Sister Cindy draws a crowd on campus

“Interestingly enough, who comes but the students? They want to come,” Brother Gunnar said. “As you know, she has a very large following on TikTok, and they have certainly seen it on TikTok. They come here to see it in person. So, I would not worry too much about that choice.”


Joseph Dicklin

Cindy Smock pictured during her sermon addressing students and their immorality.

Cindy Smock, celebrity TikTok preacher, also known as Sister Cindy, drew a crowd in front of Parks Library Thursday afternoon, preaching combative and confrontational ideas to the campus at large.

Sister Cindy belongs to a group called The Campus Ministry USA, which travels the country giving sermons. In previous years, Smock was accompanied by her late husband, George Smock, also known as Brother Jed.

Before Smock’s arrival, another open-air preacher, Vijay Pisini, could be heard loudly preaching about immorality and the pathway to hell. As the crowd gathered around Pisini, Smock made her appearance and began her own sermon.

“So, we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Pisini said. “No flinching, nothing, no watered down gospel sugarcoating. We preach the Bible exactly as to what it is.”

Smock’s sermon depends heavily on the sensationalization of topics like immorality and sex, shouting out slogans like “hoe no mo,” and making comments on how women live as if the purpose of their lives is having a “wet ass pussy.”

Despite Pisini’s claims to preach the gospel exactly as it is written, some students suggested that the Campus Ministry misrepresents the beliefs of common Christians.

“He’s just trying to get attention and piss people off, and it’s really frustrating for actual Christians on campus,” said Sophia Winkelpleck, a sophomore in public relations. “He’s skewing my beliefs, and we want to communicate our views and love, and he’s doing that in a really hateful way.”

Many of the attendees of the event were not present to hear the words of Smock and the rest of the Campus Ministry; rather, many came for the spectacle and to mock the performance.

“I don’t really care if you’re religious or not, do whatever you want,” said Brock Brommel, a sophomore in animal ecology. “But it’s funny to see people get upset on both sides. I’m just skipping class to see it because, I mean, I go to class weekly, I don’t see this very often.”

Smock’s sermon use shocking slogans to garner attention before laying out the real message of the sermon.

“If you stay for the whole thing, they start with something outrageous, but then usually they level out as you get further along,” said Kyle Grossman, a junior in finance. “I think that they need to be outrageous to draw a crowd. You look at clickbait all the time, you’re not going to look at them if it’s not outrageous, so I think it’s just necessary.”

Brady Hubbard, residence hall coordinator and a member of the LGBTQIA+ Faculty Staff Association, was present at the event to show support to students who had issues with the presence of the Campus Ministry.

“So, I don’t love that she was here, but I also respect that she has that place to be here,” Hubbard said. “I think the majority of the crowd here is probably more here to mock her and out of curiosity, and things like that. I almost wish they wouldn’t give her that attention.”

Cindy Smock and the Campus Ministry USA visit college campuses across the country. Large crowds often appear for these visits due to Smock’s large TikTok following. (Joseph Dicklin)

Derek Louden, a freshman in computer science, made an appearance at the show to play his trumpet and distract from the Campus Ministry’s performance.

“What I do is I just go up to them, I get out my trumpet, I start just playing music in their face,” Louden said. “And that really annoys them, so, I do that.”

Along the outskirts of the crowd, a few older men stood by, holding signs with messages along the lines of “Ask me why you’re going to hell.” Going by the names brother Frank and brother Gunnar, the men were associated with The Campus Ministry USA and were present to have conversations with students outside of the sensationalized sermon.

“Interestingly enough, who comes, but the students? They want to come.” Gunnar said. “As you know, she [Smock] has a very large following on TikTok, and they [the students] have certainly seen it on TikTok. They come here to see it in person. So, I would not worry too much about that choice.”

Gunnar refused to share his full name, explaining he chose not to for “professional reasons,” but he did explain the Campus Ministry’s choice to create a sermon full of buzzwords and extreme attention-grabbing remarks.

“So, when haven’t people gone to something for entertainment?” Gunnar said. “And in the entertainment, is there something that transfers across here? I’ll put it this way to you, if you play long enough on the river bank, you may fall in the river.”

Gunnar hoped that out of the hundreds of people present to mock the sermon and enjoy the show, a few students would be willing to hear the message that the Campus Ministry had to offer.

“I saw him standing there, so, I had a conversation with him, and he was just walking through different reasons that each person deserves hell, just through the Bible and what it says,” said Blake Wagoner, a freshman majoring in engineering. “So, that was pretty interesting to me. To kind of hear the reasoning instead of just like the showmanship of what Sister Cindy does.”

A handful of police was also present at the event to moderate any potential conflicts. Chief of ISU Police, Michael Newton, said events like Thursday’s typically go off without a hitch.

“We are happy anytime students want to go out and exercise their free speech rights or citizens want to come to the campus,” Newton said. “And so, we’re just out here to make sure everything goes smoothly and safely.”