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Faith In Focus

Fire on the Mountain

By Dr. Ed Hindson, November 15, 2021

“I Want That Mountain” was the popular gospel song that expressed the vision of Dr. Jerry Falwell as he launched the new college in 1971. By that time, he was already pastoring one of America’s largest churches and preaching the Gospel on television to a national audience of thousands. As he shared his vision to build a world-class Christian university, God began calling students, teachers, and staff from all over the world to fulfill his dream.

Jerry Falwell was bigger than life in those days. A big man with a big heart, he had an irresistible and captivating presence. He also had a photographic memory and never forgot a name or phone number. He was personable, passionate, and powerful all at the same time. He could make total strangers feel like they were his best friends. For those of us who were privileged to spend time with him personally, every encounter was a learning experience. He was the epitome of grace on fire. Constantly in motion, Jerry moved from one challenge to another with undiminished energy. 

The Early Years 

There was a dynamic spiritual excitement that permeated the atmosphere of the school in the 1970s. Great expressions of prayers, faith, revival, and evangelism were happening almost daily. Visitors were immediately captivated by what God was doing as the new school grew rapidly beyond most people’s expectations. Most people, that is, except Jerry Falwell. From the very beginning, he began to foresee what he believed would become the world’s largest evangelical institution, training young people not only for the ministry, but for every possible profession to impact the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was that Gospel that God had used to capture and change his own life as a 19-year-old college student years earlier. 

Always an advocate of quality Christian education, Jerry would often say: “If it’s Christian, it ought to be better.” He also believed: “The problem with America’s universities is not the students; it’s the teachers!” He thought if he could assemble a faculty of born-again Christian professors, God would speak through them to bring His truth to the minds and hearts of the students. Those students in turn, he said, would be God’s ambassadors to the world and the change-agents to the next generation. 

The 21st Century

The dawning of the new millennium brought a new day of growth and transformation for the university. The launching of Liberty’s extensive online degree programs brought the greatest growth the school had ever experienced. Soon there were 15,000 residential students and over 110,000 students online. Dr. Falwell’s dream became a reality and has now outlived him by 14 years (since his death in 2007). Liberty University has become the school he dreamed it eventually would become. Faith, prayer, and perseverance brought God’s blessing and kept the flame alive.

Fifty years have now gone by, and many of Jerry’s original goals have been accomplished by the grace of God. “This is God’s school,” he would often exclaim, “and we need to keep it that way!” Looking back, we realize that only God could do such an amazing work — raising up Liberty in the closing decades of the 20th century to confront the everchanging culture of the 21st century. 

Liberty is now primed to provide the evangelical leadership for the next generation. It is now time to reignite that original vision to set the mountain aflame again for the next 50 years. To God be the Glory … great things He has done.  

Dr. Ed Hindson is the Dean Emeritus of the John W. Rawlings School of Divinity and Distinguished Professor of Religion. He has served in various roles at Liberty University since 1974 and was instrumental in helping to lay the foundation for the school, build upon the founder’s dreams, and advance the original mission. Over the years, he has taught over 100,000 students, residentially and online.

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