When I was in high school, my entire basketball team shaved their head halfway through the season. By lunch time on the day of the big conference game, the whole team was sans hair. Everyone except me. I was awkward enough, I didn’t need help to look even more weird. That was that. I was not going to shave my head.
Then things started to change. At the beginning of the day, I had friends and classmates telling me how glad they were they I wasn’t going to go crazy like the rest of the players and shave my head. Everyone seemed glad that someone was going to stand up to the madness. But one by one, the other players went under the clippers. The pressure began to mount. Before classes let out for the day, the very same people who were encouraging me that morning, had done a 180 and were deriding me for being the only one with hair. (This is one of the reasons I have no problem believing the Gospels when they speak of the same crowds cheering for Jesus at the beginning of the week becoming the same ones calling for His crucifixion at the end of the week.)
Finally after the bell rang, I found a teammate with some clippers and he gave me the buzz cut. I succumbed to the pressure. I was part of the crowd, just another follower. However, when we gathered in that locker room before the game, we all had a new bond. It was something as simple as a haircut, but it was symbolic. We had come from all different walks of life. Race, class, GPA, grade, position, none of that mattered. We were a team and we had a shared purpose and a shared shave. As we ran on the court that night, we knew we would win that game and we did, playing what was probably our best game of the season.
I needed to be reminded of that story from my high school days when I read about a California church where the pastors and some members received tattoos of the church’s logo
on the one year anniversary of the church’s founding.
|Photo from Sxc.hu by Fabio Pereira|
Why did I need to be reminded of my high school basketball team? My first reaction and even the original title I had written for this story was: “Who needs community, when you have gimmicks?” The idea sounds horribly gimmicky. It just sounds like something an uber-cool, hipster church would do. I could hear the church staff meeting:
Head Architect (known as lead pastor in other, non-cool churches): We need to let everyone know that our church is a community.
Minister of Creativity (graphic design guy): I could put together a cool logo to show how we are together.
Head Architect: We’ve got about a thousand logos floating around. Plus, traditional churches are starting to do logos, too. We need to take it up a notch.
Growing Guru (Minister of Discipleship): We can start a new small group curriculum emphasizing our unity as a group.
Head Architect: No, we have our programs planned through next year.
Lead Dreamer (other, non-cool churches don’t have this position): How about we all get tattoos of our church logo?
Head Architect: Hmmm.
Efficiency Facilitator (intern): Why don’t we just teach the people what the Bible says about the church being the body of Christ?
Head Architect: Efficiency Facilitator, thanks for your idea, really thanks, but can you get us all a cup of coffee? Lead Dreamer, tell me more about this tattoo thing.
Maybe City Church in Anaheim had this conversation before they decided to celebrate doubling their attendance on their one year anniversary by getting ink done. Or maybe, just maybe, they actually really felt like this was a way to visually demonstrate an inward reality – a baptism of sorts. Perhaps, it provided a way for them to permanently show their relationship with the body and their fellow members.
I’m not a tattoo person. I do not have a tattoo and do not want a tattoo. If my church asked me to tattoo their logo on my body. I would say, “What logo?” Then, “No.” For most people, I believe this is the case. For most churches, I believe this would be the case. However, for some people, some churches in some situations it may be a helpful reminder that they are part of something much greater than themselves.
Tattoos are, at their core, branding, identification with someone, something, some idea. Numerous Christians have a cross tattoo, as part of their expressing their relationship with Christ. Perhaps for some members of City Church this will serve to encourage them in their walk with Him.
My first inclination, as I said, is to simply dismiss and mock this idea. But, maybe I was dismissive simply because it was an idea that would not work in my context and would be gimmicky for my church to do. That does not mean it is a pure gimmick for City Church. In their Southern California context, it may be the ideal identification tool.
Real community may actually mean a tattoo of your church’s logo. That’s perfectly OK if it does. Just as a church in China does not look exactly like a church in Iran, like a church in South Africa, like a church in Yugoslavia, like a church in Brazil. So a church in SoCal is not going to look and operate exactly like a church in the Bible Belt. Just don’t expect me to get one … unless it’s a really cool one of Aslan.[As an aside, please do not quickly judge the church based on the command in Leviticus 19:28 – “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.” You have no argument unless, of course, you have been habitually following all of the levitical code yourself, which would include not trimming your hair on the sides of your head or wearing clothes made with two different kinds of materials. And those are just two within the same chapter as the tattoo verse.]