He united Kim Kardashian and Kanye West in holy matrimony and is friends with Justin Bieber. And even though he bears a striking resemblance to Leo DeCaprio, you might not recognize his face right away.
Pastor Rich Wilkerson, Jr., is a fourth-generation Pentecostal preacher who presided over the Kimye nuptials. He’s also on a mission to make church cool and to sell millennials on God.
From the Kardashians to Bieber, Wilkerson has attracted a number of stars with his unique sermons.
“I think we have to understand that you don’t have to, you know, approve of someone or even agree with someone always to accept them,” Wilkerson told ABC News’ “Nightline.” “Jesus, the greatest criticism of him is that he was a friend of sinners and a guest of sinners.”
Wilkerson and his wife DawnCheré Wilkerson star in the new Oxygen channel reality show, “Rich in Faith.” He’s even got a deal for a book titled, "Sandcastle Kings: Meeting Jesus in a Spiritually Bankrupt World," with the cover designed by his buddy Kanye West. But he’s hesitant to be known as a celebrity magnet.
“I feel like a lot of people get these terms like celebrity pastor … And there’s people in my church that, you know, no one’s going to ever talk about,” Wilkerson said. “I want to use every tool we possibly can in our culture to promote faith, to promote, you know, Jesus, to promote the Gospel. I also have fun. I mean, I like Snapchat.”
Wilkerson take a more modern-day straight talk on his sermons with issues like sex and marriage. But gay, straight, pro-choice or pro-life, he said he wants to reach the younger generation.
“I think sometimes if we’re not careful, religion becomes a bunch of do’s and don’ts, when I think the message is so much deeper than that,” said Wilkerson.
Now with a growing fan base, Wilkerson recently opened a new, bigger church. The church, called Vous for rendezvous, is in the heart of Miami. At their first Sunday sermon at the new church, Wilkerson and his wife expected a crowd of over 600 people.
Wilkerson is just the latest in a wave of preachers who have creatively marketed the bible to help spread the gospel, using methods from the sublime to the ridiculous -- from bull riding pastors to mixed martial arts ministers -- all in an effort to get people into pews. He shies away from revealing his stance on divisive issues like gay marriage or abortion because he doesn’t want to drive people away.
“If I'm being honest, I do want people to like me, you know? At the same time, I don’t know if that’s really what God’s called me to -- is that everyone’s going to like me,” said Wilkerson.
“I've always just felt like, you know, I'm not some great theologian. I'm not a great philosopher. Pastoring is really about shepherding, helping people on the journey."