Rev. Dr. Sam D. Kim is Co-Founder of 180 Church NYC, a community joining God to restore the beauty in all things. He is Postdoctoral Fellow-Scholar at Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics. He is a recipient of the Lifelong Learning Fellowship at Yale Divinity School and Yale School of Medicine, which aims to to close the gap between faith and science, and is awarded by the John Templeton Foundation and American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. He is married to his college sweetheart Lydia, Dad to Nathan & Josh and best-pals with his dog Brownie.
There’s a controversial Instagram account that calls out megachurch pastors for wearing exorbitantly-priced designer sneakers. The account, @PreachersNSneakers, posts photos of celebrity preachers taken from their social media accounts or public appearances.
It then pairs up their “swag attire” with a price tag. One pastor can be seen wearing $6,000 Yeezys and $2,500 Hypebeast grail sneakers.
Kate Bowler, a professor of the history of Christianity at Duke, writes about something similar in her New York Times op-ed about the prosperity gospel in America. Her story made me laugh out loud at first because of the irony, but saddened me a moment later because of the tragedy.
She writes, “No word of a lie: I once saw a megachurch pastor almost choke to death on his own fog machine.” The fact that Kate had to inform us she wasn’t exaggerating suggests that even she had a hard time believing what she was seeing. I guess it is a little difficult to believe that something so far-fetched could happen in a church. Or is it?
In the acclaimed novel The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, the character Bill asks another, “How did you go bankrupt?” Mike answers, “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
How does a pastor end up wearing shoes that exceed the annual amount an average American contributes to their retirement? “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.” This is the consummation of the unholy marriage between American consumerism and the church in America.
Christian apologist Os Guinness says that when we look at evangelicalism today, it is the world and the spirit of the age that are dominant, not the Word and Spirit. The church in the U.S. is strong numerically, but weak because it is worldly. The church in America is in the world and of the world; and as a result, it is in profound cultural captivity.
I saw this cultural captivity with blazing perspicacity few years ago when I read a Lausanne report of underground Chinese church leaders asking why mega-churches and ‘missional’ churches in the West were not sending any missionaries and what could be learned from such shallow faith.
These questions haunted me. It was as if they were asking me directly and I had to repent in tears. The goal was always to make disciples; this is what Jesus commissioned in a time before Constantine in Rome and the Church Growth Movement, a time before the church’s ontological identity subtly shifted from being a place from which you were sent out to a place you sat down!
All I could think about was the megachurch pastor who almost died from choking on his fog machine or how trying to get my 20-somethings in my church to tithe often feels like I’m fighting Red Skull, Hela, and Thanos, and sometimes all three, especially when I bring up “monogamy” as an actual value!
The churches have in many ways become episodic; we put on a good show and excel at drawing interest, but we lack life change and transformation. We’ve got cooler and more dapper, but not any deeper. We have pastors with Yeezys, smoke machines, and TV shows, but far less power.
We should recall that the 120 in the Upper Room in Jerusalem brought an entire empire to its knees, and I highly doubt it was shoes. Perhaps the excess and superfluity of our present-day leaders’ clothing is a subconscious compensation for not being clothed with power from on high? If so, what can we do?
Click here to read more.
Source: Christianity Today