Staking claim to the Cooper Hall courtyard as their pulpit, some Christian evangelists who preach the “good news” are known to attract crowds and condemn passers-by in the process.
Though students and staff tune out the preachers, evangelists such as Victor Mathis also teach Christian principles, but through a different delivery method.
Mathis, who practices a calmer and more approachable preaching method, was invited by WBUL to share his philosophy on its 5 p.m. news show Thursday.
As a nondenominational Christian, Mathis said his main belief is in the Bible and its 66 different books.
Students and staff members often hear evangelists scolding them about the possibility – or even probability – of going to hell. Mathis said there is some truth to what they’re saying, but he questions their approach.
“It does a disservice to the delivery of the gospel,” Mathis said on WBUL. “The scriptures are very clear that we are to exercise love, proclaim the gospel and talk to people with gentleness and respect.”
Mathis said he started evangelizing a year and a half ago because he said he was led by God to go deeper in his ministry. In January 2005, he connected with the Great News Network, a Christian evangelical organization based in Denton, Texas.
After joining GNN, Mathis said he started Unleashing Life Evangelical Ministries in Tampa, where he spreads his teachings in places such as USF and Ybor.
But Mathis said his ministry isn’t called to protest God’s message per se. He wants to present what he perceives as the truth of God in a positive and constructive way.
Commenting on the ministers most USF students and staff are accustomed to, Mathis said, “Their intent is to incite people that will draw more people into a large crowd. Our view of that tends to be: All you’ve done is just get an angry mob of people in which nobody is listening to the message anyway.”
During the broadcast, a WBUL moderator said, “People that we do see on campus aren’t just saying it really loud. They’re insulting people, saying really bad things and calling people names.”
“People other than myself and Kenny,” Mathis responded. “You won’t see us doing that. I don’t know these other people. I’ve heard about them, but you won’t see me witnessing or doing the same beside them.”
Mathis said it’s a challenge to his USF ministry to try to engage those who are automatically turned off when a preacher starts shouting. He said it’s a mindset that’s been built up because of other evangelists.
“That’s an obstacle that we have to overcome over time,” Mathis said.
Because Mathis doesn’t have amplification, he said it’s necessary to talk loud, but that doing so doesn’t allow the conveyance of emotion or sensitivity. He said he hopes people will conclude that Mathis and his assistants present differently.
Moderator Electra Linick said she wanted to invite Mathis after hearing him at Cooper Hall. She said she hoped for Mathis to debate about the idea of shouting to the masses with a local minister who’s less intense, but the other minister cancelled.
“I was expecting (Mathis) to be more outlandish,” Linick said. “First, I was disappointed, but then I wasn’t because he actually explained his point.”
USF student Tommy Kerr, who listened to the interview outside the station, said he was pleased with the discussion.
“You get to hear the preacher’s perspective versus the students saying how bad it is when people are yelling,” he said.