SARASOTA, Fla. — Popular YouTube prankster Charles Ross recently plotted with a Florida minister to interrupt his sermon dressed as a hot dog vendor, with the agreement that the unconventional stunt would be tied into the message. While the prank has been praised by Ross’ fans, others remark that such a disruption in the house of God is irreverent and should not have been allowed.
“We’re gonna bust in the back door in the middle of the service and try to sell some hot dogs,” Ross of Vlog Creations and Ross Creations — who has been arrested a number of times for his off-the-wall antics — states in the video, holding a tray of hot dogs and mustard. “See how his congregation responds.”
Scott Young, the senior pastor of Church of Hope in Sarasota, smiles and laughs as he stands with his arm around Ross and his co-prankster.
“That’s why we invest in the kingdom of God. That’s why we practice generosity. Because people’s souls matter to God,” Young says during the sermon, having the congregation read the words of Christ from Matthew 6:21 out loud.
At that moment, Ross and his co-prankster, dressed in a pinstripe vest, bow tie and a retro bus boy hat, open the doors and begin belting out, “Hot dogs! We got your hot dogs for sale! Get two for three [dollars]!”
“One for three! Two for six! Three for nine!” Ross yells, walking down the aisle.
“I got better prices than this guy!” his co-prankster exclaims.
Some in the pews look visibly confused and startled.
“Guys, you can’t come in here. You can’t video,” Young states from the stage. “You can’t be in here.”
He then calls for ushers to come forward and help remove the men from the sanctuary. Two members step forward, not knowing it was a prank, and walk the hot dog vendors out the door.
“Everyone say goodbye,” Young says. “I feel like I’m Trump kicking someone out [of a his rally].”
The men can still be heard talking as they exit the doors, stating that they want to come in to the service, but “[w]e got to sell [the hot dogs] in there. How are we going to make money?”
“You don’t need money,” one of the ushers is heard stating as some in the congregation chuckle.
The video then cuts to Ross thanking Young for letting him conduct the prank at his church.
“Thanks again to Pastor Scott, church of Hope, for letting us come in and do this joke,” he says. “Seems like some in the congregation liked it [and] some didn’t, but I thought it went well.”
“It was exciting,” Young replies. “We’re glad you came. You’re always welcome at Church of Hope. We love you and God loves you.”
Ross’ video later shows that Young tied the prank into his sermon to correlate with the biblical account of the money changers in the temple.
“That’s exactly what Jesus faced in Matthew 21. It was supposed to be a place of connecting with God, but it wasn’t just two hot dog vendors; [it was] hundreds [of] pigeon vendors,” he stated. “What had seized the space that God wanted to use. What had filled that courtyard? Mammon. Hot dog sellers.”
“That was a physical demonstration of what’s taking place in our hearts all the time.”
One member expressed interest in getting a hot dog on his way into the service, but was told that he would get one “once you’re in there.”
Young told Christian News Network that he did not know Ross prior to the interaction. He explained that Ross approached him with the idea.
“We said, ‘Well, if we can fit that into a teaching, if we can make it work, then we can work together at it,” Young advised. “He was asking for permission — ‘Can I do this?’ — and we said, ‘Well, we have to have an upside. The upside was that it would fit into a teaching, a message.”
Young then tied the prank into Jesus coming to the temple and finding it full of vendors, and Jesus removing them “so that He could minister to people.”
“We just tied into [the fact that] every day you’ve got something in your heart or you face things that are trying to take attention away from God, and we need to learn to sort out those voices that are calling out ‘hot dog’ or whatever they’re calling out,” he outlined. “And let God make the space for us to meet with him and not be distracted by interruptions.”
According to Ross’ website, the YouTuber is known for pranks, stunts and comedy, generating millions of views.
“He stacked slices of bread on the heads of sleeping people on the beach (120,000 views), dressed up in military fatigues and screamed at strangers (82,000 views), and put hot dogs (1.4 million views) and pickles (256,000 views) into the pockets of unsuspecting shoppers in stores. And he dressed up as a pirate mascot and dug up a cemetery plot (502,000 views),” the Washington Post reports.
Ross has been arrested six times, including for impersonating a police officer in one of his pranks.
“I didn’t care then [about being arrested] because I was blowing up on YouTube, and every time I did something wild I’d just get more views and more money, so it didn’t even matter,” he stated in one video.
Church of Hope identifies itself as “a Christ centered community empowered by the Spirit to love like Jesus, live like Jesus, give like Jesus, pray like Jesus, service like Jesus.”
Last month, it hosted a “Light the Night” community event for Halloween, with “inflatables, games, hayrides, [a] free arcade, food trucks, [a] firetruck, trunk or treat and candy.” Members dressed in various costumes and decorated the trunks of their cars. Last year’s photos show members dressed as pirates, Santa Claus, Waldo, and Luigi from Super Mario Bros.
The late preacher Leonard Ravenhill once said, “In the New Testament church, it says they were all amazed. And now in our churches everybody wants to be amused.”