“Bad and Boujee? More like God and Gucci”

Well, boys and girls, there’s a new star in the Christian quarter of Instaland – and it’s a rising one, with follower numbers beginning to double each day.

@PreachersNSneakers is the work of an anonymous instagrammer who goes by the pseudonym Tyler Jones. Each PreachersNSneakers post features a pic of a preacher wearing designer sneakers (or clothes) with an inlaid screenshot of the item on a website, along with the price. The account’s tagline isn’t an overt dig but it does make you laugh: “Bad and Boujee? More like God and Gucci ayyye”.

Turns out a bunch of Christianity’s star preachers are doing the work of the Lord in some pretty pricey kicks.

Turns out a bunch of Christianity’s star preachers are doing the work of the Lord in some pretty pricey kicks.

Take LA’s Mosaic church pastor Erwin McManus, pictured on the account wearing Jordan 1 Retros Hightops with a resale value of for $999 USD. Or Seattle pastor Judah Smith in Gucci leather loafers (resale value: $730 USD), and Texas pastor Robert Madu in $869 USD Balenciaga Triple S. And then there’s South Carolina’s Pastor John Gray in super rare Air Yeezy 2 that have a re-sell value of… wait for it… $3,721 USD.

Yet in many ways, the account is simply a Christian fashion blog account keeping us all up to date with so-called ‘hype-priest’ trends on stage and street. There’s plenty of similar accounts for celebrities and models, so why not preachers? And, besides, Tyler Jones explained that he’s “not trying to cause a division” so it’s NBD, right?

Wrong. It turns out lots of people don’t like the thought of preachers wearing expensive anything. [Insert the usual criticisms of preachers having expensive stuff here]. No surprises there.

But is all this drama merely a new incarnation of one of Christians’ favourite past times – criticising ‘prosperity preachers’? Are Yeezys just the new version of the ostentatious car that yesterday’s preachers were crucified over? Is this all just another one of those stories those of us in Christian media have learned to simultaneously love (because the clicks are a sure-fire win) and hate (because the story is generally whiny, boring and reeks of envy)?

Maybe and maybe not.

But is all this drama merely a new incarnation of one of Christians’ favourite past times – criticising ‘prosperity preachers’?

Tyler Jones’ told that he has been “really into buying and reselling sneakers for the past few years” but “on the other side, I’m an evangelical Christian and am pretty ingrained in that culture.”

He says the account resulted because “one Sunday I was looking for a song I really like by Elevation Worship and I realized the lead singer was wearing a pair of Yeezy 750s. They’re pretty rare, they resell for 800 bucks or so. I thought I knew about church-type salaries — my wife works for a church — and so I was like, ‘This does not compute. How is this guy wearing these kicks?'”

A couple of weeks later, Tyler Jones is doing media interviews as his account gains international attention and young Christians all over the world — the instagram generation themselves — are talking about stewardship of finances and the ethics of influencers accepting freebies. It ain’t all bad, folks.

On the one hand, this isn’t unexpected. Society generally has seen a global shift in power due to the influence of social media in recent years. No longer is it only those in positions of power who get to decide what subjects are on the table for discussion. No media mogul or radio shock jock is required for a story to blow up. Video killed the radio star and the social media user can probably slay them all.

Social justice campaigners figured it out years ago. They know that for an issue to become what ‘everyone’ is talking about, an online campaign just needs to be ‘sticky’ enough for lots of people to engage with it and share it. Get enough traction and the traditional media will pick it up and do the work of holding decision makers accountable in traditional media interviews.

It’s a wonderfully vicious cycle. Dangerous, undoubtably, because traditional power structures provided a safety net (or the illusion of a safety net) to ensure Joe Average couldn’t just make something up. But many people aren’t convinced society is all the better for them. Victim’s voices were silenced for a long time and fake news has flourished, so many people are actually eager to hear what Joe Average has to say. Plus, there are exciting examples, like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo, showing that social media can not only force an important issue to the surface, but bring about social change.

Hence what’s most interesting about PreachersNSneakers, IMHO, is that it’s a specifically Christian example of the power shift happening in culture more broadly. Even Christians, it seems, have learned how to harness the democratising power of the internet to focus attention on what matters to them. The question is, what will change as a result?