Jeremiah Steepek is hired to be the new pastor of a megachurch. On the Sunday that he was to be recognized, this sly pastor transformed himself into a haggardly old beggar and walked around the 10,000 member church for 30 minutes. His experience was not good. He then shocked his egg-faced congregation by walking on stage—in full homeless garb—as he was introduced as their new pastor.
This story has been circulating through the interwebs recently. If you do a little research you’ll quickly discover that this story isn’t true. There is no guy named Jeremiah Steepek that pastors a megachurch. And the picture floating around of this pastor in his beggar outfit is that of a real homeless man living in Richmond.
So, it’s not a real story…but what if it was? I have to wonder…
How was his second sermon?
I’ve noticed this little story crop up on many Facebook pages. As people share this, I picture them slow clapping for this coy pastor and shaking their head in shame at his hypocritical congregation.
My response is different. I think this guy, if he were real, is a terrible pastor.
Playing dress up so that you can pull the wool over the eyes of the sheep isn’t a Good Shepherd tactic. Yes, there is a need to speak prophetically at times. Yes, it is good to illustrate your points. No, it isn’t healthy to play “gotcha” with your congregation.
If this guy were a guest speaker it might be different. The shock value would have a different impact. But this guy will be standing behind that same pulpit next week, and the week after that, and the week after that…
Will they trust him?
Will they consider him part of the church family?
Or will they always be waiting for the gotcha moment? Never able to fully trust him—nor able to fully embrace him as part of their family. He’s already proven that he’s better than his congregation’s petty behavior and treatment of a homeless guy.
A Gospel Problem
Listen, if your church shuns a homeless guy it doesn’t have an apathy problem that needs a jolt to put into right living. Your church has a gospel problem. And a gospel problem needs a shepherd (not a shock jock) to faithfully and gently proclaim Christ over every area of the congregational life.
What such a church doesn’t need is a motivational illustration that is clothed in legalism. Consider this from Pastor Steepek’s “sermon” conclusion:
.. Today I see a gathering of people… not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples… when will YOU decide to become disciples? He then dismissed service until next week…
In other words, “ya’ll need to get with the program”. A good pastor realizes that the church of Jesus Christ isn’t primarily made up of radically dedicated followers of Jesus that have it all together. It’s made up of people—people that are being changed by Jesus, slowly…oh, so painfully slowly…into the image of her Head.
This pastor left this congregation alone, in their own hands, left to do something for themselves. That’s legalism, friends. As Bryan Chapell says:
Whether people depart alone or in the Savior’s hand will mark the difference between futility and faith, legalism and true obedience, dogoodism and real godliness.
A good pastor leaves his congregation in the hands of Jesus.