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 Copyright by Jed Smock 1985

Used by Permission

Confrontational Evangelism on Campus


Chapter 6


Athens was the intellectual and cultural center of the ancient world. The forum at Mars Hill was the university campus of Paul's day. It could be called the University of Athens. For those interested in reaching college students it is profitable to study Paul's approach, message and technique in ministering to the ancient philosophers.

When Paul arrived in Athens, "his spirit was stirred in him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry." Paul must have heard the voice of the Holy Spirit ask, "WHO WILL RISE UP FOR ME AGAINST THE EVILDOERS? OR WHO WILL STAND UP FOR ME AGAINST THE WORKERS OF INIQUITY?" (Psalm 94:16).

Paul volunteered. He disputed daily with people in the marketplace and synagogue:

Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoics encountered him. And some said, 'What will this babbler say? others said, `He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods,' because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to Mars Hill, saying, `May we know this new doctrine whereof thou speakest?'

Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars Hill and said, 'Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious. For as I passed by and beheld your devotions I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD, Whom therefore you ignorantly worship, Him, declare I unto you!" (Acts 17:18-23).

Then Paul began to preach. What did he preach? He preached repentance, "God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." He preached judgment. "Because He hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man he hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men in that He hath raised Him from the dead!" When the philosophers heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked--some wanted to hear more on the matter-- and a few believed.

Annually, God has sent me to Athens to preach-- Athens, Ohio, that is. At Ohio University, as on so many campuses, you can see the influence of the Greeks in the architecture. In the classroom they still study and revere the ancient Greek philosophers--Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Greek drama is read and presented by the theater departments. The democratic form of Greek government, considered to be the model for the American form of government, is examined in political science classes.

Each year I stand in front of tall Corinthian columns on the campus forum and declare: "You men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious. You are so superstitious you believe that your ancestors were apes. You really have to be superstitious to believe something as stupid as that, or else overly schooled."

Capturing Their Attention

People often ask: How do you draw a crowd on these campuses?

The Bible teaches, "Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets: she crieth in the chief place of concourse" (Proverbs 1:20,21).

My first objective when arriving on a campus is to find the chief place of concourse. Typically, it will be in front of the student union where each hour students are rushing to and from classes seeking knowledge. God commanded Isaiah, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet and show my people their transgression, and their sins" (Isaiah 58:1).

With the voice of a trumpet blast, I proclaim my favorite text for campuses, I Corinthians 6:9, "Hearken unto the Word of God, know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God?"

"Be not deceived; neither the fornicators nor adulterers shall inherit the Kingdom of God. And it is commonly reported there are whores and whoremongers on this campus. Personally, I have more respect for these professional prostitutes who sell their bodies than the coeds of campus that give it to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. At least these professionals put some value on their bodies. You coeds that are giving it away are awfully cheap."

"Be not deceived; drunkards shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. And it is commonly reported there are drunkards on this campus-- especially the fraternity boys."

"Be not deceived; idolaters shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. This would include all you rock'n roll freaks."

"Be not deceived; neither the effeminate nor homosexuals shall inherit the Kingdom of God. And I even understand there are sissies and queers on this campus."


This captures their attention! Within minutes several hundred students have gathered. Open air campus speakers are unusual. It is even more unusual for one to draw a crowd.


Students wonder:

"Is he for real?"

"Is this a production of the drama department?"

"This should not be allowed. Someone call security."

"Why, he is condemning us! Who is he to condemn us?"

"He's calling every girl on campus a whore!"

"He's crazy!"

"I've got to hear this! I'm going to cut class."

"My roommate should hear this!"

"I heard that he was at the University of Kentucky last week."

"This is great!" I have never seen so many people listening to the Word of God!"

"Turn some water into wine for us."

"Crucify him!"


Paul acknowledged to the Greeks that "the preaching of the cross is them that perish, foolishness; but unto us that are saved it is the power of God" (I Corinthians 1:18).

The Two Edged Sword

Many consider this approach "too strong," but "The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword" cutting swift and deep into our innermost thoughts and desires, exposing the sinner for what he truly is-- totally depraved.

Too often preachers have spared God's Word. The sword of the Word has two edges. On one edge is God's grace, but on the other edge is God's law. On one edge is God's love, but on the other edge is God's wrath. On one edge is God's mercy and forgiveness, but on the other edge is his justice and judgment. His word says: "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God" (Romans 11:22).

The point of the sword is holiness unto the Lord. He said: "Be ye holy for I am holy" (I Peter 1:16).

Regrettably, today's evangelism has broken off the point of the sword and has filed down the edge that speaks of God's law, wrath, justice, judgment and severity. Consequently, today's Gospel lacks power and is without conviction.

Some say, "But I don't think you ought to call them queers."

Well, you ought not to call them gay. God calls them abominable, they call themselves gay. When Christians use the term "gay," they have sided with the perverts against God. These Sodomites do not need our sympathy-- they need the truth which can set them free!

Others will say, "But what about calling them whores and whoremongers? That is not nice!" No, it is not nice. Sin is mean and deadly. One day a girl who claimed to be a Christian admitted that she was having "relations" with her boyfriend.

"You're going to have to stop fornicating," I said.

"Oh, don't use that word," the girl protested, "that makes our relationship sound so ugly."

There is something ugly about that word fornication. The King James version uses these convicting terms to lay bare their illicit sexual behavior. Students in human sexuality courses will discuss the merits and demerits of pre-marital sexual relations, but the Bible calls it whoredom. In class they discuss extra-marital relations or an open marriage, but the Bible calls it adultery.

The devil paints a pretty picture of sin but the Gospel preacher peels back the paint and shows the ugly reality of lawlessness.

Debate and Dialogue

Initially, students are amazed, stunned and overwhelmed. Many have never met a preacher who loved them enough to tell them the truth about themselves. After the crowd has heard me blast their idols of sex, booze, drugs and rock 'n roll for about 20 minutes, many begin to make comments or ask questions in an attempt to excuse or cover their sins:


"Where do you get your money?"

"Who is sponsoring you?"

"What's wrong if I sleep with my boyfriend?"

"You are turning people off!"

"How do you know the Bible is the Word of God?"

"Judge not!"

"What's wrong with homosexual love", an effeminate boy asked?


"There's no such thing," I answered. "Homosexuals hate God, hate their parents and hate one another. If they had love in their hearts they would not commit such wicked acts." He stomped off mad, but later returned with several of his perverted "friends."

A girl shouted from the crowd, "How do you believe on abortion. How do you believe on abortion?"

"I'm glad your mother did not practice it," I replied. "I'm sorry to say that a lot of the girls on this campus are so low that they will use vacuum cleaners on their unborn babies."

"You're just a male chauvinist pig," a masculine looking girl yelled.

"Do you know what I think you are?"


"I think you're a tomboy."

The crowd roared and she flipped me an obscene gesture.

Her friend dashed in front of me. With her legs spread and hands on her tight Levis she taunted, "I guess you think I'm a tomboy, too."

"No, contentious woman, you look more like a cowboy."

After a few more rounds the girls left but later returned and listened for the rest of the day.

Holding Their Attention

Debate and dialogue are two of the many tactics we use to gain and hold the crowd's attention. We don't have a captive audience like professors or most preachers. As the prophets of old, we have an urgent message to deliver to a group of rebellious, uninterested students.

In an effort to awaken the wicked, God ordered his prophets to present strange object lessons. Isaiah preached naked for three years (Isaiah 20:1-6). God said it was to signify the judgment that Ethiopia and Egypt would receive if they did not repent. Ezekiel was constantly giving peculiar illustrations to warn the stiffnecked Hebrews of God's impending judgments on Jerusalem. These combined with his great oratorical skills drew sinners who came for mere entertainment (Ezekiel 33:30-33).

The Gospel armory is filled with weapons the average preacher rarely uses. On stage, where men undertake to represent a character or truth, they use all the arts and spare themselves not at all. Why should not a man go to greater lengths when dealing with the living realities of utmost importance?

Radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, has become one of the most influential voices in America by ridiculing and exaggerating his response to liberal philosophy. Rush calls his technique, "demonstrating absurdity by being absurd."

The wise use of humor, satire and scorn can turn an indifferent sinner into a serious seeker.The barb of ridicule makes sin absurd and foolish as well as wicked. Elijah mocked the false prophets of Baal. My portrayal of the cigarette-sucking college psychologist who deceived a silly coed with moral relativism has become well known. We go to extremes to illustrate truth in a memorable fashion. Unusual voice techniques and elaborate gestures are especially helpful. For example, throughout the afternoon I will often refer to the eternal home of sinners:

"The everlasting LAKE OF FI-RRRRRE!"

I cry out with my jaw quivering rolling the r's.

After several FI-RRRRRES, the whole crowd is chanting along. It's reported that within a few days of preaching, the students are shouting, "You'll burn forever in the LAKE OF FI-RRRRRE," down their dorm halls. They consider it a big joke but as they mimic me the fact of this terrible torment is being impressed on their minds. As they are alone at night in bed the Holy Spirit will bring all things to remembrance.

Daily, students ask for my imitation of Satan's minstrel, Mick Jagger, of the RRRRRRolling Stones. On one knee and microphone in hand, I ape him singing their hit "I Can't Get No Satisfaction." The students applaud with glee as I portray their rock idol.

Suddenly, I seriously ask, "Why did that song become so popular? Why does any song become popular? The answer is because it has a message people can relate to. Despite all your boozing, cruising, dancing, fornicating and drug highs, you are not satisfied."

"Why do people get drunk or stoned? Obviously, to alter the state of their consciousness. Why do they desire to change their state of mind? Because something is missing in their normal state. There is a void, an emptiness in their lives. Every time they take a toke off a joint of marijuana or drink some Miller Low Life, they admit this-- 'I can't get no satisfaction.'"

The students are listening quietly. The ground has been plowed to sow a Gospel truth.

"The Bible says be not drunk, but be filled with the Spirit. If you get filled with God's Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ, you will no longer desire alcoholic spirits, you will no longer want to get stoned. You will no longer want to fornicate. Your desire will be to please God and keep his commandments."

Some heads are hanging in shame.

"Jesus said, `Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness; they shall be filled.' The converse of that beatitude would be: Cursed are they that hunger and thirst after sin' they shall be empty. Your lives are empty because your ultimate appetite is for sin (self-gratification). The more you try to gratify self's appetite; the more self demands. Self's appetite is insatiable. The more sex you get; the more your members demand. You have become slaves to your own lusts. `You can't get no satisfaction' because there is no satisfaction in sin. You can enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, but they are fleeting. There will be a day of reckoning; not only in this world but also in the world to come. `The way of the transgressor is hard.' `Whatsoever a man sows that will he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting'" (Galatians 6:8).

Truth has been made obvious to the students. Some become angry because the folly of their selfish lives has been exposed by the swift slash of satire's sword. They are at a point of decision. Either they open their minds and soften their hearts to receive truth, or they will close their minds and harden their hearts. Most will become hardened.

God's Word says: "This is the condemnation, that light (truth) has come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved (John 3:19,20).

The mood of the crowd was light hearted when the Mick Jagger imitation was requested but by the end of the illustration the crowd's mood was heavy. Tomorrow students will again ask me to do Mick Jagger. I cannot help but wonder if it is not the illustrated truth that they really want to hear.

Our Lord showed that the parable is a priceless instrument for presenting moral lessons. God has given us numerous parables about college life. Like five-year-olds the students beg us to tell the stories over and over. Since the students' lives revolve around sex, booze, drugs and rock 'n roll, I tell many parables that address these sins.

The fraternities are particularly notorious for their licentiousness. I tell the parable of the fraternity boy who boasted of the "good time" he had with a sorority girl. However, when his "good time" resulted in venereal disease or the murder of the offspring of the illicit union, he no longer thought he had such a "good time." The Bible says: "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; they put light for darkness and darkness for light" (Isaiah 5:20).

"Sister Cindy is the best show in town."--The Capital Times Madison, Wisconsin


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