Franklin Graham

Remarks at the Memorial Service for Jerry Falwell

delivered 22 May 2007, Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, VA

Audio mp3 of Address


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Jerry Falwell was a giant of a man. He was a man of faith. He was a prophet of our generation. I'm gonna miss him.

Macel, Jerry Jr., Jeannie, Jonathan, family:

  People have asked me, "Franklin, did you agree with Jerry Falwell?" Every time he opened a Bible I agreed with Jerry Falwell. And you know what, he opened the Bible a lot, didn't he?

I thank God for him.

He was a man who was committed to the Gospel. I guess that what's connected to me to Jerry so much. He believed with all of his heart that Jesus was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that there was no way that anyone could have approached a holy God except through Jesus Christ. He believed it.

I thank God for Jerry Falwell.

Now, he was a -- he was controversial. Jerry's goal wasn't to be popular -- we know that. You know, I think of Zacchaeus. Remember when he was -- when Jesus was coming through Jericho and Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was; but being a short man he couldn't. Couldn't see over the crowd. So he climbed -- he went ahead and climbed a Sycamore fig tree. And Jesus stopped and he saw him. And he called his name and said, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly" 'cause I'm gonna come to your house. And remember all the people muttered. "He's gone to be the[guest] of a sinner."1

One thing that I learned about Jerry Falwell: Jerry knew how to welcome sinners. And, he would disagree with you. And he did it with a smile. And people sensed that Jerry loved them. Even though he disagreed with them, he loved them.

Now, he was controversial. Now, the New York Times this week called him one of the "old lions" replaced by a "new breed" of evangelicals.2 (Well, I don't know who could replace him, but that's what they said.) I pray to God that these new leaders will be the champions of these same values that made him controversial.

You see, he believed in the Gospel -- that's controversial.

He believed in the inerrancy of Scripture -- that's controversial.

He believed in the sanctity of life; was against abortion -- that's controversial.

He believed in the family -- and who would've ever thought that would be controversial.

He believed in marriage was -- was the union between a man and a woman.

He believed that the moral decay weakened the fabric of America -- that's controversial.

He believed that political leaders should be men and women of integrity and of character and biblical values.

He believed in the local church.

God bless him.

People loved him, even men like Al Sharpton who said, I disagreed with Jerry on just about every thing, but Jerry was the real deal. He loved me. He cared for my family, Al Sharpton said.3  And so many people the same thing.

God bless Jerry.

Jerry was a friend. And because Jerry Falwell opened up his arms to me, I have a whole new family of friends around the world because of Jerry Falwell.

Jerry Falwell has a personal stake in my own family. All four of my sons -- All for of my children -- my three sons and my daughter -- went to Liberty. My three boys found their wives here at Liberty. And I knew I was going to owe Jerry forever for that.

When asking around with my youngest -- or my oldest son, Will, was looking for a college I started, you know we, Jane and I started looking at Christian schools and universities. And, of course, my father went to Wheaton and my mother and other family and a lot of friends, and so there was kind of pressure to go that direction.

And I remember calling a friend of mind, down in Charlotte, a Pastor, I said, "You know I hear a lot about Liberty and it seems to be such a great school. What do you think?" He said, "I'm gonna tell you, Franklin." He said, "There's something in that school." He said, "The students up there they got a fire in their belly." He said, "They -- They gotta a fire for the Gospel." He said, "They come out of Liberty," he said, "They come back into our church; they come back into our community, and they're and they're men and women of God, and they're standing for biblical principles." He said, "You send your son to Liberty."

Boy I tell you what, I thank God for that advice.

They have a fire in their belly.

Says in 2 Thessalonians [2:15-17]: So then, brothers [and sisters], stand firm and hold to the teachings we've passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and...God" of [sic] "our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you [in] every good deed and word. [NIV]

Jonathan and Jerry Jr., your father has left a great example, not only to you as a family, but to me and to all of us and everyone who stands in a pulpit to preach and proclaim the Gospel. Jerry Falwell has left an example and a legacy.

And I pray that that fire that's in the belly of these men and women, these champions for Christ, I pray that that fire will continue and that you men will just fan that flame.

And let me tell you, God bless you and may God be with you. We're gonna stand with you. Your father was my friend and I'm your friend. I promise you that.

1 As related in Luke 19:1-7

2 Luo, M. and Goodstein, L. (21 May 2007). Emphasis shifts for new breed of evangelicals. The New York Times. Retrieved 27 July 2017.

3 Exact wording unconfirmed. However, Rev. Sharpton is on record as stating: “I am deeply saddened by the passing of Reverend Jerry Falwell. Though he and I debated much and disagreed ften, we shared a very cordial and warm friendship. I visited him in Lynchburg, dined with him, and even talked with him during personal rises. Though we were as politically opposite as two people could be, I truly respected his commitment to his beliefs and our mutual belief in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." [Source:]. And these lines attributed to a Chris Matthews "Hardball" episode: “Reverend Falwell and I didn't agree on anything, but we got along personally." "He personally was genuinely a nice guy, and I would find him to be one of the few people in the public light who was genuine.” [Source:] 

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