A 29-year-old man named Tyler started an Instagram account two weeks ago that spawned from a joke he shared with friends. The account PreachersNSneakers has now become a place of both celebration and controversy over pastor influencers and their expensive shoes.
The Instagram account features pastors and other church leaders who have large followings on social media, screenshots of the shoes they wear, and the shoes’ price tags.
The account has drawn all kinds of comments and discussions, and of this writing has more than 20,000 followers. “Registered Flex Offenders,” some joke, while others are interpreting the account’s message very seriously.
“This account is like the 21st century version of Martin Luther nailing his theses to the church door,” one person commented.
The creator, Tyler (ha ha), told BuzzFeed News the commentary he’s inspiring was intentional. However, he said it’s become “pretty intense” pretty quickly, and unexpected.
“All 20,000 engaged followers feel some type of way” about his posts, he said.
Tyler — who wants to remain fairly anonymous and who described his whereabouts as “the southwest” region — told BuzzFeed News the idea for the account was born out of boredom one day. It was also a perfect marriage of two of his passions: Christianity and the sneakerhead collecting-and-selling lifestyle.
“It started out as me being interested in sneakers and being involved with church culture ... so those two things made for good comedic content,” he said.
“This whole thing spun out of me sitting on my couch one Sunday. I was looking for this one song on YouTube and saw the lead singer in this worship band was wearing Yeezy 750s.”
Tyler, who also works full time in the tech industry, knew the Yeezy 750 Boost sneakers were “super rare” and retailed for upward of $1,800. “I was like ‘Dude, this is crazy,’” he said.
It sent him down a rabbit hole of finding other popular pastors and youth group leaders he knew, whom he was already following on Instagram, and photos of them in various designer gear.
After he shared one post of a church influencer’s photo next to the value of the shoes they were wearing, his friends found it both hilarious and fascinating. They encouraged him to start a separate social media account so he could continue to explore this juxtaposition.
And so he did. Tyler said he intended the account to be “open to interpretation.”
“I’m a Christian and [have] been so for a long time and feel really strongly about the leaders of the church and how high of a calling they have,” he said. “I started questioning myself, ‘What is OK as far as optics...as far as pastors wearing hype or designer clothing?’ I don’t have an answer.”
However, he believes it is important that followers of the Christian faith in America “have a discussion about what is appropriate.”
“I’m just saying the people in church should at least be asking the question,” he said.
Some of these theological-based questions can include asking, “Is the money I’m giving the church going to the salary, or spending on sneaks?” Tyler said.
As his account quickly grows, pastors are starting to catch on and notice they’re being called out.
One of them, Chad Veach, a lead pastor of the Zoe Church in Los Angeles (and who has over a quarter of a million followers on Instagram), commented on a PreachersNSneakers post that featured him, and tried to defend himself.
“You wanna know what’s crazy? I legit did not pay for one thing i’m wearing,” he wrote on a PreachersNSneakers post that featured him wearing $795 pants and a Gucci backpack that retails for nearly $2,000. Pastor Veach claimed he did not pay for almost all of the apparel shown in the photo. He then thanked Tyler for “the shout out” and added, “You’re a blessing.”
Tyler told BuzzFeed News he did not intend this to be “a bash account” against trendy pastors.
“I still feel bad for making that platform available or contributing,” he said of trolls who’ve taken to harassing these Christian leaders. “People are talking about heavy stuff, which I don’t necessarily like.”
He stressed that he does not “have a big theological agenda,” adding, “You guys do with this what you guys may,” to his avid followers.
And some of his followers are very upset with what they’re discovering. “Wanna know what’s crazy? Feeling the need to defend your outrageously priced outfit while being an ambassador of Christ,” someone commented after Veach spoke out. (The pastor has since deleted his comment and changed his Instagram handle.)
“There’s a lot of money in the God business,” another wrote.
Others, in contrast, are simply having fun with his account.
“Tithe to drip ratio 😂,” one user joked about a post featuring a pastor in black and orange Jordan 1 Retro sneakers.
Tyler said no matter how people are interpreting the account, he’s “proud” to see people, especially in the Christian community, engaged.
“I don’t want people to show up and fuel their argument to not want to be apart of their church or their Christian faith because of these [pastors]. I’m still figuring out how to make that balance but I think it’s a fair question to ask the people leading their faiths,” he said.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to the pastors featured in the @PreachersNSneakers Instagram posts.