Despite Officiating Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s Wedding, Rich Wilkerson Jr. Doesn’t See Himself as a “Celebrity Pastor”

Image: Vous Church
Image: Vous Church

Rich Wilkerson Jr., a Pentecostal church-planter with famous friends, gets his own reality show.

People magazine and E! Network dubbed 31-year-old Rich Wilkerson Jr. a “hipster celebrity pastor,” after he officiated hip-hop artist Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s wedding last year.

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Since then, the second-generation Pentecostal preacher has planted a church, filmed a reality series, released a devotional book, and spoken at the Hillsong and Catalyst conferences, all while continuing to pop up on entertainment news sites. (I’m willing to bet he’s the only guy to ever take Instagram photos with Pat Robertson and Justin Bieber in the same week.)

And that “celebrity pastor” label? It isn’t going away.

“I didn’t pick that title. If that’s the title that the world wants to put on me, then that’s what they’re going to give me,” said Wilkerson, son of Trinity Church Miami pastor Rich Wilkerson and cousin of the late evangelist David Wilkerson. “I don’t see myself that way. I see myself as a person who’s trying to build a church.”

Wilkerson led Trinity’s youth ministry, Rendezvous, up until he launched his own congregation, Vous Church, in Miami, Florida, this fall. Vous attracts hundreds of attendees in the artsy Wynwood neighborhood and baptized 72 new believers last month.

Like fellow millennial pastors Judah Smith of City Church Seattle and Carl Lentz of Hillsong New York, Wilkerson carries more cultural cache than most evangelical pastors in urban centers. His social media feeds blend inspiration, humor, and interaction—especially on the popular video-sharing app Snapchat.

In his pics and short videos, followers spot Hollywood friends and a hip style: hair combed into a pomp, knees poking out of frayed skinny jeans, and a black W.W.J.D. bracelet around his wrist—thus making the Christian trinket from the late 1990s seem cool again.

When fellow Christians see these pastors make mainstream headlines for their famous attendees or the Sunday fashion posted on social channels, questions arise over whether they are taking the whole “cool pastor” thing too far, letting celebrity culture come into the church. American evangelicals remember the scandals involving televangelists like Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart and worry about selfish motivations when a pastor’s platform grows toward mainstream fame.

“We’ve seen how quickly a public preacher can fall, bringing disdain upon Jesus with him,” said Craig Detweiler, creative director at the Institute for Entertainment, Media, and Culture at Pepperdine University. “There is bound to be some wariness anytime our prayers move from secret places, behind closed doors (per Jesus’ teaching) into primetime, TV stages, and Twitter feeds instead.”


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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Kate Shellnutt

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