“$800 shoes! What?!? Are they even saved?”
If you’re plugged into church culture in any way, you’ve probably heard of @preachersnsneakers by now.
For those who haven’t heard the hype: Around a month ago, an Instagram account was created showcasing influential church leaders next to a screenshot of the possible resale value of their shoes. Naturally, the internet broke and comments about them being “fake Christians” who abuse tithing money in their megachurches spread like a plague.
I was hesitant to write about this topic, but let’s be real, if we’re going to put preachers on the scale, we as worship leaders better do the same.
If you are not fully aware of modern shoe culture, it’s quite an interesting business. Companies such as Nike, Off-white, Fear of God, and Adidas have taken the market by storm with limited production sneakers that can retail for as low as $120 and in-turn resale in the thousands. Those who are lucky enough to obtain them wear them confidently, while others happily profit or even make a living in the resale market.
The @preachersnsneakers account was started after the owner saw a friend of ours, Mack Brock, playing on stage wearing a pair of Yeezy’s. He questioned how someone working for a church could afford the resale value of the shoes and quickly found that many other leaders were wearing similar or more expensive items. And thus, many other questions were raised.
So who’s addressing the questions? Well, I figured I’d put my head on the block because someone needs to.
My heart in this is to hopefully get people to think before racing to their iPhone to cast stones at an image. God needs us to be unified more than He needs people to wear one brand of clothing over another.
1) “Christians shouldn’t wear fancy clothing.”
Interestingly enough, Jesus wore a seamless tunic. Some theologians consider it to be a high-end luxury suit of its day. It was so valuable that the Roman soldiers gambled to see who would get it. He could have been gifted it, or used the apostles’ moneybag to pay for it – who knows? There’s also strong evidence that He ran with a pretty wealthy crew. Ultimately, He didn’t really seem to care about whether that changed how people perceived His ministry.
I believe God takes joy in excellent products. When His children make the best of the best, it reflects His character. The fact that custom shop guitars or even a Bugatti exist is truly a beautiful thing. Do we really wish that the best art and products were never created or that no one was able to enjoy using them? I don’t, and I wish more Christians were out there representing God’s character by creating the best of the best.
2) “They’re spending tithe money on luxuries…how dare they!”
This seems to be the first thought that pops into people’s minds when seeing a staff member with an expensive item. No one wants their “donations” to be ill-used. And rightfully so, but when you give, you have to understand that it’s God’s money and that not every single penny you give is going to be used the way you personally, with all your perfect spiritual wisdom, prefer.
Yes…some preachers have abused donations and preached false doctrines of equating being rich to being spiritually mature…but that doesn’t mean that a leader wearing Off-White Jordan 1’s is doing so.
The reality that everyone needs to recognize is that there are plenty of scenarios for how they could have obtained something:
Even if someone made $30k and saved for a little, they could easily afford some Yeezy’s – especially at retail value.
If a friend offered me some nice shoes, I’d wear them. Someone gifted me a $3k guitar once because God told them to. Some guys at church can’t afford some things I have in my possession, that doesn’t change whether I keep it or use them.
Believe it or not, a lot of people have multiple streams of income. If you’re on staff at church, or anywhere really, you should. It’s a good Kingdom principle to do so. When you lead a songwriter’s song at church, they are getting income. When you buy a book, that person receives income. When you take your income and invest it somewhere else, it can grow. Pretty wild, eh?
3) “It’s wasteful, and we shouldn’t be spending money on luxuries – that money could be used to feed the poor!”
How someone is spending their money shouldn’t be ours to decide. For all you know, these leaders could be giving away substantial amounts of their income and not taking salaries from the church. I’ve heard of many that do so.
Would you like it if someone pulled up your latest bank statement and went through every line determining whether it was too luxurious or not? Spent too much money at this restaurant – check. Should have bought a used car instead of that new one – check. Didn’t need that 15th guitar pedal – check. Shouldn’t have wasted that perfume worth 300 denarii – check.
If we’re going to raise this accusation, then we need to be able to define the line. Do we need some rule that anyone making over the average 60k a year needs to give it all away to the poor? How does that apply in another country? I guess someone better get ready to write the Newer Testament outlining these financial laws for every believer…
If we get legalistic with our perspective of wealth, we are going to continually run the risk of insulting God for trying to bless His children. His blessing for one does not take away blessing for another.
4) “It’s distracting from their ministry.”
I think this one comes back to looking at how Jesus did ministry. He let the fruit of His life speak for who He was. He didn’t care if people judged Him or were offended by Him. He preached the gospel and loved others around Him. As far as I’m concerned, if a leader is walking in love and preaching the cross, then they can wear flannel Louis Vuitton pajamas on stage if they want to.
On another note, if people are so distracted by what is happening on stage and how people present themselves, then I’d argue that the issue is more with their heart than the people on stage. I had a friend who said he couldn’t come to our church because the musicians were “so good it was distracting” to him. We have to grow up and prioritize God’s presence and our contribution to the church more than how the leaders cater to our needs with their musicianship and clothes.
5) “Church staff shouldn’t be paid X salary.”
I’m going to keep this simple – why not? Why shouldn’t someone serving God in a thriving church be able to make a decent living? I honestly feel like they should probably get more because of their commitment and sacrifice to the Kingdom. It’s not an easy life. “But it’s more than a ‘decent living’ using my tithe money!” – Well, again, where’s the line? And why are we so uncomfortable with someone who is dedicating their lives to bringing people to salvation being blessed?
“Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19
6) “Their motive is materialistic, self-centered and egotistical.”
Yes, some of these pastors may just want to be one of the cool kids. But don’t we all do that? Even if you’re anti-fashion, you can do it out of a place of insecurity or wanting to be accepted in your community. It’s funny how even a poverty spirit can go viral.
Just because you value how you look doesn’t mean it’s impure. If it was, I guess we should probably stop styling our hair, wearing that suit to that meeting, putting on makeup and maybe just get a uniform of sackcloth and ashes.
It’s not our place to judge people’s intentions. You can judge their fruit, but God judges the hearts of man. Stop assuming how deep a tree’s roots grow based on how well the lawn is landscaped.
Leaders cannot live their lives trying to cater to all the possible judgments that people may have about them. Playing everything safe does not equate to a humble and influential ministry (hint: check Jesus’s ministry).
7) “Finally! Someone is calling them out for this heresy! This account is so helpful for the Church.”
Raising public questions or problems is only helpful if you can offer answers and solutions. Otherwise, it’s just a breeding ground for dissension. As I mentioned at the beginning, I believe that God desires us to be more unified than separating ourselves from our brothers based on their shoes. Are these leaders sinning against the world? If you really think that they might be, maybe you should talk to them and start a productive dialog.
Establishing a platform that “exposes” people, leans strongly towards one side of the discussion, and does not offer answers does not leave one’s hands clean. Maybe we all should start putting each other’s bank statements online for everyone to publicly judge behind the safety of an iPhone screen to purify the church?
8) “But…Is it their best to be wearing fashion statements?”
I believe it is someone’s best to be fully secure in who God has created them to be, letting their fruit speak for their lives, and not live worrying about how people may judge their every decision.
I would also say that it’s most likely not our best to sit in a congregation analyzing how a worship leader got Yeezy’s more than focusing on worshiping God along with them. There’s a good chance that they love God more than you do.
9) “How can you spend that much money on shoes? They’re just shoes!”
We all value different things and spend our money accordingly. Maybe your values are placed in the “luxuries” of music gear or eating out rather than cooking at home. Maybe you value saving rather than spending. Any one of these things can be done in humility or in vain. Did you know that not spending your money or placing a high value on not having money can be just as vain as someone wearing Gucci from head to toe? It all depends on the heart.
Just because someone appreciates the creative nature of fashion does not make them less of a Christian. I believe that in many ways the church has forsaken its value for creative beauty in the name of a functional religion, and we have lost a level of joy and authority as a result. God delights in our created beauty and in turn the beautiful things that we create.
10) “They need to be held to this standard because they’re a leader! I’m excluded and can buy whatever I want.”
If we’re going to nitpick the shoes of a preacher, then we have to put ourselves on the same scale. Plain and simple. For you not to do so is pure pride. If you claim Christ as your Lord, then you sign up to be leaders and ministers to the entire world everywhere you go.
Did you really need that $2,500 Veritas guitar? You could have suitably served God with a $1000 guitar and then bought one for someone else who needs it. You could have fed the poor with that extra $1,500…how could you have done such a thing? Maybe God’s calling me to create an Instagram account calling all of the church musicians out for their extravagant pedalboards…ya know, just to open discussion…
I want to end this saying that I passionately believe that we all should be examining our hearts with our purchases. Are we making purchases out of a secure identity as sons and daughters or out of insecurity trying to fill a need that only God can satisfy? Are we living generous lives and growing our wealth to better serve the Kingdom?
I don’t want to give God the bare minimum 10% of my time, possessions and finances. I want Him to have my best. However, I also don’t want to throw away the gifts that He gives me out of fear or pride. I want Him to be able to experience the joy of being a good father and watching me enjoy something that He gives to me. If that happens to be a pair of shoes He gives me one day for only working 1 hour, I’m still going to wear them even if the other laborers who worked the vineyard all day judge me for it.
Matthew 20:14-15 “Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
For further reading about Kingdom perspective of money and our resources, I encourage everyone to check out Kris Vallotton’s book Poverty, Riches and Wealth.
Want to talk more? Find me on Instagram @jordanholt_ or leave a comment below.
You may also be interested in these posts!
- Episode 20 Should Worship Musicians Be Paid?
- Amp Modeling Rig Rundown with Jordan Holt
- 8 Tips for Better Band Dynamics for Your Worship Team
- Episode 42 Trusting God Through Transition with Mack Brock
- The Best Bass Guitars for Worship with David Curran