Jed Smock, better known as Brother Jed, is a campus preacher famous for his method of preaching he describes as “confrontational evangelism.” He has traveled to college campuses around the world to preach the gospel and denounce “sinful nature.”
The 76-year-old is recognized for holding signs that say “You Deserve Hell,” and provoking students as they walk by. Brother Jed made his last visit to Long Beach State on Feb. 26 and stirred controversy on upper campus.
What religion are you?
I’m a Christian. I am a member of the Methodist Church, but I’m not an ordained Methodist minister, and I don’t represent Methodism on campus. We’re non-denominational in our approach to the ministry. We represent the kingdom of God in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the blessed Trinity.
How long have you been Christian?
I was converted in 1972.
How did you get converted?
I got involved in the drug radical revolutionary movements in the ‘60s, and I ended up living in a hippie commune in Morocco, worshipping the sun, howling at the moon. I was practically out of my mind. On Christmas Day in 1971, a man carrying a cross marched into the commune in the midst of our hippie ban and began to preach in the name of Jesus. I got to thinking, despite all my education, I never read the Bible. I knew that the Bible was the most influential book in human history, I mean, I have a master’s degree in history. So as I read it I got to considering: “If this book is true, I’m in trouble. I’m headed for hell.” And that put the fear of God in me. Solomon in the book of Proverbs said that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, so I returned to the states and started going to church. In 1972, I committed my life to the Lord and God sent me back to the campuses to tell my story and preach. Since that time, I’ve been on hundreds of campuses in the states as well as campuses abroad. I’m on some campus somewhere five hours a day, five days a week. I’ve been coming to Long Beach State virtually annually since that time preaching.
Do you feel like you receive a lot of backlash when you visit the campuses?
Oh undoubtedly. We get mostly backlash, but that’s why I call my approach to evangelism confrontational evangelism; we attack the students’ basic philosophy of life, which is based upon multiculturalism or pluralism. We’re not only saying that Christianity is the best way, but that Jesus is the only way to God — to eternal life.
Have you had students come up to you with conversion stories?
Oh yes, matter of fact we prayed with a young man when we were at Long Beach State last week. Second day we were there, it was the late afternoon and there weren’t too many students left. He expressed an interest in being saved, and he confessed some sins out there on campus and he acknowledged Jesus is his lord and savior.
On this current trip, we’ve been on the road since January, and we’ve had 25 confessions of faith. These are people in the midst of the crowd who wanted prayer or to confess their sins, acknowledge Jesus is the Lord and Savior, some of them we even baptized out there on campus.
Of course, my main trophy you might say is that my wife was converted through my ministry at the University of Florida back in the late ‘70s, and of course she’s traveling with me too. The first thing I ever said to her after she came out and made fun of me was, ‘Rid of your sins you wicked woman,’ never imagining that four years later she would end up being my wife.
Why do you hold up signs that say, “You Deserve Hell”?
That’s the hook you might say, to get their attention. All day students will come up and ask ‘Why do I deserve hell,’ and I say you deserve hell the same way that everyone does, that we’ve all sinned and when we sin and turn our back on God then automatically we face hell. The good news is that God offers us what we don’t deserve – forgiveness, eternal life, a relationship with him. All through faith in Jesus Christ. But if we reject Jesus as Lord and Savior, then we get what justice of the law demands, which is eternal damnation. So, we use the signs as a way of getting their attention.
What drew you into visiting college campuses specifically?
I’ve spent all my life around college and university campuses. My father was an English professor and I taught history at the University of Wisconsin so that was the community I knew well. I determined that students are the future of our country and the future of the world.
What would you say to those who think you’re turning people off to Christianity?
Well to an extent that’s true, but when it comes right down to it, Jesus turned most people off. They tried to kill him more than once before they succeeded, and the disciples of Jesus were regularly mocked, ridiculed, spit on, mobbed, beaten, stoned, imprisoned. They offended most people, but of course not everybody was offended, and some do get saved.
We find initially though students might be offended, as offended as they are, they’ll stay out there hour after hour, often day after day listening to what we have to say. If they’re so turned off, why do they stay out there listening, discussing and arguing? Often they say they’re so offended but before they leave they ask us, ‘When are you going to be back? What time? We’ll be here!’