“Shoes was the worstest trouble. We weared rough russets when it got cold, and it seem powerful strange they’d never git them to fit… We prays for the end of tribulation and the end of beatings and for shoes that fit our feet.” Mary Reynolds, ex-slave (from Shoes That Fit Our Feet, Dwight N. Hopkins)
I have always loved shoes. When I was a kid, I marveled at the few kids who would come to school late because they had gone to Foot Locker or another shoe store to pick up the latest Air Jordan sneaker release. I would go to my homie Spanky’s house (obviously one of the kids I admired) and try on his new kicks. Whenever I noticed he wasn’t wearing a shoe anymore, I would gladly take them out of his closet if he would let me. I told myself that one day I would have a lot of sneakers.
For many urban youth, sneakers are not just covering for the feet, they represent much more. Sneakers show style, creativity, and class. A proper pair of kicks tells everyone how much you think of yourself, your clothes, and your attention to your appearance. Don’t believe me. Ask Kanye!
“And I can’t even go to the grocery sto’, without some 1s (Nike Air Force 1’s) that’s clean and shirt with a team (a jersey from some professional team)…” (from All Falls Down ft. Syleena Johnson on his debut album College Dropout)
*Side note: Kanye has one the hottest sneakers in the sneaker game!*
Nonetheless, sneakers are important, and regardless to the level of understanding and shoe preference, we all like a good pair of shoes from time to time. However, as a preacher and pastor to a generation consumed (no pun) with fashion, the type of shoes I wear often correct the stereotype of what a pastor has traditionally looked like. You know, Stacy Adams wing toes and three-piece suits, Rockports and khakis with the button up, or Payless dress shoes with a clergy collar… the traditional looks. Yet when I walk into a room with an OG Air Jordan classic or a fresh pair of 1s and jeans with a snapback, the eyes on my sneakers makes it easier for my words to be heard. Once again, don’t believe me. Take the words of the Apostle Paul as he quotes from the “Mixtape of Isaiah” (Isaiah 52:7)…
“…How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15b)
Paul and the OG of Isaiah 52 are saying that when someone comes with good news (Gospel), its right on time, pleasing to the soul (sole). When I step into a church, a classroom, or any other place where I can share the good news of God, I step in with beautiful feet, or in this case, some fly kicks, and those kicks captivate the attention of the audience, preparing the way, like John the Baptist, for a message or conversation that is right on time!
I have a pretty nice sneaker collection that I began growing when I became a youth pastor several years ago. On the first day I walked in as their pastor, one of them came to me and said, “I’ve never met a pastor who wears sneakers to church.” I’m not suggesting that having nice sneakers makes me a better pastor/preacher, but I am suggesting that having nice sneakers makes me a better pastor/preacher to some, especially younger audiences.
Each morning as I prepare for my day, I stand in my closet and spend a considerable amount of time thinking about which pair of shoes I will wear. I imagine who I will encounter, how a conversation about what I do for a living will transpire, and how I will be able to share good news. The type of shoes I wear is important because my shoes adorn my armor:
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:13-15)
I choose fly kicks!