Florida Pastor Keeps Promise After Jokingly Offering to Pay for Congregants' Tattoos

A Florida pastor is keeping his promise after "flippantly" telling congregants during a Sunday sermon that he would foot their bill, should they get his church's logo tattooed on their body. So far, at least one dozen members of the pastor's congregation have gotten the blue and green logo emblazoned on their body.

Zach Zehnder, pastor of The Cross Mount Dora church in Mount Dora, Fla., says he is ultimately pleased, and surprised, by the decision of his congregants to get the church's logo tattooed on their body. "Every tattoo has a story. The landscape of faith has struggled to keep up with the times. So if we can create a way to start a conversation, it doesn't get better than that," Zehnder told My Fox Orlando in a recent interview.

The pastor said that during a recent sermon about acceptance in the Christian church, he "flippantly" offered to pick up any congregant's tab who decided to get a tattoo of the church logo, consisting of a green and blue circle around a cross. The purpose of Zehnder's suggestion, although a joke, was to start a conversation about acceptance in the church, including acceptance of those who are different due to body art or piercings.

"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," Zehnder told WOFL Fox 35 News.

The pastor added to the New York Daily News that although he understands why some Christians oppose tattoos due to the Bible verse Leviticus 19:28, he believes the literal interpretation of such scriptures can cause divisions within the church. "There are verses right before that tell us to never cut beards or sideburns, or eat red meat," Zehnder told the media outlet. "Some people want to take the tattoo party literally, while still having their ears pierced and eating red meat."

"In the end, it's all about the cross, where Jesus was pierced permanently for our sins," the pastor stressed.

Congregants of The Cross Mount Dora church are reportedly flocking to their local Gold's Tattoo Shop in Eustis to get the church logo tattoo that costs $60 each. Although Zehnder has said paying for each tattoo would take a huge chunk out of church funds, an anonymous donor has generously come forward to pay for the tattoos.

Holly Stratton, a realtor who attends Zehnder's church, told My Fox Orlando that the new ink she received is a great opportunity to share her faith with others. "It's a great way to show your faith … It's also a great way to start a conversation about faith."

Pastors in other parts of the country have also sought to stir conversation with tattoos. Jamie Bertolini, pastor at Greer Mill Church in South Carolina, was profiled in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal in 2010 for owning the Trinity Tattoo Company, a Christian tattoo shop. Bertolini, who has many tattoos himself, told the media outlet at the time that Christian-themed tattoos bring attention to Christ. "I guess there's a certain part of you that likes the attention, you know, honestly. And I think if you're trying to get the attention of people and the message that you have is not about yourself but about Jesus, it's a good attention."