As aging Americans increasingly grapple with dementia, churches have a growing opportunity to minister to exhausted caregivers and to comfort the forgetful
On March 18, a tech employee who goes by the alias Tyler started an Instagram account with the username @PreachersNSneakers and posted a photo of an American pastor in tennis shoes. Sounds harmless, but these weren’t scuffed-up lawn mowing shoes, they were Yeezys, and Tyler happened to be a sneakerhead.
For the uninitiated, Yeezys are a line of footwear that rapper Kanye West designed with Nike and then Adidas. The shoes often resell online for thousands of dollars. A sneakerhead, according to Urban Dictionary, is “a person who collects limited, rare … or exclusive kicks” or is knowledgeable about sneakers. Tyler posted another photo. And another.
Pastor Chad Veach of Zoe Church in $1,045 Saint Laurent Jodhpur boots.
Pastor John Gray of Relentless Church in a pair of red Air Yeezy 2s that resell for over $5,000.
Pastor Rich Wilkerson Jr. of Vous Church in FoG Jungles with a Neiman Marcus price tag of $995 (FoG stands for Fear of God).
Eight weeks later, @Preachers NSneakers had fewer than 40 pictures, but had gained over 160,000 followers. The site set off alarm bells about consumerism, and followers were going nuts with comments: a wide mix of condemnation, chiding, and claims that it’s a sin to judge others because only God knows the heart.
Some of the photos show pastors in expensive clothes or accessories instead of shoes, like the one of televangelist Jesse DuPlantis in a $1,300 Louis Vuitton bomber jacket.
It raises an important question: Christians aren’t called to be paupers, but the Bible clearly commands against loving money. How should Christians hold that tension?
WORLD asked 15 pastors featured on the site to respond to that question and also share the circumstances of their shoes. Were they a gift? Did they buy the sneakers before they were vintage?
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This year marks an important anniversary for Chinese Christians: It is the centennial of the publication of the Chinese Union Version (CUV) Bible, the most commonly used Bible translation in the Chinese world. Walk into nearly any Chinese church on a Sunday morning, and you’ll likely see members reciting verses from the CUV and see black CUV Bibles tucked into the backs of pews.
Chinese Bible translation has been ongoing since the Tang dynasty in the seventh century, when the Nestorians began evangelizing to the Chinese. Joshua Marshman and Johannes Lassar, missionaries in India, published the first completed Protestant Bible translation in Chinese in 1822. A year later, British missionaries Robert Morrison and William Milne published their own translation of the Bible. While early translations of the Bible were written in classical Chinese that only scholars could read, subsequent versions were written for a larger audience: The 1878 Peking Committee Bible was the first Bible written in vernacular Chinese.
In 1890, missionaries of different denominations in China gathered in Shanghai and decided to create a new Bible translation. The version was translated from the English Revised Version and cross-checked with the original Greek and Hebrew. It took 16 years to translate the New Testament and another 13 for the Old Testament. In 1919, two versions of this translation—the Chinese Union Version—were published, one in classical Chinese and one in vernacular Chinese.
Even though the CUV’s language is considered outdated today, and many new Bible translations exist, the CUV remains the most popular translation. Pastors read from it in sermons, and congregations often recite CUV passages aloud, so it’s difficult to switch to another translation.
Grace Chou, a 55-year-old ministry leader in Taiwan, said that when younger people are interested in Christianity, she encourages them to read modern translations of the Bible. But once they start attending church, she’ll refer them to the CUV so they can follow along and understand commonly used Christian phrases.
“The language of the CUV Bible is what I grew up with,” Chou said. “Even though I realize there are areas that could be improved, I still stick with the CUV because it’s most helpful to my meditation and study.”
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When Pastor Zach Keele stood in the pulpit on the Sunday morning after Easter, his opening words spoke of death rather than resurrection. “This is an evil day,” he told the congregation. “A child of our church has gone forth and committed a horrible, wicked act.”
That member of Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) is 19-year-old John Earnest, who is also the son of an elder in the congregation.
On Saturday morning, April 27, Earnest burst into a synagogue in nearby Poway, Calif., and opened fire. He wounded a rabbi and two other worshippers. He killed Lori Gilbert Kaye, 60, a wife, mother, and beloved member of the local Jewish community.
In the manifesto he apparently posted online before his rampage and arrest, the shooter proclaimed extreme hatred of Jews, and he embraced white nationalism. He said he was inspired by the March attack on Muslims in New Zealand that killed 50 people.
He also professed belief in Christian doctrines of salvation—a confounding and painful claim for evangelicals who know that racist views and violent actions are utterly incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Back at Escondido OPC, the pastor read from Ecclesiastes 7, including, “It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.” At some point, Earnest rejected the wisdom of the Bible and embraced the song of fools.
But where did he hear such an evil song?
In his manifesto, he said he didn’t learn it from his family. His family released a statement saying, “How our son was attracted to such darkness is a terrifying mystery to us.” His local church leaders said the congregation deplores and resists “all forms of anti-Semitism and racism” and was “wounded to the core” by Earnest’s actions.
And the OPC, a 30,000-member denomination formed in the 1930s in response to liberalism in the mainline Presbyterian church, posted its own repudiation of the shooter’s racism and violence as being anti-Christian and having no place in the church.
One religion writer wondered if a form of “weaponized Calvinism” had motivated Earnest. It’s certainly possible the shooter twisted Reformed doctrines for evil ends. Carl Trueman, a professor at Grove City College and an ordained minister in the OPC, noted, “Any belief system can be picked up by a wicked person and used wickedly.”
Still, law enforcement and others will be exploring the “terrifying mystery” of what motivated the attack. Before the shooting, it appears Earnest posted his manifesto on a web forum known for harboring racist and extreme content. The document said he had “been lurking” there for a year and a half.
In a separate case last year, the shooter who murdered 11 people at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh had frequented an online platform known to draw white nationalists and other extremists.
It’s one of multiple platforms in a sinister and complex web of extremist sites and forums pumping out hate ideology, white nationalism, racism, and alt-right conspiracy theories—and creating its own culture that can especially lure young and older white men to its perverse causes.
Churches, parents, and pastors should watch, warn, and preach against any hint of racism or extremism among their members, whether in person or online. If such notions surface, church leaders should repudiate them as antithetical to the Bible’s teaching and the gospel of Christ.
Just as pornography can infiltrate any device in any home, the church should know that a world of racist and radicalizing content is also crouching at the door.