It’s not every day you come across a tattooed pastor who delivers sermons inspired by Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” and has an Instagram fan following of more than 170,000. But Rich Wilkerson, Jr. is not your everyday pastor.
To begin with, he happens to be the pastor who officiated Kim and Kanye’s wedding. “They came to church in North Miami and we struck up a friendship,” he says. “I was at their engagement and they asked if I would be a part of their wedding. They’re both good friends, so it was even more fun. It was an honor.”
For his next act, Wilkerson will debut his own reality television show, Rich In Faith. The Oxygen network series follows Wilkerson and his wife, DawnChére, through the trials and tribulations of starting a new church in the heart of downtown Miami. It’s a chance, he says, to see other aspects of life as a man of the cloth. “We thought we had a good chance to shed some light on a space that people don’t know much about,” he notes.
Wilkerson’s unconventional approach to religion appeals to a younger generation, and not accidentally. “Things like reality TV have become a language of our culture,” he says. “I would rather try and engage in that conversation as opposed to avoiding and criticizing it. Television needs something like this.”
That’s not to say Wilkerson expects nothing but positive reactions. “I think the moment you do something unconventional, people tend to question motivation,” he says. “I think faith should be a part of everyone’s life. It should be in pop culture. For sure, there are entertainment factors to it, but this is a positive show. It’s a show about two people who love each other and have faith.”
And if you really like what you see, there’s more. Wilkerson recently published a book, Sandcastle Kings: Meeting Jesus in a Spiritual Bankrupt World, with a cover designed by none other than his pal Kanye. “Oftentimes the things we build our life on end up being a lot like sand and if we’re not careful, a lot of us live our life like sandcastle kings,” he says. “We live our life building these beautiful palaces, but if a wave comes in, those things come crashing down. The book is about building your life on something that won’t shake.”
But even with all of this exposure, Wilkerson doesn’t consider himself a star. “This show is not glitzy. Our life isn’t full of glamour,” he says. “It’s full of real people and real situations. The media can take an Instagram or a moment and try to make that the definition of your life. Yeah, we’ve got friends that are celebrities, but those aren’t our only friends. We’ve got friends that are believers, non-believers, supporters, critics, famous and not famous. We’re just local pastors on the frontlines of the trenches.”