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.

    • Some people just play at church. Some are content with their self-righteousness. They walk out of church feeling absolved and content just because they occupied a seat in church. Did they hear the message ? Will they apply it to their life outside of Sunday church ? Will they sacrifice for others in the example of Jesus ? Whether this story is true or not , this sort of thing does happen. When I’ve been called on my faults it was like a blindfold being removed. I progressed spiritually. People need to see their own faults clearly in order to understand. While I have never seen a disguised pastor , I have seen people acting this way in real life. Exiting church and refusing to see other’s needs. Christ’s message is true and clear. What does this message mean to you ?

  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!

    • perfect my brother in Christ…it is about complete surrender…i love you

  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.

  9. I remember hearing that story many, many years ago. at least 25 or so. I also remember hearing one, where some soldiers walked into a church, and announced “that anyone who believes in JESUS better leave or you’ll get shot. After some left they said ” go and preach , now that the true believers are still here”

  10. Well.. after reading what He did, this is what impacted me.. I felt that God was speaking to me through this mans actions by helping me to remember the kind of people Jesus was after. I was homeless for a year and you know soo many people looked at me like some drug addict, but I was just a regular homeless woman with a fire for The Lord. When I was homeless I can tell you that the homeless congregation gathered more eagerly to hear testimonies and to share the love of Christ then 90% of the non homeless folks. I was able to reach MORE homeless people to Christ then those who had no worldly needs. I was also persecuted more than ever while I was homeless. And now that Im not homeless, I read about this man acting to be homeless, and He made a statement that was like a sharp sword right to the bone, you know.. the “truth” hurts when it hits you hard, and He wanted us to see that. That was amazing what He did and that took some guts because He knew that statement was going to pierce through quick. And for those who were living their lives already like Christ, would have felt that soft touch of The Lord while listening to Him make that introduction. So basically you wrote this post because your guilty, plain and simple, deep down you feel bad and you are pissed this man pretended to be homeless, well what about all the homeless out there who are living their lives for the Lord and we pass them by judging them daily. So many times I was on the street wishing I had a nice warm bed, or hot shower.. Man.. you wouldnt believe how many homeless people would gladly eat the word of God over any non homeless person.

  11. I’m a bit shocked by the negative reactions to this post. I’m not shocked that there are people who disagree, that is common and that is fine. What I’m shocked by are those questioning my salvation and dedication to the gospel.

    Just for clarity sake, I’ll reiterate again that a congregation that would treat a homeless person with callousness and self-righteousness is not a healthy congregation. Yes, they need to repent.

    I’ll even say again that what this “Jeremiah Steepek” did would be a very effective preaching tool. I bet the sermon was phenomenal (for the most part) and prophetic. And the Lord would have used it to convict many of self-righteous behavior. I’ll stand by my statement that I’d prefer any pastor point to the finished work of Jesus Christ and leave the congregation in the Savior’s hands…showing how such actions are not consistent with the gospel, etc. So on that point I still don’t believe it’s the most powerful sermon as a whole. A good illustration but not driven home in such a way that points to the Cross.

    My MAIN point in this article is that “Jeremiah Steepek” is not being pastoral. Pastors are more than preachers. Yes, we must speak prophetically. But we must do it pastorally. Yes, Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites but notice how he ministered as a Shepherd with his sheep (the disciples). I’m not saying that Jeremiah Steepek is wrong in his assessment of a self-righteous church, I’m not saying that this isn’t potentially an effective illustration, I’m not saying he’s a terrible speaker, or not a follower of Jesus or anything of the sort. Furthermore, I believe the congregation’s actions to be deplorable and gospel-denying. Our love for the homeless, our hospitality, is a reflection of whether or not we really understand the gospel.

    But Jeremiah Steepek is not being pastoral. And that’s my point.

  12. What shocks me about the original post, and every comment after, is that not one person took time to research the fact that this is FICTIONAL. It never actually happened. It is an urban myth. There have been occurrences of homeless people treated this way by church members, and some inspirational outcome from pastors and church. But the story is not true and the picture on this post is of another homeless person. https://selahone.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/fictional-object-lesson-goes-viral-2-million-hits-in-the-first-hour/

  13. I did not research it because I could tell it was not true. I have been a pastor for 63 years and have known people in each of the churches I served who, when they saw a need, reached in their wallets and drew out cash. I have seen some who got ripped off by doing this and it did not stop them from doing it again without investigating the next one. At 80, I get to look back on thousands who paid off church mortgages, washed thousands of church dinner dishes, sold their beloved church to a Haitian group when their own dwindled, leaving only the old and retired, then moved together from “Faith Christian Church” to “The United Church of Christ,” and are supporting them, another large church who dwindled down to 30 before the “Faith” group showed up to help them with their bodies, wallets, and hearts. I have also seen the largest Baptist Sunday School on record for Easter Sunday, (5,000 then) whose pastor was asked”How many actually do the everyday work of this church?” and the answer from the pastor answered, “about 30.” The truth of all these observations is this: While the vast majority of mega-churches with attendances every Sunday may be 35,000, and these crowds may produce millions of dollars a year, and their pastors all live in mansions, there are other pastors who serve little churches os 100-300, but total attendances may run close to 35,000 as well, each ministers in his or her own way and thousands every day are moved by the presence of God found in everyone of them, because they are all children of God in the family of God, whether they go to church or not.

  14. If I had a pastor, that would respond this way, like the writer here, Mike Leake, I would run from this church. He is the one that completely missed the point of the scenario of this story. Shame on him.

    • Thanks for the comment, Lane. I’m not sure why you’d want to run from a church where the pastor is passionate about helping the church grasp the gospel in such a way that we work towards loving people and having a spirit of hospitality.

      Again I remain baffled at responses like this one to my post. Perhaps read my comment above as well. Though I’m assuming this is nothing more than a drive by comment.


  15. I totally disagree. I think he pulled the wool from their eyes in order to bring the condition of their heart to their attention.

    • I appreciate your turn of phrase here, Vanessa. And I think I’d agree in a large part. It was likely a pretty effective thing to do.

  16. How could you say if he is a real pastor he’s not a good one. So you need Jesus to tell you its him before you can do something in his name. Its not a wool over any bodies eyes if your heart is right it shouldn’t matter. We see this so many times with the Body of Christ, We are supposed to show the love of Christ NO MATTER WHAT. Are you mad because you would not have passed to the test?

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