Wednesday, July 24, 2013

(UPDATED) Pastor Jeremiah Steepek: I'm a French model, and they can't put anything on the internet that isn't true

(Update at bottom)

I do quite a bit of work on Facebook, keeping up with friends (in exactly the way my Asperger heart enjoys keeping up with them- at a technological distance, lol), do some witnessing and a lot of encouraging.

Quite often, depressingly often, someone will re-post what, at least to me, is an obviously a hoax. The tropes and tripes are constantly circulating. They used to come fast and furious via email, with forwarding to mass numbers of friends on contact lists. Today it's Facebook and sometimes Twitter. It is a wonder that the social media hoax-investigative outfit, Snopes, doesn't self combust with the overload. There are virus email hoaxes, giveaway email hoaxes, charity hoaxes, bogus warnings, email petitions, protests over things that aren't even real, email chain letters, celebrity email hoaxes, prank emails, fake celebrity death notices, and on and on and on. If people want to be taken in by the Nigerian Prince who needs money or the bogus warning about the parking lot stalker, so be it. Youse guys pays yer money and youse takes yer chances.

The hoaxes that circulate so widely are never usually religion-oriented so my irritation at seeing the one that is circulating now is greater than usual. It is this:

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 in 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.

"OK", I thought when I first saw this, "it is probably a hoax." Do I possess X-ray vision to see behind the LCD screen to detect the "HOAX" watermark? No. Did the Spirit audibly tell me? No. Am I telepathic? No. How or why can a person see almost immediately that this is a hoax, then? Because I thought about it, deconstructed it, and decided that this didn't really happen. I didn't say anything on FB but left it up to its own cyclical trajectory to see where it went. Today Snopes published their research conclusion, "Erm, nice story, not so very true." Hoax Slayer found the same.

How could you tell this wasn't going to be a true thing? Many reasons.

First: the dirt on the man looks real. Do the homeless in tv shows ever really look homeless? No, and that is because it takes a long time to get grime under the first layer of skin cells to become an almost permanent member of your body. There is a look to homelessness that comes from months and years of no access to proper sanitary conditions. The man in the photo looks homeless. Absolutely. And it turns out, that he is.

Snopes: "Additionally, the photograph of "Pastor Jeremiah Steepek" that accompanies the online version of this story is actually a picture of an unidentified homeless man snapped by photographer Brad J. Gerrard in Richmond (London): "I was walking down the street in Richmond, saw this man talking to someone, could see he was quite a picture in the making. On the way back, when he was free I had a short conversation with the gentleman and he agreed to let me photograph him. I liked the result. He was very friendly."

No pastor is going to be able to fake a real look to homelessness with that much authenticity between the time he is hired and the time he has to show up on the first Sunday. Never mind the clothes, which also looked authentic. And never mind the beard and the hair. It takes a while for hair and beard to grow that shaggy, even if a pastor had a beard and long hair in the first place. How long does he have between the job acceptance and the first sermon? Months? No hardly ever. If a church needs a pastor they need him now.

I lived in a VW Camper van in the desert for three months, and on a sailboat for two years, I know about grime, and what happens when you go long stretches without full immersion in hot water. Even though we took sponge baths and showered in marinas, the first time we stayed in a hotel, about four months out, I had to take two baths, soaking for almost an hour total before the water was clean.

Secondly, the hoax includes the little detail that that it was a large congregation, likely to dilute the first thing that would come to our mind when reading this- wouldn't somebody recognize him? Well, even in a large congregation of 10,000, the answer is yes. The elders who hired him, the associate pastor who would have been there to introduce him, all the men that knew him from the interviews and the practice/interview sermon, would have recognized the man. Even worse, is that the story as written says that the "elders were in on this", so, the pastor not only lied but put a stumbling block in front of his brothers and caused them to lie too.

That was the physical evidence.

Let's look at the biblical evidence. Is this kind of thing likely to happen? The answer to this is no.

To pull off a scene like this, a pastor would have had to lie, perpetrate the lie over time, and fool people. Is a pastor who loves Jesus going to begin his tenure with the flock he is hired to protect going to TRICK THEM? EMBARRASS them? USE THE BIBLE for a gotcha moment? Use the pulpit to turn attention to himself instead of Jesus? Of course not. If he was hired then it must have been deemed that he was a bible-loving man, and the elders had adhered to this:

"The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach," (1 Timothy 3:1-2).

Above reproach meaning not a liar and a trickster.

Is a pastor going to abuse the pulpit, a section of sacred ground to pull off a trick that hurts people? No.

"Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood." (Acts 20:28)

Did Jesus come in secret and by subterfuge, trick the people into self-examination? No this scene would be an abuse.

“‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.(Jeremiah 3:1).

A man after Jesus' own heart would not be a liar and a trickster, teaching by subterfuge.

"Jesus answered him, "I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret." (John 18:20)

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)

And if the man the elders had hired was a wolf, a false shepherd, he would not care about the homeless and not deign to dress down in the first place.

People, don't accept these things but test all things. (1 John 4:1). Don't say to yourself, 'it did happen.' But say "did it happen? Are these things true?" (Acts 17:11).

Now, it certainly is a nice parable. It presents a picture in our minds that is really relevant and quite vivid. What would I have done in that situation? Am I showing partiality? How would I respond if a homeless person came to my church? All that is good.

But alternately, we must also ask questions about the scene as if it was your pastor who did that, and a newly hired one, too. "Would a pastor trick us? Is this how he plans to teach us as our shepherd? Is it right to abuse the pulpit to make a point? If he lied once, will he pull another one again? Is this the basis on which we forge a relationship?"

One other thing: the pictured real homeless man is a real person, but the someone who started this hoax is using him to perpetrate a lie. I don't like that.

Conclusion: "If that trope about "Pastor Steepek is true, then I'm a French Model." Bon jour.



Update-

The Blaze weighed in this morning

The man in the photo has a name, it is Surrey, and he abides in Richmond England. Here is photographer Brad Gerrard's flickr page with the same photo of the man that is supposedly Pastor Jeremiah Steepek but is not.

And amazingly, this story is resonating wildly- two hours after I posted my deconstruction of it last night, the post received 1,600 hits. That was between 10:00 and midnight, no less. This morning it is climbing rapidly over 2,000. Only a few times in five years has a post I published garnered so much attention so quickly. (Man spends his savings in advance of the rapture, Comet Elenin, Sideways necklace, and Ghost Horse of Tahrir Square). As always, my goal is not just to report what is happening, but how to critically think about it through the filter of a biblical worldview.
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Further reading

This blogger did a good job of deconstructing it too.

26 comments:

  1. This was all over my fb feed too and I had the same initial response that it wasn't true. Really like this response and the points you make about godly leadership and trust.
    Jennifer

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  2. I personally thought what that preacher did was outstanding. it was a message in what he did just like there is a message in every experience of our daily lives. this example showed how the people of God are becoming cold hearted to the will of God and it showed how much people really show themselves to be something they profess but not practice...JOB WELL DONE PASTOR STEEPKE!!

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    1. Tyrrance, you totally missed the point, unfortunately. There is no such person as Pastor Jeremiah Steepek. This anecdote never occurred as far as researchers can tell. If it did occur, then there would be other issues with the event, which unfortunately you also missed the point of.

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    2. Yep he missed the point entirely.
      There is no need to exaggerate the hypocrisy of Christians to make the message across. Hypocrisy is part of carnality that can be addressed by a proper and honest message from the Word of God without playing with the emotions using an over-gloss and fabricated story, making false pretenses part of the Word of God. At worst this is an emotional play cultivating emotional revolt of the soul.

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  3. I believed because of many personal experience and what I've learned from, t.v. internet, magazines, books, that the state of probably most people who attend buildings they call churches today, are frauds. The same goes with the pastors overseeing them. I believe it's naive, immature, or even delusional, to think the opposite is true. I've read of, and had many of my own personal interactions with many so called pastors, who have shown they don't have Holy Spirit in them directing them, because they blatantly disobey God's word, even to the point of being apart of causing the break up of families, ruining people's lives. Sure, they may also obey some of the scriptures, but it is only some of the time, and it is not done with all people.

    So yes, I believed a pastor out there went to such lengths to prove the truth, which is that most people sitting on those pews are false converts, who behave hypocritically who willfully commit sins, not just with no compunction, they justify the sins, they even twist scriptures to do so. I have witnessed people in congregations behave just the same way as in that false story, only not to some "dirty homeless person", but to people like myself, whom come in, looking just as clean and normal as them. Being new, you are treated as an outsider who must pass inspection and gain acceptance by one of the cliques, because so called congregations today are all about cliques, of which you're either in, or you're out, and whether you're in or not, means nothing when it comes to gossip, because gossip and slander are rampant too.

    So the fact that I soon after found out that the story was a fabrication, mattered not, because as far as I'm concerned it's still a truthful exposing of what it's really like in so called churches, that I, and many other Christians, as well as the unsaved who've attended for various reasons, such as considering faith, and who more often than not, the way they are treated by the so called believers, does affect their decision against faith, because instead of being warmly, unconditionally embraced by God's supposed family, they feel judged, they feel rejected, they feel unworthy, thus unloved. That in combination with them seeing/knowing of the hypocrisy when it comes to people who identify their selves as being of faith, namely, those who use the label of Catholic, or Christian, whether of a specific denomination or not. I know this because I have had more unsaved friends, than saved, and in preaching the gospel, it's the most common complaint I've heard. That us Christians are hateful, hypocrites - *FRAUDS*, that we're no different than unsaved sinners.

    So in my opinion that message, fabrication it may be, stands as the stark, yet true, view of the majority of congregations of biblical based faith, and those who identify their selves as being Christian, who've been fake, should feel pricked by this story, it should be an eye opener into their own selves, to get them to realize they've been fake, and that they need to repent and come to true repentant faith! The rest of us, whom also recognize we aren't perfect, shouldn't do further disservice by poo pooing this, and standing in defense, as if it's utterly devoid of any semblance to reality, because that just isn't true. Jesus wasn't lying when He said: "13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV) Keyword, "FEW". Many people are going to be in great shock and dismay when they realize they were left behind, and when they hear "depart from me, I never knew you".

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    1. Isn't it sad that there will be few...I agree.

      J.L. where do you go to church now? I apologize if you told me and I have forgotten.

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    2. Yes, it is very sad, the grief of knowing it, pains me daily. What especially troubles me is the people who believe they're already saved, particularly those whom I know, yet by the way they live their lives, the blatant hypocrisy, denied, and the willful disobedience they minimize, dismiss or act like because they said the sinners prayer long ago, they believe they got the golden ticket that acts like a magic want, always absolving them of their sins - show they weren't truly converted.

      I have learned many who supposedly come to salvation, come only because they are preached the gospel in an either or fashion, as in, a pastor preaches in great detail about hell and satan, and demons, and he compares it to heaven, and angels, and God, and basically says "so, which place would you like to spend eternity, if it's heaven, just say this prayer". It can't be a surprise that most people would of course prefer heaven, and thus say the prayer, believing that was it, they got their golden ticket. There was no broken-ness, no humble spirit that became aware of their wretched, corrupt, sinful state, thus their need for a Savior, whom saves them only if they recognize their true self, and the requirement of repentance, and so desiring to repent, they accept Jesus, as not just a Savior, not just their way to escape hell, they accept Him as Lord, to teach them how to live, to walk with them, to be their best friend. I came to salvation, because I needed God, not because I wanted to escape hell, though of course, that I get to escape hell, because of my Jesus, is beyond great.

      Unfortunately, I currently have no place I attend services. I believe there's only 4, one I believe is Catholic. Of the other three, two I haven't been able to attend due to lack of transportation. The other, I was able to get a ride with a woman I know through family, but I was only able to attend until I could no longer allow myself to be exposed to the demonic spirits that were accepted there. Due to many abuses, and the ptsd, I don't feel safe travelling with strangers. I'd have to walk, which carries it's own safety concerns as well as weather issues, where I live. However, I keep hoping to someday have the courage to walk to the one I think is closest to me. Currently though and for years, I have been blessed to have the internet, and through the several so called Christian forums online, for awhile I felt part of a group of believers, until I was expelled, or left, because I was bold in speaking the truth, and chastizing those claiming to be believers, who were being bullying others, including ones bullying me. One is even a pastor. He became quite notorious because he acted like such a heathen, for a man who appeared to be in his 40's or 50's. He had a cult like following of both other so called Christians, and non Christians, who would join him in mocking people asking spiritual questions, trying to learn, understand, and even those seeking comfort and support for trials they were experiencing. I haven't always been able to defend myself, and being online, I had more courage to jump in to defend others who were being attacked. Anyway, I learned well that the devil is hard at work, trying to silence people like me who speak the truth, and show genuine agape love to people, including those deemed unworthy, and I've learned the devil uses people who claim to be of the faith. I think it's the most tragic, when people who claim to be of the faith, meaning they should behave righteously, behave the opposite, at times, worse than many unsaved people. And I just think, how can they be saved, when they think they already are? When you try to prove to them, using scripture, they can't be, it falls on deaf ears. Where as I've had the unsaved at least ask questions, wanting to learn.

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  4. I thought this to be a hoax because I always research what goes viral. Many comments about the story further attacked the church. It seemed strange to have that reaction in a church of 10, 000, filled with Christians or not.

    Living a life of tepentance and holiness is what makes us Christians. This subsequently pricks our hearts to the needs of the lost, least and last.

    Some churchgoers are
    there for tradition. Others are hurting. Looking for answers. Others, learning truths of the bible.

    Feeding the homeless does not make you a Christian.

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  5. Really? Really! It doesn't matter if its true or not, we are called to do God's work. Pure and simple. End of story.

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    1. Karo, of *course* it matters if it is true. You are overlooking an important part of ministry: integrity. I thought I demonstrated that adequately with scriptures above. Yes we are called to God's work. The bible is clear on HOW. We must obey His commands for what it is and how to do it.

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    2. Thanks for that. Integrity matters, and, as others have clearly stated, why not use a true story (the story of Willy Lyle, which this seems to be loosely based on, comes to mind) which actually get the point across without lying.

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  6. But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), "Let us do evil that good may come"? Their condemnation is just. - Romans 3:7-8.

    Paul would have never identified with such a ruse even if it does make a good point. The idea of misleading his sheep in even the most innocent seeming way should make a pastor quake with fear in fear of God. Pastors need to lead their flock in a trustworthy way worthy of the charge they have been given.

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  7. Tim that's a great verse and a great point. Thanks.

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  8. http://www.tennessean.com/article/20130628/NEWS01/130628028/New-Clarksville-pastor-goes-undercover-homeless-man-week?nclick_check=1

    This article was recently posted on the Internet. At first I thought that's what this blog post was about, but the stories and photo did not match.

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    1. Kallia, thanks for posting the link to The Tennessean, it does record the story of a pastor who went undercover as a homeless man. Some people think the "Pastor Jeremiah Steepek" hoax is based on that TN Pastor's event.

      Others note the extreme similarity to the opening paragraphs of the classic 1896 Charles Sheldon book "In His Steps". As Wikipedia explains, in this popular novel (it had been translated into 21 languages by 1935), Rev. Henry Maxwell encounters a homeless man who confronts the congregation and the pastor to challenges him to take seriously the imitation of Christ. The homeless man has difficulty understanding why, in his view, so many Christians ignore the poor:

      still others note the tale was also one that was a social psychology experiment at Princeton University in 1970.

      In any case, the untruths in the Steepek story make it something Christians should avoid, it is now tainted with a lack of integrity

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  9. Chris:

    I deleted your comment because of Matthew 5:22. Please read the verse.

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  10. FYI there is a real pastor who lived for 4 days on the street as a homeless man in June and then started at his new church this is the link to the article in USA Today about the pastor from Tenn. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/07/24/pastor-homeless-experience/2583241/

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  11. A great lesson disguised lie ... fooled everyone pretending to be who was not ... the lesson is ... NOT TO LIE, because the devil is the father of lies ... Jesus never pretended to be who was not ... Jesus is the true shepherd.

    Una gran mentira disfrazada de lección... engañó a todos haciéndose pasar por quien no era... la lección es... NO HAY QUE MENTIR, pues el diablo es el padre de la mentira... Jesús nunca se hizo pasar por quien no era... Jesús es el pastor verdadero.

    http://unicodiosverdadero.blogspot.com/

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  12. Saw you repost this on G+ and here's my question. IF the only thing fake is the photo, but the rest of the story is true, that the pastor pretended to be homeless (without the months of planning/prep, just that he dressed in dirty/shabby clothes and rubbed dirt/grime on himself as part of the trick. Would that make a difference to you or make you consider changing your view?

    We have all sorts of situations where people play roles in plays/movies. In a sense those people are lying about who/what they are sometimes to teach a lesson. Is this much different? I don't know if the story is true, but honestly I think many churches need to learn the lesson that the story is trying to convey. Judging people by the way they look is wrong.

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  13. Hi Sam,

    No it would not change my view.

    We MUST witness honestly. Paul never, ever made himself who he was not. As a matter of fact, he said many times He was honest and presented the Gospel plainly, without artifice. Prob 12:17 says "An honest witness tells the truth, but a false witness tells lies"

    We should not resort to tricks and plays and drama and pretend. This is the word of God we're speaking about and eternal souls. God has already given us the method

    Yes, many churches need to learn that lesson. I agree. They can turn to the bible, where the lesson is spoken by God as perfect truth. (James 2:3). Why resort to artifice and subterfuge when it's already in the bible as truth? More to the point, why would anyone WANT to?

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  14. Surrey is where this gent was photographed, Richmond, Surrey (as in City, County) is a place... not his name.

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  15. Wait a minute people. Just take the story for what it's worth and move on. Besides what makes snopes the reigning authority on anything? All I see with this debunking. Is malice. The same churches point the finger at each other and say your wrong and I'm right. Bla bla bla. Grow up people. The whose right & wrong attitude. Is what opened pandoras box in the first place. It's a great story true or not, because that is what would happen in that situation. Is it wrong for a pastor to go to that extreme. Not at all. Think of how many people would realize there true nature. In that broken state a person can be saved. These day sinner has become a word that we don't understand. Confess the you are a P.O.S. and then you might get picture. Oh I'm not a piece of trash. Hmm, Jesus said Hell was like gahenna. The place where God's people burned there trash. And by the way, the bible says a prostitute was blessed for lying to save the lives of three Israel spies.

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    1. Anonymous, I think that a pastor dressing in a disguise so he can trick his congregation is immature. Growing up would mean simply preaching the word on the text and letting the Holy Spirit convict the congregation. I don't accept that lying and trickery is necessary to make a point.

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  16. What if Jesus is out there right now dressed as a homeless person. Writing the name's of those who give in the book of life. You would probably tell Jesus he's wrong too.

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    1. Anonymous, Jesus is not on earth now and He will not be until certain things happen.

      "For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”" Matthew 23:39

      Jesus left, and will stay left, because He sent the Spirit.

      "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you." John 16:7

      Jesus is on his throne (Rev 5:6), and not on earth dressed as a homeless person.

      And finally, think on this, Jesus is truth.-John 14:6. He would not lie about who He is, at any time, ever.

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  17. Jesus is in heaven, next to God ... not have to imagine things that are not

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