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Campus Pastor Clayton King reflects on his years at Liberty and the lives he has touched
When Liberty University officials called Clayton King to fill in for a Friday morning Convocation speaker who was unable to attend, they probably had no idea what they would get in return.
That happened in 2004. Now, King has become the most frequent speaker to travel to Liberty.
According to King, after he finished his Friday Convocation message, he was asked by Liberty faculty to return for Spiritual Emphasis Week. Since then, he has not missed a single year as the teacher during the first week of the semester that serves as a spiritual jumpstart for students.
Dozens of sermons later, King celebrated 10 years as Liberty’s Spiritual Emphasis Week speaker. At the conclusion of the 2014 edition of the event Thursday, Aug. 21, King was honored with a surprise cake, complete with a picture of his face.
Despite the many great memories King said he has of the 10 years of preaching during Spiritual Emphasis Week, one instance particularly stands out to him.
King explained that seven or eight years ago, he met a student who told him she was ready to kill herself but held off and chose to go to a Spiritual Emphasis Week service when a friend invited her. During the service, King said, God rescued her and she gave her life to Christ.
“I watched her go, literally, from the point of suicide to being this sold out follower of Christ,” King said. “So those stories are really what motivate me.”
Another poignant week in King’s mind took place in the last few years when he taught on the life of Joseph.
“(E)very single night, I just remember the altar being full,” King said. “I just remember these really special God moments where students were really connecting with the Holy Spirit. The irony was, as I prepared that series, I really kind of felt insecure about it. I (thought), ‘Well this is really specific to one man. I don’t really know if the students are going to get anything out of it,’ and it ended up probably being one of the top two or three series I’ve done.”
According to King, who has since become a campus pastor who delivers the majority of sermons given to students during Campus Church on Wednesday nights, Liberty provides him opportunities unique from any of the other colleges he visits. While he has been teaching at other colleges for more than 10 years, he only teaches at those schools four or fives times a year. At Liberty, King said he may teach four or five times a month.
“There’s no school quite like Liberty,” King said. “It’s so unique in its size, in its influence, in the number of students that are here preparing for life and work and ministry. So for me, it really is, sort of, a way to maximize my time. I spend a lot of time here, and I commit hours and days and days and days to be here, but for me, it’s really one of the most effective places I can come, because I’m reaching and influencing more people than I could at almost any other place.”
Above all, King said he most enjoys coming to Liberty as a pastor because of the students.
“The reason why I love to prioritize Liberty, whether it’s Spiritual Emphasis Week or Campus Church or Convo … is the students,” King said. “I keep coming back because I love the students. I love their heart for Jesus. I love their excitement about learning. I love the way they embrace me when I come to preach and teach.”
One of the only drawbacks at Liberty for King is the inability to meet personally with every student.
“I want to meet one-on-one with so many students, but it’s just impossible, because there’s 13,000, and I just don’t have the time to meet with everybody one-on-one that wants to,” King said. “It’s a mathematical impossibility, but that’s what I would really love to do.”
Despite the fact that King cannot meet every Liberty student, he said he has no plans to stop trying to impact as many Liberty students as he can.
According to President Jerry Falwell, King is committed to Liberty for the long haul.
“He’s a good friend to me and a good friend to both of my boys,” Falwell said. “We appreciate him very much. He told me … Liberty’s one of his favorite places to speak and he’s committed to being here as long as we need him.”