By Charlene Sakoda
Pastor Zack Zehnder, from The Cross Mount Dora church in Mount Dora, Florida has made good on an offhand promise to pay for his congregation members’ tattoos. As reported by WOFL Fox 35 News, in his recent sermon about acceptance, the pastor said, “If anybody would like to go out and get a tattoo of the logo of the cross that we have for this church we will find money and pay for that.” It was something that Zehnder said he mentioned “flippantly,” without actually thinking anyone would collect on the pledge.
Jeremie Turner is a congregation members who was excited by the proposition, “We definitely took him up on his offer because if he’s going to hand out free tattoos, he’s got a crowd that’s going to accept them.” WOFL reported that at least a dozen church members have taken advantage of the deal and went to Bill Gold’s Tattoo Shop to get inked. “If I wasn’t so dang sarcastic in my sermons, I don’t know that we would be here,” said Pastor Zehnder. “But we got some crazy people that have said they wanted to do it so I kinda gotta, I made the promise. I kinda gotta back it up.”
The pastor hopes that the church members’ new ink will serve as a conversation starter about religion. “People’s perception of church has probably never been as negative as it is today and so if we can do something to kind of flip that script and interact with them and do something in a unique and creative way, we’re going to do that.” The Cross Mount Dora member, Holly Stratton told the station, “I think that we’re in a different time and a different place now and I think it’s wonderful that we think outside the box a little bit.” William Trigg admitted that churches and tattoos don’t usually go together, saying, “Wouldn’t really expect, a little unorthodox for a church, but you know…leave it to anybody, Zack would be the one to do it.”
Zehnder isn’t the only church leader to make the unexpected connection between church and the body art. Jamie Bertolini, a senior pastor at Greer MillChurch in South Carolina, is also the owner of Trinity Tattoo Company. Bertolini told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal that one of the reasons he invested in the tattoo shop was because it would be an, “…absolutely wonderful opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ.” Another church leader and tattoo fan is ordained minister, Eddie Smith of Oklahoma. He’s been tattooing for over 20 years and opened Sacred by Design in December 2010. He’s hardly fits the stereotypical idea of a minister, with his sleeves and distinct facial tattoos. In 2013, there was an even more literal side-by-side connection between a church and the art of tattooing. LifeQuest Church in Missouri held a fund raising raffle for members to get tattooed on stage during a sermon by Senior Pastor Chris Pinion.
As for The Cross Mount Dora congregation, in the end Pastor Zach Zehnder was happy about his unintentional comment saying, “I think it’s pretty neat that these guys are going to be walking out of here with a testimony and a chance to share God’s story with people that maybe I never would or maybe you never would, that don’t have tattoos.”