Loyal Thurman’s days are spent building relationships. Getting coffee with someone questioning the existence of God. Talking with a young person trying to figure out life. Going to a concert to meet up with friends.
Connecting with people is what Loyal Thurman is about.
Having founded Unified Underground in 1998, Loyal’s goal is to reach those who traditionally stay away from the church.
Loyal’s ties to Louisville go back to his younger years when his dad worked for UPS. As a high-schooler, he skateboarded down Bardstown Road, went to Christian Academy of Louisville, and attended High School Ministry at Southeast, where he is now supported as a missionary.
Loyal and his wife, Mollie, who works beside him in ministry, live in Florida with their three children.
When did the faith you heard about growing up become real to you?
I’ve known Jesus since I was four years old. But something happened my sophomore year of high school in Guam, where we were living because my dad was flying cargo through Asia. That’s when I knew I needed to stop seeing Jesus through other people’s eyes—parents, pastors, and the bands I listened to. I needed to see Jesus for who He truly is and began reading a chapter of the Bible a day, taking it to heart as I read it. That’s when I really fell in love with Jesus.You’ve been connecting with people for 25 years. Please describe your ministry, including what initially called you to it and how it has evolved.
I was sitting on a curb outside a venue called The Machine in St. Matthews, listening to a guy on stage yelling at everyone, angry at the world, when God called me to go to people in that underground subculture—atheists, agnostics, neopagans, witches, and Satanists. We go to groups who don’t like Christians. God opens doors for us to be good friends with these people. We live life with them.
They are far from church, far from God. But He put a love in our hearts for them. They are our friends.
Some people think they are unreachable. That’s not true. Nothing is lost if God says it’s not lost. He always goes after the one.
As we get closer to the second coming of Christ, God keeps pulling me and my family into darker corners of the world where the light of Jesus does not shine.
What do you want people to know about those you’ve developed relationships with?
They are looking for family. You can’t look at them as evil sinners. Instead, you need to look at them as people who don’t see the spiritual realm the way you do. They have been led down a different path…but like Paul, scales can fall from their eyes when they meet Jesus.
Why are you passionate about sharing your faith with people who may not be open to hearing the Gospel?
My wife Mollie and I go to these people because they are lost. They feel ostracized from the church and from God.
I go to nightclubs and Satanic shows, atheistic punk rock bars, and Comic Con conventions to make friends within these subcultures, because that’s where I’m called.
Tell us about a specific time that you have seen God affect someone’s life for the better.
Laurel came to our Bible study for three years. She is a punk rocker with a blue-and-purple tri-Mohawk. The Grim Reaper is tattooed across her chest. At first, Laurel said she was an atheist, but she continued to come. After a few months, Laurel said she wasn’t an atheist anymore but an agnostic.
As we were talking one day, she said, “As Christians we believe…” I stopped the conversation to ask what she meant. Laurel said she didn’t know when it happened, but studying the book of John with the group, she believed Jesus is God.
She made her declaration right there.
What has been one of the biggest heartbreaks you’ve experienced during your ministry?
One of the girls who came to our house for Bible study was really doing well following God, when her mom was let go from her job at a church. When that happened, she stopped coming to Bible study and started working at a club as a server to make money to help her mom.
When she realized girls dancing on stage made more money, she started dancing at a strip club. Eventually, she walked completely away from her faith.
When I saw her at a festival, she turned away. I ran to give her a big hug. She introduced me to her fiancé, a major leader of an underground hardcore band. Within a few months, he was in jail.
Watching the train wreck of her life really hurts.
Why are one-on-one relationships important?
As Jesus showed us, one on one is the only way to let people know you care when they are hostile to the Gospel. They don’t want to hear the company line. They hate organized religion. The really powerful ones practice alone, so we reach them one on one.
What have you done to stay connected to your faith?
I pray before I walk into every single show. Opposition comes in many forms, such as car accidents or health issues. The two or three weeks before critical times in reaching people, Mollie and I can count on opposition.
A friend said, “I don’t believe in your God, but there is definitely something happening around you at these times.”
I pray that God will put angels around, beneath, and above me—that He will speak through me. This is a modified prayer from St. Patrick.
Is God still teaching you things?
I want to know the deeper things of God. The new things I’m learning about God come from some ancient writings about God. I’m also studying the intent of the heart and the divine mystery of the Trinity.