PreachersNSneakers – the Instagram account that became a viral sensation by calling out Christian leaders’ who wears expensive shoes and clothes – is set to become a book. But we still don’t know who is behind the account. Yet.
It was April last year when “Tyler Jones” – a pseudonym used by the account owner – began posting photos of preachers wearing expensive kicks.
“I started this account with ZERO intention of starting any kind of movement or deep theological discussion,” Jones told Eternity back then.
“This account was initially started as a comedic bit for close friends that thought it funny. That quickly changed when I saw how many people from seemingly opposite ends of the spectrum (devoted atheists to devoted followers of Jesus) connected with it. Now, I have had to wrestle with where this discussion is going.”
About 206,000 Instagram followers later – 144k started following the account within the first week – and Jones believes his critique has hit a nerve.
So, he has launched a website, email newsletter, podcast and merchandise. Now, unsurprisingly, there is a book deal underway with PreachersNSneaker: Authenticity in an Age of For-Profit and (Wannabe) Celebrities being published by W Publishing (an imprint of Thomas Nelson). It is due for release in March.
“I thought I might get a few comments and laughs, but never thought PreachersNSneakers would become this hub of conversation about how parishioners and congregants view capitalism, consumerism and celebrity in the church. It’s a discussion we’ve avoided far too long,” Jones says.
“I believe the brief national furor created by PreachersNSneakers is telling us that we Christians need to have an honest and uncomfortable family meeting…” – “Tyler Jones”
“I believe the brief national furore created by PreachersNSneakers is telling us that we Christians need to have an honest and uncomfortable family meeting to ask the tough questions that this debate has spawned,” says Jones.
And what can Instagram users expect from a book based on an Insta account that mostly features photos of pastors?
Apparently, the mysterious Mr Jones plans to take on some of the more difficult questions facing Christians in todays social-media-saturated society, including:
- Should pastors grow wealthy from religion, and why do we get so angry when they do?
- Do we really believe that divine blessings are monetary, or is that just religious wallpaper to hide our own greed?
- Is there a space in Christendom for celebrities like Kanye West and Justin Bieber to exist without distorting the good news?
- Is it wrong for someone to call out faith leaders online and leverage “cancel culture” to affect change?
“If you scroll through the PreachersNSneakers comment section, you will witness bickering and name-calling, most of which is unhelpful,” says Jones.
“Often, though, a calm, quiet, empathetic person will join the conversation and change the tone. My hope is that we can become more like that person — willing to hear others out, regardless of how tempting it is to snap back with some snark.
“My hope is that at the end, at a minimum, people are encouraged to stop and sit with the frictions they feel, to seek understanding, nurture empathy, and to develop grace toward those who may see, experience and express faith differently.”
What might the release of a book do for revealing Jones’ identity? “Jones” originally decided to remain anonymous to protect his life outside of the social sphere when PreachersNSneakers blew up, sending him into “uncharted waters with no plan or strategy.” Then, Sustainability Reporter at Fashionista Whitney Bauck gave him the pseudonym Tyler Jones and it stuck.
Still, he has unveiled that he is married to a woman who works at a church and they live in Texas. And the cover for the PreachersNSneakers book indicates a further change of heart – with the author credit reading “anonymous (for now)”. Plus, in an Instagram live video with US reporter Jonathan Merritt, Jones confirmed he does plan to reveal his identity in the coming months and “join into a more personal conversation with the people who have been following my accounts.”
“It’s going to be weird and potentially uncomfortable,” the mysterious Instagrammer says. “But I’m kinda sick of doing the anonymous thing.”