By Robin Gericke, Executive Editor

A man stood on the sidewalk behind the cafeteria, holding a sign of warning to “fornicators, lesbians, hypocrites, pot-heads, baby murderers, feminists, gossips, liars” and more. He shouted his message of judgment upon those who practice such sins. “Be sure your sin will find you out,” the sign read, followed by Numbers 32:23, which states, “If you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the LORD; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.”

This man is part of a group of evangelistic protesters known at Asbury as the ‘street preachers.’ Two preachers visited campus on Thursday, Nov. 9. Known for their loud and aggressive style of sharing their truth, this group visits Wilmore annually. By early afternoon, a crowd of about 30 students had gathered.

“The style of evangelism being practiced by the duo next to our campus is meant to agitate and provoke,” campus chaplain Rev. Greg Haseloff said. “If you walk into an environment where the fruit of the Spirit is not present, we would encourage you to be a person who brings the fruit of the Spirit into that atmosphere.”

Student reactions to the street preachers varied. While some listened quietly and others whispered to their friends, several matched the volume and aggressiveness of the preachers. “When is your boyfriend going to talk?” a student yelled. “How is this evangelizing?” another student shouted. Someone asked, “Why don’t you go to UK where there are non-Christians?” The preacher, in a voice more calm than the students shouting at him, replied that they do, but that even though Asbury is a Christian school, sinners have “crept in.”

Senior Katie Ellington believes that the reasons students listen to the preachers vary. “Students go there to ‘discuss,’ and sometimes people do manage to have rational, civil discourse, but I feel like most people see it as entertainment,” she said. “They think it’s funny to laugh at these ‘crazy street preachers,’ or they get self-righteous about it.”

While most of their time on campus is spent preaching on the sidewalk, junior Tom Mangione recommended having a personal conversation with the street preachers. He spent about 30 minutes speaking with Brother Mikhail, one of the preachers. “The street preachers see Jesus’ purpose to be one of calling us to repentance to make bad people better so God can bring us to heaven one day. They will mock, swear and horrify to get people to listen, because they earnestly believe that this is what God wants, for people to be terrified into belief,” Mangione said. “So when [the street pastors and I] talked, we agreed on many things, but we disagreed on God’s ultimate purpose.”

Mangione’s call to students is to show love through action. “To Asburians: I encourage you to talk to them. Don’t yell at them. That encourages their hurtful tactics. Dialogue with them quietly. Get an email address, add them on Facebook,” he said. “Hurt people hurt people. Maybe we can spread some of God’s love to them.”

Hasseloff encouraged students to simply avoid the street preachers if possible, but to always be respectful. “The very first choice you face when this group is present on our campus is the choice to pass by and not be distracted by this confrontational street preaching, so we encourage this option of non-engagement,” Hasseloff said. “Second, if you do choose to be near the street preaching, please do so in a prayerful posture and with respect for the others present – be a person who exudes the fruit of the Spirit.”

Photo by Luke Phillips