Anybody who frequents Aggieville on the weekends has probably seen Tim Gotchey on Moro Street promoting the love of Jesus.
Gotchey, 52, is pastor of College Heights Baptist Church. Since June 2007, he has stood in front of Pita Pit twice a month on Fridays, typically from 10 to 11:30 p.m. He said he used to go every other Saturday night as well, but he’s not getting any younger.
Gotchey alternates between two signs: “Need Light? Jesus said ‘I am the Light of the World’” and “Thirsty? Jesus said ‘Follow me and you will never thirst.’”
He’s partial to the latter sign. “I thought it was appropriate for Aggieville, although I’m not anti-alcohol,” Gotchey said.
It’s that sentiment of not being anti-alcohol that begins to set him apart from other street preachers. Gotchey is aware of the stigma surrounding ministers standing with religious signs. One has to go no further than Topeka to see an example with Westboro Baptist Church and its various “God Hates” signs and funeral protests nationwide.
Gotchey said he hopes to come off as a friendly person and he rarely gets into arguments. “I’m not doing any open-air preaching,” he said. Instead, he allows people to come to him. “The only conversation starter I use is greeting people. If they ask me a question, I tell them I’m down here to talk to people about Christ.”
Gotchey said the important thing he does is listen. He gets a first name to pray for them. “I think each person has their own story and needs,” he said.
Gotchey was 16 in 1976 when he first realized that Christ was not playing a big enough part in his life. He entered the military and thought about making that a career, but kept coming back to the idea of ministry.
“I felt like God wanted me to leave the service and become a pastor, which I didn’t want to do,” he said. Gotchey graduated from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 1986 and Denver Seminary in 1989. He served at a Colorado Springs church from 1988 to 1999.
During a stint as a Southern Baptist missionary in Bosnia from 1999 to 2001, he first implemented his Aggieville evangelism technique. “I’m not a very creative person, so I actually stole that idea from a Southern Baptist missionary in Russia,” Gotchey said.
Gotchey moved to Manhattan in 2001 and became College Heights pastor in 2004. He said the congregation of 70 has been supportive of him. “I don’t know if all churches would support their pastor going to Aggieville,” he said.
His wife of 25 years, Sara, and two sons, Joel, 21, and Seth, 17, have also been supportive throughout his endeavors. Gotchey said the family holds Bible and game night at one of the trailer parks in Junction City during the summers.
Gotchey said he wants his family to be active in the church. In Seth’s case, it isn’t the same church; he attends University Christian Church. Gotchey said the UCC has been a blessing to him and his family. “I hope I lead by example,” he said.
Gotchey estimates he’s stood out at the same corner at least 120 times in the last five years. Out of all that time spent, Gotchey said he has led zero people to Christ, one person has remained steady in Bible study and about six people have visited the church.
“Statistically, the response that I see is low,” he said. “You plant seeds and let God take over the growing.”
The average person would see those numbers and consider continuation of the practice a lost cause. Despite this and how rowdy Aggieville can get at night, Gotchey said he continues to go out to show the love of Christ for people and address the needs people have.
“I do meet people that are really searching,” he said. “Maybe people have been really convicted by God, maybe too much to drink, maybe a combination of both.”
Gotchey said he delivers the same message on Sundays at church as he does on Fridays in Aggieville. “All people have sinned,” he said. “All people need Christ.”