Pastor Rich Wilkerson Jr. has a problem: He needs to fill his 1,500-seat evangelical mega-church in Miami Gardens on a Tuesday night. Solution: The holy man is promising to eat a cockroach live onstage tonight if enough worshippers come out. It's just the latest attendance-boosting stunt from a pastor who's shaved half his head, waxed his legs, and even been Tasered onstage.
"If [eating] a cockroach will get them in there, then I'm willing to do that," Wilkerson says. "I'll do just anything to get people to [have] an opportunity to meet Jesus."
Trinity Church, which was founded by Wilkerson's dad, Rich Sr., serves more than 3,000 faithful inside a sprawling building wedged between Miami Gardens Drive and I-95. The church has made headlines with its body-wracking 40-day liquid food fasts, which the Miami Herald called "one of the most extreme church fasts in South Florida" two years ago.
The younger Wilkerson, though, uses more stage-friendly draws -- from the impromptu haircuts to the Taser demonstrations -- to fill the Tuesday-night services, called "The Vous."
This year, he hit on the cockroach idea -- though he did have second thoughts after reading about Edward Archibold, the guy who died after winning a cockroach-eating contest in Deerfield Beach last year.
"I read some story that somebody died. They say it's not from the cockroach, so we're trying to find the cleanest ones we can get," Wilkerson says.
In fact, Archibold died from asphyxiation after he inhaled cockroach parts, but Wilkerson says he's not too worried.
"I'm going to get a bunch of water, and... I think I'm gonna kill him before in my hand and just try to swallow it down," he says. "I don't know wanna be chewing it, you know."
If watching a priest down a bug onstage isn't enough to get you into Jesus' fold, don't worry: Wilkerson will also give away an iPad.
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