Letter Explains Mitt Romney for Commencement Speaker at Liberty University

Mitt Romney at Liberty University

Every since Liberty University announced that Mitt Romney was going to be the Commencement Speaker (see also the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, the CBS News, and even the POLITICO) for this year’s graduation class [some] people have been in an uproar (so says the Daily Kos anyway, the people I know had no problem with it at all). Most of the uproar comes in the form of the fact that Romney is a Mormon, and doesn’t align with Liberty’s theological vision, which is correct, he is, and he doesn’t.

Yesterday, the Office of the Chancellor, or Jerry Falwell, Jr. addressed concerns with the statements below. I guess at some level an explanation was needed, but the one presented below is a great example why this is no different than any other speaker Liberty has had in the past. I for one am glad that they have such a wide variety of speakers at Liberty. I’m sure there are those who can shred the theological explanation below, but it’s good enough for me, and it goes beyond just the criticism of having a Mormon speak at graduation, the letter explains why Liberty’s mission statement, to train Champions for Christ, includes welcoming Mitt Romney, regardless of his faith or politics.

Dear Students,

My office has received hundreds of messages from students and 2012 graduates who are thrilled and honored that the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States will be our Commencement speaker. Some graduates have also inquired about Liberty’s policies regarding the doctrinal beliefs of graduation speakers. These same questions seem to surface every spring and I am writing you in response to those inquiries.

First of all, it is important to remember that Liberty actually has two Commencement speakers each year. Long ago, most universities ceased their practice of including a Baccalaureate service during their Commencement weekend, but we have insisted on keeping this service as a demonstration of our Christian commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

This year our Baccalaureate speaker is Luis Palau. Dr. Palau is an evangelist who has preached the Gospel to a billion people. Palau is often considered second only to Billy Graham in his influence for the Gospel, and, as is our tradition, he will be clearly delivering the Gospel at Baccalaureate.

For twenty-five years Liberty has traditionally had leaders from the worlds of politics, business, and entertainment speak during the Commencement ceremony on Saturday. Most of these leaders have not traditionally shared Liberty’s doctrinal convictions. In the last few years, our Commencement speakers have included an evangelical filmmaker (Randall Wallace), a Mormon commentator (Glenn Beck), a Jewish economist (Ben Stein), an evangelical actor and athlete (Chuck Norris), an evangelical – now Catholic – politician (Newt Gingrich), a Catholic commentator (Sean Hannity), a Southern Baptist senator (John McCain), and an Episcopalian chief of staff to President Bush (Karl Rove). In all, at least 20 of Liberty’s 38 Commencement speakers have fit in this category.

My father’s vision for Liberty University was both a theological and a cultural vision. Theologically, it was to found the world’s preeminent Christian university where every faculty member professed faith in Jesus Christ, agreed with our doctrinal statement, and sought to fulfill the Great Commission and live the Great Commandment. Culturally, it was to found a university that held in high regard our nation’s founding principles of limited government, the free enterprise system, and individual liberty. Liberty’s tradition has been to focus on the first part of this vision during the Friday night ceremony and the second part on Saturday morning.

Liberty’s commitment to an annual Baccalaureate service has ensured that we have never held a Commencement that did not include a strong gospel message from an evangelical leader.

I am sure that members of the Liberty University community will treat Gov. Romney with the respect he deserves, regardless of whether they agree with his religious or political beliefs.

When my father traveled the nation speaking at many secular universities, he was often met with boos and hisses by those who held different theological beliefs than he. I am so proud that Liberty students have gained a reputation for treating those whose beliefs are different than their own in a Christ-like manner. You have shown respect to speakers as divergent from Liberty’s worldview as Ted Kennedy, Bob Beckel, and Tim Kaine.

Gov. Romney is a man who has excelled in business, governed a state, and even managed the Olympic games. He has been faithfully married to his wife, Ann, for 43 years, and they have 5 sons and 16 grandchildren. Gov. Romney is a leader of global significance, who might eventually be the leader of the free world, and we are honored that he accepted our invitation.

An invitation to speak at Commencement is not an ad-hoc endorsement of a presidential candidate or even of that particular speaker’s religious or political views. The ultimate purpose of having a prominent Commencement speaker is not to promote the speaker or his views but rather to inspire and challenge the graduates and showcase Liberty and its mission.

My prayer is that having the presumptive Republican nominee as our speaker will cause many who have never heard of Liberty to take notice of what Liberty is doing to train a generation of Champions for Christ. Perhaps, many of them will consider a Christian education over the secular alternative.


Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Chancellor and President

That explanation won’t cut it for some, but for many, no explanation would suffice at all.

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How a Church Communicates in a Generation Gap

Tweetdeck on Twitter

I read a few interesting articles today in Entrepreneur Magazine and Marketing Pilgrim, about how people communicate, and have difficulty communicating, between the generational gaps.  Each generation has a different way of embracing new forms communicating that becomes comfortable to them but where gen-x and gen-y ‘ers seem to have adopted to new forms of communication, the boomers have let is slide and still prefer their face-to-face and over the phone exchanges.

Face-to-Face, Phone, or Twitter-ific

The reports go on to talk about how that makes it difficult to properly communicate between the boomers and gen’ers who don’t really care for face to face and hate making an actual phone call.  All that got me thinking about how we communicate within the church.  Poor communication in a church can kill its momentum, growth, or relationships, but “poor” communication is not universal and what is poor communication from a 20-something to a boomer is acceptable among their peers.

Being Unaware Creates Mis-Understanding

It doesn’t take long to see how mis-understandings in communication methods between generations can cause problems.  As an example, I have found that the farther away you get from the Baby Boomer generation the less an actual response to something is deemed necessary… a response to a phone call, email, sms, facebook comment, tweet on Twitter, whatever it is, the younger you are, the fewer responses are deemed to be needed where the closer to a boomer you are, the more you expect a response to everything.

Where a boomer-ish person is offended by a non-response, the gen-y’er doesn’t even give it a second thought.  Being a Gen-X’er myself, I get quite irritated with non-response but always try to remember who it is I am communicating with, then interpret what their lack of response means.  What it means is that they don’t communicate in the exact same method I do, and I shouldn’t hold that against them when I don’t get a response.

Of course that is a generality and certainly not scientific, but it highlights that an understanding of how each generation prefers to communicate is needed, especially within the church body. If we want the church body to grow, if we want to reach new people for Jesus, we have to understand how the younger generation likes to communicate, what is important to communicate to them, and what they could care less about.  As we all get older, it isn’t about what makes us happy and what we like, right?

Who is the Church Trying To Reach Anyway?

Who are we trying to reach?  If we are trying to reach the Boomer’s, they are probably still looking for those traditional forms of communication from the church like a weekly snail-mailed newsletter, a printed paper bulletin, a pictorial directory of church members, and even those phone calls to the house.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Gen-Y doesn’t care a thing about getting something in the mail or receiving a bulletin when they walk in, that just isn’t what they are looking for in a church, it doesn’t add any value to their experience.

They want to share ideas.  They could possibly be the most sharing generation the world has seen, but it isn’t sharing face-to-face like the boomers, it is sharing stories, ideas, life dreams, it is life lived as open source. Even email is unimportant, and becoming less and less important as time goes by.   It is just considered to be spam (even if it isn’t), and sending an email newsletter is irrelevant to the generation that lives on rss feeds.

Produce, but Don’t Push Information

Like each past generation, they want to communicate with each other in the manner they are accustomed to, which is electronically.  They get their information proactively, and don’t want it pushed onto them, this means we have to produce the information and let them come get it.  Communicating things in that manner may seem backwards to traditional means (because it is), and may be more difficult, but push methods will be rejected by the Gen-Y’ers.

So how do we produce information we want them to see and just hope they find it?  Carefully I guess, but I know if it is meaningful enough to them, they will find it.  Word of mouth still rules with Gen-Y as it does with Boomers, so maybe that is the bridge over the generation gap.

Check out the chart below.  I think if we make an effort to understand how each generation prefers to communicate we can better know how to serve each person.  Serving someone in a manner or custom they could care less about it totally ineffective and a waste of everyone’s time.  Wouldn’t it be better to know how best to serve (communicate with) each individual person instead assuming all will respond in the same way?

Learning the Differences, is Important

Communicating in the Generation Gap

Acceptable Words in Your Sight Lord

Speak at Cornerstone We just started a new series at our church called Speak, and I am really looking forward to the upcoming weeks as this series is going to deal with ways to communicate, how we speak to one another, how we pray and so forth.

Being a blogger of sorts, how we use our words is something that is always on my mind. We may or may not choose our words carefully, but our choice of words, speech, and overall communication we choose reflects our values, principles, and basically who we are as a person. Since communication in 2008 has a lot to do with the Internet, how we talk to each other and treat each other online can be of great importance as well, especially when we don’t have the ability to see body language, mannerisms, and many times speak in a more harsh texted tone.

The scripture chosen to be the backbone of this series is Psalms 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” In keeping with this, I thought about the different ways we communicate. Face to face, phone, text, email, blogging, and many others. One I have picked up recently is called Twitter is quite interesting since it is an ongoing record of what you have said to someone.

Something that was mentioned at the service is if you could listen to all your words in the day, what would it sound like. Well, Twitter is not a total of words spoken, but it is a snap shot of what you said to others in a day, so I am posting a digest of tweets (as they are called) on my personal journal blog each day so I can look back at the day in words. My first post is up and will be shown under the same heading each day, called Daily Twitter Updates for 2008-05-10, but the date will change of course. One thing that jumped right out at me after looking at the first post is how much I use a smile face. My son hates this, but I guess it is in my nature. Oh well, guess that is old school in me.

Hopefully I will be able to look back at the category for the twitter digests and see that I have learned something over the next series. What are your favorite ways to communicate? Have we lost the interest to communicate face to face because of the electronic communications?

Why Your Business Should Always Answer Email

Are you running a business? Then you should answer your email. Period. There was a recent article post called, Treat Your Blog like a Business, where Ben made some very good points about how you should run your blog. I want take that a little step farther and state the obvious. You should treat your business like a business, and one of those steps is to answer your email, in a professional manner no less.

This will probably not be the most popular post in the world, after all, we all get to much email, and some we just don’t want to mess with. I am speaking about the necessity of answering your email if you are in business, but this includes those who run a small home based business, or someone that sells their services online as well, large or small. If you are online just purely for personal reasons then, answer it, delete, do whatever you want, but I think this applies to personal accounts as well if you want to be successful online. It seems to be common place now to not answer your email. It is the easiest means of communication to ignore, and takes a lot of time.

So if you want to stand out among the others, respond to those emails.

You should try to either answer your emails personally, or if there is just to much to handle, you should delegate it to someone you have hired for administrative duties. Just be sure they reflect your company’s good customer service and aren’t going to add to a problem. Either way, the volume should dictate who answers it, but that doesn’t mean it should go unanswered.

If you receive to much email to answer then it sounds like your business is big enough to have an employee take over these duties, if not, it sounds a lot like an excuse. So, lets look at a few quick reasons why you should and a few steps how to keep up with answering your email.

It is Your Business Reputation

Nothing can turn away business faster than word of mouth or a bad reputation. This could be in print media all the way down to a small forum in your niche market. You want new visitors, right? When a customer first finds your site, they have some initial questions, and most are easily answered but sometimes they want to interact with someone for one reason or another.

When you receive an email from a new customer (or site visitor) like this, they are evaluating your business and how you interact with people. By not answering their email it sends a pretty clear message to them. You are not important enough for me to hit the reply button. They don’t care if you have been out of town, have more pressing (revenue generating) things to do, all they get is this business probably doesn’t care (and you may not). On the other hand, if you make efforts to reply to even the most mundane emails, it will make a very good impression on your customer or visitor. I am not suggesting that you have to answer their email within 5 minutes, time is not the most important thing here. I have responded to an emails from customers days later, after their orders have arrived, because I just couldn’t get to it, and they even appreciate a late response.

Something I always try to remember from the customer side of things. I can always remember who did not reply to my emails, sometimes years later, and it usually is on a negative note. This goes with the smallest business up to the largest corporations, people in general just tend to remember the negative and forget the positive things. Just something to keep in mind when ignoring or deleting that email, or even responding in a negative way. It took some planning and understanding of how to use email effectively, but I have responded to just about every email in the past 5-10 years and when someone sends me an email saying “you never responded to me”, I generally have a good answer to that question, a copy of my response.

It Can Increase Your Sales Revenue

This flows right down from the first point. Once you have established a rapport with your customer they may actually want to buy something from you. Want to loose a sale or a repeat customer fast? Don’t answer their email. This is especially true on eBay.

eBay has an easy way for potential bidders to contact you, so you will tend to get overwhelmed with email about trite things that don’t really matter, or that the customer should be able to figure out on their own. Well, if they could figure it out on their own they probably wouldn’t have shot off that email to you. I have found that there is a direct correlation on eBay to bidding and responding to emails. I can attest, yes, most emails are stupid questions, and yes, I have come to realize there ARE stupid questions. This fact doesn’t really make a difference to the customer. If you respond to their email, they are much more likely to bid on your auction.

If you don’t answer their question before they actually buy the item from you, from the customers point of view, what are you likely to do when they have a problem with the product or service after they have spent their money.

Responding Can Avert Problems

One of the fastest ways to solve a problem, or fix a potential one, is to respond to customer questions. Some customers or visitors are not as dumb as you may think. They may have found a problem with your product or service that you did not know about.

This works for the smallest to the largest companies. My wife is a pattern designer and she has received emails asking about a particular area of the pattern, and sometimes there is an error in the pattern and she can change it before it becomes a bigger problem. This works on your eCommerce platform. Take Amazon for example. A book store may have emails come in that ask about if this book is a certain edition, publication year or whatever. Answering the email will provide the customer with enough information about the product so they know whether to buy or not to buy it, but you don’t want them to just buy it just to have them return it a week later?

I have emailed several companies about bugs in their software. Some have returned their emails thanking me for the information and others I have received no response. I still use the software from that particular vendor.

It Builds Your Networking

Something to always keep in mind when deciding whether to ignore an email or reply to an email. You may never know who you are actually corresponding with. It may actually be someone that can help or improve your business, or just wants to give you something. It is not always that stupid customer that should know you have an FAQ page posted with all these dumb questions. An email from a business exec can look the same as an email from Joe Bob who types in all CAPS because he just bought his first computer last week and doesn’t know his mouse from his dog, you just don’t know who is on the other side of the screen much of the time.

Ignoring emails will certainly get you results, just not much. There are many other ways to communicate and network with people on the net other than email, but email is a personal response that tells your recipient that they are important enough to respond to. Sometimes time can be the most precious gift ever given. Spend a few minutes to respond to that person and you never know where the relationship might take you. It has given me more than a few freelance jobs in my day.

A Few Recent Examples

First, I had another consultant ask me for advise that would help him with his clients. I responded to his email with some basic information and he gave no response. About two weeks later he did email me and asked me a more in depth question and I took about two hours of my busy day to write out a specific how to he could use for his clients.

Weeks went by and I receive no response. I emailed him again and just asked him if that was helpful for his clients. He didn’t respond. I am not likely to respond with ANY more information to “help” anyone over there. All that was needed was a very quick reply saying “I got it, it worked”. I don’t need a pat on the back, just some communication to know my 2 hours wasn’t wasted. A second example would be when I contacted a very small (one person) online business, but one that reached a large audience. I had something from my business I wanted to give him. That’s it. I didn’t want anything from him, I didn’t ask for anything other than an address to which I could ship an item I thought he would want.

I sent two emails before I received a response, but I had already decided to give it to someone else until I received the email. Once I got the email with the address I was able to ship the item off to the business. We can all give example after example, but when someone takes the time to send an email the least you can do is respond to it, and you might be surprised who is on the other end or what they can do for your business.

Some Concluding Thoughts

If you want to be successful online, answer your email. Yes, email can be one of the biggest headaches of the business day, and many business now just do not respond to email, so be one that does and stand out. I have read so many company profiles (and about me blog pages) that say they get to much email to respond to each one. This may be the case, but think about what that says about your company.

I effectively answered my emails to all my customers for years by doing some basic steps I will outline in my next post called, How to Effectively Answer All Your Emails, that explain how to prioritize and plan for those emails, and also as important, how to reduce the number of emails you receive. Reducing the number is as effective and keeps you from having to live in your inbox. I will say that you can take this to absurdity, and that is not the point of course. There are some emails I don’t respond to like spam, fraud, or phishing emails, and the occasional badgering customer that we have taken all business to its utmost conclusion, and one other… when you don’t respond to my email.

What about your company? Do you respond to your emails or ignore them until they go away? What positive effects can you show when you answer those questions? Now I better go answer all those emails I have been ignoring for days now, the inbox runeth over.