'Gimmicks over gospel': Group draws flak for using tattoos, booze to raise funds for planting new church

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A group that identifies itself under the banner of the so-called "Reformed Christianity" has drawn criticism from mainstream Christian leaders for its method of raising funds—offering tattoos to members and hosting a Bible conference featuring a beer flight, or a sampling of several beers for "taste presentation."

The Temple, Arizona-based group called Apologia Studios, which is a part of Apologia Church, is behind the fundraising effort to plant a new church in Hawaii, according to Christian News Network.

Marcus Pittman, the leader of Apologia Studios, posted a live video of the tattoo fundraiser to social media on Wednesday. In the footage, a supporter is shown getting a tattoo of the logo for Pirate Christian Radio on his arm.

"This is actually a fundraiser for our Apologia Kauai church plant, so people of the church are donating to have another member of the church tattoo them so they can go to Kauai and we can plant a church there," Pittman explains. "So, it's pretty cool."

Pittman is one of those people who believe that tattoos and alcohol are not sinful and in conflict with Christianity.

However, many Christian leaders are shaking their heads on the group's practices.

"It's very disconcerting," Sonny Hernandez, a military chaplain and adjunct professor of theology in Arizona, told Christian News Network. "There's several ways to do a fundraiser for a local church, and there's a way that you could ask for funding to distribute Bibles in the local community—you can even wash cars, but tattoos as a way to raise money for a local church?"

He described the fundraiser as focusing "more on theatrics than theology, and gimmicks more than the gospel."

"I think it's promoting outward appearance as opposed to inward [holiness]," Hernandez said. "There's several ways to raise money, but to do it by marking your body is not exactly what I would call a Christ-centred ministry I would ever want to be a part of."

The theologian explained that the Apologia Church is part of the New Calvinism movement, which takes interest in smoking cigars, drinking alcohol and obtaining tattoos, as well as other aspects that make them appear "cool" and "relevant" in modern society.

"And it's a new Reformed fad that is manifesting itself within American Christianity, and it's unbiblical," Hernandez pointed out.

"The message of Scripture is about holiness, having a contrite heart, and being a Christ-centred model—to be like Christ as Ephesians 5:1 tells us," he explained. "And I just don't think those methodologies and those practices are commensurate with the testimony of Scripture."

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