Mentoring Matters- What I learned from Jerry Falwell By Dwight Bain, Founder of the LifeWorks Group

The death of the Reverend Jerry Falwell on May 15, 2007 brought a flood of emotions to my mind… since he was one of my first mentors and for a season he was my pastor. You see, I was a student at Liberty University in the early 1980’s, a school I chose in part because of the leadership and communication style of Dr. Falwell. I saw how effectively he was able to carry a positive message to the community through media platforms and wanted to learn how to do the same. I admired his courage to stand on biblical principles to teach what he strongly believed to be God’s truth on traditional values.

By God’s grace, and the help of a lot of friends I was selected to a leadership position as student body president of the graduate school and seminary, which allowed me to have a great deal of behind the scenes access to Dr. Falwell. I saw that he was a visionary, totally focused and goal directed no matter what the circumstances. He was a tremendous mentor who made a huge impact on my life. Here are some of the key success principles I learned from his life that made a positive difference. I hope that these life application lessons may be useful in your own success journey as well.

Here’s what I learned from his life

1) Have a vision and keep moving forward, no matter what
I wish we could sit down together so I could tell you some amazing stories of how this man faced impossible odds and incredible challenges, yet with courage and faith. Yet I never saw him discouraged, at work, at the University or at home. You and I would do well to know the vision for our life and press on, no matter what comes against us. To know where you are going and always press on is a key to lasting success.

2) Continually be training the next generation of young leaders
Dr. Falwell was passionate about training young people, in fact, he often called us “young champions”. This positive empowering of young leaders modeled the great teaching style of Socrates, Plato and of course, the teaching style Jesus Christ used with the twelve disciples. Clearly, no one lives on this planet forever, so it is essential to be equipping others to carry on the work if you want to make a positive and lasting difference in the world. This is a timeless principle seen in the Bible, as well as in the greatest thinkers throughout history and it’s a principle that you and I can put into practice with the young people in our lives today.

3) Bring multiple points of view to the table for discussion and debate
As students, we were in chapel services at least three times a week to learn from conservative leaders like Dr. Falwell, as well as world class leaders from every walk of life, including government, pro sports, and business. We sat at the feet of leaders like President Ronald Reagan, Vice-President George Bush, Sr., Senator Ted Kennedy, US Rep. Jack Kemp, Legendary Dallas Cowboy’s head coach, Tom Landry, Art Williams, Lt. Col. Oliver North, Dr. John Maxwell, Rev. Rick Warren, and dozens of Christian leaders and entertainers from multiple denominations around the world. Dr. Falwell believed in bringing both sides to the table to learn how to communicate with people who might be very different in their belief system yet were equally passionate about communicating their message.

4) Don’t back down from controversy
Many times people of faith are afraid to deal with controversial subjects, because they equate being a Christian with only being nice, polite and kind, which can be another way of saying ‘too scared to speak out on things that matter.’ Dr. Falwell didn’t see it that way, since he believed that the stronger your convictions, the more passionately you should communicate them. He never backed down from discussing controversial subjects with anyone, anytime, anyplace, anywhere and taught us to not be afraid to speak up for our beliefs while always trying to connect and communicate with others. If you believe it to be right, you have to speak up, yet in a winsome way that others can hear. That doesn’t mean shouting, and it doesn’t mean silence. It means know what you believe and then find a way to communicate and reach out to others in the best way possible to make a positive difference.

5) Teach and reinforce the message
Reverend Falwell would often preach and teach the same biblical life application principles to reinforce the message until we ‘got it.’ I’m grateful to God for having listened to countless messages from a world-class leader who was completely dedicated to the success of his students. Listen to one of my favorite Falwell quotes, written down during a chapel service around 1983.

“Here are some things I have learned along the way: There are no quick fixes, no real bargains; no permanent solutions except salvation; not many forever friends; few repeat performances. Remember God is with you in defeat as well as in victory.” ~ Jerry Falwell

This brings up the final lesson I learned from mentor so many decades ago.

Do things now that will live on after you are gone

This is the power of building a positive legacy, and it lives on in the lives of the thousands of graduates of Liberty University, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and the Liberty Bible Institute. Dr. Jerry Falwell is gone, but his message lives on. I was blessed to have a mentor early in life that believed in me. I do things today that my mentor taught me to do almost a quarter century ago. I’m a better person and more effective leader because of the few years of working for and sitting under the teaching of Dr. Jerry Falwell and I honor him and his legacy today because of his investment into my life.

Who do you look to for leadership?
The question I leave with you today is an important one. Who is your mentor? If you don’t know the answer because you don’t have one, start looking today for men and women who are boldly working for positive change in their part of the world and find a way to get to them. You need a mentor you can believe in, and when you find them, plug in to the value that they can add to your life. Once you find them, the process is simple. Listen all you can, learn all you can and then eventually lead others in what your mentor trained you to do… make a positive difference. That legacy that never dies, because it is carried on throughout the generations in the hearts and actions of people who were blessed to know why mentoring matters. I’ve learned that from men like Elmer Towns, Steve Brown, Pat Williams, John Maxwell and Jerry Falwell.

What names are on your list and how are you working toward positive change because of the influence of your mentors? If you need a safe place to get started, know that I’m here to teach and coach you with what I learned at the feet of some great men. Mentoring matters today because it changes you to work for a better world tomorrow.

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information intact in the box below.

About the Author: Dwight Bain is founder of the LifeWorks Group in Orlando as well as a Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of StormStress.com and trainer for over 1,000 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association who partners with major corporations and national organizations to make a positive difference in our culture for Jesus Christ. Access more complimentary counseling and coaching resources from The LifeWorks Group (407.647.7005) by visiting their extensive posting of blogs and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at www.LifeWorksGroup.org

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