The Internet is a vast library of information that can be used to expand our knowledge of the world around us. It can be a great resource.
The Internet is also a vast library of misinformation that can be used to dull our knowledge of the world around us. It can be a terrible wasteland.
Especially when it comes to Facebook posts that have a really, really good core message but are enshrouded in a hoax. In this case, I’m talking about a viral photo making the rounds (particularly among people who identify as Christian) that is purportedly of a man named Jeremiah Steepek who just became a pastor at a megachurch — and posed as a homeless man and largely got the silent treatment.
Let me share it here:
Pastor Jeremiah Steepek (pictured below) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food – NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit n the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.
As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited,
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”
He then dismissed service until next week.
Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It’s something you live by and share with others.
At its core, this post has a really good message. Christ called us to minister to “the least of these,” the downtrodden, the poor, the marginalized, and — well, everyone, really. But this post has serious flaws that most people should really take notice of.
1. First off, there is no record on the Internet of a Pastor Jeremiah Steepek anywhere. The Internet is powerful and you can find nearly anyone on it, which leads me to point #2.
2. Notice the name of the 10,000-person church is never given anywhere in the story. That’s because it doesn’t exist. If the person who started the hoax post puts any church’s name in there, people would search for it on the Web and find out the post is false — it is a very sly move by someone who wanted to ensure maximal virality of his post.
3. Three of 10,000 churchgoers said hello? Either that church has the worst greeting team I’ve ever heard of, or he sneaked in through the vents somehow. A church with 10,000 people to me would appear to know how to maintain a large congregation, and it starts with being personable.
4. I guarantee a brand-new pastor would not shock their congregation with such a stunt on their first Sunday, much less rake them over the coals in such fashion. Any pastor who has to shame his church into following Christ’s teachings should be booed off the stage and corrected in Biblical fashion.
The photo of Jeremiah Steepek is not a photo of Jeremiah Steepek. In fact, it was shot by a man named Brad Gerrard who deserves full credit for that photograph. Here, Gerrard describes the photograph and it is of a homeless man whose consent he received to shoot said photograph in Richmond, Surrey, England. On Gerrard’s Flickr photostream, people alerted him to the fact someone lifted his photo.
Whomever is responsible for the originating Facebook post about Jeremiah Steepek is guilty of theft of intellectual property. The image is Brad Gerrard’s and his alone. I don’t think theft and lying is a good way to convey Jesus’ message, when especially Jesus never had to even come remotely close to using such methods to tell people about the Gospel.
MY PLEA TO THE PUBLIC
Whether intentional or unintentional, each person that shares the Facebook post about Jeremiah Steepek is sharing a hoax message. This is sad because at its core, the message hits hard and really does make one think about what we as Christians should do. But in this case, what we as Christians should do is take the same analytical methods we use to dissect Scripture and apply those to a post that really should make us question points in it that don’t add up.
The message in the Steepek post is powerful, but so is the lie behind it. I kindly and prayerfully ask my Christian friends to refrain from reposting it.
Now go and read this story about a pastor in Tennessee who did the same thing, but had a better way of going about it and telling his congregation what was up.