Do church leaders live double lives? It is a question worth asking especially as the lifestyle of many of them contradicts their known paychecks. A recent study showed that about 37% of Americans attend church weekly. With paying tithes and offerings out of the little they earn, it would shock many that their pastors actually exhibit luxurious tendencies.
A 29-year-old man known as Tyler set out to compile pictures of preachers wearing expensive designer items. It all started with sneakers but now includes other clothing items. He created an Instagram account called PreachersNSneakers which he uses to call out famous pastors to use these luxury items. The question is, where do they get the funds?
In the first few weeks of opening this Instagram account, it garnered over 66k followers. Presently, it has 237k followers and is verified. There are pictures of some of these preachers in expensive sneakers all over this article.
Tyler buys and sells sneakers as a hustle, even though he finds time to preach as well. He also is quite aware of pastor salaries. Hence, he told Fashionista about how his curiosity piqued:
"I've been really into buying and reselling sneakers for the past few years. One Sunday I was looking for a song I really like by Elevation Worship, and I realized the lead singer was wearing a pair of Yeezy 750s. They are pretty rare; they resell for 800 bucks or so. I thought I knew pastor salaries - my wife works for a church - and so I was like, 'This does not compute. How is this guy wearing these kicks?'"
Next, he decided to look into the pastor at Elevation. This is what Tyler had to say:
"Then I started looking into the pastor at elevation, Steven Furtick, and I came across a video where he was wearing this pair of shattered backboard Jordan 1s, the orange and black colorway. That's one of my holy grail shoes. I looked them up on StockX, and the last sale was for like 900 bucks. I realized there's a lot of people out here wearing like the hypest outfits. The highest resell kicks in the game. I made a video for my personal Instagram, and people responded really well. At that point I was like, maybe there's some ongoing comedic factor here."
According to Tyler, hundreds of church leaders and other church workers message him, thanking him for bringing these to the fore. It is making churchgoers question what leadership and stewardship within the church really is or should be. Is it a money-making venture or a whole-souled service to the church?
He also gets messages from non-religious people, including atheists saying, "Dude, this is hilarious. It's crazy the money these preachers make." It brings to mind the thought that what preachers make on paper might not be their actual income.
Tyler does not always get positive responses to what he is doing.
"Somebody called me a hypocrite... and said that I was causing disunity within the church. But I've been pretty intentional to leave it open-ended. It can be read passive-aggressively, or it can be read like, 'Oh, this dude's just gassing this pastor up for having a sweet outfit.'"
One time, he got a message from a Dallas-based pastor asking to be featured on the page.
When Tyler started this project, he was not prepared for the discussion that would arise as a result. All he did was take pictures, look up the things the pastors are wearing, and then put out the current market price. He was intent on letting people decide what they feel about the content.
It truly is up to each person to decide if it's right or problematic for church leaders and preachers, who do these full-time, to own such overly expensive items.
Tyler expresses how he feels about it when he said:
"As somebody that has given money to my local church, personally, I would be irritated if I saw the pastor step out in some fresh Yeezys. I would at least ask the question. The rebuttal to that is, 'Well, these megachurch guys are making major book sales or doing speaking tours,' which is valid. I don't fault any of them for making a lot of money."
There is also the possibility that such items worn by church leaders are gifts. But, no one can say for certain if that is true or not.
"All I know is that you're on the gram wearing a $2,000 pair of boots. I can't reconcile it. I can't think of a meaningful explanation as to why you would feel 100% okay with wearing a pair of boots that probably the majority of your congregation could never afford. I am just here to say, 'Whoa, homie's wearing $800 track pants.' Y'all do with that what you want, you know?"
Tyer would really love to hear the explanation behind the luxurious lifestyle as would many others. He says:
"I mean, I cannot stand here and say that you should never be wearing that. These guys like Carl Lentz, Chad Veach, and Judah Smith probably have really wise mentors. And where I sit now I don't understand it, but maybe there is an explanation behind it - I would love to hear it."
Tyley believes that one thing that might end some of these speculations is an actual explanation. Maybe, them coming out to explain why they bought such sneakers or if it was in any way benefitting the church.
"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 an argument with that. I definitely don't want you to say you should fund sweatshops. But I also think there's got to be a balance between that and wearing Burberry sneakers."
What pastors wear, though, has not influenced Tyler's choice of what church to attend. To him, that would be "a superficial way of choosing a church."