Why Jeremiah Steepek is a Terrible Pastor

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.


  1. As a devout believer, I don’t have a problem with it. Would I believe him next week & the week after & so on, yes. I would look forward to his non boring messages. And, moving forward, hopefully, I would be more cognizant of my fellow man, regardless of look, color or creed. “They shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free…”
    Kudos to that pastor.

  2. I personally would say the headline of this article comes from more of a shock jock context than the pastor portrayed in the parable.

  3. You have it wrong. Jesus called people liars and hypocrites to their faces. This fictional pastor is using the after to demonstrate the fallacy of many beliefs in the congregation. The ones who return next week will likely want to know more. Shame is the reason why we look for a savior; not reward. We have sinned against God. We broke every single law and if we choose to accept the gift of salvation, we would be wise to act like we belong to God.

  4. You can read anything you want to into this in order to validate your own position. Which unfortunately is the same position of most western evangelical Christians. “Self-centeredness”. You also have the modern Western evangelical Christian understanding of what you call legalism. Without going theological which would not help in anyway in short you believe and act as if the Lord Jesus Christ never gave us a command to follow. Here’s a baby 101 lesson for you in Christianity. If you do follow that command in order to establish and make aparent your own righteousness, that would fit more into what you define as legalism/works. Nowhere in that video or story is that inferred suggested or even remotely implied. The statement at the end was to make a decision to become a disciple. Not follow the rules or do a ABC. you’re thinking and vision is convoluted. The “self” that I mentioned above is the self that has not yet been denied. Because until self is denied it is impossible to pick up your cross and follow Him. A true regenerated heart will receive instruction and admonition and have the spec taken out of their eye and be thankful. A fool will only get angry. You are a prime example of how much Satan has been successful in his efforts to stop true Christianity from advancing in the west. Repent and believe the gospel!

  5. As a pastor, I can tell you that there are a number of pastors who wear worn out clothes and struggle to make ends meet. There are times when my cupboard gets pretty empty. There are people in my church who fit the description of the man in the story. And we accept them and have helped them in their times of need. I have a pastor friend who did what this man in the story did. As I remember, he just walked up the aisle shabbily dressed and read, or had his wife read, the same or similar passage of scripture as was in the story. Then he immediately dismissed the service, allowing them to ponder it all in a way they’d never forget. I know this pastor to be a person who is quick to give money to those in need. At his church, he leads a men’s group and part of their ministry is to help those in desperate circumstances. I guess he never got the memo that as a, “western evangelical Christian,” he is destined to be selfish, and condescending.

  6. The name has been changed to protect the church that acted this way. I was in the congregation the day this happened. It was in AZ.

  7. You are so wrong. If the church is that bad which I suspect it is. You need a wake up. You have no idea how wrong you are

  8. The pastor is far from a bad pastor. In fact, leaving them time to contemplate and do self realization is one of the most important parts of growth and development. If you are looking for a congregation that does everything that you tell them to because you told them to, you don’t have followers, you have drones. Why would God be looking for drones. He can have that with any other creature. He wants us to do these things out of choice and of free will.

    Unfortunately I do believe the author of this article is missing an understanding of the nature of what belief is. It’s not about steering masses so they blindly believe. It’s about giving them things to think about and reflect upon so they can reaffirm their faith or search for answers. A minister is only a person who helps to put things into context. They are no less or no more loved nor do they hold any more keys than does the homeless on the street. It is how you use them.

    And if you are using those keys to create those who are only solid in their faith because another leads them, then you are creating a person who will not stand when they perceive to be alone. Even if it be perception only, there will be times that everyone feels completely alone. There has never been a mortal that hasn’t.

    Mr. Leake you should take a few moments and do a bit of searching.

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