At a Wednesday night church service in January 1971, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Central Virginia, an impassioned preacher shared a dream with his congregation. Preaching from 2 Timothy, he asked them to catch his vision of training future leaders who would leave undeniable marks on the world. The pathway to achieving this dream, he believed, would be higher education.
“Young people are the hope of our nation and our world,” he said. “I believe we have a sacred obligation to provide thousands of young people with a solid Christian education. Let us dedicate ourselves tonight to starting a college with the goal of seeing thousands of young men and women, deeply in love with the Lord Jesus Christ, who will go out in all walks of life to shake this world for God.”
He envisioned an outstanding educational system that would keep Christian values at the forefront and not toss them aside like many of the country’s most prestigious institutions had done. While the college would rival the nation’s top universities in academic achievement and athletic prominence, it would also — most importantly — produce graduates who would cling to their faith and make it known through their life’s work.
The prayers prayed that winter night in 1971 were answered. By March, it was officially announced that a college would open in the fall. Even with no campus to call their own, 154 students showed up, willing to take a risk on this new venture — one that would become, in less than 50 years, the largest Christian university in the world.
Every new venture needs a singular vision and an inspiring and enduring phrase to describe it. The new college chose “Training Champions for Christ.” The first students knew they were becoming champions — not in the winning sense of the word, like a lone victor at the end of a competition, but as Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for impacting tomorrow’s world. They were becoming ambassadors, advocates, defenders — people who stand up for injustice and fight for change. They combined hard work, determination, and integrity to show compassion and bring healing to others.
Since 1971, over 350,000 Champions for Christ have followed in those early champions’ footsteps, united by the same original mission. And, as promised, the university has remained steadfast in its commitment to providing a world-class environment with Christian values. Now, the university flourishes in ways those first faithful dreamers only saw in their prayers. But their tradition of unwavering faith lives on today.
That tradition of unwavering faith is celebrated today through Liberty’s We the Champions campaign. Mirroring “We the People” in the first line of the United States Constitution, We The Champions is designed to unify the many members of the Liberty community around the university’s foundational calling and share that vision with the world.
God calls each Christian to live like Christ — demonstrating champion-like virtues like integrity, unity, gratitude, faithfulness, joy, and service — in daily life. The We The Champions Declaration conveys how those ideals function within a collegiate setting. It communicates why education is important and how Champions for Christ use education to serve God and change the world, living out the biblical character traits of a true champion.
Eleven years ago, that pastor laid down the mantle, and his son picked it up, building on the solid foundation, fulfilling the original vision, and leading the university to the national stage in academics and athletics. At Liberty University, students are still championing one another, championing what is good in the world, and championing God’s name. They are shaking the world as Champions for Christ.