I had not preached on this university since November 2009. This university used to allow you to only preach for one hour and a half one day per month. Naturally that policy had the desired effect of keeping traveling preachers away by so limiting the amount of time they could preach.
POLICY CHALLENGED, BEATEN AND CHANGED FOR THE BETTER
This policy had been challenged I believe by a local preacher and the policy was beaten. I learned in passing through last November (2011) in hopes of preaching here the policy had been changed and now a permit could be obtained allowing a preacher to preach all week as long as advance notice was given.
In the years of 2007-2009 I usually preached here about once per semester realizing other traveling preachers would not be interested. This school has had a history and reputation of drawing rowdy and sometimes violent crowds. I know a preacher who was decked by the fist of a student while preaching here back some years ago. Another preacher friend of mine told me he was chased by a mob of students here years ago.
In the last visit I mentioned above I had gathered a rowdy crowd of at least 200 students with several police officers on hand to keep things under control. One student tried to break through and attack me and was restrained by one of the officers. The student then jerked away from the police officer and the officer commanded him to stop. The student was encouraged by the large rowdy crowd to run from the officer and he began to run. The officer went after the student and pandemonium broke out. It was a near riot situation. Somehow I was able to finish preaching and my wife and I were quickly escorted by several officers to our vehicle.
I was hoping with the less restrictive time limit we would be able to preach long enough for the students to settle down and listen better. I also realized this allowed more of an opportunity for the students to become rowdy and violence to break out, especially with the recent happenings of Trayvon Martin and the black community.
Monday March 26, 2012: We had a permit for this day but spent most of the day driving up from the Tallahassee area.
Tuesday March 27, 2012-Georgia Southern University-Statesboro, Georgia: It was a sunny very hot spring day and the designated free speech area had little shade.
I began preaching around 11:55 AM and soon gathered a small crowd that continued growing. There were about 5 police officers on hand and soon the rowdy crowd was swelling to around 200-225. They were rowdy all right but I was still able to do much effective preaching a good part of the time.
Around 2:00 PM the crowd seemed to have come down to around 50-60 but gradually swelled right back up to around 200-225.
BOB MARLEY AND JOHN LENNON
Close to 3:00 PM they began blasting Bob Marley’s song “One Love” and John Lennon’s “All You Need is Love” over the loudspeaker in opposition to the preaching and to drown me out. Thankfully the administration made them turn the music down almost right away. I had made some comments about having to reserve the area in advance and should not have to compete with other activities in the area.
By 3:10 PM I had been hammering the large rowdy crowd with the Word of God for over three hours and I was standing directly in the sun with weather in the high eighties. Unfortunately due to the rowdiness of the crowd and the police presence once you step out of the free speech area the officers do not want you to hang around. I would have loved to stepped out of the sun and sat down in the shade to have conversation with the more open and sincere truth seeking students but it seemed this was not possible.
I stopped preaching at 3:10 PM and informed the police officers I was finished for the day. As they were escorting us to our vehicle the school newspaper requested an interview and took some pictures.
That evening I preached in the church where we were staying.
Thursday March 29, 2012-Georgia Southern University-Statesboro, Georgia: Once again it was another hot sunny spring day with weather in the high eighties.
The newspaper ran an article with several pictures that provided free advertising in addition to the controversy and word of mouth stirred up from the previous Tuesday’s over three hour Bible hammering.
THE CAGE PREACHER
I thought of suggesting this idea to the police after I left but they figured it out on their own. They had set up poles around the designated free speech area and blocked it off with yellow tape to keep the students back. Once again about 5 police officers were on hand in addition to administration.
I was concerned because when I arrived there was some type of demonstration going on with very loud music about 50 yards from the preaching area. The majority of the students at the demonstration were black and it had something to do with the Trayvon Martin incident. I was being very careful the previous day to stay away from anything that would cause any racial controversy with this sensitive issue waiting to erupt.
However I made no qualms about letting the administration know I did not understand why I had to reserve the area in advance and compete with a noisy event going on at the same time. Thankfully they told me they were going to have them turn the music down.
In less than 10 minutes I had an attentive crowd of about 250. For the next 2 and a half hours I preached to a larger yet somewhat less rowdy and more receptive crowd than the previous Tuesday. Most of the afternoon the crowd was in the 250-300 range.
At one point I looked across the brickyard where they Trayon Martin event was going on and the crowd size there was almost as large as ours was but not quite. A very large black police officer was the one in charge where I was preaching and I think he somewhat liked me. Both days the police did a great job of not interfering yet keeping the peace. The crowd was what I would call “pleasantly rowdy” meaning they were rowdy enough to keep things interesting but civil enough to allow the preaching to go forth. A very effective day indeed!
The crowd extended all around the taped off area and was fairly deep. I looked behind me where Sister Elizabeth was and there was a good many students around her also. She was also interviewed by the school newspaper.
I continued preaching to the large crowd of 250-300 (or more) in the direct sunlight until around 2:30 PM and informed the officers I was finished preaching for the day. The officers once again escorted us to our vehicle.
On the way home we met with several students who had some interesting questions.