a doting grandfather to his eight grandchildren. He always spoke of them in glowing terms. He attended all their activities. He spent quality time with them. What a testimony in a time when many seem to be so consumed by their work they don't seem to have time for family.

I knew Jerry Falwell the pastor. All of his ministry, he wanted to be known as just a pastor of a local Baptist church. He built a mega-church before mega-churches were cool. Yet he never lost the touch of a pastor. He conducted many funerals and weddings each week.

I remember well the night I went with Dr. Falwell to a member of his church who had accidentally run over a child next door, tragically killing the little boy. Jerry was tender and sensitive as he ministered to his member. Then, we went next door to the family of the little boy. He ministered in an amazing way.

Jerry Falwell carried all his cash in his coat pockets. On the way to the airport he stopped by the home of a widow in his church. He was in a hurry, but he stayed there 45 minutes. When he left, he had given her all his cash. He had to borrow some money from the pilot to buy supper! That was the Jerry Falwell I knew.

He always conducted himself with the dignity, class and compassion and caring heart every believer should experience from a pastor.

I knew Jerry Falwell, pastor to pastors. He made every pastor feel special, whether it was the pastor of a large city church or the pastor of a small country church. He understood that the Lord's men all have their place of ministry and he affirmed them and rejoiced with them in that call of God upon their lives.

I knew Jerry Falwell as a friend. As I said at his funeral service, when he started saying several years ago I was his best friend in the ministry, a thousand pastors were stunned. They all thought they were! He was a great friend. A great man. A great pastor. A great spokesman for Christ. The kind of man all of us need for a friend.


Jerry Vines is the former pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Visit his website at www.JerryVines.com.

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