Why I Wouldn’t Attend Pastor Steepek’s Church

Why I Wouldn’t Attend Pastor Steepek’s Church July 25, 2013

Why I Would Not Attend Pastor Jeremiah Steepek’s Church

I saw this story circulating around Facebook of Pastor Jeremiah Steepek who transformed himself into a homeless person and attended the church he had just been hired by on the first Sunday. He was passed by, overlooked, and asked to sit in the back pew. Instead of getting some needed spare change he got dirty looks.

After the new pastor was introduced by the elders, Pastor Steepek, the homeless person, walked to the front to the dismay of the 10,000 member church. He then read some scripture above the tears and the shameful heads of the congregation. He closed with these words:

“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?”

FIrst of all, this is not a real event, but a hoax. It could be loosely based on a true story of a Tennessee pastor Willie Lyle who lived as a homeless person for four days and preached a sermon based upon his experience. But this story circulating around Facebook is not real. Many people say that even though it’s not real, it’s still an inspirational story. Even the photograph is of an actual street person and not who it pretends to be. But we won’t even go there for now.

But I disagree. I did not find it inspirational but discouraging. If I’m wrong, just tell me. To build my argument, let’s pretend it did happen. I want to explain why I would never sit under such a pastor’s ministry.

1. Shame: The church’s number one tool to get what it wants is shame. I have been the victim of shaming so many times I can’t even count. I have used it so many times I can’t even count. When I think back on the times I’ve been shamed I get angry. When I think back on the times I’ve used it I feel remorse. It’s the church’s primary language. We grow up with it in our families, our schools, our jobs and our churches. Shame is used against us every single day of our lives so persistently and sometimes so subtly that we don’t even realize it anymore.

Shame is a motivator, but not permanently, and not in significant and meaningful ways. It gets something done now, but it destroys hope and character in the long term. Love is the best motivator. If it isn’t out of love, then it’s not a healthy motivation. Sure, people need help, and if we give them money out of shame or love, they’re not going to care, as long as their lives are improved. But Pastor Steepek is more concerned about motivating his people to do something he thinks they should do, whether they are good people or not. He wants temporary results rather than permanent transformation.

This poor congregation was embarrassed just for a good sermon. Warning: this pastor will do it again. He is going to use shame, fear, embarrassment and guilt to motivate his people to fall in line with his wishes. I wouldn’t be going back in a million years.

2. Scapegoating: Another favorite pastime of the church is to blame others for evil, suffering or mishap. The pastor blames the congregation for not helping the poor. We, the readers, blame the congregation as well for not helping the poor. The fact is, Pastor Steepek himself has walked by many homeless and poor people in his life. So has the Dalai Lama. And Jesus walked past many homeless and poor people and we are never told he gave anyone any money. In fact, there is one documented story where he initially refused to help a woman just because she was of the wrong race.

These poor people were in church caught completely off guard. This is the kind of Christianity I was raised on in Baptist and Pentecostal churches where shame reigned supreme. I constantly lived in fear of Jesus showing up while I was relaxing or having a good time and being embarrassed that I wasn’t dying for him somewhere in the third world. Seriously folks! Can’t we see how shaming this story is?

Not Pastor Steepek! His closing remarks: “YOU” places the blame totally on their heads. He is the church. They are just people. He is a disciple. They have yet to decide whether or not they’re going to be. He is completely unaware of the fact that they are us, him included! It’s the typical top down I’m better than you and I’m here to beat you up about how far down the spiritual chain you are from me.

Now, he could have given these people a break, and here’s how he could have done it!

3. Bad Modeling: Another weakness of the church is that it has difficulty providing a good model for those watching. Did you know that people will do bad things when surrounded by their peers who are doing bad things? I heard a study was done on nurses, and they found that only one out of twenty-five nurses will stop a doctor from administering the wrong dose because of the fear of authority and their peers. Peer pressure is enormous.

What if, instead, when poor Pastor Steepek came into the church, the elders (who were in on it)… what if they led the way and showed the homeless man some kindness? What if they shook his hand, gave him some money, offered him a coffee and donut, welcomed him to come sit with their families and maybe took him out for lunch after church with some other members? What if that happened that Sunday, and maybe the next? D’you know what I think? I think this would have beckoned, as Lincoln said, “the better angels of our nature”, and the homeless man would have enjoyed a totally different experience in a loving and accepting community.

No. Instead, as is usual with spiritual leadership these days, it’s more effective and emotionally dramatic to embarrass people. It’s so much easier because doing nothing takes no effort while doing good takes a lot of effort. The pastor appealed to their weaker selves and proved it was there. We don’t need to be reminded in such embarrassing ways. Spirit-shaming! It comes as no surprise. I already know I’m inclined towards laziness, selfishness and fear. But if I’m encouraged to apply effort, be generous and courageous, I have more than enough to meet the need and I will shine like I can.

So, it’s a hoax. But many still think it’s wonderful. So in my mind it might as well have happened. And if this church did exist with this pastor, I would stay a mile away from it and advise you to do the same. Who needs more shame in their life? Not me! But this tells me that we have so much work to do. It’s deeply rooted in our culture and our religious mindset. I encourage us to relieve ourselves of shame and guilt and using it as a tool to achieve our own ends.

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  • Great take, David. Thank you!

  • PeaceBang

    Hmmm. I think this is too easy. While I rolled my eyes at the original story, recognizing it as a manipulative hoax, there is a lot of truth to the scenario. What felt most wrong to me about it wasn’t that it lifted up shame as a motivator to discipleship, but that it used such a dramatic example. In my experience, it isn’t a dirty, homeless person who isn’t greeted warmly and isn’t “seen,” it’s the average person who presents as just a little less shiny and appealing than the typical church-goer wants to attract to their congregation. The single woman with bad social skills, for example. Or the quiet guy with dandruff who is in obvious emotional pain. The poor mom with a bunch of children who don’t look very well washed. The transgender woman wobbling in on heels, just out of rehab. I have done experiments myself where I attended church and made no effort to “shine it on,” did not wear make-up or do my hair, and wore scrubby clothes. No one even makes eye contact with me. When I get myself together, smile around me and sing loudly, I am beset with greetings and invitations to coffee hour and to join the choir. We are a shallow people and need reminders to wake up and notice who’s around us.

  • Agree 100% also, giving a homeless person money is not always the best thing and nowhere does this “story” illustrate that and what might be helpful in that kind of situation (which the elders could have modelled)

  • Mandie

    First of all, this isn’t shame, it’s guilt. I’m just beginning to read Brene Brown but the difference is very important, and according to her research, guilt is a valid and useful tool to change behavior.

    Next of all, I think that he wasn’t saying “screw you guys, I’m going home,” so much as (in my mind, at least) setting the stage for his ministry, hopefully full of changes which would be a little easier to implement once the congregation had been nudged out if their comfort zone and pointed squarely at this important failing.

    Next, I don’t think that people who will do what is right only when others are setting the example are the people we want out congregants to be. WE are supposed to be the living example to the rest of the world. So this point is actually a great one, just not the argument for which it was used.

    If this was a one-time sermon, then maybe I’d understand the complaint. But so many people don’t see their privilege, their comfort, until slapped squarely in the face with it. If this minister needed to do a little slapping, then so be it, provided he comes back next week with a message of hope for how to do better, and a game plan to open the way.

  • Jacqui Norman

    I was not raised in Baptist or Pentecostal Church, like the writer here was. And I do think that the story is of great value. I have seen how some American pastors are lauded and pampered (a pastor visited the church we were a part of many years ago, as a visiting preacher. He had with him a group of his staff. He did not even have to take off or put on his own coat, they did it for him! When his name was mentioned the group stood and cheered. the person leading the meeting said “Oh we have so much to learn about how we should respect our pastors”!! I was horrified.

    I can well imagine people looking around for the new guy in the expensive suit, sitting at the front and having no time for the dirty, homeless person “making a nuisance of himself” – our attitudes in these circumstances were directly addressed by Jesus. (Matthew 5:42 (NKJV) Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.) For sure, this does not HAVE to be money – it can be practical help, food, clothes etc. But help we MUST is we are to call ourselves followers of Christ. (You can see my Salvationist roots!)
    I do not think it is shaming, I think it is a wake up call to the church to make sure we are living the life not just giving it lip service.

  • Frank

    I think you’re wrong to write this because people go to church because they want to be part of something they believe in. Nobody forces you to go to church. If you choose to label yourself a christian, then live by it. I’m not religious at all but this is my point of view. If I go and tell everybody I’m a engineer, I should probably be an engineer. If I’m not and somebody proves it, I should be shamed. This has nothing to do with religion, it has to everything to do with living by your word. We, the western society, has pretty much moved away from a shame based society. Look at the cultures that exist in the world, it’s shameful to divorce as a woman because the woman’s family poured a lot in to the marriage. Nowadays, it may be traditional for the woman’s family to pay for the whole wedding but it’s not a common practice any longer. If you give up early, you shame your family because they paid a lot for what you chose to do. That is just one example. Don’t tell us about shame when we aren’t living it as much as the other cultures.

  • Frank

    Greeting a homeless person and not giving them WTF stares would be nice. Also, this story is like a test to all the stories that the bible is filled with. Feel good stories in the bible about how to live and goodness people claim to possess.

  • Shadow Spring

    Wait, did my comment disappear? Grrr…..

  • Shadow Spring

    Okay, I’ll try again. My former pastor, Neville Gritt, of Sarasota, FL is famous among his long time parishoners for something similar. I think you’d like it, though, naked pastor. Pastor Gritt was well known for his compassion to all, including the homeless. Every Saturday morning he went down to the bridge near his house with some McDonalds breakfast to hang out with whoever happened to be there. He once referred to them as his “second church”. He probably still does that. Anyway, one weekend long ago, he stopped changing clothes, bathing, shaving, etc. and went to church early and napped on the front steps. He’d been a pastor there for years. Still when people started arriving no one recognized him because no one really looked at him. They stepped over and around him until a deacon asked him to move on because people were starting to arrive for church. No one invited him inside. Pastor complied, only to come in when the music was going and got up on the platform. He preached his regular sermon, not saying one word about his appearance or any comment about how anyone treated him. It was not necessary, and Pastor Gritt is a kind and loving man. He never did bring it up afterword, either. A longtime parishoner told me this back in the ’90s. They were there that morning. So good does exist out there in the world! God bless Neville Gritt. He is a wonderful human being.

  • ben james

    The problem is you let people shame you! The story was not to put anybody down. It simply was to show how we pass by people everyday just because they may look lesser then we. Or are from a different class we will thumb are nose at them! Get over your self. You should maybe get some counseling done because no one should have the power over you to shame you. That’s something that is with in your self. You seem so pious writing what you did about this! I would tell you don’t got to his church and further more dont go to any church you pompous ass. You would be one of 10,000. That’s why I would never go back to church. People like you always trying to find excuses for the poor behavior.

  • Matt

    I respectfully disagree with nakedpastor. I would rather be shamed and get a sorely needed wake up call than not get the wake up call at all.

    The only thing I might suggest for the pastor is instead of going into detail about how bad his experience was simply ask each member to honestly think about how they reacted, then consider Jesus’s words about how they should react.

    Indeed, if some of those members did react that poorly, then it just goes to show how much the wake up call was really needed.

  • Al Cruise

    Great Post. Lead with unconditional love towards others, solely because it’s the RIGHT THING TO DO!!!! Never mind worrying about setting an example,or hoping people will see you, or any other reason. It’s just the best way to live life.

  • Andrew Hackman

    I am with David on this one…. If one chooses to see this as a demonstration of an all too present reality, I think they are ignoring the context in which it is occurring – namely, churchdom, where guilt and shame are built in to the ethos… given that environment, what this Pastor did is just one more manipulation among a highly manipulated people.

  • Matt

    If the members are ready to follow Christ, they week probably say “point well made, Pastor. Bravo”

    Similar thing happened to me a few years ago. Our Sr. Pastor was getting worked up and said the word d-mn during the sermon. Of course we all sat bolt upright.

    He followed it up with “many of you are more concerned about the fact that I just used the word ‘d-mn’ in a sermon than you are about the fact that you have friends and family who don’t know Jesus as their savior!”. Boom! Point made, driven home deep.

    Smack in the face? Yes. A bit of shaming? Yes. Point made? YES!

  • I think you just highlighted the key difference between what your pastor did and what the pastor in this story did. This part of the story especially didn’t sit well with me: “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ.” It comes off very prideful and self-important. As if to say: “I can do better than you!” It is precisely this sentence that I derive the sense of “shaming” from. As is evidenced by your story, that message was already clear– it didn’t need to be put into words.

  • kesmarn

    The real Willie Lyle, upon whom this urban legend about the non-existent Steepek may have been based, did not seem to use shaming language when he revealed himself to his congregation. And he didn’t just “talk the talk” without walking the walk. He had put in a pretty rough week prior to conducting his first service — a week in which he actually lived as a homeless person. Some people had treated him badly that week — others had been very kind. The people who had treated him badly (and they may not even have been members of his congregation) were anything but Christlike. But in the interest of preserving their self-esteem, should we all take care that they feel no shame or guilt? Sometimes shame and guilt are totally appropriate emotions to feel. (Not all day every day, of course. It is possible to have too much of a good thing.) Both Peter and Judas betrayed Jesus. They both felt shame and guilt. Peter grew from the experience. Judas committed suicide. The real question is to whom do we turn when we feel what every human feels when he/she recognizes that he/she has fallen short.

  • Starfielder

    Thanks Naked Pastor for giving me pause. Thanks for pointing out the shaming nature of this event. I agree, it’s a selfish ploy to manipulate people. It’s uncomfortable that you point it out but I, for one, appreciate it.

  • kesmarn

    What an eloquent comment. Well said!

  • Bballwatcher

    I think Mandie makes a valid point when she distinguishes between shame and guilt. Or in other words, a twinge of conscience. Sometimes we all need a wake-up call to remind us that it is our responsibility as Christians is to love everyone, regardless of how smelling, unkempt, unattractive, or unpleasant we may find them. God doesn’t look on the outward appearance, but on the heart, and we as His followers need to be reminded to do the same.

    Too easily, we fall into a comfort zone where it’s easier for us to ignore those people that make us uncomfortable for some reason. The role of a pastor is many-fold: to live as an example, to teach the Word, to challenge a congregation that has become complacent. Do you think the words of Paul were inappropriate when he quite directly pointed out the sin in the lives of members of the church? Or when Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites? Sometimes we need to be confronted with our behavior in order to realize the extent to which we need to change.
    So, whether this story is a hoax or not, it reminded me that I need to demonstrate love and compassion even when it’s hard for me to do. I see nothing wrong with that, and I would take this hypothetical pastor any day over one who allows his congregation to wallow in complacency.

  • cerenatee

    Whatever. The point of the story was get off your highly-dressed behind and freaking do something, anything, other than look cute on Sunday morning. Would you follow him? No but then again, I don’t think he would want you to follow him because you are part of the problem. You want to do nothing and get patted on the head for being such a great person when you do nothing great to be commended for. I’ve seen 1000s in churches just like you and you’re no better. Does shame work? Yes, when it highlights the wrongs we do. Do we need to do more than shame to effect permanent change? Yes, we do. But your feel good, do nothing, hang with your friends and look cute on Sunday morning Christianity isn’t the answer either.

  • Pat68

    Interesting. Someone in a group I belong to was one of the lone voices to call it out as manipulation and lying and questioned if that should ever be the basis when presenting the gospel. I just don’t see it that way. I get your point, David, and this other person as well, but it just doesn’t strike me as anything more than a good object lesson that “could” have the potential of opening people’s eyes to their own biases and ways in which they betray that gospel. Just my two cents.

  • myriam

    People mimic what society deems as happiness they are drawn to what the media and others say is happiness such as beauty, fame, money, luxuries not a penny less dirty man. It’s simple if you are shown daily to strive for riches and are bombarded with consumerism but only told once a week (Sunday church goers) there is more to life then such materials…. which one do you think will be embedded in these people. Repetitive behavior be it good or bad wins in he end.

  • dns

    This one may be a hoax but I know personally of another incident that happened just like this. The visiting minister dressed up like a drunk street person and proceeded to disrupt the service until he was introduced as the guest speaker.

    He then proceeded to do EXACTLY what you have described here….shame everyone in attendance. He closed the “service” with a ministry time where he used his “prophetic” gift to call out sin among the congregation.

    Everyone was so impressed with his message/ministry.

    I thought he was an asshole…

  • bsmith1980

    I didn’t see it as a shaming, but a challenge. I would hope that something like that, had it actually happened, would stick in everyone’s mind and remind them to look past the scruffy hair and the dirty clothes and see that every person is a child of God created in the image of God.

  • ben james

    No person that lives on this earth should ever have another persone wait on them if they are completely capable of doing it for them self! That is so not Christ like he came to serve not to be served! Wow so sad that here are pastors that would allow that to take place!

  • Ben Hammond

    Character assassination is not helpful.

  • Jason Andrews

    Question: As believers of Christ, are we too “perfect” to think that we shouldn’t be shamed? As believers of Christ, have we not scapegoated? Last I check, our human nature isn’t to directly give to a “random” homeless person. As a matter of fact, when we take a look at the parable of “the Good Samaritan,” we are looking at someone who wasn’t worthy of helping anyone. In 1 John, we are reminded to not just acknowledge we sin, which is this story, but that we must repent in order to receive blessings from God. What the story represents is the scenario we have all seen in our churches before. The community of church families do not intentionally want to shun people we do not know. However, we tend to do that to people who are unknown to the church body. And that is what is what the scenario pointed out. If you think your church body would not do this to someone is really discarding the fact that humanity sin in this way.

  • John Cox

    When did the gathering of the faithful on the Day of the Lord become an occasion for object lessons?

  • Greg Coles

    I can’t help but notice the contradictions in attitude between this post and one David wrote five days ago: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nakedpastor/2013/07/richard-clark-and-the-preemption-of-anger/. In the previous post, being disgusted with the church and expressing that disgust are healthy activities, having the potential to provide “a prophetic correction to the church’s abuses.” In this post, however, “we don’t need to be reminded in such embarrassing ways” of our flaws because we already know we’re “inclined towards laziness, selfishness and fear.” I fail to see the how the dividing line has been drawn between “shaming” on the one hand and “prophetic correction” on the other. Or is it prophetic correction when David agrees and reprehensible shaming when it makes him uncomfortable?

  • Mark Babikow

    Those people fell short and obviously need to shape up or Jesus will never forgive them.

  • Al1

    So I listened to the sermon preached by the ‘real’ pastor (Willie Lyle), that morning as the new pastor of the church. (http://www.sangoumc.org/finding-the-least-used-parts-of-the-body/). Somehow, it seems to be along the same lines of guilting people into more Bible study and prayer, and more involvement in church programs. There does, however, seem to be a future direction for all of this in that congregation that I hope points to much more involvement outside of the four walls. Maybe a great object lesson, but what really is it teaching? I think I like Shadow Spring’s pastor’s style best.

  • Dan TheBear

    To “judge” this, you have to know the pastor’s intention. Since I don’t have a working crystal ball, I will approach it like this. There are a lot of Christians frustrated with religion. We want to fellowship with others who are willing to do more than show up and put on an act. As an incoming pastor, what better way to get a feel for the church you are called to serve. It was not a “show” or a way to belittle, but an incredibly effective way to hold up a mirror and challenge the “status quo”. I tripped across this blog and need to point out that it is a lot easier to point out flaws than to try and make a difference.

  • Good take on a major hoax pervading the Internet.

    FYI, Jeremiah Steepek was seen hanging around with Manti Te’o’s girlfriend, for what it’s worth.

  • Jeannie Boen

    Exactly! I tried to put those same things into words yesterday and my friends were just not getting it. I am glad to read somebody else felt the same things.

  • Mark Pendergraft

    Like it or not the story is what would happen in most if not all Churches, just because its not a real story should not take away its meaning and what we as Christians should take away from it. Pastor Mark Alan Pendergraft

  • Mark Pendergraft

    I think I understand your feeling on this matter as you are what is called “The Progressive Christian Church” or The Fall of The Houses of GOD who will mislead Christians into hell. Sad to say your ways are taking over Churches Worldwide as its easier to follow your lies then GOD’S Truth.

  • James

    I think it important to view this through a neutral lens, if at all possible, The overly simplistic view that this is “shaming” or causes one to feel guilty, is ludicrous. No one can make you feel a certain way….YOU are accountable for how you react to everything. That being said, if one feels shame or guilt from this story, it is an excellent opportunity to look at oneself. Ultimately, this was an opportunity for people to pause and say “wow, how did I just treat that person?”. “Was that aligned with the teachings of Jesus Christ”? If not, you can’t blame the context of the sermon!!!! That is playing the blame game, saying “well, if I had had a better role model (the church elders), I would have treated him differently.”. NONSENSE! If you were following the teachings of Jesus, context would have NOTHING to do with your initial response to the pastor. I appreciate the comments from Christians who questioned whether or not an occasional “shaming” isn’t exactly what we need at times. We are a society of unthinking, automatic responses, and sometimes we need a clear and unapologetic wakeup call to bring us back to a place of integrity within our lives and with our values. The important piece is to drop the shame once the lesson is learned, which is again the responsibility of the individual.
    David’s commentary reminds me of people who, having a negative experience with something (religion, politics, etc.), project that negative view onto situations that relate to past experience. Yet it is neither current nor accurate…it is simply that…a projection. I value the challenging of the story, as I believe that everything (especially on the net) should be questioned, but this particular thread encourages blame/lack of accountability, rather than promoting a clear and objective argument.

  • JenellYB

    Some things that emerge in reading through all these comments are things that always troubled me about churches, and too many ‘churchly’ people. It is the common agreement that people need to be, should be, subjected to shaming, embarrassment, made to fell guilty, have their flaws and failings pointed out, publicly. Even that ‘we’ have some ‘duty’ out of ‘love’ to do so.
    And that is just down right wrong, imo. And it was one of the big things that soured me completely on involvement or even attendance in churches. No, people do not need to be nor ‘should be’ deliberately shamed, embarrassed, made to feel guilty, and most especially in a public setting, such as before the entire congregation of their church.
    I have seen so much of this, and worse, what delight, smug satisfaction, is so often taken by not only those that do it to someone, but those onlookers before whom it is done. I’ve heard, seen, just too many times, just that kind of thing, done by some in a group of churchly people, even sunday school teachers at the head of a class, preachers standing at the pulpit. Telling something ‘revealing’ about someone in the group, in such a way as even if they excuse it be not ‘naming the name’ either give enough ‘clues’ in the details or have talked about it beforehand to enough others, its easy to know who is being singled out. I have even see it doe when whatever was being held up for shame had been shared in private, in assumed confidence. And add that as often as not, whatever it was, wasn’t even completely true, or accurate. And even if true and accurate, shaming people by holding them up as public examples is NOT a loving thing, not a kind thing, to do.
    In reading over these comments, I also notice that only one person commented that while there is so much attention to how people in the church treat the ‘outsiders’, the homeless outside the door, those ‘out there’ they should be ‘evangelizing,’ there’s not so much about how they treat people already in the church, their fellow members or regular guests. In my church-going days, that made me very uncomfortable. Not just when I was at the brunt of it, but when I saw it doe to others. Their often painful private problems held up for public shaming, again often without either an attitude of caring and love, or care for details of accurate facts. More an ah-hah, we caught you smugness, to see them squirm, embarrass them. I’ve seen it done to someone whose marriage has fallen apart, with inaccurate ‘guessing’ about why, I’ve seen a young un-wed teen mother who carried closely the secret that her child had resulted from rape by a pedophile, for not wanting her child to ever know or those around her child to treat it differently, for having been slathered by a child molester. I’ve seen it done to people that made mistakes, were struggling with consequences. I’ve seen it done to innocent people, victimized by church gossips. I’ve had some of that done to me, and to people I love.
    Some here fall back on that, well, it doesn’t matter what others say, or how they look at you or shame you. That’s the excuse of people defending abusers, because they are either abusers themselves, or too cowardly and apathetic to acknowledge, confront, and deal with those that treat others that way in their churches. We all know better. Yes, it does affect the person, it affects any of us. I can tell you, I spent close to 4 years trying to ‘ignore’ such as ugly rumors and gossip, entirely untrue, and the rude glares and snubs and snide remarks, that slandered my name throughout my small community, believing if I just ‘stayed above it,’ people would realize the truth, and it would end. It didn’t. My self-esteem took a beating. my reputation took a beating. Changing churches didn’t help because in a small community, the tendrils of the gossip grapevines pervade every church in such a community. The final blows to my effort to continue in having 2 occasions of strange men coming to my home looking for ‘sexual services’ they had been led to believe were available there, resulting in horrible upsetting scenes, and when I called a local repair service for an electrical problem, to have the man’s wife, who took his job calls, tell me off that in no uncertain terms was a whore like me going to get HER husband into my house! These are true incidents, not dramatic ‘stories’ I’m making up for ‘illustration.’ And I don’t even consider them extraordinarily unique or unusually bad. I had seen such things in childhood, left the church many years, saw them again when I tried to return to church in later adult years. Any ‘survey’ taken of why people stay out of churches put just this kind of thing at the top of the list of reasons, yet the ‘churchly’ refuse to believe it, to acknowledge it, and almost always turn to the blame back onto the victims in one way or another.

  • JenellYB

    Frank, I don’t think how much who paid for a wedding should have anything at all to do with the a valid reason for shaming someone who’s marriage has failed. Or anything else because it might ‘shame your family!’ That is truly materialistic and shallow!

  • JenellYB

    I must wonder what those in that congregation that knew nothing about what he had done that week, or why he appeared that way that Sunday, thought or felt, since you say he simply preached his sermon and said nothing about it, didn’t explain what was going on. The assumption that the people in the congregation realized his point also assumed every one of them knew the situation.

  • Jacqui Norman

    One thing I would add to my comment yesterday – I do think it is not right to claim a parable to be a true story. That I did not like, but the parable speaks volumes to me

  • Jacqui Norman

    “It comes off very prideful and self-important. As if to say: “I can do better than you!””

    Surely the point of leadership is to be several steps ahead of those who you lead. One cannot lead people if one is less mature!

  • Anne

    In a state of perfect psychological health, one consistently chooses how one responds to the behavior of others, but the reality is that we are often weak and vulnerable to the behavior of others and react reflexively rather than consciously…especially when a power differential characterizes the relationship. The pastor, who is in a position of leadership and authority, has not used that position with integrity or in love, and has violated the trust of his congregation – he has arranged a situation designed to illuminate the fact that people don’t do the right thing in every instance, and then slapped them all soundly. Would you respect any other person in a position of authority – an employer, a parent, – who set us traps like this to demonstrate the “true” unworthiness of an employee or a child? The pastor in this story intended to shame the people – he hoped they would feel like dirt bags and then go and act in the name of Christian love. That’s not how you teach love. That’s how you teach resentment.

  • I completely concur Anne. Well said!

  • Matthew

    This reminds me of God asking Hosea to marry a prostitute. Regardless of whether it really happened or not, God is using the same methods as this “homeless pastor.” Paul does likewise in 2 Cor. 7: 8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it… For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

    There is definitely a right and wrong way to lovingly bring shame upon someone. When we are confronted w/ our sin we shouldn’t degrade ourselves nor should we act like it’s not a real problem. We must submit to our leaders/mentors, thank God for an opportunity to become more like Him, and by His strength repent of our newly recognized sin.

    People have come up with creative ways to address each others sins all through history (Nathan confronting King David). Today most of us have no clue how to submit to those who lovingly confront us. We must learn to respond with a healthy amount of godly shame that leads to repentance.

  • Matthew

    Well said!

  • Frankly folks I’m alarmed. Alarmed. The most popular responses seem to be:
    1. Ya it’s shame but it’s so inspirational that it’s worth it; or
    2. It’s not shame if it works.

    Hardly anyone seems to recognize shame. Please, as the writer of this post, I beg you to reconsider the corrosive and damaging effects of shame. This story is all about shame and humiliating people that flies in the face of grace and love. But you can’t see it because you love the results more than the process.

    It’s one thing for me to feel shame. That’s natural. But it’s another thing to inflict it.

    Remember Satan? His name means “Accuser”. This pastor played the role of Satan and accused the brethren. Like I wrote in my post, he could have done it differently and highlighted their mercy. But he didn’t. And most of you think that’s totally cool.

    I’m alarmed.

  • wanderer

    Thank you for writing this. It’s exactly how I feel in these situations. When I would go to church and the speaker would start to shame me I always felt like saying “how the hell do you know what I think or feel about that person?”

    And… people usually do what they do for a reason. Maybe there was someone in the crowd who had been mugged by a homeless person at one point and now they’re afraid. There is no allowance made for those sorts of things. It’s all shame. Assumptions made about other people’s hearts and motives and then shame-sauce poured over everyone. It’s a horrific way to treat people, especially when you say you’re there to love and “shepherd” them.

  • ben james

    Your so far off your Rock! Jesus did the same thing with the Pharisees, he started wrighting there falts in the sand “shaming each one of them” so your saying Jesuse is satan. Why don’t you think be fore you speak! People like you just love to cause trouble for no reasone except get attention for there self? Why don’t you get a dog if you need attention. Your mind is so shallow. Why do even have a blog?

  • wanderer

    yeah, I’m not signing up to be slapped. Ever.

  • Mandie

    It’s interesting how we all have different needs and expectations from church and worship. A lot of what I need is refilling of my spiritual bucket, but when I vet a church, I also look for a place that will keep me honest – remind me what values I’ve claimed and make me think about whether I’m being true to them. I guess that’s why this spoke to me. I can understand why it’s not an approach that would work for every congregant.

  • lionsandbears

    People periodically ask me why I get so angry when someone posts a fictional inspirational story that someone, somewhere, purported to be truth. Something about those things annoys the heck out of me. If you can’t attribute the story to the actual people involved, if you have to weave more drama into it, as far as I’m concerned that voids the lesson you’re supposedly attempting to spread. It’s just you trying to get attention and NOT for what ever matter the tale is supposed to be about. *sigh*

  • lionsandbears

    As this never happened, that point is moot.

  • wanderer

    Sounds to me like he threw some shame on you to cover up the fact that he knew he had just said a word that you disapproved of. A more respectful approach would have been to ask if his language had offended and if so to explain why he used it or apologize.

  • Guest

    Been shamed. And shamed. Why do we call this a hoax? Why not a parable? Jesus taught in parables. there is a hard lesson to learn here and that is that we need to LOVE others with the Love of Christ. But we are too afraid of tarnishing our social networking “cover photo” in real life so we don’t give money…or talk to someone that may not use deoderant, or has dandruff on their shirt. Do we ignore the least of these? I liked this parable, story, hoax, whatever you want to call it, and one day I may be a pastor and I would have no qualms with doing this same thing. Have we forgotten the sheep and the goats? I think we WAY over analyze things to the point of choking the life out of everything. Here’s a thought, ok, forget the story. It’s a hoax. Today, GO buy someone less fortunate than you a lunch. Or buy them groceries. Or sit and talk with them if they are alone at a table. Or better yet, invite them to your house for dinner. Or buy them some clothes. Do something! Some non believers act more like Christ than some Christians do. And that’s not shaming, that’s a fact. If you feel shamed, then do something about it.

  • wanderer

    I agree and I’m alarmed. I would echo what you say except I would take out the “you can’t see it because you love the results more than the process” bit. I don’t know people’s motives, so I don’t know why they agree with shaming, I think it goes too far to assume the reason.

  • wanderer

    lovingly bring shame upon someone??????

  • LadySuzyn

    I agree with nakedpastor. And I don’t doubt for an instant that in this scenario, real or fake, the shaming, or guilt, was immediately followed with the time-honored tradition of passing the collection plate. And we all know that if we dig deep enough into our pockets we don’t really need to change….

  • Carol

    Shaming and shunning are coercive and manipulative, a violation of the Gospel ethics which call us to “truth one another with love.”

    Truth and love meet in pastoral theology. This pastor needs to take a course in pastoral theology 101.

    “Our purpose is not to condemn evil, but to correct it. With condemnation people can get lost, with understanding and assistance they will be saved.
    Evil begins from bad thoughts.
    When you are bitter and indignant, even just with your thoughts, you spoil a spiritual atmosphere. You prevent the Holy Spirit from acting and allow the devil to increase the evil. You should always pray, love and forgive, driving out of yourself every evil thought.” ~Elder Porphyrios of Kapsokalyva

  • There there Ben go back to bed. Everything will be alright in the morning.

  • TheGrimReader

    The reason I wouldn’t sit under your ministry is because you believe
    that Jesus is a racist who initially refused to help a woman because of
    her race when in reality it was because of her religion. You also
    indirectly shame messiah by criticising his number one technique –
    shaming hypocrites!

  • You know wanderer, I want to thank you for this. You called me on something. I did make an assumption about motives. I don’t know motives. I was guessing that people want results… laudable ones… helping the poor… and were willing to be shamed in order to accomplish it. But this was a guess and I should have said that. Thanks.

  • I don’t disagree with anything you said. The problem is that the pastor in this story did NOT display any of that. A good leader engages his “flock” without being arrogant, and chastising them instead of encouraging them is not a sign of mature leadership.

  • Why did they need to be “in the know”? I would think it was very obvious– when they didn’t recognize him, sleeping on the steps, they stepped around him. When he got up to preach, they surely realized who he actually was underneath the scruffiness. I don’t see how it could have been more obvious without words.

  • If you think nakedpastor subscribes to any sort of “feel good look cute” Christianity, maybe you should read more of his blog.

  • James

    I appreciate your view, Anne, especially the part about power differential. However, what I have noticed in this world is that our “reality” continually provides us the opportunity to become the “victim”, by being “shamed”, “guilted”, or “manipulated” in some fashion. Both psychologically and on my spiritual path, I have personally witnessed myself assume the “victim” stance. Rarely is anything learned in this space. If we all want to improve (which I believe everyone ultimately does), we have to stop making excuses for ourselves. I am not talking perfection, nor am I talking about putting up with abuse or allowing ourselves to be treated in an undignified or disrespectful way. I am talking about bringing more awareness into our daily lives. Additionally, the idea of love is beautiful in the sense that that is what Jesus, and hopefully the church leaders, are preaching. Again, I have found that sometimes “real” love is the willingness to assume a role that shows people where they have a hole or weakness in their faith, or integrity. I am guessing that everyone has had the experience as a child (and a parent, if you have kids) when you (or your parent) acted from a space of love, yet the recipient of that love did not initially understand it as love. It is because their EGO did not like the feedback, the mirror that was presented that suggested a flaw or a need to change a pattern of behavior. Yet in the end, if the person is committed to real growth, they see that feedback as love. That is the difficulty: the “reality” is that oftentimes we learn by having to sort through these feelings of shame, guilt, anger, etc. If we weren’t (gently) pushed into these realms, we’d be fooling ourselves into thinking that we were so “religious” and “spiritual”, when the reality is that we were just avoiding the hard stuff. The true test in a story like this would be: does the pastor come back the next week with a sermon that encourages guilt and feeling bad about oneself, or does he come back and say “hey, I love everyone here. I too have passed homeless people without offering anything. Let’s all just try to be better Christians, and lets discuss how to do this personally and as a congregation”. Additionally, look at the relationship of Jesus and his disciples. Not all was roses and sunshine! The disciples were constantly challenged by Jesus, and had to really check in and contemplate their actions and assumptions about the world and how to be a good Christian. I find that, in many churches today, people get away with just being there physically, and believe that it’s all good…I went to church today. But this does NOTHING if there isn’t real internal change happening, if one isn’t becoming more Christ-like in their attitudes and actions in the world.

  • Matt

    Plausible, but he didn’t miss a beat, the way he did it it very much appeared to be set up that way.

    Either way, the point was well made, that we should be infinitely more concerned about family that doesn’t know Jesus.

  • Nadine Kennedy


    Not that I want to be THE ONLY person who thinks this is a bit of “Spiritual Manipulation “goin on here… I do wonder how Jesus felt as he looked at this pastor deliberately trick his people by pretending to be a poor homeless man. Then whack them on the head with the bible because they did not do what is the biblically correct thing at the moment.

    Critical thinking applied with love of course.

    How many of the 10000 members of the congregation did he “actually” meet. Did they “ALL” treat him with disdain.

    Suppose I am a regular giver, feeding the homeless, etc etc. ..

    Enter Pastor/ homeless man…..begs me for money and food, I have none at the moment (actually just gave my last penny and lunch and offering to a “real smelly homeless guy” on the number 5 train at Nostrand ave brooklyn, I already have major guilt cause he was really really smelly and I sorta shoved the money at him and went to the other car). I came to church another homeless man is walking up and down begging so what do I do. I say sorry dude I have no money.

    What about protecting the christian congregation from predators. It is a known fact that christians are most vulnerable at church. ( perhaps thats why we have our guards up when we enter the house of worship)

    If every homeless guy comes into a church on a sunday and walk around begging for food and money, What would that look like? Will there be order. Why not beg for college tuition too ? Just asking???

    Thats what we have food distribution centers right. The little 100 member Haitian church around the corner from my apt in Brooklyn gives out food every Saturday, and sometimes a little “AFTER” service

    Im not trying to be difficult. I think its a moving story and all. But does not accurately show the hearts of that congregation.

    What about the few (cause their always are) that did help him. Was he not grateful enough for their effort and not try to pull everyone down.

    Is this the best way to be introduced as a Pastor. Hm my trust level in NEGATIVE ZERO!!!!!at this point. ( whats the name of this church I will never go) Are there more tricks coming to draw them to guilt, and hopelessness. Is he goin to pretend to be Jesus next.. Because trust me “I” am an utmost failure. I need Gods grace strength and help me every micro second to do anything he asked me to.

    Lastly does this Pastor give to EVERY SINGLE HOMELESS person he has ever encountered. I hope so ..If not ???????

    Spiritual Manipulation at its best!!!!!! Hey I could be wrong too, but pray for me cause I still feel bad about the really really smelly homeless guy on the 1 train.

    There must have been a more HONEST LOVING LOVING LOVING LOVING way to teach this lesson…

    The words of God is Clear active and available to all. Regular reading, meditation, prayer and the Holy Spirit, can begin to draw our hearts more to who and how God wants up to be and provide enough conviction of sin for us to desire change. Jesus spoke the word and used parables, no tricks.

  • Nat Moore

    The story of Jeremiahh Steepek , I found a little far fetched…I actually thought and felt more like it is a cult in the making. >>>One of the most powerful tools a cult leader can use is to ((degrade)) the people / person’s . It is One of the things that ladies in abusive marriages go through everyday ,,,their husbands degrade them as a means of control.
    In My walk as A Bible reader…being corrected does not have to be a degrading thing. We all have a built in feeling of right and wrong….

  • Jane Ellen Brooks Smith

    First, this is an updated retelling of the book “In His Steps” by Charles Sheldon. If this were a true story, I think the elders should have stood and said that he was no longer welcome to become their pastor. It doesn’t indicate his desire to lead and teach, but his desire to use theatrics in the pulpit. Christ himself taught through gentleness except for the temple incident when he justifiably, in anger, threw the moneychangers from the temple.

  • So critiquing the church in a creative way while showing supposed faults in their line of thinking… Sounds kinda like what you are trying to do David.

    “graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church.”

    I know what you are trying to say here, but from what I’ve seen, isn’t this the foundational principal that you have built Nakedpastor and the lasting supper on?

  • Gary

    I think the thing that strikes me the most about this is how many commenters are actually defending the practice of using shame as a motivator.

  • Crews Giles

    That the story is not true makes it all the better!

    1) What is the writer of the story trying to tell us?

    That we go through life ignoring even the most obvious needs of others, and yet feel no shame. That is, that we have insufficient introspection regarding our own sins.

    2) Notice, too, what is the objection to the story?

    The objection is to being shamed by another. Of course it is! None of us want that, and so a story is written which serves the purpose:

    A warning that a shaming is coming, is already past due; and if we do not wish it to be our shaming, then our conscience needs to be well-informed, and then given a very loud voice so that we live by it.

    No one, but a psychotic, lives a life without shame. If we do not shame ourselves, another will need to do it for us. Better to have a conscience and forgiveness, than no perceived need for forgiveness because we have no conscience at all. Guess which most persons (Christians or not) choose?

    3) Another, possibly fictional, story attributed to Bishop Terwilliger of my youth:

    WOMAN: “I never understood people going to confession every week. I would have nothing to confess because I follow my Bible and live a godly life, so my conscience is clear.”
    BISHOP: “Madam, Your conscience is not CLEAR. Your conscience is DEAD!”

  • mana

    Big retarded post for a fake story

  • dmac

    I agree with you, but one shouldn’t be surprised considering how we “discipline” our children.

  • Devon Brown

    I agree with this statement: Some non believers act more like Christ than some Christians do. And that’s not shaming, that’s a fact.

  • aricclark

    Mandie is right above, you’ve mistaken guilt for shame. Shame is about status and relationships. Guilt is about motivation. None of the people lost status here or were in danger of being excluded from a community. What they were encouraged to feel was guilt. To illustrate the difference – he didn’t single anyone out. It would have been shaming if he had said to the congregation “Julie over there was the least hospitable and christian person here, and Bob gave me a lot of rude looks. You should discipline them to ensure they live up to the standards of christian hospitality.”

    It didn’t happen so all this argument is a little too hyperbolic for a hypothetical scenario. Whether it was good or bad would vary a lot depending on the specific circumstances of when or where such a thing really occurred – but your line of argument here would exclude most of Jesus’ preaching and most of the prophetic mode from the Old Testament as well. Street theater can be really powerful. It’s a tool we under-utilize in favor of standing and boring our congregations to death with words. At least an even like this would provide actual fodder for thought.

  • aricclark

    Since Peter and Paul started doing miracles and preaching in synagogues. No before that. Since Jesus turned over tables in the temple. No before that. Since John took people to the river Jordan to baptize them. No before that. Since the Old Testament Prophets did things like dress in sack cloth and ashes, strip naked, use props like plumb bobs, fig baskets, and bread baked over dung fires to get their point across. At least since then. Probably before.

  • William Patton

    Actually and honestly, my initial reaction was: yeah! That’s the kind of kick in the pants we need! But, something kept bugging me about it. I look up the pastor and found, hey it’s a hoax! A parable, if you will, as one source called it. But something was still not right and then I saw your post and I think that indeed you hit the nail on the head: The story demonstrates no love, as you said above, “that flies in the face of grace and love.” Well, I’m going to read some more of your posts and may start following you, but you have given me much to think about here. Thank-you for helping me see things a little clearer.

  • David

    Sometimes we need to be reminded of our shortcomings, lest we forget that our work is never done and that living the proper way requires constant consideration.

    I liked the story above but didn’t believe it was true. It did not change the message for me, though. I also don’t believe every story in the bible to be historically factual, but the message remains.

    I also think it’s funny that the word “hoax” is being thrown around, when this is nothing but a parable.

  • Sure William. Thanks!

  • Guest

    As a professed pastor, you’d stay away from a congregation of people who clearly needs a strong leader with beliefs firmly rooted in the Word of God?

    Now that’s something to be ashamed of, truly. Jesus went everywhere the sinners were.

  • ania

    Putting people to shame or even making them uneasy is never good or smart, the best way to pull out good things from people is through delicate work so they think THEY are getting better christians by their own and only that is uplifting, when you feel compelled to do something just because you were “made” to do stuff it won’t last, it won’t change anybody’s guts. It’s like a pretty girl walking naked around a seminary and 5 minutes later she comes to scream at students who dared to watch her because they shouldn’t, they are christians…

    It reminds me of stories from Desert Fathers books when monks were so concerned with other people feelings they were even eating stew which had poison instead of salt, because they didn’t want to upset cook.

  • Well this just gets sadder and sadder and I realize just how ill the church is.

  • jarrodneal1968

    The intention to cause shame is censurable (and, as you relate this story, the pastor clearly intended to “use” shame); however, this is not always the case when shame is occasioned by our telling the truth. Do you think that the lawyer who asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” felt shame when Jesus answered him with the parable of the Good Samaritan? And if the parable did make the lawyer feel ashamed, does that mean Jesus was a bad pastor that day?

  • ben james


  • KittySoft Paws Rolufs

    Weak is also yelling at someone for their opinion Ben, and taking their words out of context to make it heinous. You really do need to go back to bed Ben and try to find a more loving and graceful way to express yourself while you’re there.

  • KittySoft Paws Rolufs

    Guilt may be a motivator but it’s not a good one. If you’ve spent any time in a classroom or educational setting you’ll see the effect of guilt on students. It might correct the behavior temporarily but it often tends to shut the student down from the learning process and damage any bond formed between the teacher and the student. It can be overcome but takes a lot longer than modeling and rewarding good behavior. Why not start with love and grace and avoid shutting the student off even temporarily from the learning process.

  • KittySoft Paws Rolufs

    I get that a lot of people see it as “just a parable” but if we’re going to debate it’s validity I see a lot of flaws. The greatest being, how would the brand new pastor know the habits of everyone in a 10,000 member church? It’s quite possible in a church that size the many people who would have reached out to the man didn’t get a chance simply because of the sheer size of the congregation. They may not have seen him. Like so many new teachers I’ve seen he guilted/shamed/punished whatever you want to call it, the group for the behavior of a few. I honestly just can’t see the wisdom in that.

  • KittySoft Paws Rolufs

    I understand your comparison but don’t agree with it. I don’t think NP is trying to shame anyone, just point out the flaw in the story and suggest a better alternative.

  • aricclark

    Guilt like anger is neutral, neither good or bad. If we feel misplaced guilt it is destructive, just as if we express our anger in unhealthy ways it is destructive. But just as anger can be a signal to us that something is wrong, something is injust, the same is true of guilt. We have a responsibility to care for each other which is what that passage Matt 25 highlighted. When we fail to do so we are objectively guilty and feeling guilt in response to that is an emotional flare sent up to get our attention. Our conscience is trying to lead us in a better way.

    I agree basically that guilt-tripping or trying to manipulate people into feeling guilty is basically never helpful, but there is plenty about our society and way of life that really should trouble our consciences and if it doesn’t then there is something wrong with us.

  • John Cox

    Almost none of that has anything to do with the Sunday worship of the Christian community as it is depicted in the NT or early documents.

  • Ena Ae

    Well, personally, when I was able to give up the practice of judging myself and judging other people, I grew spiritually by quantum leaps. I never could have imagined giving up my traditional beliefs that I learned as a child and were entirely based in shame, sin, judgement, and a need for salvation. I agree with this assessment of Pastor Steepek’s Church. I can see now that having that experience has afforded me an ability to understand where folks “get stuck” when moving into this new, greater experience of God.

  • aricclark

    You’re right. What could all that stuff in the Bible about how apostles, prophets and Jesus behaved in communal worship settings have to do with the worship of Christians? My bad.

  • LorenHaas

    So, there was this well established Baptist church in town. Back in the 60’s and 70’s it was full of congregants. 500 members. The Sunday school classes over-flowed. But as the years went by, the younger folks stopped coming and the congregation dwindled to about 50, with an average age of 65.
    The members knew they had to do something to keep the doors open. They
    appealed to their denomination and they suggested a young pastor and provided
    some funding to help keep the doors open. It was rosy to start, but soon turf
    battles, music battles, theological battles broke out. Some old time members
    left and gradually they were replaced, mostly by refugees from other area
    churches. The pastor taught a message of grace, he did not make alter calls, he
    hired female associates. He led the board away from a scattershot approach to
    missions and focused on an orphanage in Kenya, a battered women’s shelter in Mexico and growing the established food pantry. The abundant meeting spaces were offered to every kind of recovery group. Scruffy looking people frequented the church campus. Some congregants did not like the “new” direction and
    moved on. Some of the recovery people liked what they experienced and attended regularly, even if their recovery was not complete and they sometimes slipped back. More people who felt disillusioned at their old church became part of
    this one because they saw the changes and wanted to be part of the change.
    A few months ago I got to church early to help set-up. There was a man sleeping on a bench outside the sanctuary. Looked a little rough, a lot hung-over. So a board member walked up to him and said, “We just made coffee and there is some pastry. Do you want to come inside and join us?” Confused, he went back to sleep. I saw two other people separately approach him and make the same offer.
    The point is that to make change in a church is not quick, easy, or a one shot deal. To make change it takes leadership, persistence, and practice. “Shaming” a congregation into change will work as well as it does for kids. Setting an example, leading the way and persisting in it will make change and attract others who want to be a part of the Way.

  • hollisbballis

    You’ve really drawn out some amazing points with your assessment, mana.

  • YES LOREN!!! That’s the point of my alternative story in my post. Your’s is the real deal. Thanks for that.

  • Heather Ritchey

    Well said, Kitty.

  • Anne

    Certainly corrective “feedback” offered in love does not always feel good. If I’ve done something to harm another, I can grow by having my action challenged or reprimanded. If I feel guilty upon receiving corrective feedback, that is a healthy indication that I recognize the harm I did and feel remorseful. Any well-functioning person recognizes these truths. My issue with this approach of the pastor in this story is that it is founded in deceit. Deceit is never a useful teaching tool. If the pastor had IN FACT observed his congregation callously ignoring the plight of a homeless man on the steps of the church, he could have modeled Christian love for the man and then addressed the sin that had actually occurred.

  • Matt Brown

    “Surely the point of leadership is to be several steps ahead of those who you lead. One cannot lead people if one is less mature!”

    Though one would think that, history and several social science studies have disproven it. People tend to react better when treated as equal and given direction as a form of leadership apposed to being told by someone because that person believes themselves to be greater.

    In history, armies who had commanders led the troops as a member of the front line (where most people were killed) tended to do better than those led by someone at the rear because they were too important too lose.

  • Matt Brown

    For close to twenty years I was forced to go to church, and my sister was forced to go to church by her ex-husband and I don’t believed she shamed our family at all when she divorced him. Personally, I was elated.

    Many people are forced to go to church and become indoctrinated by it. “Christian” Summer Camps are the worst perpetrators. I was so embroiled by the churches brainwashing that I believed I had to be the top acolyte, leader of a junior youth group, be the youth representative to the board, as well as write and direct the Christmas and Easter pageants. Despite all of this I was still used as a scapegoat when other people didn’t get their way.

    It wasn’t until a few years after that incident, when I was working at a difference “christian” summer camp that I realized that I was not only watching, but participating in brainwashing children. I now regret that I stayed at the camp for another six weeks before I worked up the courage to standup for myself. I didn’t quit sooner because I was afraid of the shame that my coworkers would unknowingly try to use against me. I do not believe that we have moved away from a shame based society at all.

  • Matt Brown

    Maybe you have a different bible than mine, but when I looked up that little story my version actually doesn’t say what the Jesus character wrote in the sand. Though if the character of Jesus were to point out the flaws in others wouldn’t that go against everything he taught? Something along the lines of loving god with all your heart and to love your neighbour?

  • Steven Sauke

    The Bible doesn’t say *what* Jesus wrote in the sand. It probably isn’t good to assume that He was writing their faults.

  • Robert Otto Kiehn

    I specifically remember Jesus speaking, very loudly, against the pharisees about the same damn thing, and calling them out publicly on the issue.

    Church politics (I shudder at the term) is as such, if you want change, you can’t do it privately. The story is shoddy and yeah it’s not inspirational in the slightest but jeez, shaming? We make it sound like it is a bad thing but seriously when we’re free to let people go to Hell because they smell poorly we SHOULD be ashamed. The church is not a building, and it’s certainly not the happy telecast free encouragement hour, it’s people following God. People who don’t follow God and say they are a church are a dead church. Simple. Is his statement an accurate thing to say about a 10,000 person church, with many stories, many prerogatives, many issues? No not really. But I’ve been in churches all my life where little miss Jeezus Fish was more than happy to ream out the bum in the back pew for the sake of her spoiled children. What this story recounts isn’t perfect, but Christians need a wake up call in this country. Doing the church thing, my job at Bible Camp, reading wal-mart inspirational crap, doing worship team, etc., from the evangelical to the ecclesiastic nothing works anymore but a deep reminder of why we are doing what we do. Shame, admonishment, a friendly reminder, a slap across the face, nothing is off limits at this point because we need it.

  • James

    Ah well, we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. How often does a pastor have the opportunity to witness his congregation ignoring the plight of a homeless man on the steps of the church? If you really think about it, most of the lessons that we teach our children and examples that we give as teachings are contrived, because, well, you just don’t have the chance to wait around (and expect your congregation to wait around!) for the once in a year chance of finding a homeless man on your steps, waiting for the congregation to arrive, and then carefully observe their behavior. I mean, REALLY! Jesus taught in allegory all the time! I would also argue that this was less deceit than it was omission, which if you have read the Bible, Jesus tests his disciples often by withholding his powers/abilities or omitting his deeper understandings of situations. He then clarifies or brings things to light later, which I would hope this pastor would do as well. I hope for everyone that, instead of labeling this story as deceit, or manipulation (and thus consciously or subconsciously invalidating the teaching) the lesson can be appreciated and integrated into daily life and habits. It would be a shame for such a lesson to be passed up just because people don’t like the way it was delivered. In my opinion, that attitude perpetuates ignorance and excuses people to continue turning a blind eye to others. It encourages “selective” learning where, if the lesson isn’t tailored in just a certain way, the person renders it useless and ignores it. When a person truly dedicates him/herself to a spiritual practice, be prepared to a) rationalize why you don’t like the lesson or think it beneficial (by complaining about how it was delivered, or label it in a way that invalidates it i.e. fighting or resisting it), and b) apologize later as you realize it was just your ego fighting against truth in an effort to continue its’ control in your life. All rationalizations aside, this is a great lesson and it is proven so by how reactive people have become. Look at the reaction: is it justified (truly) or is it a defensive response to a teacher who is thinking out of the box and challenging the status quo of half believing, half asleep, self proclaimed “Christians” who’s belief in Jesus is contradicted and nullified by their everyday actions? Drop the walls and get real, folks!

  • Anne

    Yes, we will have to agree to disagree on this…I continue to believe that the way in which one delivers a message or a lesson DOES matter, and that delivering a lesson by means of setting up a trap to ensnare the unsuspecting, and then pronouncing those “caught” as having failed the test is ultimately an ineffective way of teaching. Such a delivery is more likely to teach people to change their behavior so as to avoid something “bad” (embarrassment, humiliation at being viewed as un-Christian) than it is to change hearts and minds toward something “good” (action based in love and in keeping with a pledge to follow Christ). I also think that when people reflect on the fact that their pastor is willing to set up traps to demonstrate that members of their congregation do not behave in keeping with Christian principles at every moment, they will be less likely to confront their own sinful nature and seek the pastor’s counsel, for fear that they will be chastised and sent away in their guilt. It is not the glory of humanity that we need to feel safe to confront our sins, but it is a truth, and the effective pastor knows that.

  • Pat Roberts

    I am not sure that people can even recognize shame. It is so embedded in our society. I agree with your premise. When I first read the story, I immediately went to SNOPES. I find it interesting how passionately the defenders of this story are.

  • Gary

    It’s not a “parable” when it is being told as a true event with real names as if it actually happened. That is a lie people, plain and simple, and there is no honor in it.. Are we so blind to these kinds of shame tactics and lies being force fed to us by our “blind guides” that we cannot tell the difference between this and Jesus teaching?

  • Anne

    your superficial and broadly condemning presumptions about what is in the hearts and minds of any well-dressed person sitting on a pew during a worship service are troubling…how do you know what they do when they are “off their highly dressed behinds?” How would a new pastor know what the members of his church have in their hearts and minds regarding the call to help others? What gives rise to the bitterness of your words?

  • cerantee: the condescension of your words is shocking. but it fits right in with the ethos of the story.

  • Anne

    Agreed. The problem with fictions posing as truths like this story is that they so easily manipulate emotions by dismissing any possible complexities to the situation…who would NOT be angered if they were to witness, in reality, such a scene…every single member of a church congregation stepping over a badly broken man? But it’s too simplistic, too black-and-white, too convenient an indictment…it omits any indication that other factors influencing people’s overt behavior exist..it omits any possibility that the homeless man could be anything but a victim of society’s callous disregard for others. The power of stories like this to evoke anger (as evidenced by the degree of anger present in so many posts responding to the nakedpastor’s essay) and incite finger pointing is troublesome. I have not read every single post here, but so far I have not found one saying that the story prodded them to reflect on their own behavior, their own responsibility to their fallen brothers. If the story does not evoke THAT sentiment – not “look at what you people are not doing!” but “My God, I have not acted in keeping with your love and mercy!” then it fails as a teaching tool. In this story, the entire congregation, so conveniently for the pastor, hangs its collective head in shame and presumably goes forth and sins no more. Life, love, faith, sin, none of these are as simplistic as this fiction would have us believe.

  • Anne

    I posted a similar response to another comment much further down the chain, but decided to repost as an initial comment as well so that it might be responded to by those looking only at the newest comments…The problem with fictions posing as truths like this story is that they
    so easily manipulate emotions by dismissing any possible complexities to
    the situation…who would NOT be angered if they were to witness, in
    reality, such a scene…every single member of a church congregation
    stepping over a badly broken man? But it’s too simplistic, too
    black-and-white, too convenient an indictment…it omits any indication
    that other factors influencing people’s overt behavior exist..it omits
    any possibility that the homeless man could be anything but a victim of
    society’s…and more specifically “so-called Christians'” callous disregard for others. Stories like this evoke anger (as evidenced by the degree of anger present in so many
    posts responding to the nakedpastor’s essay) and incite finger pointing
    but do little to change one’s behavior, and that is one reason they are so ineffective…and can even be destructive. I have not read every single post here, but have seen very few stating that the story prodded them to reflect on
    their own behavior, their own responsibility to their fallen brothers, their own failure to act in keeping with their beliefs in every instance.
    If the story does not evoke THAT sentiment – not “look at what you
    people are not doing!” but “My God, help me to act in ways that mirror
    your love and mercy!” then it fails as a teaching tool. In this story,
    the entire congregation, so conveniently for the pastor, hangs its
    collective head in shame and presumably goes forth and sins no more.
    Life, love, faith, sin, none of these are as simplistic as this fiction
    would have us believe.

  • Anne

    ceranatee, I would suggest that it is the story itself that has evoked your bitterness toward others. How is that helpful to you…to others?

  • Christopher J Grayson

    “I say this to your shame.”– Paul. I agree with much of what you’re saying in this blog, but there is a time and place to use shame to motivate people. Paul did so: 1 Corinthians 15:34 “Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.” That said, I do agree that church leaders use it WAY too much today.

  • Mark

    The reason why you wouldn’t attend this Pastor’s Church (if it were true) is because you’d be one of the people who treated him badly just because of his looks. If this kind of action would shame you, then you need to take a look at yourself.

  • Mark

    He didn’t “accuse the brethren” of anything. He simply pointed out how he was treated by people who claim to be Christ-like. Again, if you were to feel shamed by this type of action, then you were probably one of the people who looked down on him.

  • Greg Hahn

    I fell for it, because something so much like it happened to me 30 years ago. Only it was real, and no pastors were involved in any deception. But the guy, Mike, just didn’t fit in at our large, squeaky clean Assembly of God church. He reeked of smoke, wore torn clothes, and took advantage of our kindness by continually asking for more and more. Mike made people uncomfortable. He made me uncomfortable.

    Then one day I got a phone call. The woman identified herself as Mike’s sister, and told me that he had passed away the night before. She told me that I was the only friend Mike had, and wondered if I could come and say a few words.

    The first time I ever spoke at a religious gathering was at Mike’s funeral, to a small group of strangers at Mike’s parent’s home.

    That church was deeply impacted by Mike, but not until he died, and the Lord used it to reveal what many of us had on the inside.

    So this story is “fake” but that makes it even better because nobody reeally got shamed in church. Think of it as a parable, the kind of story Jesus would tell to make a point, and it’s a very powerful one.

    Lord, help us get this message.

  • RB

    Interesting perspective. Thank you for sharing it. As a pastor myself and one who has been both a giver and a receiver of shame and guilt, I think you have made a wonderful point. If this story were true, what if the pastor took a different approach to it. What if he used the opportunity to challenge his congregation to think beyond their perceptions and to look to love and include those who are marginalized by society? To your point, how much more effective it would be (will be, is) to motivate people to act in love toward others in light of the love we have all freely received.

  • fishon

    Nathan seemed to do ok with the quilt trip he put on King David. Psalm 51 seems to indicate that clearly.

  • Sian Saturday

    My guess is though that more people would feel shame than guilt and even if they did feel guilt I doubt there would be much authentic long lasting change in the people who were attending this (or most other) church.
    The whole point of this story and others like it is because so many people in church congregations are there for community. Its a culture. It takes strong individuals to change a culture. The mass crowd (as mentioned in the post above) will generally follow the accepted behaviour (culture) for fear of being segregated – they are after all part of the church to have a place in life and do not want to be the odd one out and loose that very community they desire.
    Of course you could say its all about wanting to be like Jesus and learning more about him and coming together to worship, but its still about doing that within the community a ‘church’ provides.

  • Adult_Content

    The point of the story isn’t whether Pastor Steepek was diplomatic, is was that the congregation did not care. Dressing as a homeless man was to make the lesson obvious. If Pastor Steepek presented himself as a fairly well-dressed single adult, how long for the congregation to discover this adult was having life issues? I’d say

  • fishon

    “Get behind me Satan.” Hum, seems like pointing out a flaw. Or maybe calling people “whitewashed tombs, blind guides,hypocrites, snakes, [men] full of wickedness” doesn’t qualify as pointing out ‘flaws in others?’ I guess I’ll have to disagree with you, Matt. I’m pretty sure Jesus was pointing out flaws.

  • Billy Bingle

    I saw this story on Facebook today and knew it was false. The snubbing
    that this “pastor” took from his 10,000 member congregation was over the
    top–it would never happen in a Christian church. It has a bad odor to
    it and I wonder if it wasn’t planted on the Internet by some leftist
    person wanting to speak poorly of Christians. There are many trolls on
    the Internet who spread lies about Christians and enjoy doing it.

  • seanmacnair

    Yeah, because all the troubles of life are because of “leftists”. Surprised you didn’t use the phrase “leftard”. Jesus Christ.

  • seanmacnair

    You’re an ass. Don’t use the word retarded as an insult.

  • Billy Bingle

    You proved my point as plainly as can be. Pretty easy to smoke you out! Thanks for showing everyone here who you are!

  • Bazz

    People who act like that SHOULD be ashamed, and change their actions, so that they are no longer ashamed of themselves. There is nothing wrong with feeling shame for a specific act, then comes forgiveness, and then forward motion.

    This hypothetical pastor could have talked until he was blue in the face, and everyone would have nodded and felt good about themselves. But they would have continued doing the shameful act of ignoring the suffering of others and treating them as less than human *when that is against their very own belief system.*

    Changing their actions would make them better people with less to be ashamed of, moving forward.

  • What you’re saying is that if you’re perfect then you don’t need to be ashamed. Who is perfect? No one. So you’re saying shame is a way of life and should be acceptable. NO!

  • denver41

    christians are hypocrites…that simple

  • Tara

    I disagree for 2 reasons; People as Christians forget about the love of Christ & goodwill that they are supposed to exude to their fellow man, particularly to those less fortunate. Secondly, church is supposed to be a welcoming, loving, educational place; not a venue for classism. The pastor’s action was a perfect means of creating a reality for the individuals of the congregation, to see just how they themselves treat others. Christians are accused of hypocrisy; He showed them they are hypocrites. Shame? Yes. Guilt? Yes, as they should. Bam! He’s brilliant (fictitious or not). We all need a kick in the a** sometimes to be humbled. “if we are the body..”

  • mana


  • mana

    Stop worrying about fake articles and fake situations I’m sure there are a ton of things you could actually HELP with in your local areas Deal with REAL issues in the world

  • Gary

    I’m not a “leftist” but rather conservative in many ways. But I totally agree with seanmacnair here. Your right wing attack and blame on all who don’t adhere to YOUR view of what is right and/or good is what has a bad odor to it. Your divisiveness and elitist condescension is is one of the ugliest products of religion.

  • Brayden Rath

    Do you think the Jews felt shame when Jesus told them of the Good Samaritan? Shame comes from the devil yeh? But I bet a lot of people felt shame listening to Jesus teachings. And rightly so, because they and we are guilty! We’re all sinners! When we realise we are sinners and feel guilt, we are shown all the more that we need Jesus to take our shame away! The pastor in the story merely highlights sin. If they are in Christ, they’ll feel only conviction. Out of Christ, they may feel guilt and condemnation. But Christ sets us free from the guilt that results from sin!

  • betsyfranz

    I’d have to go back and read the original post, but did the pastor actually tell the members of the church that they should feel shame, or is that something they felt on their own? If that was just their own reaction, then I think the pastor did a great job in teaching the lesson he was trying to teach. That is what “sermons” are all about.

  • Billy Bingle

    Perfect example of an ad hominem attack. Another fine example of what I’m talking about. Thank you for your post.

  • Gary

    Yes…your comment indeed was. Of course now I’ll have to add pompous to your list of attributes…LOL

  • kerry57

    when i am not treated like God would ..by other people..i keep away from them or keep my distance and let God have them.

  • Prince K Mensah

    I disagree with the article. It is defensive, which occurs when people do not want to leave their comfort zones or accept that there is a problem within the church. It is telling that the writer will use shame, scapegoating and bad modeling as points to buttress his stance. We become cognizant of sin because of the SHAME it produces in us. We call out sin, not because we want people to be SCAPEGOATS, but because we are asked to be the light of the world. Where there is light, things of darkness are exposed. That is SOUL-SEARCHING, not SCAPEGOATING. With the third point – BAD MODELING, I shake my head because when we allow a church that ignores the shame of sin and believes that all attempts to expose sin constitutes scapegoating, then we have a bad model, don’t we? Whether the story was a hoax or not, it speaks to a real problem in the church today. We cannot see any progress when we abuse the grace of God and slap the name of love on everything we do, even when it is absent in our hearts. My two cents.

  • Hoax or not, as someone who grew up in the church, I can absolutely see how what transpired in this story could actually happen. IF it happened, I would think the perpetuator would be simply trying to get people to open their eyes. All too often, church folks only go to church for other church folks. Many wouldn’t dream of opening their hearts with a smile or a welcome, or the offer of a meal or a few dollars to buy one, when doing so is exactly what God charges us as Christians to do.
    If ones reaction to being caught in this little humanity experiment caused one to feel shame over the shunning of the man in the experiment, would it not be deserved? I say yes, because some things we do to others is shameful.

  • dragoh

    Why is it moot? Does that make parables (nothing more than stories to prove a point through life circumstances) moot? If parables are moot, then most of what Jesus had to teach was worthless, moot babblings.

  • dragoh

    Jesus character? I agree. We have no idea what Jesus wrote in the sand. Could have been playing tic-tac-toe. I don’t even know how he would have time to write each Pharasee’s sins in the dirt. I think he was just showing the mundaneness of there white-washed, hypocritical false piety. But you defile my Savior by calling him the “Jesus character.”

  • dragoh

    Congratulations! You have found the niche that God created for you and have found peace. Too many people try to live the life that God did not grant them: believers trying to live the life of the non-believer; non-bleievers trying to live the life of the believer. In either case, both will be miserable in this life. Pharisees were religious zealots, seeking to brainwash the masses, always vying to be on top of the pack, to be the best, shaming others who seeked to leave the fold…just like you! Pharisees placed good works, religious activity and top positions above faith! Jesus spewed them out. God now has you where He needs you; where He can best bless those “who are called according to His purpose.”

  • dragoh

    I agree that this is the best way. I just don’t like to see parable poo-pooed. Jesus did use shame (the Good Samaritan comes to mind). However, I agree that, as a real-life example, this is much better.

    Your true story reminds of the parable of the old deacon who volunteered to preach at the large church whose pastor had retired. His first sermon was on the real purpose of Deacons in the church. When the deacons – who saw their position as earned, rather than a priviledge given by the Spirit – got offended, they asked him to stop preaching. He refused and ran them all off the church property, explaining, “If a deacon ain’t gonna deac, he shouldn’t be a deacon.” According to the story, the congregants left in droves over the next severeal months, until only a handful were left. And then, as the man continued to preach God’s word and lead the church in biblical servanthood, the church began to grow in numbers of true Believers until it was double in attendance and quadruple in service.

  • lionsandbears

    I’m sure you want to believe that I think parables are moot, but this is not a parable. This is what we call a lie.

  • dragoh

    Then all parables are lies, because a parable is a story told – in order to prove a point – about something that did not happen. If it did not happen, then it is a lie. parables must, in that case, be lies. For that matter, all fictional stories are lies! Tom Clancy and Steven King are liars! To be sure, I do not believe parables to be lies any more than I believe fiction to be lies. This story makes up names and tells of a story that did not happen in order to prove a point. Not a lie. Not a hoax. Just a fictional story with a point… A.K.A parable.

  • JP

    Something similar to this actually happened at a Baptist church I attended in the early 90s; I was at the service, and I remember it quite clearly. One of the youth pastors, a good-looking young guy in his mid-20s, scruffed himself up to look like he’d wandered in off the street. He sat in a pew towards the rear of the church, off to himself. Right before the sermon, he made the “reveal” and told everyone who he was, and that no one had greeted him or welcomed him. The head pastor, who was in on the whole thing with the rest of the church staff, then proceeded to preach a sermon similar in a lot of respects to the one in the piece you cite.

    No one greeted the youth pastor? Bullshit. Like every church, that church had volunteer greeters who welcomed every person who came in the door; the only reason they didn’t greet the youth pastor in homeless drag was because *they were in on it*. There’s a reason churches have people volunteer for tasks like that; not everyone is social or comfortable talking to strangers (or even acquaintances, for that matter). And I saw plenty of people smile at the “stranger” in our midst and nod politely, or squint at him, probably thinking, “Heeeeey, wait a minute– isn’t that the youth pastor? Why is he dressed like that?”

    The whole thing was offensively manipulative, and even as devout as I was at the time, it pissed me off. I guess it still does. I’m getting irritated just remembering it.

  • Maria V. Munoz

    This sounds like an article written by someone who hasn’t been changed. It sounds kind of crybabyish, in effect saying,”Don’t try to have me love others as myself in ways that make me feel guilty or ashamed.” Plus, it’s just incorrect. Jesus gave many parables that one could argue promote “shame” or “guilt.” The Good Samaritan and the story of Lazarus, the beggar who goes to heaven are classic examples. Whether you experience shame or guilt is not because Jesus or anyone else shares a message, it’s because there is something about us that doesn’t want to accept the message. We all just need to grow up, and I’m including myself in here.

  • Maria V. Munoz

    I’ve read and heard from 2 pastors now that they have done similar things. But even if they didn’t, the message is still just as true as the messages Jesus gave that undoubtedly caused many guilt and shame.

  • Maria V. Munoz

    I had those thoughts at first, but then in the story the pastor had just experienced something that horrified him. Then I thought, did Jesus always sound loving when he said and did the things he did? I don’t think that’s what the bible records. Especailly the turning over of the tables, some of the parables and the comments to the Pharisees. Remember, Jesus said he is the face of all of the vulnerable, and the way we treat them is the way we are treating Him. In fact, in Matthew 25: 42-46, those who call him Lord go straight to hell. Pretty harsh, but how do you convey that in any other way?

  • RealMarcosMiranda

    I disagree with the author. Churches are filled with religious individuals who aren’t necessarily part of the Church. And here’s the difference between being religious and being part of the Church.
    Being religious means you follow man’s orders, under the guise of following God’s will. The religious church leaders’ techniques of using shame and fear is to simply manipulate religious people to keep investing in their business. That’s exactly what this alleged pastor was going against. He was demonstrating the kingdom of God comes with no outward appearance. Anyone can be part of the Church not by how you look and where you go to church, but rather because you follow Jesus (Christian). The religious people in Jesus’ time, the Pharisees, despised the poor just like this congregation did. Someone filled with God’s love is incapable of such indifference. Whether true or untrue, this is a great story contrasting the church and the Church. The Church being those who follow Christ instead of man’s ordinances and produce “good fruit.”

  • lionsandbears

    If it were a parable, it would go like this: “A pastor, wishing to test the quality of his parishioners, disguised himself as a homeless man…”

  • Walter Fast

    David, appreciate your concern over the “abuse of shame”, but your view is unbalanced, because in fact, there are cases where people – even Christians – ought to feel shame. Check out these examples: 1Cor 15:34; 1Cor 6:5; Ez 43:10. More on this balanced view can be found here: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/battling-the-unbelief-of-misplaced-shame/print?lang=en.

  • likeasaint

    If one feels ashamed, they might have something to be ashamed of. The point is not feel ashamed, but to realize what areas we have failed in. Otherwise we can be blind.

  • Julio Diaz

    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.

    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.

  • AaronActivist

    “We are a shallow people and need reminders to wake up and notice who’s around us.” Damn right! If a pastor pulled off this stunt then that would be his motivation, not shame. Some pastors are selfish jerks just trying to shame, but some are trying to wake up their congregation to act. I will have to try your experiment in some churches. I do believe that most churches are just bullshit…going in once a week for a feel good push into next week. Some churches actually live by WWJD. Jesus wouldn’t be driving an SUV in his Sunday best. 🙂

  • Christian Paolino

    I preached/blogged about this story, and your response, at http://vergeofjordan.blogspot.com/2013/08/whatsoever-you-do-or-sheep-and-goats.html Would be interested in your reaction.

  • Thanks for the link Christian. I read it. Of course, we can learn lessons from anything, even bad examples. We can learn from the Pastor Steepek story and even be moved by it. However, to applaud the story as if it happened and that it was a good thing… I think that is very wrong, but unfortunately very indicative of the church these days. As you can see from the comments, most people think it was cool.

  • Andrew Parker

    I heartedly agree with everything David Hayward writes.
    Indeed if I decided 45 years ago, as a graduate student in theology, not to
    become a pastor but instead to work manually and to live on a housing scheme
    along with those at the bottom of society it was because I did not wish to
    preach the Gospel down to people … or as we students put it ‘from a position
    of privilege six foot above criticism’.

    It will surely surprise
    you therefore when I say that I continue to believe, none the less, that the aim
    of the Gospel is to shame the world. Clearly David Hayward and I
    are not talking about the same thing when we speak of shaming. It seems to me
    that he is talking about people in authority who try to shame those beneath them
    whereas I am talking about shaming the civilised world out of its privilege
    seeking ways by demonstrating an alternative way of behaving: loving the
    neighbour as the self.

    Like David Hayward’s I believe
    the first kind of shaming is utterly shameful … to be avoided at all costs,
    whereas the second kind of shaming seems to me to constitute the only possible
    hope for our civilisation which otherwise is surely doomed.

  • Baron

    This is what’s wrong with the much of the church in this generation. The greatest revivals in church history were driven by “hell fire and brimstone” preaching that brought powerful conviction on its people. Today we live in a politically correct-don’t offend me or I’ll leave-just tell me about the love of God and not his wrath or judgment-tickle my ear-preach me prosperity-luke warm church full of converts lacking true discipleship. The great Smith Wigglesworth once said, “If you aren’t making people either mad or glad it’s a bad job for you.”

    Our generation boasts of the many converts that have been created through Christian television, programs, evangelistic services, and personal witness, but just how many of these “converts” actually go on to discipleship? “Many are called but few are CHOSEN”. Discipleship has a cost that the “convert” will never know if they don’t choose to truly pick up their cross daily.

    The simple fact of the matter is that no one in that room would have felt “shame” or “guilt” or anything else had they been filled with “disciples” and not arm-chair church goers sitting in the pew looking for the next shepherd to feed the herd. True disciples are beyond offense at such truths. Anyone who is offended by such a tale as this only reveals an area that has not been submitted to the Lord (the true shepherd of the flock).

    To sit and nickle and dime the delivery of a message is shamefully a symptom of just how overly pampered and shallow much of western Christianity has become. Forgive me but this is just a long line of things I am becoming more and more aware of that are wrong with the world we live in.

    To me those who would walk out of that church and not come back are likely the ones that were meant to be weeded out by such a message and likely the ones who truly needed it most. If they would let such a thing truly sink in and bring the necessary conviction work it is meant for and come to “true repentance” they would find themselves going on the right track towards true discipleship.

    Is this my opinion? Yes and likely one that will engender knee-jerk reactions. But then again I’m not offended at opinions only deeply bothered by the shallowness I see in the people who name the name of Jesus.

  • dT

    I think dmac touched a nerve, a really big one. This is so pervasive in our culture, so common in the child rearing process that it’s accepted as cultural norm. But, there’s nothing normal about it. After reading this to my wife, we both realized this approach is prevalent in our own “methods of coercion and intimidation” to persuade our children. I am ashamed to admit it, but shock and awe is the mode of choice for many parents to “motivate” and “persuade” our little ones. We both want to change. I’ve already prayed the Lord would give me wisdom and know he lead me here for this very reason.

  • thanks dT… and dmac… somebody understands!!! 🙂

  • Brad Kittle

    David. Thank you. Great points. I think I’ve used shame as a motivator before and you are right, the effects were VERY temporary and left me feeling somewhat self-righteous. I like your suggestions on some positive ways to show love and model Christian compassion. I don’t agree with you all the time, but I think you nailed this pretty good. Grace and peace. Brad

  • gpenglase

    Well then I guess Jesus was arrogant and politcally incorrect, as he shamed the Pharisees and Sadducees, and he openly chastised his own disciples. Maybe it’s time to read the scriptures, and use Jesus Christ our saviour as the model for our behaviour, instead of ‘leaning on our own understanding’?

  • gpenglase

    Well then I guess Jesus was arrogant and politically incorrect, as he
    shamed the Pharisees and Sadducees, and he openly chastised his own
    disciples. Maybe it’s time to read the scriptures, and use Jesus Christ
    our saviour as the model for our behaviour, instead of ‘leaning on our
    own understanding’?

    Anything that leads people to the Truth is a good thing. Jesus Christ came as a conquering King, yet displayed through his ministry that servanthood was the very fabric of how we are to live our lives on this earth. Meaningless arguments over a ‘parable’ or ‘hoax’ misses the point of the truth that this highlights.

    Personally I think that you have a personal issue with ‘shame’. Learn about shame and guilt. We are guilty before the throne of God. If you cannot accept that then you cannot enter His kingdom. Without shame for what we were, brought about by a recognisation of guilt before Yahweh, the Holy God Almighty, then we cannot enter into his Kingdom for we cannot recognise our sinful state and the need for redemption through Christ Jesus.

    Jesus didn’t come to ‘affirm’ our life decisions, to ‘motivate’ us to be better people. He was not a great spiritual leader who showed wisdom and goodwill to all men. That’s Buddha or Krishna or someone else you are thinking of. He is the divine Son of God, and he came to die for our sins and to save all those who accepted Him by washing us of our sin and cleanse us of the impurity of the world, and to make us like Him through sanctification.

    There are much better things to be talking about than this.

  • theSunRoseClear

    When I read the Scriptures, I discover that when Jesus shamed the Pharisees and Sadducees, he was shaming the religious leaders of his day. When Jesus chastised his own disciples, perhaps he was chastising the future leaders of his own church. How is the fictional pastor’s story the same thing?

  • bhlind

    Well said! I am desperately trying to get people in my church to see the wrong in this story! Everyone seems focused on how “bad,” the congregation was. I was hoping my pastor would support me on this as he talks about how we are supposed to treat others with love all the time, but even HE doesn’t see anything wrong in this or at least is not willing to say it publicly! We have sooo far to go don’t we!

  • bumbutcha

    “…if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off” – at times the slumbering church needs a big wakeup call. To say that we should never use shame is unbiblical as the Apostle
    Paul himself used it to correct the Corinthians: “Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your SHAME.” (1 Cor 15:34) Shame can be wrongfully used to manipulate people but in the right circumstances can be an appropriate teaching tool. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water shall we.

  • Using fear to bring people to church is using fear, not some spirit of god. The reason these so called revivals worked was because of fear. There’s nothing amazing about that, it’s just manipulation. Christianity is failing because people are becoming educated and you can’t trick or manipulate their fear anymore. The truth does set you free. And the truth is that Christianity is fear based, not love based.

  • Marie Griffin

    After having read most of the replies, I think Matt and I are on the same page. While I do believe that “shame” and “guilt” or as we Baptists tend refer to as the “Fire and Brimstone Sermons” have been used for far to long, I think that this “touchy, feely stuff” needs a wake up call now and again.

    So I would like to think at this stage in my life I would have passed this “test”, but had I not, I am like Mat, “I would rather have been shamed” and hopefully gotten the wake up call that I most assuredly needed.

    We need to be kept honest and sometimes we don’t like those “in your face” wake up calls, but for us to be on the narrow path, it is necessary. Jesus certainly pointed these things out time and time again.

    I want a pastor that will do that for me. Would I be really comfortable with the “trick” played on the congregation, probably not, but that said, it probably meant that I needed to be more aware of my behavior.

  • RM315

    I think this article makes some great points regarding shame as a tool but I don’t personally view this story as a shame sham. The simple fact of the matter is that Jesus’ measurement that He’ll be using when He judges us all is love. Love in action and truth and not mere words and speech. It’s like when He rebuked the Pharisees and teachers of the law for “binding up heavy burdens and putting them on people’s shoulders but not being willing to lift one finger to move them.”

    There are so many points in the Bible that call us to be attracted to help people in low positions but in this day and age it often seems that people in low positions, and even people in middle positions seem afterthoughts at best. I don’t see the Pastor Steepek story as being geared toward shaming a congregation so much as I see it as a wake up call or even a spiritual call to arms and whether the story is genuine fact or even written purposefully to be fictional its message is truth.

    Love is the fulfillment of the law. We can keep all the other commandments in the Bible to a T but if we don’t have love then we break them all anyways. I mean, not to be a hardarse but John writes in the third chapter of his first epistle saying ” If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” We’re saved by grace and not by works but we show our faith by what we do, not just with what we say.

    I know so many people(myself included, honestly)who no longer have a church because we’ve found that when we needed help there was none to be found. We should never do good and expect good in return but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt when even though we do good to others we’re up dung creek when we find ourselves in need. This, I think is where people who have issues with tithing derive their issues from.

    Just speaking personally I have no problem with giving to the homeless(and I myself am visually impaired and on disability, I live on a very fixed income, so much so that I’m forced to live with my ex girlfriend)in fact, I love it, but I’m very hesitant to put money in a tithing basket because, pardon me here please but I don’t care if the church has money for HD monitors, I want to know that the needy are taken care of, I want to know that the poor are getting their bills paid instead of getting shutoff/eviction notices, I want to know that the homeless are being given homes, I want to know that my church is making a difference in our own community because frankly, if it isn’t doing that then I doubt it’s going to do much over in Africa or wherever else it’s sending missionaries. A river does not jump from one place to another, it flows from the source out. How can we be trusted to clean up somebody else’s back yard when our own is so filthy? This question extends beyond spiritual matters into political as well.

    So I think church leaders should digest the Pastor Steepek story every bit as much as attendees should, if not more so. If the church leaders turn away congregants in need of help then how can congregants be expected not to turn away people out in the world who need help? Most people focus on people and not on Jesus, which is why models are more valuable than critics because people’s focus on people instead of Jesus means that people will do what their see their fathers doing. Leaders should lead in such a way as to lead their flock to Jesus, not just to the church because it’s Jesus who saves.

    Honestly, when I read this story initially it made me cry. Not because I felt ashamed but because I was relieved because finally somebody said it in His house. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is “whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

  • Laura Looch

    yes, let’s just do what we want. Let’s put a bar in the auditorium, possibly a brothel at the back, a casino in the fellowship hall, and don’t let ANYONE shame us for it. I didn’t know that “Guard your self-esteem at all costs” was a commandment.

  • Laura: Maybe if you had a more positive view of humanity you wouldn’t feel the need to shame them away from the things you obviously expect from them.

  • So here is the perfect conundrum. Ben has spoken his mind honestly, if not politically correctly, just as nakedpastor has spoken his. Nakedpastor’s commentary was more eloquent perhaps, full of correctly spelled words and punctuation. Ben’s was not. Ben addressed his severe criticism directly to the face of the person he disagreed with. Nakedpastor’s blog was full of indirect criticism, but no less harsh in its opinion. Both cite examples of Christ as justification for their opinions. So which is more “Christlike”? Hard to tell.

  • If you can show me an example of some stuff Jesus wrote down, perhaps I could answer your question.
    Giving me writing samples of stuff other people wrote about Jesus (like the gospels) only gives me clues as to the writing style and beliefs of the gospel authors.

  • Laura Looch

    That makes zero sense. Shame is valuable, It used to keep people from damaging the family name with degrading or dishonest behavior,. It no longer exists much, and that is a loss. I believe firmly that good triumphs over evil ultimately, but I see a lot of individual, systemic, and political evil in this world. A little shame would go a long way in this society.

  • Christian

    Typical answer from a non-believer. I pray that The Lord will open your eyes.

  • Laura Looch

    A young woman recently came to our church. After expressing her desire to become a member, she disclosed artlessly that she was expecting twins soon, that the father of the twins is actually married but might be divorcing to be with her; that she had already lost four children to DCS so she was very excited about this; and can we give her some money? Don’t worry, Pastor, shame is dead. More’s the pity.

  • Trin

    Doesn’t the Bible tell us that it is the Goodness of God that turns men to repentance?……And that satan is the accuser of the brethern?….Doesn’t God tell us that to judge ourselves so that we we will not be judged ….that as we judge others so shall we be judged in like manner? And doesn’t the Word tell us in

    Galations 5:14, 15 ….For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 15) But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

  • Trin

    1 Corinthians 3

    The Church and Its Leaders

    1Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

    5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

    10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

    16Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

    18Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”a; 20and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”b21So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephasc or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

  • Trin

    Mark 3:24, 25
    If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.25) If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

    1 Corinthians 12:22
    On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

    1 Corinthians 12

    1Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

    4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

    7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,a and to still another the interpretation of tongues.b11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

    Unity and Diversity in the Body

    12Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized byc one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

    15Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

    21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

    27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tonguesd? Do all interpret? 31Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

  • Trin

    Mark 3:24, 25
    If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.25) If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

    God warns those who bring division in the church….God judges the heart…He alone knows this pastors heart……what motive he had to dress up in disquise….I believe he was trying to wake up a church that was asleep, not to shame them…..those with teachable spirits learned from it and those who did not were offended…..and remember Love is the foundation of all that Jesus did, Love is not easily offended…. Jesus even used a whip and turned over tables so I don’t think this pastor in question should be so harshly accused….I don’t know him or his motive but I think he was trying to say wake up , not to be so self focused for as we do onto the least of these so we do onto God…At the same time, it is the Goodness of God that turns men to repentance……..We need to be gracious to all, everyone with all their different views but God tells us to not be wise in our own eyes but by every word that proceeds out fo Gods own mouth…..just my 2 cents worth

  • Trin

    Not by your might, not by your power but by my spirit says the Lord…..When God tells us that men are turned to repentance by the goodness of God that does not include shame….

    Isaiah 54:4

    “Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; But you will forget the shame of your youth, .

  • Xenrae

    Dave, you need to get a grip. Talk about dumpster diving for an article. So, you didn’t like the parable, but that doesn’t make it full of bull sh*t either. You’re grabbing at straws to discredit the message, and it’s pathetic and transparent. And for the record, I’m a card carrying non-believer. This article is just nonsense.

  • I happen to believe non-believers wrongly inflict shame to motivate people as well. It’s a cultural thing that religion has perfected.

  • Stump Thumpr

    Well I am sure that instead of taking a simple and yes, somewhat pointed example of what a church should not be like… there are those that will sit around and pontificate the doctrinal and emotional discourses of the situation (assuming as you do that this story actually happened for this discussion)… it would probably be better for you and the church (that probably does not exist) that you choose another place to worship.

    Sometimes the best thing a person can do, when shown the honest error of their ways, is to sit down, shut up, accept the fact that they just may be a person way to full of themselves and repent change and move on…

    Kind of like the old adage… if the shoe fits wear it… if not just leave them there for the next guy…

    For the self righteous, selfish and self centered… a good dose of a mirror can at times be life changing…

    Not to say they need it every morning… but sounds like (according to a story that we are still assuming to not be true except for this discussion) that in the case of said megachurch… that a good clock cleaning was in order…

    So I say… take your wine to another communion service where you will be better suited… cause you missed the whole jest anyway…

  • Stump Thumpr

    everyone signs up to be slapped regardless of their false arrogance… its called life and that is just what sometimes happens… my favorite person are those that emphatically state their false reality that it will never happen to them… ever… then the rest of us get to watch it happen and see if they ever bother to learn from it…

  • Fiona Ogilvie

    I totally agree with you David…. When I first read this story I thought it stank. Even though this is a fake story, this is what you are fed pretty much every Sunday…. you are failing, you are not doing enough, you need to get your act together, why are you doing this, why aren’t you doing that….. on and on and on. And look at me, I am doing soooo much without any of your help. So the example the people in the pews are fed is preaching and making others feel like crap. Then they may try their hardest to get into “ministry”, only to be pushed back into their pew because they are not good enough yet. On and on it goes. I am surprised that this article received such a negative response. It seems to me that the majority of Christians only feel comfortable when they are made to feel like a pile of poo.

  • I agree Fiona. I’m baffled.

  • Andre du Toit

    This is a very graphic illustration of what the Bible teaches. It holds us to a a mirror (The law) and we recognize our failures. Gal 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

    The problem is that few of us want to be faced with our “not so good” side and prefer to hear just “The good news”.

    Jesus invites every one who is convicted of sin:
    Mat 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

    Barnes comments on this:

    There can be no doubt, however, that he meant here chiefly to address the poor, lost, ruined sinner: the man “burdened” with a consciousness of his transgressions, trembling at his danger, and seeking deliverance. For such there is relief. Christ tells them to come to him, to believe in him, and to trust him, and him only, for salvation. Doing this, he will give them rest – rest from their sins, from the alarms of conscience, from the terrors of the law, and from the fears of eternal death.

  • Duglis

    I couldn’t agree with you more….it’s amazing, but expected, that these people are ripping the lesson you can plainly see from this story….hoax or not. It’s the ” You’re a liar..I’m not listening to you…you can’t tell ME what to do” syndrome. People kill me, sometimes. Thank you for your response.

  • revtk

    Just stumbled onto this blog doing some late night thinking about “hospitality” and the lectionary texts for tomorrow. Great, thought provoking take on things. The comments here are nearly as emotionally heavy as the story which is your subject. There are probably a lot of reasons for this but if I lean towards seeing “the better angels” I would say the story addresses a yearning for us (or some other ‘you’) to be shaken from complacency. I agree. I need that. The world needs that. Now the only question is what power is there to change the hearts and minds of people? If it is only the power of shame and guilt, there’s not much LIFE in that. But if we can indeed first see ourselves as the ones who are unworthy and yet accepted while spiritually “homeless”…if we can then see this same unearned ‘worthiness’ in the face of those we discount, then that is the power to change the way the world goes around. This particular ‘illustration’ losses power in it’s attempt to be “too powerful”. The real game changer is not manipulating people to “decide” to change their behavior but proclaiming that because God already “sees” us in the light of Jesus, we can also see others that way too, no matter how they look.

  • herewegokids

    Naah. It’s shame.

  • LydiasDad

    You make some good points, especially regarding “role models” and “YOU”, giving homeless people money is not the answer. Even Jesus didn’t do it, and for good reason. Giving money directly hurts them more because it keeps them from seeking help from professional organizations for one more day. Give your money directly to these organizations since they know how to properly provide assistance. Also, giving money directly encourages the more dangerous and aggressive homeless people to continue their aggression towards weaker people who walk by.

    Also, personally, I think this country needs more shame. Shame used to discourage out-of-wedlock births (which is now over 70% among blacks, and over 30% for whites), child abuse, and general inappropriate behavior and dress. No celebrity before the 1980s would have done what Miley Cyrus did.

  • LydiasDad

    My comment disappeared too. Happens a lot with these blogs for some reason.

  • Alice

    No, it did not “discourage” abuse and unwed mothers. It was just easier for people to lie and cover their tracks. Abused children are better off today because there is a lot more awareness and resources. http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publishing/insights_law_society/ChildProtectionHistory.authcheckdam.pdf Unlike the “good old days” most people now recognize that beating a child severely is wrong.
    Unwed mothers were often forced to give their babies up for adoption, got married and pretended the baby came early, or sought out illegal abortion methods.

  • Alice

    “Shame is a motivator but…” WORD to the entire paragraph! Shame is crippling. Also, I’ve seen how it keeps people from looking for real solutions. In this case, it would have been better for the church to have a discussion about what they can do to make sure everyone who walks through the doors feels welcome, and also to address WHY people ignored the man. Do they have negative stereotypes? Bad past experiences? Just didn’t notice him? Didn’t know what to say? It’s dumb to jump to the worst conclusion without even asking.

    I’ve also seen this with sexuality. Instead of teaching positive messages and sexual ethics, leaders shame people for not being asexual.

  • Shame (public guilt) is an emotion that points us towards another path. For instance: David Hayward shames Jeremiah Steepeck above, and I shame David by pointing this out. The Hebrew prophets use shame (Isaiah 58, “on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.”), and so does Jesus (“Woe to your Pharisees”). It is true that positive encouragement can be an effective motivator, but so can shame.

    A prophetic critique offers both shame that motivates towards repentance and a new road to walk. That is, shame is nothing to be ashamed of.

  • BrendtWayneWaters

    A quick scan of the comments shows me that none of those who disagree with David regarding shame have noted that there are no holes to be poked in his point #3 (regarding modeling). This, in and of itself, lends a lot of validity to his point — for too many in the church, the important thing is to point out where others are wrong.

  • Vincent

    You seem to forget that half of what the New Testament is about is Repentance. To repent of your sins. But how can you repent if you feel no shame or regret of what you have done(or not done, in this case)?

    Also, IMO, I don’t think shame in itself is a bad thing. Sure, shame is bad if it’s intentionally used to bring down another person in a negative manner. But in this scenario shame is used to make the congregation AWARE of their failings as Christians. I see no other way to make a person realize his failings AND CHANGE other than making him ashamed and regretful of them. If you have a better and more efficient method that actually works, do tell. You speak of getting permanent results for change but you don’t mention the actual solution to it.

    As the saying goes: What can change the nature of a man? It is regret.

  • Reality Tours

    If you want to discover what it’s really like to be homeless you can take the Reality Tour – ‘Homeless in Seattle’ by sub-URBAN Adventures. at http://underbelly.desertainment.com/

  • wodaji

    Silly how people are demanding proof that this story actually happened and yet they believe in a book filled with passages written 70 to 90 years after the death of their prophet, with no contemporaries/eye-witnesses to any of the events, from an age where information was not reliably disseminated.

    It seems this parable isn’t worthy of their cherry-picking.

  • Jordan

    You call it shame but what about accountability? Sometimes we need to be corrected. Plus the pastor is not THE church the congregation is. The pastor is the leader.

  • Alphonsus Cheah

    Thanks for telling me in this way. You are absolutely right.

  • anonfreepress

    The story may be a hoax- but if it was not, I would want to sit under that ministry. And for exactly the scripture referenced in the text. Because that is the REAL christian life- not this fake corporate worship-spectator-theater with psychology instead of scripture as testimony and message.

    I am not attending a brick and mortar building on sunday right now. I am the church, and I look for others to do just as this story reminded- to love God, and love others, the two greatest commandments upon which rest the law and the prophets.


  • Guest

    I’m so glad you said

  • I completely agree with these comments but what you are calling guilt, I would call Godly conviction. One of the most profound inspirational Christian books I’ve read was entitled “Free Yourself, Be Yourself” … which had the original title of “Shame Off You.” In it, the author expounds on the differences between shame and Godly conviction. To summarize, while the two can often conjure similar emotions and feelings, shame will ultimately lead us away from the Father and Godly conviction will lead us TO the Father … bearing fruit along the way.

  • gpenglase

    That sounds nice Matt…. Not quite consistent with history though, as many (if not most) great leaders have been types who have both led from the front and been dogmatic in their opinions and leadership.

  • gpenglase

    Snap! Spot on William.

  • gpenglase

    Wow Fiona, I am sincerely am sorry that that has been your Christian experience. The different (Pentecostal) churches I have been attended over more than 20 years now have been supportive caring encouraging places which, if anything, have erred on the other side… not mentioning enough at times the reason that we need Christ… that we are in need of salvation from our sin.

    It sounds like you went to a mainline fundamental church – the roman catholics tend to be good at that sort of thing. They seem to use guilt as a mechanism to control their parishioners.

    But that’s not Christ – He is not into control in any form.

  • gpenglase

    That’s funny. Proverbs says “The fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom”. And the Lord himself said don’t fear those you can destroy the body, but fear Him that has the last say in your eternl destiny.

    That is where ‘fire and brimstone” teaching comes from – and acknowledgement that we cannot find salvation from our sin on our own, and that an eternity outside God is not something to look forward to – it is your worst nightmare, and whether we like it or not, we all need to deal with the issue of eternity. It’s too big a question to get wrong.

  • gpenglase

    Ouch 🙂 that’s putting the finger on the problem area!

  • gpenglase

    This strikes a cord because too many churches are just like this. Clubs, not churches. Christ said to take up His cross and follow Him, not to live a life on a pleasure cruise trying to ‘feel good about ourselves’ all the time. “Good Works” otherwise knows as ‘things we do for God’ don’t save us, only faith in Christ, but they are definitely the outward expression of a submitted loving Christian life because they recognise the call of Christ when he said ‘when you do things for such as these (widows, orphans, those who cannot help themselves etc.) you are doing them unto me’.

  • gpenglase

    Nicely said Prince. And I’d add, that it is a politically correct approach – ‘it is bad to offend anyone’. Jesus, in speaking the truth, was not against offending people. Nor should we be, as long as we do it out of a motivation of love.

  • gpenglase

    Quite true. Love is not about leaving people in the filth and mire they are in but in leading them to an understanding of the truth.

  • gpenglase

    Um… nice scriptures … but
    “When God tells us that men are turned to repentance by the goodness of God that does not include shame….”

    well, that’s your nice little interpretation, but you can also take this scripture to say that God’s exceeding goodness and holiness and grace toward us highlights our exceeding wickedness and depravity before him – and in that we should be ashamed. …unless you don’t believe that we need salvation from our wicked hearts. Good article on this here http://livingforjesus.com/leading-your-heart/

    Isaiah 54:4 – Pity this is taken out of context.

  • gpenglase

    Either that, or maybe you don’t get it… just a thought.

  • If fear is wisdom then according to 1 John 4:18 perfect love casts out all wisdom. What happens is when there is no reasonable basis for belief religious people often turn to fear, which is the basis of totalitarianism. And it’s not surprising that the Old Testament would teach fear as wisdom because that is typical double think used to control people as described in George Orwell’s novel 1984.

  • gpenglase

    What you’ll find is that if you learn to fear God – that is, understand that He is Almighty God whom none can come against and prevail, and be obedient to God and follow his commandments, then you will fear absolutely nothing else, for He will be your refuge and strength in all times for all seasons. Paradox I know, but true nevertheless.

  • This is the moral equivalent of a Mafia protection racket. There is no paradox. This is simple obey or else.

  • gpenglase

    Well if that’s how you want to see it. But He is God. You have a choice, accept Him and His way or not. However He is God. We are the creation. Either that or you can be your own god unto yourself and see how that turns out. However it will be the largest gamble of your life if you get the eternity bit wrong without making sure of it.

    But He is exceedingly patient and long-suffering, loves holiness and truth, loves good (ie. righteousness, as that is his essence), but hates everything that comes against righteousness and truth and everything that threatens those that He loves and delights in. He is perfect and cannot tolerate evil, hence the Way he made for us, that being Jesus’ perfect life and sacrifice to establish a covenant between imperfect, sinful and willful Man and a perfect, holy Almighty God , a covenant which cannot be broken.

    But to receive the benefits of eternal life in His presence as part of His family you gotta ‘buy’ into it (in spirit and in truth). It’s not about a bunch of rules, it is about relationship with Him – and that’s where you will find him to be your refuge and your strength and your protection and there will be nothing to fear.

    You were very right to quote the scripture from John, “perfect love casts out all fear”. Only God’s love is perfect, and God’s love that we express to others – and this is the antidote to sin and fear. Fearing God is not quite the same sort of fear that we are talking about. Fearing God (who nevertheless is ruler, and does have power over all things, and does hold the keys to eternal life) results in reverence for him – like a good father/child relationship. To know God is to love God – he is so Good.

    You must understand that sin is it’s own reward – and you have much more to fear of sin and the consequences, hence why perfect love casts out fear for it leads to righteousness and total trust in God – but a life in God means that you have freedom. Freedom *from* sin, freedom to love God and others, that isn’t possible without Him. All other ‘love’ is selfish love – expressed so as to fill your needs and fulfil you – whereas His love is expressed in worship of God and benefit for others.

    People instinctively know this to be true, but they are rebellious toward God, simply because we all do not like anyone telling us what to do. But it is His prerogative. We must choose. We don’t have to obey.

  • The evidence does not support your claims. There is absolutely no evidence at all for the god of the bible. It is not a natural instinct to believe in god. You have to be taught and threatened. And it is not a bad thing to dislike people telling me what to do. Your religion creates sheep who don’t think for themselves. All they know how to do is obey. I have observed that good people tend to do good things and bad people tend to do bad things, but it takes religion to make good people do bad things and Christianity has an absolutely terrible record of violence. Christianity only survives through the use of fear and violence. People wouldn’t believe the nonsense it teaches otherwise.

  • gpenglase

    I think you have Christianity (that is, being a follower of Christ) confused with being a believer in Roman Catholicism, the very movement that burned to death many Christians, and other such man-made institutions that seek to crush truth and present God in their image. Islam is cut from the same cloth, a man-made ideology that is designed to control and dominate. You’ll find that the God of the New Testament is entirely different to that.

    But sociologically speaking you are incorrect – man, at his very core, seeks something to worship, yet at the same time rebels against being told what to do.

    But I can hear your bitterness coming through, and am sorry that you live with that, and pray that your eyes are opened to Truth and that you recognise it when you see it. As to whether you choose it is up to you.

    ps. you generally will not find life nor truth in a mainline church. Just ask God and he will reveal himself to those who seek. Reading his Word is an eye-opener.

  • You may want to note that you have been describing a god who wants me to fear him and you present this view of humanity that seeks something to worship without any evidence for your claims. And you interpret my disagreement as bitterness, again presenting no evidence other than your projection of your own view of the world. Christianity has completely failed to produce what it claims. There are definitely Christians who are loving people, but I see no evidence that it comes from Christianity exclusively. There are loving people from all types of beliefs and non belief. And since I can read many advocations of violence in the Bible I know that it requires a fair amount of picking and choosing to make Christianity a loving proposition. And since your basis of even beginning to be a Christian requires fear I would present that as evidence that Christianity is fear based, not love based.

  • Alterego


  • Tony Hyun

    We should feel ashamed always about our sinful attitude and repent.

  • Arthur Lee Beng San

    You dare to ask so I will tell you. It is not Shame nor Scapegoating nor Bad Modelling we find here in the story rendered by pastor Jeremiah Steepek. Rather it is what kind of people we really are as and we are really sinful unremorseful, defiant rebellious self indulgent deceiving human race…and the reminders of our greatly flawed nature is indeed needed to help us realise that before a thrice Holy GOD, we are filth. The hoax that you speak of is your own self deception that says you’re a inherently a good person and that you deserve Love instead of Wrath and Judgment. Well, if you keep on this track of roses, Satan will be the one whom you’ll be seeing at the end of your road.
    So if I were you, I wouldn’t avoid attending churches with pastors like pastor Jeremiah Steepek. Your soul counts for so much more than your ego.

  • Arthur Lee Beng San

    You dare to ask so I will tell you. It is not Shame nor Scapegoating nor Bad Modelling we find here in the story rendered by pastor Jeremiah Steepek. Rather it is what kind of people we really are as and we are really sinful unremorseful, defiant rebellious self indulgent deceiving human race…and the reminders of our greatly flawed nature is indeed needed to help us realise that before a thrice Holy GOD, we are filth. The hoax that you speak of is your own self deception that says you’re a inherently a good person and that you deserve Love instead of Wrath and Judgment. Well, if you keep on this track of roses, Satan will be the one whom you’ll be seeing at the end of your road.
    So if I were you, I wouldn’t avoid attending churches with pastors like pastor Jeremiah Steepek. Your soul counts for so much more than your ego.

  • Arthur Lee Beng San

    Sorry to say this but many pastors just want to keep the status quo and their jobs. So with them, you will find only sweet words, unfortunately laced with hypocrisy. Pastor Jeremiah Steepek took a huge risk in offending his congregation but he took it, not for selfish motivations. And I guess bloggers like David Hayward don’t understand such pastors. But good of him not to have done so as now we have this huge blog site for Christians to speak up for GOD and Godly values and we all need to be reminded. So we should thank people like David Hayward for his blog and for giving Christians (and Christianity is not for the birds) a platform to speak up to remind fellow Christians that we are filth and sinful creatures who are saved by the redeeming loving sacrifice of the Son of GOD, the LORD JESUS CHRIST.

  • Amen, brother! Too many are concerned with living easy, guilt-free lives! They just “want their ears tickled” as the bible says. They are not interested in hearing or seeing what they may be doing wrong or what they could be doing better! Nothing about this example was abusive or manipulative – it was motivational and eye-opening. If it were real it would only be even more so! My Christian group does not believe in “religion” (in the traditional sense) but instead we believe in WWJD to the fullest extent possible and make it a daily and regular practice to imitate Jesus by constant community service and giving to the poor, the needy, and the spiritually downtrodden. The fella that posted this opinion article clearly does not know the bible or at least certainly is not familiar with the Christian Greek Scriptures if he thinks that Jesus at any point rejected any one or did not give to the poor and the needy. What a despicable lie and manipulation. Jesus and his disciples were KNOWN for giving everything that they received to the poor and then some! Thus people came from far and wide for help and handouts from these men. Such a claim as this writer made is a lie and an insult to all those of us that strive to live in imitation of the generosity and loving-kindness of the Christ.

  • I’m sorry but, WHERE is there ANY
    story in the Bible of Jesus refusing to help a woman because she was of
    the wrong race, as you claim? Why lie?

    When the Grecian woman (of Phoenicia) was following
    Jesus and his disciples asking for help Jesus did not respond to her but
    refused to send her away. When she then approached Jesus for help he
    responded by saying that he was sent to help “the lost sheep of the
    house of Israel” and that “it is not right to take the bread of the
    children and throw it to the little dogs” as the Jews were largely an
    oppressed people at that time and the Greeks were a very, very proud
    people and looked down on the Jews just as the Romans did, this was a
    VERY blatant test of the woman’s humility. The woman immediately
    replied, “Yes, Lord, but really the little dogs do eat of the crumbs
    falling from the table of their masters” to which Jesus responded
    emphatically “Oh woman! Great is your faith. Let it happen as you wish!”
    and her daughter was healed from then on.

    Let me be clear: THERE IS NOT A SINGLE ACCOUNT

    Why would you claim to be coming from a stance of “truth” and yet spread
    forth such lies? It is manipulative and underhanded to do so!

    Additionally, Jesus and his
    disciples were KNOWN for the fact that they gave whatever monies they
    received to the poor and sold valuable objects that they received as
    gifts to help the poor. In fact, Judas used this greatly known fact as
    an excuse to STEAL money from Jesus and the rest! Their massive
    reputation for HELPING THE POOR AND DOWNTRODDEN is part of the reason
    why Jesus had so many followers! People came far and wide literally
    looking for handouts! What the heck are you basing your blatantly false
    information on?!

    While shame is not a tool that Jesus used, he did similarly use
    situational shame in that he would humble himself beneath his disciples
    whenever they were getting haughty and competing for authority (one
    example being his taking the position of a very lowly servant and
    washing the feet of his disciples).

    His lesson? The greatest among us
    are those that are as humble as the little children. There was/is
    NOTHING wrong with what this (fake) pastor did. He taught them a lesson
    through a first-hand situation.

    If you’re going to criticize Jesus or the Bible, USE TRUTH – NOT LIES!
    That just makes you another manipulative propagandist abusing those “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd” with lies – just as bad as the majority of so-called
    “Christian” churches out there. Why do it?!

  • Since when was living an easy guilt free life a bad thing? The best way to do this is to not go to church at all. Otherwise you end up participating in the moral olympics. It’s still ego driven.

  • “An easy guilt free life” does not encourage positive growth and construction. Acknowledgement one’s flaws, failings, and short-comings is the only way to advance oneself and to advance society. Guilting other people is not necessarily a productive tool. But one MUST recognize their own wrongs and failings and feel *regret* over them (or “guilt”, if you will) in order to *want* to get rid of them and incite themselves toward self-improvement. I’m sorry, but I’m not in the business of living a cushy “easy ‘guilt-free’ life”. I was raised by a strong single mother that did her best to be the absolute greatest her possible, and I am in the business of doing the same. I won’t become the greatest person that I can be by having my ears tickled and hearing only what it is that I WANT to hear.

  • There’s plenty of opportunity for suffering in the life without adding guilt to the equation. I’m all for personal honesty and accountability, but judging people because they have an “easy” or cushy life according to you seems rather arrogant, because apparently you are on some type of contest to see who can be the hardest on people. Everyone, in time, will experience some type of suffering. It’s not up to you to judge what order those events happen. I would far prefer to be motivated by compassion, which is the byproduct of suffering, and joy. This may not be what you WANT to hear and I’m certainly not trying to tickle your ears.

  • You clearly did not bother to read or attempt to understand a thing that I wrote. If you did, you would have quickly realized that the response that you’d pre-prepared in your mind was entirely irrelevant to my comment. My ears were certainly not tickled, only confused by the irrelevancy of your entire comment. Once you make it clear that you understand what I was saying, we can have a great discussion! Until then, take care and best to you.

  • I did read what you posted. Apparently you think being hard on yourself and others is some kind of virtue and that’s how you become the “best” person you can be. To me that’s still ego. I can say the same to you. Apparently you didn’t read or attempt to understand what i wrote, but it appears that everything centers on you and it’s only a great discussion if we understand what you are trying to say. My point, again, is this is about ego.

  • Gary

    Hmm…seems to me someone pointed a bunch of fundies at you David…and this post in particular must have been identified and criticized in one of their forums. It seems the condemners who love to use shame to attack others have arrived in force.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    So many fundie and hateful responses it’s not even funny anymore, but saddening. If ever there’s a tame version of Stockholm, it’s many of the comments.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Mark 7: 24-29, and Matthew 15:22-28, the very stories you cite, have Jesus REFUSING to help her, calling her, a Syrian, a dog.

  • Ashley Burke

    Wow you go to a crappy church! Not all are like that. Look for the churches without the light show concerts on big stages. You’ll have a better chance.

  • NekoInu525

    Actually, Jesus did initially tell a Canaanite woman that he wouldn’t help her, Matthew 15:21-26.
    “21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

    23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

    24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

    25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

    26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.””

    He does eventually help her, but the author’s point was that he initially refused.

  • Donna

    Your points are very good ones. Perhaps the pastor should have turned the sermon around to focus on something uplifting…like, maybe the church has a canned food drive; he could point out how good that is and how it helps people, trying to inspire rather than shame is always a better choice. That said, we, who are not “other” need to be reminded just how closed minded and insulated we are. We need someone, with love, to point out to us that we fall far short of the Glory of God.

  • LynAnn Katz Edelman

    I think your entire article is WAY off base. Just for the record, I am Catholic, but I do not blindly follow Catholicism. and haven’t been to church in a long time. With that being said, I would LOVE to be under such a Pastor! The lesson here is that going to church isnt all about putting on your Sunday best (which isn’t even the case anymore in most parishes) or how far up front your seat is. It’s about practicing what we “preach”. Without even involving religion, so many of us live our lives expecting of others what we do not expect of ourselves. We give rules for others to follow that we, ourselves, wouldn’t. If we all lived by the teachings of Jesus/God “what ever you do for the least of my brothers…..” (which by the way goes in line with the morals I was taught in school as a young girl….”Do unto others….”), the world would be a MUCH happier place and our own hearts would be much happier as well. It’ a shame that apparently those teachings are not part of the grammar school curriculum anymore.

  • Nina Barber

    I think you need to re-read these verses. HE does not turn her away without helping her nor does HE refuse because she is the ‘wrong’ race. Don’t spread these vicious rumors. If you are a Christian then shame on you and if your not then you have no right to spread it at all.

  • Nina Barber

    I was going to write my own reply but you spoke my thoughts. So thank you and I agree. GOD bless you.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Rumors? He originally did turn her away. Jews didn’t much like non-Jews. Get your context in order.

  • Nina Barber

    Jesus wasn’t just a Jew He was the son of GOD. He did not turn her away even at first. He gave her a chance to prove her faith in HIM. His disciples were the ones who wanted HIM to send her away. HE answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’ She was a lost sheep, I believe the lesson was as much for them as her.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Um. Yes he did. She also wasn’t of Israel, but a Syrian. He was turning her away because she wasn’t of Israel.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    When the woman asked for help, Jesus replied as follows – “It is not appropriate to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

    “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
    The disciples said neither of these, but Jesus is credited as such. She may have been a lost sheep, but he was showing a great deal of antagonism and racism towards her.

  • False. He did not refuse. He neither accepted or rejected but he DID refuse to send her away when his apostles were urging him to do so. Instead he very publicly told her why he should not and she very publicly demonstrated her humility, belief, and acceptance. For her to do so was a massive witness amongst the Phoenician peoples as they historically rejected the Jewish philosophies and theological belief. There is not a single case of Jesus refusing to help anyone in the bible – even once. And the author speaks of this incident in a purposefully manipulative way that suggests that Jesus rejected this woman out of bigotry and partiality – when in reality that absolutely never happened. The author’s argument is a manipulatively slimy one, that founds itself in untruths for the sake of justification.

  • Nina Barber

    This could go back and forth forever let’s just agree to disagree. You don’t read the same message as I do. You obviously prefer to believe JESUS was a racist and I prefer to believe HE was my SAVIOR.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    You use that phrase, “agree to disagree.” I don’t think it means what you think it means (which is closer to SHUT UP YOU’RE WRONG AND I’M RIGHT, in your use of it).

    But as this will go on forever because you refuse to acknowledge the humanity AND divinity of your savior, I will just go ahead and call out your refusal to see Jesus being human.

  • DD

    1 Corinthians 6:5
    To say that Christ refused to heal a woman due to her race and the fact that at least 99% of folks here completely ignored that was shocking to me. Pastor Steepek is not the problem here, WE are. We have developed itchy ears that only want to hear things that sound pleasing to our souls. As for shame, we will no longer hear of it.

  • Iatricos

    “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.” 2 Thessalonians 3:14
    Shame elimination is a wordly mindset… Holy Spirit conviction, either by shame or guilt, leads to repentance and obediance, then discipleship, isn’t it?

  • nancyfromholland

    Sometimes people must first see what they’re actually doing before changing. People often pretend to be kind and charitable, but they’re not. And they are not willing to see it. Why not make it clear by actual experiencing it? Like the blue eyes/brown eyes-exercise? When you experience your own behavior in full awareness, you might learn something and might change your behavior. It’s the only way that works.

  • nancyfromholland

    An easy guilt free life doesn’t exist. Only Mickey Mouse leads such a life. Not real people.

  • That’s not really the point. Sure we have guilt, but why pile it on over a bunch of imaginary trivia by going to church? I think people at church think that god is going to make a world like Disneyland and they end up making this life overly miserable.

  • That’s not the point. The point is why does anybody want to add irrational guilt from a belief in Christianity? Christians are in the process of competing for who is the most loving, who gives the most, etc. etc. because they have to prove that being a Christian makes them better than other people. If someone is going to give I would think the more mature person would give because they have compassion, not because god ordered them to do it.