Frequently Asked Questions
My method of preaching encourages interaction with the students. In an average day I am asked dozens of questions about nearly everything under the sun. It is not unusual for some of those questions to be about me. Following are some of the most common personal questions that I’m asked on campus.
How do you make your money?
This is a very common question, but one that is asked by different people with different motives. Some people ask out of genuine concern for my family and me and perhaps because they, too, are interested in campus ministry and wonder how such a thing can be financed. Others ask out of suspicion, thinking that I am an aspiring televangelist who is out to get rich off of poor, unsuspecting and vulnerable people. Still others ask because, to them, the ultimate purpose in life is to earn money and they are confused when they run into someone whose ultimate purpose differs from theirs.
The short answer to how I make my money is that I am supported by donations from individuals and churches who believe in what I do. Tom Short Campus Ministries (TSCM) is a non-profit organization through which I receive charitable donations designed to cover my salary and ministry expenses (travel, literature, etc.).
There actually are a lot of people who have been positively affected by my ministry who are more than happy to contribute to TSCM so that I can continue to reach people for Christ. Others recognize the importance of reaching college students with the gospel and they see my work as a cost-effective and efficient way of reaching as many as possible with funds they have available. These generous and sacrificial gifts, some large and others small, some given each month and others only when extra money becomes available, provide the financial basis of me being able to preach on campuses day in and day out.
Where did you go to college?
Actually, I only attended college for one semester. By my freshman year in college, I knew exactly what I wanted to do in life and felt it was time to get on with it. Although I had fine grades and was actually making money by attending college (through an academic scholarship and Social Security and VA benefits I received as a result of my father’s death), I left school, got a part-time job and poured myself into (1) aggressive Bible study and prayer, (2) ministering on campus as much as possible, and (3) being discipled and trained by the pastors in my church.
I did consider going to Bible school. However, the more I studied the Scriptures, especially the methods Jesus employed in raising up effective leaders, I saw my need for “on the job” training. Jesus never started a Bible school, but he had His disciples with Him as He taught them about faith, love, serving, evangelism, prayer, etc. In recognizing the confidence and power of the apostles, Scripture points out that they “were uneducated and untrained men, but that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). I considered myself extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to receive similar input from godly men and I committed myself to taking full advantage of this training opportunity.
I look back with no regrets on my decision to leave college. I knew then what I know now and that is that God was the One leading me in this different direction. I find it interesting that God has lead me into a ministry on college campuses where I often debate people who have far greater academic credentials than I do. I am often reminded and encouraged by the following passage of Scripture: “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong, and the base things of the world, and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
How did you learn so much?
I usually preach for five hours a day, and during that time, there is no subject even remotely related to God, Jesus Christ or the Bible that is off-limits for discussion and interaction. A person who listens throughout the day will hear a whole plethora of topics discussed in detail. Consequently, I am often asked where and how I learned so much.
I see learning as a life-long challenge and I seek to learn and grow every day. I am constantly reading something, be it a book, magazine, newspaper, internet site, etc. I often read opinion writers (those I agree with and those I don’t) in order to hone my skills of persuasion. Most important of all, I read my Bible every day in order to gain its wisdom and apply it to all areas of life.
Second, God has given me a very good memory. The ability to think and recall information, especially the ability to think on my feet in front of a crowd of people is a vital skill that has served me well when preaching on campus.
Third, I have learned how to think in a Biblical way. When confronted with an objection to Christianity that is new to me, I have learned how to ask the questions that will expose the fallacies and holes in the argument. Study of the Bible not only instructs me about what is true, it also teaches me how to think and creates a coherent worldview. Truth gained from the Bible makes a person wise and understanding well beyond their years (Psalm 119:98-100).
Fourth, and this is very important, I do my best to never get stumped with the same question twice. There is nothing dishonorable about being confronted with a question or argument you’ve never heard before and, therefore, not knowing the answer. But if you are stumped with the same question time and again, it shows you’re not doing your homework. I’ve determined to find the answers so that I don’t get stumped with the same question twice.
Finally, let me say that very little of what I say is original with me. I believe the answers to every question or objection we face can be found in the right books or on the internet. Most people, even many fine Christians, don’t realize the answers are out there if we just make the effort to go find them.
Are you an ordained minister?
Yes. I was ordained on July 18, 1978 by the Solid Rock Church (now called Linworth Road Church) in Columbus, Ohio. Although I am no longer a pastor in a particular church, I am still an ordained minister with Great Commission Churches.
In Great Commission Churches, we do not believe a seminary education is necessary for ordination. We follow the simple teaching of the New Testament where the requirements to become a pastor are all related to our character and way of life (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9). These qualifications are developed, tested and recognized in real life experiences and through active participation in the life of the church – not in an academic classroom.
Have you ever been physically assaulted?
Yes, but never to the degree where I was injured or felt in serious danger. I have been knocked to the ground, pushed, spit upon and one fellow (who I think was a professor) tried to choke me and punch me, but he was pretty easy to defend myself against. I have received some serious threats – even death threats but, obviously, those weren’t carried out.
Although I hope it never comes to this, I consider physical assault and the possibility or martyrdom to be part of the territory. “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12). But I also believe I am protected by the power of God and that no harm will ever befall me that God, is His perfect providence, does not permit with His glory and my ultimate good in mind.
What do you think of Brother Jed and other campus preachers?
Brother Jed would be considered by many to be the “grand-daddy of campus preachers.” I’ve been doing this longer than most anyone, but he started several years before me and has been on over 700 campuses (as opposed to my being on just over 100).
I love Brother Jed. I consider him to be a true friend. I admire his courage, perseverance and dedication. I have learned a great deal from him. I hope that when I reach his age I am still going as strong as he is.
That being said, I do have some strong differences with Brother Jed (and most other campus preachers) -- differences both in what they believe as well as in the methods they use while preaching. I have spoken to him about these in private and believe he has honestly listened to me. He has chosen to act on some of my concerns, he has chosen not to act upon others. I think our differences in what we believe, what we say and how we say it are evident to anyone who listens to both of us.
Brother Jed is an extremely intelligent and well-educated man. Most people are surprised to discover this when they talk to him in private. Unfortunately, these positive traits are too often overshadowed by outrageous and inflammatory comments while preaching. While these tactics may get people’s attention and draw a bigger crowd, I believe they obscure the heart of what we are called to communicate. People become so incensed that they never hear or remember the good stuff. I find this to be a real tragedy and it deeply grieves me. I keep Brother Jed in my prayers and I hope you do as well.
What does your family think of you traveling so much?
As Christians, we believe God established the family unit and places a great responsibility upon fathers to lead their families. Additionally, the Bible teaches that an effective ministry grows from a solid personal relationship with God and begins with ministry within your very own family. I firmly reject the idea of a person neglecting family responsibilities to pursue personal, business or ministry goals. So, how does all of this work with me and my ministry?
My kids are all grown adults on their own now, so this is not quite the issue it was years ago. When they were younger, I traveled less and tried to be home at the times that mattered most. For instance, whenever possible (which was quite often), I would be home for the kids sporting events, piano recitals, school awards presentations, etc. I coached their youth sports teams. Additionally, when I was on the road, I would call and talk to them every day. This is not to say it was not difficult at times, but by the grace of God, I believe my kids say that I loved them and cared deeply about their lives.
I must also give special credit to my wife. Roz is a deeply committed Christian who, like me, has dedicated her life to the furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We both understand that true service to Christ will involve many personal sacrifices. She has graciously and willingly shared me with the college students of America. Her attitude has been more than one of tolerating what I do. Rather, she has actively encouraged me to follow God’s call on my life. Although at times she has felt like a harried and stressed single mother, she has endured this without complaint. No doubt my wife will have many rewards in heaven and I appreciate those students who are kind enough to thank her when I come to speak on their campus.
Roz’s attitude was critical to the kids developing a right attitude, for they picked-up on how she really feels about what I do. Because she did not secretly resent my work but whole-heartedly supported it, the kids caught that same attitude.
How do you start?
I pray, pray some more and pray even more. Prayer is the key.
I lift my voice and speak loudly. I speak as if I have something to say. My attitude is very important here and I think students can sense it: I don’t want people to stop and listen so that I don’t look foolish. I want them to stop and listen because I have something essential for them to hear. They should stop for their sake, not mine.
I talk about controversial things that I think will get people’s attention. What I say is highly controversial – God is real, the Bible is true and Jesus Christ is the way to eternal life.
Invariably, people stop. They always have. God draws them. They listen, they ask questions and once things get going, the preaching just keeps going all afternoon.
How did you get in campus preaching?
From my earliest days as a Christian, I was thrilled with the stories in the Bible where Jesus, the apostles and the prophets publicly preached the word. Whenever I saw crowds, I would think how cool it would be to be able to tell the whole audience about Jesus.
There were several occasions when I tried to preach to a crowd, but usually with no success. Things changed in 1980. I had led a team of people from Columbus, Ohio to plant a church at the University of Maryland. The people in Maryland seemed very hard, resistant and generally uninterested in the gospel of Christ. We needed to do something to help generate that interest. We committed to doing two things: (1) Our leaders gathered for daily prayer each morning and (2) we would preach on campus every day the weather permitted.
The result was awesome. Our prayer meetings were scheduled for 30 minutes, but often went for a couple of hours. Day in and day out I would preach and large crowds would gather. At first, they heckled, but after a couple of weeks, people started turning to Christ. Many were saved, many were baptized, disciples were being raised up.
In time, I began to go to other campuses. Sometimes I was invited; sometimes I just went on my own. Before long, this simply grew into my full-time ministry.
How do you not lose your voice?
Actually, when I first started preaching, after several minutes I would lose my voice and have to stop. This was very frustrating. I really wanted to preach to the people and I just couldn’t do it for very long.
One morning I was praying to God about this – pouring out my frustration to Him. “Lord, I really want to be able to preach your Word on the campus, but every time I try, I lose my voice. I’m not able to do what I so want to do for you.”
As I prayed, the Lord spoke to me with a verse from the Bible: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9).
"Lord," I asked. “Does this verse apply to my weak voice? Can you show your power through my voice?” I believed God would do just that! And, so, I made a promise to God and prayed, “Lord, if you will give me a strong voice, I promise to always give glory to you and tell people about this prayer if they ever ask how I developed a strong voice.”
And, I’ve done just that. I have been asked hundreds of times how my voice can be so loud, so strong and last so long. And I never grow tired of telling them this story of how God’s grace and power is sufficient for me!
Do you get nervous before you preach?
I sure used to, but not really any more.
Nervousness (or fear) reminds us to turn to God for strength and courage. Through the years, He has taught me to do this so that now it is my habit. I can’t imagine preaching without the help of God. And, of course, the more we see God come through for us the more confident we are that He will do so in the future. Thus, my confidence in God’s power and presence now far outweighs any fear or nervousness I have.