Never Quit: The Falwell Legacy
Never Quit: The Falwell Family Legacy
By Pastor Scott Thomas
This week, Mark Driscoll and I were honored to have spent some time with Jonathan Falwell and a few members of his team including David Early, Matt Wilmington and Charles Billingsley. It was an extremely meaningful trip for Mark and me. We felt loved and befriended in an authentic way.
Scott, Jonathan and Mark in Lynchburg
We met some of his key pastors and had a fun meeting where we talked at length about church planting, multi-site and missional evangelism. We all went out to eat and then visited Thomas Road Baptist Church’s new 930,000 square foot facility. That’s like a million square feet for Jesus! The highlight of the trip was when Jonathan drove Mark and me around Liberty’s campus that ended at Jerry Falwell’s grave. For both of you that don’t know Jerry, he was an evangelical Christian pastor, televangelist, and a conservative commentator. He was the founding pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church. He founded Lynchburg Christian Academy (now Liberty Christian Academy) in 1967, Liberty University in 1971, and cofounded the Moral Majority in 1979. Jonathan said his Dad raised over 3 Billion Dollars during his lifetime.
Mark and Jonathan at Jerry Falwell's Gravesite
We somberly observed the gravesite that was just outside of his former office that overlooked the baseball field, a pastime favorite of Jerry’s. Jonathan told stories of Dad and explained the many nuances of the beautiful site. When Jonathan asked us if we wanted to see his Dad’s office, we both agreed like a puppy getting a treat. And what a treat it was! Jonathan was visibly touched afresh by entering into Dad’s office that lay intact as it was found when Jonathan found his Dad the day he died on May 15, 2007.
Jonathan and Mark in Jerry's Office
On the wall near the Jerry Falwell Memorial Garden were brazened sayings often heard from Jerry during his ministry. One said, “We do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent or worth, as the world does, but rather what it takes to discourage him.” Another said simply, “Never Quit.”
Never Quit. It struck me that it was that saying that will be the legacy of the Falwell family. Five things I saw in Jonathan that he did not quit.
- Jonathan never quit on his Dad’s mission to “use every means to reach every available person at every available time." It was joyful to hear about their church planting plans and how they are reaching across typical barriers to link arms with networks that were not likely partners in the past. His voice lilted as he talked about the open doors to share the gospel with those of other nations and other religions.
- Jonathan never quit being a pastor. Walking through the church on a Wednesday night, you could see a pastor’s heart exude with joy as he met old and young alike. He is their shepherd with a willing heart.
- Jonathan never quit dreaming. He talked about his Dad’s incredible vision and yet Jonathan spoke of dreams he had for the future. He realizes that the work did not die with his Dad, but is handed down for many future generations until Jesus comes back.
- Jonathan never quit his love for family. His 9-year old twin children came into the restaurant and embraced their Dad like he was their best friend whom they had not seen in weeks. His wife’s countenance communicated that she was happy, secure, respectful, loving and although she would like to have more of Jonathan, excited to share him with a couple of pastors from Seattle.
- Jonathan never quit his church. Jonathan is a world-class leader that could lead any ministry he chose in any place he chose. But he said, “I am called to be a pastor and I am called to Thomas Road.” There is no doubt in my mind that he will ever quit on that calling.
Very few days are as meaningful as this one. I am grateful for Jonathan's heart to close the gap between world-class leaders and make the issue about the glory of Jesus and His Kingdom and the desire to see us cooperate in the unity of the gospel.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ,so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. Phil. 1:27
We flew back to Raleigh that evening humbled, challenged at a lifetime of service and proud of the leadership of Jonathan who inherited his Dad’s personality, generosity and passion for the lost. We were also grateful for a new friend with whom we want to stand side by side for the faith of the gospel.