Street preacher Jesse Morrell drew crowds while preaching at Speakers Circle last week.
Morrell, who goes by “Brother Jesse,” spent three afternoons in Speakers Circle preaching his message of repentance, holding a sign that read “Warning! Judgement is coming.”
“We are controversial,” Morrell said. “We try not to hold anything back. We go out to universities and colleges, and usually we gather very large crowds.”
Morrell has been traveling and preaching since December 2002. He said he has spoken at more than 100 college campuses across the country and Canada, as well as on the streets of the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and the Czech Republic.
Morrell is the founder of his ministry Open Air Outreach, whose mission is to “call sinners to forsake their sins and trust in Christ,” according to its website. Morrell runs Open Air Outreach with his wife.
“We’ve gone coast to coast, and we’ve preached on campuses, bars, clubs, festivals, parades,” Morrell said. “Anywhere that there’s people.”
Morrell formed Open Air Outreach with two other men. At one point, the ministry grew to five active members of street preachers.
“We had two minivans and two teams traveling the country, a total of five of us, all single young guys traveling and preaching all over the country,” Morrell said. “Then when I got married and some of the other guys got married, the ministry downsized. And it’s just me now, and we travel as a family.”
After traveling and preaching on the streets, Morrell said other campus preachers turned him on to campus preaching, which is how he plans to spend the rest of his life.
“I wanted to do something meaningful,” Morrell said. “I didn’t want to just work an average job 40 hours a week and build up some type of business for some other guy. I wanted to work and build up the kingdom of God.”
Since the semester began Morrell has preached on campuses in seven states as part of the Open Air Outreach fall tour. Morrell said preaching on campuses is ideal.
“People are still forming their views and determining their world views, and they’re going to carry those views with them throughout the rest of their lives,” Morrell said. “And college students are also the age group that will engage in dialogue.”
Morell said older demographics tend to ignore street preachers.
“It’s very hard to draw a crowd on the street,” Morell said. “But it’s very easy to draw a crowd on a campus.”
Morrell said MU is one of his favorite places to preach since Speakers Circle is ideal for free speech and drawing a crowd. He also said the crowd was calmer and tamer than on other campuses because of the amphitheater.
“Our last campus, we had just angrier crowds — not very civil,” Morrell said. “Most of the crowds at Mizzou were listening. We had a few hecklers, one or two people were really loud and obnoxious, but most people were just listening or watching.”
Morrell said he has plans to return to preach at MU during the spring semester.
Despite the strong reactions Morrell and his ministry can produce on campuses, he said he isn’t looking to generate opposition during his preaching.
“We’re not looking for opposition, but my target audience are those who disagree with me,” Morrell said. “If everyone on campus agreed with me I’d have no reason to be there. So in a sense, I’m looking for a debate.”