Let me add my words of condolence to those who knew and loved Jerry Falwell in his passing today. Over the years I have run hot and cold on him, at least in regard to his political practices, but today is a day to remember and give thanks for what God did through him.
I came to Christ at a time when he was first becoming known nationally and his influence was being felt. As a college student I became interested in politics for the first time and became a part of the Reagan revolution in 1984. Although I can't remember a speech or anything else from Falwell that directly led to this, there is no doubt that he put politics on the radar of Christians and was instrumental in motivating many of us to engage politically for the first time.
In recent years I have gravitated away from Falwell's style of political engagement, embracing more an approach which is something of a mixture of Abraham Kuyper and Cal Thomas. But even for us who may have moved some in our political views we can largely thank Jerry Falwell for motivating us to even consider the importance of politics.
I do have a couple of remembrances. At some time in the late 80's or early 90's I was in my Baptist phase and attended the famed Pastors Conference at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, FL.. Falwell was a speaker that year and I remember him walking out of the auditorium through an upstairs hallway and he was surrounded by quite an entourage. I had a fleeting thought of suddenly jumping in with my arm extended and saying "hi Jerr!" - just for fun. But the guys surrounding him looked like secret service agents and I had the distinct impression that if I had made a sudden move like that toward him, they would have mailed my arm back to me. But it made an impression on me of what his life must be like - needing bodyguards like that.
Another thing that has stuck out came at a conference I heard him speak at, and I wouldn't doubt that this had more to do with the success of his ministry than anything else. He was just telling the story of his life and mentioned off-hand that, in the early days of his pastorate he was in the habit of memorizing up to a chapter of Scripture a week. I think that could largely explain his fruitfulness in ministry.
So, on this day of loss, I do again extend condolences to those who know and love Jerry Falwell.