The following is a report written by Jed Smock, the head of the Campus Ministry, USA, and well-known campus preacher:

Last Friday, I preached with Bible Jim Webber at Portland State University in Oregon.

He wore a sandwich board sign that said “Fear God” on the back, and on the front a tribute to Holy Hubert Lindsey, quoting two of his favorite sayings: “God Bless “Your Dirty Hearts”, “You Poor Sick Miserable Bunch.” Between these two quotes, he listed warnings against various sins and sinners, such as false religion, hypocrisy, drunkenness and pot smoking little devils. The one that stirred the most controversy pictured a wide open-mouthed woman with the caption, rebellious women. Jim was at his post when I arrived at 11 am.

A few students were checking out his sign as he stood quietly. We greeted one another and chatted several minutes and then I encouraged Webber to start preaching, since I had already spent the three previous days on campus.

He said loudly that he was not going to preach to such a disrespectful and disreputable group as college students. He went on and on in that vein, as I occasionally fed him with a few choice comments and questions.

Soon he gained the attention of about fifty or so students, who were already sitting on area benches. I wish that I had had my video camera with me, since this was classic Webber, who has to be the master at open-air preaching in various venues. Arguably, Webber has the best sense of humor of any preacher. Soon there were about 20 students crowded around him asking questions and commenting on his sign, when a man approached him, and suddenly pushed Webber off the bench from which he was preaching.

Webber fell to the ground and I chased after the fiend and rebuked him sharply and warned him to stay away from Webber. Only one other man, a grounds man on Campus intervened.

Webber, although shaken and skinned, immediately arose and lovingly and firmly continued his message as he rebuked the students for tolerating this violence.

Of course, as Jim pointed out, had any politically correct speaker been attacked, many students would have come to the rescue and others would have been on their cell phones calling the police.

About fifteen minutes later, the cowardly attacker came back frothing at the mouth, trying to pull Jim’s sign off of him. Webber exercised only enough force to fend off the brute, as a few students, who evidently by now were feeling guilty, came to Jim’s aid and pushed the attacker away.

Never in my thirty years of campus work have I seen a preacher show such self-restraint.

One has to know Webber’s background to fully appreciate why I say this. Personally, under such attacks, I have no choice but to rely solely on the Lord to protect me against violence, because I was a peace-and-love-type person in my youth; but even though Webber is about 60 years of age, he is still a muscular man, who, before his conversion some 35 years ago, was one of Portland’s most notorious street toughs.

Webber could have easily made mincemeat out of this beast, who was no small person and in his early 20s. Webber doesn’t miss a beat, but only seems to have gained strength despite the tumble and tussle. One can tell that he is also gaining the respect of the students for his self-control. Still no police are to be seen. The attacker is still in the area, but Webber fearlessly and still in good humor continues his message. Some might think that Webber is overdoing it with his bitingly satirical style, but I notice that he is careful to weave in the cross and the resurrection as he cuts away at the students and sin.

Finally, here comes the aggressor again. I ready myself to spring into action, lest I can help Jim in any way. I suspect that this guy is crazy with anger; anything could happen in this third round. Jim’s life could be in danger. However, I perceive that Webber has no intention of backing off or toning down his message.

Surprisingly, the man bows his head and sheepishly reaches out his hand and apologizes to Webber, who firmly grabs his hand and forgives the man. He turns away, but Jim calls him back. They are eyeball to eyeball. The crowd is quiet, everyone straining to hear what is said, but Jim speaks in such a low tone for several moments that I could not hear. The young man walks to one of the benches and quietly sits and listens the rest of the afternoon.

Meanwhile, a scheduled rock group with loud amplification starts playing over the noon hour. Under such distractive circumstances, I usually stop preaching until the music concludes, but not Webber; he doesn’t miss a beat, but reaches down into his diaphragm to raise his voice. The crowd encloses around Webber and the musicians are being ignored. He has several clashes with rebellious women. Jim explains to them that they would really like him, if they could just get to know him. A number of the students that I had been dialoging with previous days confront Webber. He has been preaching now for about an hour and a half. Normally I would be chomping at the bit, wanting to get into the action, but I am merely thinking, I hope he doesn’t call upon me.


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How Did I Get Here? “How did I get here?

What am I doing here?”

I was standing before a hundred-plus, very emotional students in the free-speech zone of the University of Arizona. Just a moment before, we had arrived on these beautiful grounds, unpacking our Jesus banners and taking our stand for what I thought would be a somewhat quiet day of witnessing. But then, Bam! A student strikes a dialogue with Jim Webber, and like gasoline on a fire, the beautiful Arizona day explodes into a flurry of students with comments and questions.

As I watched, it was as if I was dreaming. My mind raced, remembering the journey that had brought me to this place.

Just four years before, as I was preaching in my church in Las Vegas, minding my own business so to speak, I noticed a new couple sitting in the back. They seemed like average folks and, after the service, I went to speak with them.

They introduced themselves as Jim and Toni Webber, and said they had just recently moved to Las Vegas. They told me they had come to Las Vegas to witness on the streets.

This caught me off guard and intrigued me. I had never heard of such a thing, that someone would move to Vegas just to witness. To hear more, I invited them to lunch.

At lunch they told me the story of over thirty years of campus and street ministry. I was amazed, particularly at the conviction in which they shared. These were not quacks; they were people who were outside the bounds of the average church but well within the bounds of the Bible. They asked me if my wife Kathie and I would be interested in going with them that night to Fremont Street in downtown Vegas to witness. Reluctantly we said yes.

That night we arrived at the Fremont Experience and Jim hoisted a banner that said, “Trust Jesus.” Toni wore a sandwich sign. They both wore sweatshirts that had a Christian message. One said, “Fear God,” and the other “Trust Jesus.” I thought to myself, Wow, these people are more radical than I am. But I also thought, There is no way I am going to carry a sign or wear some shirt.

That was just too much.That night the Webbers’ took their positions and began to simply talk with people as they came to inquire about their banner messages. My wife and I also had some good conversations. As we left the street a couple of hours later Jim asked if we had fun. We said yes, though it was somewhat unnerving for us. They asked if we would like to go out again next week, and we agreed.

Though I was not excited about what seemed the foolishness of sandwich signs or banners, there was something about it all that was grabbing me. I just couldn’t get a handle on it. And who is this guy, Jim Webber? I would ask myself.

We had some difference of doctrine but there was something so real and authentic about him. I was often left musing over him and how it was I was becoming connected with him. Yet it all seemed strangely sane and the providence of God. Little did I realize though that I was coming into a new season of ministry, and the Lord had brought me into the Webber orbit to teach me. Within a short while, my objections to banners came down and I hoisted a banner myself that read, “Fear God.” My wife and I also began to wear Christian shirts. I want you to know that this was no small thing for us.

We were respected pastors. I had three degrees including my doctorate and was known in the community as a balanced man of God. I also had a ministry in Africa, preaching mass evangelistic crusades and feeding over 10,000 orphans a week.

Now here I was on the streets, of all places. Something was happening to me. As I think back on those days I know now what had happened. I was delivered from the fear of man and shame of the gospel.

What many would consider ridiculous and foolish was now something precious to me. But I saw the pleasure of the Lord in what we were doing and I credit this revelation to Jim Webber. He really believed in proclaiming the gospel in the public square. I saw this in him one night when he asked me to hold his newest banner creation.

As he stepped off to admire it from a distance, like an artist admiring his painting, I saw that he was really getting into it. I wondered, is he on an ego trip? It’s only a banner. As he walked up to me he said, “It’s beautiful.” “What’s beautiful?” I asked. He said, “Those words.” The banner he was flying said, “Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead.” I thought, O.K., that’s good but really, it’s only a banner. Then it hit me.

This man esteemed the raising of the Word of God in public.

He honored the Lord. This was not ego. This was only about the Lord. He saw something and now I was seeing it too, a revelation about exalting Christ’s name. Jim has a passion to proclaim the Word of God, and to exalt the Lord Jesus. So do I.

Over the next three years we went with the Webbers’ two and three times a week

to witness, particularly in front of the Bellagio Hotel Casino. We had some marvelous encounters and saw many people touched by the Gospel. As we grew in our relationship, I also asked Jim to teach in my church. I found him to be an excellent teacher and equipper.

Last year Jim said we must go to the university campuses and preach. We had discussed doing this often because before I had even met Jim, I had wanted to preach on university campuses. I just didn’t know how to get started.

Our first trip out was to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Then, we went to the University of California at Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, Irvine, and Davis. Now, here we were at the University of Arizona in Tucson, submerged in the midst of students inquiring about our message. Into the day we preached and shared. At four o’clock the crowd subsided somewhat and it was as if the dream was over. With young people still clamoring for answers, we dismissed ourselves and walked back to our car. In classic Webber style, Jim asked, “Did you have fun?” - Tom Griner