The Story of Pastor Jeremiah Steepek

A feel-good story tells of a new pastor who showed up to his church dressed as a homeless man to see how his congregation would treat him. Upon his introduction, he walked to the podium and delivered a moving speech. Is this story true or false?

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The story is false but likely inspired by a similar true story. Let’s first take a look at the tale of Jeremiah Steepek:

Pastor Jeremiah Steepek (pictured below) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food – NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit n the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

This photo is being circulated with the Steepek story. It was  Brad J Gerrard in England.

This photo is being circulated with the Steepek story. It was taken by Brad J Gerrard in England.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited,

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”

He then dismissed service until next week.

Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It’s something you live by and share with others.

Jeremiah Steepek
There is simply no evidence that a pastor Jeremiah Steepek exists. If he did exist and headed a church that size, he should be easy to find. No location or church name was given in the story.

True Story
The inspiring Steepek story was almost certainly inspired by a true story published in June 2013. Revered Willie Lyle of Clarksville, Tennessee lived on the streets as a homeless man for five days and kept a journal of his experiences. The day of his sermon, he lay under a tree on the church lawn disguised as a homeless person. He began his sermon while still wearing his disguise, and slowly transformed his appearance as he spoke.

The photo
The image circulated with the story was apparently lifted from photographer Brad Gerrard’s flickr account. It is labeled “Homeless man in Richmond, Surrey” and was taken on July 28, 2010. It is not a pastor named Jeremiah Steepek.

Bottom Line
The Jeremiah Steepek story is a tale which appears to be based on the real story of Willie Lyle. Why someone felt the need to change the Lyle story into a work of fiction is unknown.

 Sources

 

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7 Comments on The Story of Pastor Jeremiah Steepek

  1. Dave Parker // July 27, 2013 at 4:45 pm // Reply

    I was assistant editor of The Baptist Messenger in Oklahoma from 1990-2000. We had a visiting preacher do the same thing at a church in the Panhandle of Oklahoma. He just showed up an hour or two before the church service and asked people for help. He was escorted off the property several times, but mostly people ignored him. Then, he went to his hotel room, cleaned up and returned to preach the sermon.

  2. Vicki Tiller // July 31, 2013 at 4:17 pm // Reply

    My husband and I were invited to a meeting in our city to learn about how we could help with a start up of a travelling men’s homeless shelter. There were at least 30 churches represented by their pastors/leaders and individuals who had a heart to help. The meeting was held in the convention center and as everyone entered the building there was a man dressed like a homeless man with a sign asking for help. When the meeting started the speaker told everyone that it was him dressed like a homeless man to see the heart of the people coming to the meeting to help the homeless. He then said that only TWO people stopped to ask if he needed help. My husband and I got there just as the meeting started so did not see this man dressed up. Now remember the reason everyone had gathered that day… to find out how they could help the homeless… yet most just walked by. And honestly I don’t know how I would have responded then. BUT, I do know what I would do now.

  3. thay was a homeless man that slept in junk cars at this junk yard below were i grew up and every day he would walk to town for a cup of coffie and food or try and work out a meal anyway my mom drove to town every day and when she would see him she would stop and give him a ride, now listen this man was dirty never bathed, he smelled so bad that once he got out the her car kept right on stinking and i finally asked her i said mom why do you even bother picking him up he will get a ride with someone else i told her and she said to me mingo thats what she called me, its my nickname she said mingo just what if god put james that was his name what if god put him to walking down this road just to see who pickes him up and who passes him by so i give him ac ride. ive never forgotten that and hope i never do, i also started picking him up after that little talk

  4. sorry about my grammer i dont type or spell vary well at all

  5. There is some truth to this effect. I have been homeless a few times, not like it’s the “end of the world”, just sometimes it happens.

    Sometimes people become calloused by the repetitive visits of the drunks and druggies looking for handouts. And sometimes people are just plain ignorant.

    In my time as a homeless man I NEVER came across a church that treated anyone like that. Of course I have also visited a number of churches throughout my “better-off” life, and knowing the general attitude of the congregations/denominations guided me a lot.

    I will say this however- the last time I was homeless, I did meet some people that were totally arrogant. but it didn’t stop me from attending the church. I got to know the pastor and found a good man in Christ. Coincidentally, before I got to know him I got to know an elderly woman that took a chance and invited me to lunch at her place. I don’t suggest that people drop everything and do that, as there are both good and bad that are homeless. Suffice it to say everytime I went to church, she invited me over for lunch. She helped me get a temporary job working for her sons, and after I cleared up the mess that made me homeless, I finally bought myself a home. She and I and her sons are still friends to this day.

    When I tell people that story, they often call me a liar and tell me how misguided I am. Well, I kid you not. As I have told others, if anyone questions this, I can prove it. (Legitimate pastors only, I don’t waste my time with people that will attack me or my friends)

    The lesson I learned is no matter where you are, no matter how tough you have it, Jesus is there for you. You just have to pray to Him. Accept Him as your Savior and cast your burdens upon Him. He will help you, maybe not the way you want, but as He feels.

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