“Pass the collection plate. Daddy needs a new pair of shoes,” one user comments.
“This account is like the 21st-century version of Martin Luther nailing his theses to the church door,” says another.
Should pastors wear $5,000 sneakers in church? That’s what the controversial Instagram account “Preachers N’ Sneakers” wants us to talk about.
The man behind the account, who calls himself “Jordyn Jones,” has chosen to remain anonymous but describes himself to the New York Times as a 29-year-old graduate student living in Texas and working in technology. He claims to be a follower of sneaker culture and a Christian (who tithes to his church).
The idea for the account came one day when he was watching videos of Christian musicians performing on YouTube, and noticed one of them was wearing a pair of Yeezy Boost 750s, which are priced in some online resell markets at around $700. After some investigating, he discovered other prominent pastors and worship musicians expensive sneakers and clothes that as one user commented on a recent post, “cost more than a month’s rent for many of their followers.”
Posts include John Gray, a pastor from South Carolina, who was shown in blood-red Air Yeezy 2s, the sneakers made in collaboration with Kanye West, that were going for upward of $6000.
Carl Lentz, the pastor who baptized Justin Bieber appeared wearing a pair of Saint Laurent boots with a $1000 price tag.
Influential women in the church are featured as well. “Preachers of Atlanta” cast member, RealTalkKim was caught on camera sporting a $1650 Gucci sweatshirt with $1250 Gucci sneakers.
And Judah Smith and Chelsea Smith were featured on the account together—Judah wearing $980 Gucci pants and Chelsea wearing a $490 Gucci tank top.
“Initially, I felt very justified in the stuff I was posting and seeing,” Jones said.
But soon, he realized the magnitude of the account and what kind of discussion he was opening.
He posted a photo of Chad Veach, a famous pastor in Justin Bieber’s circle with over 234,000 followers on Instagram wearing a $1,980 Gucci backpack and $794 Rhude track pants.
The comments were immediately scathing, with users having strong opinions on the price tag of Veach’s outfit.
“My outfit cost $1,200 but I eat $1 fries to relate to my congregation..”
“I’m really enjoying this account.. but what is with this new trend of hipster/***boi looking dudes (mostly white) becoming Instagram star pastors? Christianity is getting lit and corrupt at the same time #whatsnew“
“…this account is great, look at these Gucci pastors 🤮”
Some comments were deleted because Jones felt they crossed a line and were too severe.
But then Veach himself commented, “Wanna know what’s crazy? I legit did not pay for one thing i am wearing [sic],” Veach initially commented from his verified account on the post. “Is that wild to you? that’s wild to me… Thanks for the shout out tho. You’re a blessing.”
Before Jones could respond, Veach seemed to have second thoughts and deleted the comment—and changed his handle from @chadcveach to @chadveach.
“Wanna know what’s crazy? Feeling the need to defend your outrageously priced outfit while being an ambassador of Christ,” someone commented in response to Veach’s since-deleted comment.
“There’s a lot of money in the God business,” another wrote.
Exchanges like this soon became more widespread and increasingly serious in nature, turning into challenging conversations no longer just carried out in social media posts, but in real-life, on podcasts and between faith leaders.
For example, Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms, a nonprofit that helps people struggling with addiction and depression stated, “I don’t think it lines up with who Jesus was. That is a status symbol,” he said of one pastor who was wearing Gucci. “That is vanity.”
Still, Jones has stressed that he does not “have a big theological agenda.”
“This is a pretty slippery slope to be judging people’s hearts behind how they spend,” Jones explained about the account and the public’s reaction to it. “You should really consider looking at yourself in the mirror and how you’re spending your money. I want people to know my heart is pure behind this,” he said. “I’m not trying to cause division or anger or distaste about the church or Christianity. But I have enjoyed the conversation surrounding this, and that’s been fulfilling for me.”
And he’s right. The conversation is getting broader and broader, encouraging young Christians to wrestle over how they present themselves to the world and how it squares with Christ’s teachings.
Yet, the main question raised from the account remains: Is it inherently problematic for church leaders to own or post pictures of themselves wearing expensive clothing and accessories?
It’s true that a pastor’s clothing communicates something. The message sent and received from a logoless shirt or one with a large “Gucci” logo plastered across the front is very different.
Whether a pastor or not, our clothes speak before we do. Blatant symbols of wealth like $3,500 sneakers or a $1500 belt (whether a gift or not) can be seen as a statement of one’s values—and when this statement of wealth is worn on stage by a pastor, is it inappropriate? Many say it is. Especially when conspicuous, loud designer logos are worn proudly. As imitators of Christ living out the example that we see in the Bible, displays of material wealth from faith leaders don’t hold up.
However, others warn us not to be so quick to judge, and their warnings hold great relevance as well. We don’t know how much these pastors are making, how much comes directly from the congregation versus other work (books, speaking engagements, etc.), how much they actually spend and how much they are giving back. Supporters remind us that it’s not wrong to make money and enjoy nice things as long as those things are in the right balance.
Even Jones doesn’t have the answer. He’s just happy people are talking about.
What does he think Jesus would be wearing if he was walking around in the flesh in 2019? “I think he’d probably be wearing some open-toe Birkenstocks on a standard day,” Jones muses. “Then maybe if he was hanging around the house he’d be wearing some Air Max 1s that he bought from the outlet.”