Tom Kollars walked into a Starbucks coffee shop in Statesboro, Georgia, not long ago, chatting with people as they waited for their cups of java.
By the time the 64-year-old college professor left a short time later, he had led five strangers to Christ.
Pastor Mike Dann of Botsford Baptist Church in nearby Waynesboro saw it all unfold and was amazed by the ease with which Kollars was able to successfully engage people in lifechanging conversations about the gospel.
“He’s the most incredible soulwinner I’ve ever met,” Dann said.
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Kollars, an epidemiologist who has spent most of his life researching ways to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses, leads an average of about 300 people to Christ each month. That’s some 3,600 a year.
‘Tooting my horn for Jesus’
He’s involved in a street ministry of sorts, often staking out a sidewalk or parking lot where he plays tunes on his trombone, stopping frequently to share the gospel.
“I’m tooting my horn for Jesus,” Kollars quipped.
A member of First Baptist Church in Statesboro, Kollars is a former professor at Georgia Southern University and now teaches on a part-time basis at Liberty University and Anderson University.
“Tom has a fervent desire and a great passion for people to have a personal faith in Jesus,” said his pastor, John Waters. “He has a heart for people who are broken and hurting. Tom has lost his wife, so, out of his own personal journey, he understands grief and brokenness.”
On any given day and in many different locations, Kollars will raise his trombone to his lips and start playing. Sometimes that’s near a busy intersection. Sometimes on a rural dirt road with homes nearby. Every time, it’s in a place where he feels led by God.
Inevitably, people will gather to listen.
No hesitancy to share Christ
Between tunes, he talks about Jesus. He has a kind of sixth sense to know when people are ready to accept Christ, and he has no hesitancy about inviting them to pray a prayer for salvation.
Why would a college professor and researcher spend all of his spare time reaching out to spiritually lost people?
“I love people, and I want them to be able to go to heaven,” he said matter-of-factly. “When I go to restaurants, I lead people to Christ. When I go to gas stations, when I go to grocery stores, when I go to hospitals, when I go to clinics, I lead people to Christ. Wherever I go, I encounter people who need Christ.”
Sharing Christ, Kollars said, is his full-time job. His teaching and research are asides that allow him to spend time ministering to people. His jovial, welcoming nature opens doors to spiritual conversations. He’s never off-putting. He’s hospitable. He’s engaging. He’s fun.
Waters said Kollars is also highly intelligent as the inventor of a small dispensable device designed to stop the development of pathogens and parasites in mosquitoes that carry deadly diseases.
Kollars said that device, which he donates door to door, has been a key part of his ministry because it gives him facetime with people who need to hear the gospel.
“He’s never met a stranger he doesn’t want to share the gospel with,” Waters said. “He’s not one of those fellows who says I need to forge a relationship with someone for a year or two before I share Christ.”
Kollars started playing the trombone when he was 9 years old, about a year after he became a follower of Christ. But he drifted away for a while as an adult, becoming, in his words, “basically a backslidden idiot.” Then, he got serious about serving the Lord.
Since then, he has taken his trombone and the gospel to some of the most unlikely, and sometimes the most dangerous, of places. He once played Amazing Grace outside a drug dealer’s home.
“I never expected to be doing this,” he said. “I led almost 40 people to Christ on the first day of the year, and I thanked the Lord for a great start to the new year.’”
Kollars said he’s motivated by the fact that “one person’s soul is worth more than all the money in the world.”
“How can we say we love Jesus if we are not willing to go and tell others about Him?” Kollars asked. “I’m just doing what Christians are supposed to do.”