By Emily Ralph
Matthew Meinecke is happy to tell FSW students they are on the road to Hell.
The tall, rangy, 33-year-old former truck driver made his second appearance of the semester on Feb. 6. He preached his combative gospel to students gathered in front of S Building, praying on the ground and displaying five-foot-high banners warning of the dangers of rap music, abortion, marijuana, pornography, gay sex and short skirts.
“It’s a wicked culture of Satan,” said Meinecke, who has two daughters, age 2, and 3 months. “We live in a society that is embracing things that displease the Lord.”
Meinecke’s banners display the Book of Revelation, his take on the rapture, and what he calls the sin of homosexuality. One depicted a condom and warned that not even safe sex saves students from Hell.
Many students mock Meinecke, who is often known only as the “S Building Preacher.” Students enjoyed antagonizing and debating him. Some played loud rap music on a boom box as others stomped and danced. A few yelled that God loves students “no matter what this guy says.”
Meinecke works for Team Jesus Preachers, an organization that he says “aims to reach souls,” because students today embrace “rap music, pornography, [and] sex outside of marriage.”
He was called to preaching when he was 21. Meinecke attended a Fundamentalist church while he was in the military, attended New Testament Christian Seminary in Graham, Washington, and was eventually called to street ministry.
“The street ministry is a very confrontational ministry where you’re out in college campuses, bars and strip clubs,” he said.
Meinecke heard about Team Jesus Preachers while he was a truck driver going across the country. He heard the organization’s founder, Adam LaCroix, on a Christian radio station.
“I was so mesmerized!” he said. “I was so enlightened with his boldness declaring the truth of God!”
Meinecke said that he asked God, “What do you want from me? What do you want from my life?”
Meinecke said that he would fast until God spoke to him.
“God spoke to me,” he said. “I got into an accident a day later.” Meinecke lost his job and moved to Florida to join LaCroix.
The street ministry is not easy. Meinecke says he has gotten punched in the face, knocked out cold, taken a hit in the eye that left his whole face bloody, and faced death threats. At Orlando Gay Pride he was threatened with a machete.
On the afternoon of Feb. 1, Meinecke was arrested in front of Fort Myers High School as school ended. He claims he was arrested for his beliefs. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office website shows he was charged with trespassing in a school safety zone and disturbing the peace. Meinecke’s trial is scheduled on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 8 a.m.
Other members of Team Jesus Preachers have been arrested for street preaching, which he says was a violation of his First Amendment rights.
Adam LaCroix, Meinecke’s mentor, sued Lee County after the arrest and collected $40,000 according to public records of the case.
“All of that money [from the Lee lawsuit] went to legal fees,” Meinecke said when asked about the scams people are accusing the organization of. “Adam was unlawfully arrested on a public beach. No students have ever been sued, and no individuals have ever been sued.”
The students of FSW watch him for various reasons.
Derek Yedanza, 18, a sophomore, debates Meinecke on a variety of subjects.
“I’m just trying to spread a message of love and happiness as opposed to hate and con-artistry,” Yedanza said.
Other students, like Grayson Eckherdt, just call him “funny.”
Meinecke enjoys the interactions.
“I love the students of FSW,” he said. “People on campuses aren’t very physical. They’re very civil.”
Meinecke plans on preaching at FSW every week this semester, much like he did in the Fall.