Home > History > Liberty circa the mid-Eighties 2

Liberty circa the mid-Eighties 2

The mid-Eighties was a great time to be at Liberty University. The school made the transition from being Liberty Baptist College during the summer of 1985, the Pastor’s Scholarships made the incoming freshman classes of 1985 and 1986 much bigger than the outgoing senior classes those years, the first floor of the Arthur DeMoss building opened, a bunch of new brick dorms were built on the south end of campus, and both North Campus and Liberty Broadcasting Network (LBN) came and went. The campus was still closed and watched over by the guard shack, and the Ericsson/GE complex still belong to either GE or Ericsson. Chandler’s Station and the Vines Center were still in the future, and LCA still stood for Lynchburg Christian Academy and was still located on Thomas Road. Oh, and the Old Time Gospel Hour was still a going concern and provided lots of mid-quality employment for Liberty students.

The dress code was a bit stricter than it is today; hair gel and mousse were still frowned on for men, mustaches and beards were very rare even among faculty, and it was against the rules to wear jeans to class. I dressed mostly off the Chess King discount rack and wore the same one or two ties day after day. My clothes weren’t just bad; they were bad Eighties bad.

Chapel was an hour and a half at 9:00 AM three days a week, and Jerry himself usually presided on Wednesdays, and he usually arrived with an impressive list of lieutenants in tow. Roughly once a semester Jerry gave us the history of TRBC/Liberty in brief, including the Donald Duck bottling plant, the size of his original Sunday School class, etc. As at least one person has pointed out to me, his own personal salvation story generally doesn’t figure in this story: it’s entirely a church-growth (or more accurately, ministry-growth) story. I would love to find a transcript or two of this story. At the time I started at Liberty it more or less ended with the “I Want That Mountain” days.

The other two chapels a week were kind of a mixed bag: sometimes we had guest speakers (I recall Bill Bennett, Steve Bell of ABC News, trucking magnate J. B. Hunt) but most of the time the speaker was someone from within the ministry: the campus pastor, whose name escapes me altogether, staff evangelist C. Sumner Wemp, Ed Dobson, or Gary Adridge. The only ones who made much of an impression on me were Wemp, who was an old school hit-and-run tract-and-handshake personal evangelist, and Dobson. Dobson left shortly after I arrived, and I would almost swear he single-handedly killed chapel when he left. In all the chapels I attended during the year I spent on campus Dobson is the only one who ever seemed to have anything to say. The rest of them made no impression whatsoever.

There was at least one and possibly two other chapel services on Monday and Friday; ministry chapel and School of Religion chapel. There was a persistent rumor that the speakers at ministry chapel were really good; I decided to devote my energy to finding a way to skip chapel altogether.

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