I wrote this for theReview, but my editor felt that it wasn’t the right kind of story for the magazine. I didn’t want it to go to waste, so I published it on my personal blog, Maybe We Are Stupid. It’s a short profile on a group of fire and brimstone preachers that speak at my university every year or so:
Springtime brings many changes. The weather warms up, plants come back to life, a new semester of school begins, among many other things. At Texas A&M University, the spring semester also means the return of Brother Jed.
Brother Jed is the head of an organization known as Campus Ministry USA. For the past 45 years, according to him, he and other street preachers have travelled on a circuit of hundreds of college campuses. They set up shop for a week in well-travelled parts of campus and engage in what Brother Jed calls “confrontational evangelism.” Campus Ministry’s website lists Proverbs 27:5 as the basis for this approach: “Open rebuke is better than secret love.”
“We’re here to call the students to repentance and faith in Jesus,” says Brother Jed.
Their method of confrontational evangelism is one that, by all accounts, is effective. They loudly proclaim their beliefs in an attempt to draw in a crowd, which are often controversial, and deliberately attempt to cause arguments. This, Brother Jed says, causes conversations and discussions to begin.
Many of Campus Ministry’s beliefs are concerned with what they see as sinful behavior and the threat of damnation that awaits many of those in the crowd listening to them. Sexual immorality, drug and alcohol use, abortion, and dressing inappropriately are some common topics of their sermons.
“If the Bible is true, and all sinners are hell bound, then the Bible requires me to tell them with a sense of urgency,” he says. “A significant percentage of Aggies profess to be Christian, but they don’t warn others.”
That is not to say that the ministry is solely concerned with the spiritual welfare of the campuses they visit. Brother Mikhail, an associate of Brother Jed and member of Campus Ministry, could be heard on Tuesday afternoon arguing with a crowd of students in favor of Donald Trump and his immigration policies. This was only personal belief, he says, but Campus Ministry did lean conservative. Brother Mikhail first heard Brother Jed speak four years ago, at the University of Oregon. He says that it was a life changing experience, and he has been helping Campus Ministry ever since.
“We believe the Bible talks about all issues in life,” he says.
The crowds that these people attract are often indifferent, if not hostile. Their sermons are often met with jeers and rebuttals. This falls into the plan of confrontational evangelism, however it is not always a pleasant experience.
“We expect that there’s going to be resistance and hostility,” says Brother Mikhail. “I would like them to be silent and listen, of course.”
Of the 45 years that Brother Jed and his ministry has been touring campuses, they have been regular annual visitors to Texas A&M. When asked what keeps bringing them back, Brother Jed responded, “The Lord and my love for the lost.”
“A&M is conservative, but it’s relative,” says Brother Jed. “All universities are liberal.”
Campus Ministry USA appeared on campus Monday, and are expected to remain for the rest of the week. The regular place for their sermons is in Academic Plaza, near the Sullivan Ross statue. More information about the ministry can be found at their website, www.brojed.org.