Ryan Denton, a reformed Christian evangelist from New Mexico, visits Texas Tech several times a semester to spread his beliefs to students.
He preaches in the free speech area outside of the Student Union Building on campus, which hosts a variety of visitors throughout the year to engage students in social and political issues.
Denton said he did not grow up in a Christian home, but he found his faith when he was 22 years old. He was a student at The University of New Mexico when he began to feel religion calling to him. When he was 27 years old, he decided to go to seminary school and become a preacher.
“I just started realizing that the way I was living was was empty, and it was wrong,” he said. “I knew enough to start reading the Bible. When I started to read the Bible, that conviction grew and grew, and finally, I called on the name of of the lord to save me, and he did.”
Denton represents Christ In The Wild ministries by preaching the gospel to college campuses, abortion clinics, jails, homeless shelters and downtown cities. His goal is to connect Christians with the church, with each other and to spread the gospel to nonbelievers.
The polarization of people in society can make evangelizing difficult, Denton said. Students can be particularly reluctant to accept new ideas.
Denton said he believes most students are influenced by their cultures into predetermined thinking patterns. He sees a lack of willingness among people to examine why they hold certain beliefs.
One of the most exciting things about speaking to students is interacting with the students and connecting Christians, Denton said.
However, not every interaction is positive. Denton said at some college campuses, he has been harassed, spit on and had items thrown at him.
“One time at Texas Tech, I’ll tell you a funny story, somebody spit on me,” he said. “He spit on me thinking people were going to be okay with that. The people, even the ones who didn’t agree with me, turned on that guy, got mad at him for spitting on me. So that's kind of cool, you know. I mean Texas Tech is the exception. Most campuses don't do that.”
Denton said engaging with students, even if they do not believe in Christianity, is still rewarding. He recognizes people can have different beliefs, and said during disbelief, there is still a place to be friends and continue communication.
Many of his conversations involve sensitive topics such as abortion, racism and the validity of Christianity.
Denton entered his religious journey seeking out the truth of the universe. He said the truth is something everyone can benefit from.
His next book will be available in April. He said he plans to continue preaching and meeting with students on campus and via Zoom for the upcoming semesters. He also has a YouTube channel called Christ in the Wild Ministries and can be found on Twitter @Texaspreacher.
Ryan Adair, a junior accounting major from Driftwood, said he listened to Denton preaching and felt inspired by him.
“Evangelism is important because Jesus himself commanded it,” Adair said. “He told us to go out there and preach the gospel to people; it is the gospel that saves people eternally, so we as Christians believe we have the one way and the one message that can save people. How can we not go out and let people know about it?”
While Adair said he supports Denton, he said the crowds are usually mixed with a variety of beliefs and many different attitudes about Denton’s preaching.
Adair said because the conversations center around sensitive subjects and the nature of Christian beliefs, there is no real common ground for nonbelievers and believers to agree on.
Adair now preaches on his own in the free speech area most weeks from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He said his goal is to start religious conversations, spread the gospel and explain his Christian worldview.