Across the nation some pastors are wearing sneakers costing in excess of $4000. Now, a sharp-eyed Instagram user has spotted them and launched a new account questioning the wisdom of flashing wealth.
The Instagram account @preachersnsneakers started recently and currently has 28 posts. In less than three weeks it gained over 123,000 followers.
The account’s founder, Tyler Jones, a pseudonym, explained it began as a joke but noted that the juxtaposition of pictures of pastors sporting pricey, trendy sneakers alongside the prices of those things has resonated with an audience. The photos raise questions about how the money donated to these pastors’ church is being used.
The account has even caused pastor Chad Veach of Zoe Church in Los Angeles to change his Instagram handle after a preachersnsneakers post showed him with a backpack from Gucci that goes for $1,980 and Rhude trackpants that cost $794, Fashionista reported.
Before he changed his handle Veach commented that he did not pay for a single thing he was wearing in that post. He subsequently deleted the comment. “That’s when I was like oh, this just got way more real than I ever intended,” said Jones, whom Fashionista interviewed on condition of anonymity.
“I’m not trying to cause a division; me and him both believe inherently the same things. I just think that if you’re in church you should know how your pastor is spending the money.”
Jones, who is himself an evangelical Christian, had been buying and reselling sneakers for the past few years. Upon looking for a song he liked from Elevation Worship he noticed that one of the singers was wearing Yeezy 750s, a rare shoe that resells for approximately $800.
One post features pastor John Gray of Relentless Church in Greenville, South Carolina wearing Air Yeezy 2 pure platinum sneakers alongside a post where it is noted that a pair of them sold for $3,721. Another post features Seattle-based pastor Judah Smith wearing Gucci pants and his wife Chelsea wearing a Gucci tank top, which are listed at $980 and $490, respectively. Another post shows North Carolina megachurch Pastor Steve Furtick wearing Jordan 1’s, which sold for $968 in one auction.
“This does not compute. How is this guy wearing these kicks?” Jones asked himself, considering that his wife works for a church and he was familiar with typical church salaries.
Jones then started exploring what other megachurch pastors were wearing.
“I’ve had hundreds of pastors and people in ministry message me like ‘Thank you, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s prompting a discussion around what leadership and stewardship look like within the church.’ I also have this whole other component of the secular, questioning or atheist community that are messaging me like, ‘Dude, this is hilarious. It’s crazy the money that these preachers make.'” Jones said.
Others have told Jones he is hypocritical and was causing disunity within the church, but he maintains he is leaving the issue open-ended, worthy of discussion. Some may consider him as taking passive-aggressive swipes at pastors while others view it as fun pictures of preachers in trendy outfits. A Dallas-based pastor reportedly reached out to Jones asking to be featured on the page.
When asked if he thought it made any difference if the designer brand gear were gifts or purchased by the pastors in question, Jones said that he did not know if they were gifts but he could not reconcile it and could not think of a good explanation why pastors would want to wear things most of their congregants could never afford to buy.
One possible explanation is that because of their public profile, the pastors acquire the items for free and is part of being an influencer, what is sometimes called brand collaboration.
“It’d be one thing if they were to come out and explain, like, ‘this is why I bought this pair of Off-White Chicago 1s, because I feel strongly about how they’re made.’ If you could get a congregation to somehow agree that their money going to those $2,500 pair of kicks was good for the kingdom of God then I can’t have argument with that,” Jones said.
“I definitely don’t want to say you should fund sweat shops. But I also think there’s got to be a balance between that and wearing Burberry sneakers.”
Jones says he thinks if Jesus were walking around he would wear “open-toe Birkenstocks on a standard day.”
“Then maybe if he was hanging around the house he’d be wearing some Air Max 1s that he bought from the outlet.”