Student Life

Best Year Ever

By David Nasser, June 12, 2019

From academic and athletic accomplishments to spiritual revivals and visits from special guests, Liberty can call this past year its best ever

As the LU Stages team and I were looking back on the past year and preparing for a recap to share at our last Convocation before graduation, it dawned on us that the year we had experienced as a collective body had mounted up to not only be another fruitful season, but perhaps our finest year ever. I realize that this is an audacious and subjective claim. How do we measure good versus great? How do we not fall into a comparison game? Well, the truth is that this was the opposite of comparison. We weren’t comparing to past years nearly as much as crediting them. This has been a year of great harvest in many ways because of the relentless seed-sowing and intentional cultivating and nurturing of those who were here before us. We are simply reaping the fruit of years and years of faithfulness. I pray that our alumni and donors will see how their early investment is paying off like never before in every area — athletics, academics, spiritual life, and service.

Athletics

Whether it was in our Club Sports or NCAA Division I programs, our student-athletes reached major milestones. This past year, we joined the ASUN Conference and immediately made our presence known with conference title runs in numerous sports (read more).

Perhaps the most notable was our men’s basketball team, which won its first-ever NCAA Tournament game, knocking off the Mississippi State Bulldogs in dramatic fashion. But what made this team special wasn’t just the final score. The season kicked off with a charity game against Virginia Tech where Liberty raised over $36,000 to aid in relief efforts for Hurricane Michael in Florida. It was fitting to see our season begin in such a fashion against Virginia Tech and then come full circle when we played Virginia Tech again, but this time in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32.

Anyone who has spent time with our president, Jerry Falwell, knows that our perceptive and intuitive leader has always been committed to the vision of seeing Liberty’s football team compete at the highest level of competition. This past year we saw that dream come to fulfillment as we participated in our first-ever season as a member of the FBS.

People are starting to notice our team — and our school — more than ever, and the arrival of nationally  recognized and much-heralded Head Coach Hugh Freeze promises a really bright future for our newly minted FBS squad.

Academics

From the courtroom to the classroom, this past year we celebrated the largest graduating class in Liberty’s history (read more). A wave of new leadership promises even greater success in the future. Take a peek at the leadership of our respective schools and you’ll see some of the brightest men and women in their field who have come here to train up a new generation of leaders.

Even with all the success in the classroom, I can tell you there’s been zero compromising of our values. There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t meet with a professor who reminds me how our faculty see themselves as ministers first and educators second. You simply don’t have to check your faith at the door of a university classroom. Liberty is a testament to that truth every single day.

If you need further proof that faith and academic successes aren’t at odds with one another, check out the recent bar passage rate for Liberty University School of Law graduates: Liberty ranked No. 7 in the nation, among the likes of Harvard and Yale.

The Rawlings Scriptorium opened at the Rawlings School of Divinity at the base of Freedom Tower. Open to the public, the space houses a collection of rare books and Bibles donated by the Rawlings Foundation and valued at over $1 million.

Spiritual Life

None of this success makes a lot of sense if we’re not staying true to our mission of Training Champions for Christ, and this last year showed evidence of God’s work in the hearts and lives of so many people. Led by over 1,100 community group leaders in our residence halls, hundreds of students gave their lives to Christ. It wasn’t uncommon to see the lake behind the Vines Center become an impromptu site for baptisms!

Our weekly Campus Community service saw record attendance from students. My favorite sermon series was our Seven series, where I had the privilege of preaching and walking our students through the famous seven letters to the seven churches of Revelation. Using footage shot on location in Turkey, God brought those letters to life in a new way for both myself and our students.

That series proved especially timely because it was during those sermons that over 3,000 of us wrote notes to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo advocating for the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was imprisoned in Turkey for sharing his faith in the same places that the early church had been sharing it so many years ago. President Falwell and his wife, Becki, wrote their own personal letter and led the effort. Weeks later, we celebrated together when we heard news of Pastor Brunson’s release.

Service

What God did in our hearts was evidenced by how it spilled over into the community around us. In the city, students volunteered close to 500,000 community service hours. The now-annual Serve Lynchburg hit record attendance with over 2,000 students serving the city in one collective blitz, an event so big it even showed up on national news (read more).

Internationally, a record number of LU students traveled abroad over Fall, Winter and Spring Breaks. One group even got the chance to distribute Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in Trinidad and Tobago. It was an opportunity afforded to them by Samaritan’s Purse, thanks in part to our campus’ record-breaking effort that saw nearly 5,000 shoeboxes packaged here on campus to send abroad to children in need.

Convocation

Finally, I can’t talk about what God’s done without talking about the platform that occupies much of my time and attention: Convocation. This is the most unique and visible distinctive of our university. From global leaders in politics and Hollywood stars to pro athletes and best-selling authors, Liberty saw some of the most recognizable names in the world come its way. (Watch many of this year’s past Convocations on YouTube.)

We kicked off the year with a one-day revival featuring Kari Jobe, and that highlighted a year of visits from multiple recording artists, including Phil Wickham, Chris McClarney of Jesus Culture, TobyMac, Hillsong NYC, and Travis Greene.

Travis Greene’s visit represented one of the most memorable Convocations we had all year. He led worship for us in both the morning Convocation and in Campus Community that night, where an impromptu prayer service broke out and students stepped forward with courage to express their own needs, hurts, and fears in one of the most powerful displays of vulnerability we have ever witnessed. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, God used students to minister to each other; an off-the-cuff offering raised over $19,000 to minister to students in need.

God moved that night in the Vines Center, much like He had done a few weeks earlier when, led by our guest Francis Chan, we felt compelled to offer a third service (after Convocation and Campus Community) at midnight! Dozens came to faith in Christ, and if you were in the room at midnight, watching thousands of students worshipping their Savior, that would be all you’d need to see if you had ever wondered whether God’s hand was still on this place.

Here’s the thing: we might be having more success these days, but we’re not any less hungry for God.

Convocation saw athletes from multiple major sports, including Chicago Cubs World Series MVP Ben Zobrist as well as NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson and his teammate, race car driver and Liberty student William Byron. World leaders like John Maxwell also graced the stage, as well as entertainers and actors like Gary Sinise and Dean Cain. Actress Candace Cameron Bure shared a short Gospel message in a clip that ended up generating over 3 million online views.

Political figures like Sean Spicer and Dinesh D’Souza came our way, and Liberty even became one of the first college campuses to serve as a satellite location for CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. . Donald Trump Jr. joined the stage for that historic day, and that’s also when Vice President Mike Pence announced via satellite that he would be joining us for Commencement (read more on CPAC).

The most recognizable guest of the year was none other than First Lady of the United States Melania Trump. She came to Convocation in November to raise awareness about the ongoing opioid epidemic in the country. That day kicked off a series of nationwide events that saw President Falwell and Becki Falwell travel to other locations and colleges around the country to lend their own voices to this important fight (read more).

As the Convocation stage proved itself a platform of ideas from leaders of all walks of life, it continued to field some of the most well-known pastors today, such as Franklin Graham, Ed Young, Rich Wilkerson Jr., Louie Giglio, Tim Lee, Nick Vujicic, and Chan.

Judge Jeanine Pirro. Alan Dershowitz. Karen Kingsbury. Bob Goff. Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. They all were here on campus in the last year. It was during Dr. Peterson’s Convocation that a young man rushed the stage, pleading for help, and in a single moment, the world saw Liberty respond not in anger but in sympathy, praying collectively over him and helping him obtain the support and care he needed. It was a moment that showed no matter how far Liberty has come, we’ve still never forgotten the original purpose of this place — to raise up Champions for Christ.

All of the God-given blessings in the past academic year have been acknowledged and shared with the world by President Falwell, whose tenacity and strong leadership skills have led this university to new heights. I appreciate how President Falwell has continued to leverage his recent elevation in influence as a national figure to promote and open doors for our university at a level that we have never experienced before.

These are just a few of the visible moments and movements of the past year, but obviously there were so many others that brought us to the conclusion that the Lord has blessed us abundantly to experience our best year ever. But with God, there’s always a bigger plan and a bigger purpose beyond what we can see happening around us today. We’re just getting started.

David Nasser is the Senior Vice President for Spiritual Development. He oversees several teams that advance the university’s mission, including LU Send, LU Serve, LU Stages, LU Shepherd, Worship Collective, and Online Engagement.

 

> Liberty University has also experienced its best year ever for financial strength, which has translated into more benefits for students; read more.

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