City Church in Anaheim, Calif., celebrated its first birthday — and its success in doubling its congregation to 200 worshippers — by having members get tattoos of the red-heart church logo.
Pastor Kyle Steven Bonenberger told his flock, according to the Los Angeles Times, that God “tattooed your name on his heart” and it was time for an everlasting commitment to him and the church.
Every Christian is indeed indebted to God, but the pastor’s statement is flawed and lacks biblical backing.
The Scriptures teach that an eternal commitment to God is made only through faith by believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection as an atonement for one’s sins.
While tattoos may be permanent, they are not everlasting. Christians believe the soul is the only part of a human that is immortal; when the body disintegrates, the tattoo will vanish.
In the early Christian church, some Jewish believers were incorrectly teaching gentile converts that they needed to be circumcised to be justified by God. The Apostle Paul taught that this external action — once mandated by Mosaic law — had no bearing on one’s salvation and, in fact, could pervert the gospel and make believers think they had a hand in their justification.
In Galatians 6:13-15, Paul says, “they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. ... Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.”
In his statement, Bonenberger also seems to be encouraging an everlasting allegiance not only to God but also to City Church.
The church is to be a bridge to God, but some people of faith elevate the establishment above deity. One of 12 City Church members who agreed to get inked was quoted as saying, “City Church has really done a lot for our family, so I thought it would be a nice way to pay them back.” Clearly she feels indebted to City Church but says nothing of gratitude to God.
Certainly there is nothing wrong with having an affinity for one’s church and committing to lifelong membership. Spiritual leaders encourage it. “Church-hopping” — jumping from church to church — is a problem. I never considered branding as a solution; it certainly would force one to think twice before “hopping” to the next congregation.
Many churches resort to gimmicks to increase and retain members. Gimmicks are temporary and do little to
cultivate deep faith.
The way to show a commitment to God is not through an external marking but rather an internal one. The Bible says that man is concerned with the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.