For the second time this week, Preacher Paul is back on the UA campus. He started preaching to students on Heritage Hill on April 2, which was the day after Brother Jed Smock finished lecturing the same crowd about the wrath of God and consequences of sin. I have a series of blog entries about Jed’s controversial ways and student reactions, but it’s interesting to see how a UA students respond to calmer, inspirational evangelism, which they can find in Preacher Paul.
Preacher Paul does not believe in scaring students into accepting religion, but as I observed on Paul’s first visit, Jed’s negative approach attracts more students.
I explained this to Paul today after he read bible passages to five on-lookers on Heritage Hill, all of which clapped when he finished speaking and initiated one-on-one discussions with him.
“I got positive feedback today,” he said. “It’s a good thing. I try to be nice because I don’t agree with Brother Jed’s confrontational evangelism. Do you think it even works?”
And I told him how Jed’s off-putting ways lead to success. Columnist Ryan Thorpe of the Dailytoreador described Jed’s effectiveness on college campuses in a recent column:
In my four years of teaching, I’d never seen anything like it. Students were surrendering their afternoon to talk about ideas, and free food wasn’t even provided. No student organization printed flyers and sent out electronic announcements. Instead, they were just given an opponent.
I said all this to Paul, and I also mentioned that some of Jed’s most passionate opponents actually converted to Christianity.
Paul was asked if Christians could sin without consequence as long as they were saved. You can imagine Brother Jed would have immediately shouted, “NO!” or something equally dramatic and unpleasant to the person in question. You wouldn’t know it by Paul’s friendlier surface attitude, but he seems to be in accordance with Jed on this issue.
“You can’t just keep sinning and say ‘I’m sorry, God. I’m sorry again. Sorry again for sinning.’ It doesn’t work that way. You can’t just sin because you’re saved.”
It’s likely that Paul and Jed see eye-to-eye on much of the bible, but they have different ways of expressing this similarity. But Paul makes an effort to meet every person who watches him preach, and he hands out free mini-bibles to the people he talks to.
“I’m new to campus preaching, so I’m still kind of nervous and wondering if I’ll continue using the same approach,” he said.
Next week, he’s considering giving his lectures closer to the Student Union Memorial Center where students usually sit at tables and eat between classes. He’s trying to get more listeners, and it’s very possible that he’ll eventually try to preach more aggressively as Jed does now. I never got to ask when I got the chance, but I wonder if Jed was initially a confrontational preacher. Was he nice until he got impatient with the lack of crowds at his bible readings? It’s very possible that he experienced a low turn-out and figured out a way to keep students coming back for more.
After all, Preacher Paul and Preacher Roy are much younger than Brother Jed, so there’s a chance that they could eventually follow in his footsteps and possibly see the response they were looking for.