19 March 2007


by Phil Johnson

he guys standing with me in that photo are from Changed by Grace Community Church, Jacksonville, FL. These guys are a lot of fun, but they are also very serious about the Word of God. I met them a couple of weeks ago at the Shepherds' Conference, and their story encouraged me. I wanted to share part of it with you.

You can't necessarily tell from this photo, but some (maybe most) of these guys are heavily tattooed. I didn't actually take a survey, but it seemed to me that most of them have tats (some of them have lots of tats) and the ones who don't are cops. Their church actually got its start in a tattoo parlor. Someone (I think it was one of the proprietors) was converted, and before long, he led a few others to Christ.

At first, most in the group were enamored with a missional/Emerging strategy for reaching their community. The tats were regarded as cool—practically badges of authenticity, and potential media for a highly contextualized message. One of these guys, pastor Matt Boyette (fourth from the right, standing), had a large stylized image of Christ tattooed on his torso.

Then someone in the group started listening to biblical preaching, and one by one they all got hooked. They began to question the strategy of contextualization-through-body-modification. Boyette told me he listened to a tape of a sermon I had preached on the second commandment ("Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image") and was devastated. He began looking into options for surgical removal of the face-of-Jesus tattoo.

Nowadays, instead of regarding the tattoos as badges of coolness and something to boast about, all of these guys see them as mere scars of sin and vivid proof of how their lives have changed. The look and feel of their ministry has also totally changed. The tattoo parlor is long gone. The message is more clear and focused than ever. Even the name of the church reflects the point of what they have learned: Christ changes people; He doesn't merely sweeten our selfish and worldly lives. He gives us new hearts.

The centerpiece of all activity when this thriving fellowship of believers gets together now is the preaching of the Word, and the church is growing with more strength and vigor than ever.

Visit the website of Changed by Grace Community Church (slogan: "The Fellowship of the Unashamed.") Listen to some of their tapes, and send them a word of encouragement.

Phil's signature


jen elslager said...

This is fantastic! I love it. Thanks for posting this.

Doug McMasters said...

Constantly changing by grace--and looking more like Jesus in the process--Good news!

Caleb White said...

I'm unclear...are you saying tattoos in general are sinful, or just tattoos as a means of making the Gospel seem "cool"?
For example, if I were to get a tattoo on my arm of a cross, would that be a sin?
If so, why?
Not trying to start an argument or anything, just wondering...and yeah, I know that's the line that a lot of arguments start with, but I'm really not looking for an argument. ;-)
In Christ,
~ Caleb

Kim said...

Phil, do you have a link to that sermon on the second commandment?

centuri0n said...


If I only had 100 words to frame a reply to you about your question, I would say that there is no warrant in the NT to get tattoos, plenty of warnings against worldliness in the NT, and that the OT laws against putting pagan marks on your body don't seem to have been repealed.

"well, it's a cross, not a pagan mark", you might retort. Calling the Golden Calf an image of YHVH didn't bail Aaron out.

Even So... said...

Yes you can have a tattoo and go to heaven, but we don’t need to get a tattoo to show others the way to heaven.

Carla Rolfe said...

(wow this new blogger really gives me fits! trying for the fourth time to leave a comment...)

"The centerpiece of all activity when this thriving fellowship of believers gets together now is the preaching of the Word, and the church is growing with more strength and vigor than ever."

Isn't it amazing what the 'foolishness of preaching' actually accomplishes? I loved this post, such an encouragement - thank you!

Caleb Kolstad said...

Great story!

Caleb Kolstad

Jonathan Moorhead said...

What a great testimony to the power of simply preaching Scripture. Phil, I know that must be encouraging to you as well.

Hayden said...


I needed that encouragement on Monday morning. Thanks for the great story!! Praise the Lord.


Peculiar Pete said...

You don't go crawling into the dirt to save sinners.. You show them that they are standing in this filth called sin, and then point them to the light. God will do the rest! Praise the Lord, that God changed their philosophy!


Garet Pahl said...

Something leaves me feeling uncomfortable about this. I don't have any tattoos, nor do I think I will ever have one. But I also have sat under sound, Biblical teaching for a long time and have no particular convictions on this issue. Phil, are you sure that these men's zeal hasn't turned from fad-ism to legalism? I mean isn't your point that these guys once enjoyed their tattoos in good conscience, but now, due to Biblical teaching (your teaching specifically) they feel guilty? In fact, their whole ministry has changed, to look, in effect, more like yours?

And Frank: To compare an image of the Cross with a golden calf? What? Aaron was lying, that's why he didn't get off the hook. The Cross was a Pagan image, but like many things, was redeemed by the blood shed on it to carry the weight of a deeper meaning. There are many good reasons why Caleb shouldn't get a tattoo, but that isn't one of them.

jbuck21 said...

Praise God for changed hearts - interesting - the 'word preached' brought the change. Heb. 4:12.

tailors said...


Do you have a version of the 2nd commandment sermon you mentioned available (online)?


Steve said...

That's a great bit of "artwork" in the sidebar for This Month in Pulpit Magazine.

Mike Messerli said...

I'm a pastor, and my son is a tattoo artist. He has always been an artist, and found a way to make a living with his art and share the gospel with people who would never darken a church door. I will sometimes go over to his tattoo parlor and just "hang out". It really gives me a cultural reality check.

Great post. Thanks for sharing it. I'll send a copy of this to my son. thanks!

Anonymous said...

"The centerpiece of all activity when this thriving fellowship of believers gets together now is the preaching of the Word, and the church is growing with more strength and vigor than ever."

Desperately looking for a church like this in the Kansas City area. Help. Anybody.

donsands said...

"You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord." Lev. 19:28

Any thoughts on this verse?

BTW, very encouraging post. May the Lord continue to bless "Changed by Grace Community Church".

Phil Johnson said...

Excuse me, but where, exactly, did I intimate that tattoos are inherently sinful? I don't remember saying that, or even hinting at it.

As a matter of fact, one of the things I meant to communicate is that I love these guys, tattoos and all.

What I criticized, and have consistently criticized on this blog, is the sort of "missional" strategy that insists the efficacy of our testimony hinges primarily not on the content of our message itself, but on the style with which the message is delivered. Or, as the sentiment is usually phrased: our effectiveness in reaching people ultimately depends how well we contextualize our message.

And, it seems that whenever you hear someone talk like that, it invariably turns out that "contextualization" (to them) pretty much means toning down the parts of the message that are hard to hear and deliberately catering to the lowbrow elements of popular culture—especially by adopting the badges thereof. In other words, they think if they get a tattoo and start talking dirty, they'll not only look and sound really cool, but their testimony will be so much more powerful to the biker community and whatnot.

That kind of thinking IS sinful.

Note especially: what I specifically championed here was my friends' decision to abandon that philosophy and focus on preaching the whole council of God. They still have all their tats. They just don't employ them in any sense contrary to 1 Corinthians 2:1-6 anymore.

Anyway, see this post (from just a couple of weeks ago) for a classic example of what I object to.

Click here for the series on the Ten Commandments.

Sean Melvin said...

Is it CHANGED BY GRACE community church or changed by GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH? I'm totally just kidding right now.

Phil Johnson said...

The series on the Ten Commandments is a free resource, by the way. All you have to do is ask for it.

And if you want only the message on the second commandment, ask for that. They'll send it to you for free also.

Better yet, I'll ask my friend Will Moneymaker, who operates the website featuring sermons from Gracelife, to put a link at the top of this page, where you can download the 2nd commandment as an .mp3

Look for that link later today.

J Crew said...

This is an encouraging post. It is just another of the myriad of examples of the grace of God in saving sinners like you and me

goodnightsafehome said...

Someone once asked DL Moody if you could chew tobacco and go to Heaven. Moody said "Yes...but you've got to go to Hell to spit it out." Maybe this is why we get a new body in Heaven like unto His glorious body? (I jest)

Garet Pahl said...

Phil, I have nothing to contend with what you wrote in that post, nor do I think that there is any segment of the population that will better hear the truth because the dude preaching it is sporting ink. I am a Calvinist and I do not think the Gospel works that way.

I've just seen so many zealous new Christians jump from one idea to the next, and that was more what my question was referring to. Seeker friendly one week, emergent a month later, uncharitable Calvinist toting around Luther's "The Bondage of the Will" and naming their dog "Zwingli" the year after, and then "Hey, I've decided that Rome is the only true church!"

There is no doubt that a Spirit filled apprehension of God's word will cause men to abandon the silly practice of tattoos for Jesus, this was not my question. By your report, many of these guys did already occupy a tattoo parlor and have tattoos- they were authentic, not emergent posers. But they felt the need to abandon something that was in fact a locus where a certain culture of people were being confronted with the Gospel. Why?

I'm not saying they were wrong in doing so, but simply asking, did they do it for the right reasons. Or, were they motivated by a type of guilt that was not biblical. (not that your sermon wasn't biblical- I confess I have not heard it- but their guilt)

In perusing their website, as I did, I found that its content was heavily dependent on the big names in reformed evangelicalism. Which is fine(I really like those guys too), but it is also what made me feel uncomfortable, only because I have experienced many who have passed through a "good doctrine" fad, wielding Piper like Thor's hammer, only to move on or fall away.

I'm not impugning these guys at all. By all I've seen they look like my kind of fellas. And, considering your endorsement of them, perhaps my question was way of base. I just don't see how abandoning the tattoo parlor proves anything.

I don't know, maybe I'm just cranky this morning- it is Monday.

Robert said...

This passage makes me laugh every time I reread that post. It's classic Phil!

"Why are so few Christian young persons keen to give up video games and take up chess in order to reach the geeks in the chess club? or give up heavy metal and learn the cello in order to have a ministry to the students who play in the orchestra?"

It's a VERY good question. I'm still looking for an opportunity to use it to "relevant" Christians.

SB said...

Good Stuff
Thanks Phil and thanks for your clarification and the resources from the comments section

SolaMeanie said...

This has to be the most encouraging thing I've read all week. Thanks for posting it.

Isn't it amazing what the "rat-tat-tat" of biblical truth will do?

SolaMeanie said...

As an aside, it never ceases to amaze me how things like this stir up controversy, and it seems so needless. Here are some things we ought to seriously think about in terms of how we justify things we might want to do. Scripture, both letter and intent, ought to be our guide and authority.

Whether it's tattoo parlors, hitting bars or nightclubs, getting earrings etc..just the fact that we even have to ask or debate whether it's okay or not ought to give us pause. I don't think any of us conciously want to pore over Scripture to "find loopholes" in W.C. Fields fashion. In numerous kerfuffles with Emergent types, even when you show them clear Scripture on various issues, they will insist that it's not clear, and then go off on a thousand different bunnytrails and tangents.

We are not under the Law of Moses, of course, but we ought to look at the commandment in question about marking skin, and try to understand WHY the Lord frowns on it. As Christians, why on earth do we want to IMITATE the world rather than confront the world? This is taking Paul's statement of "becoming all things to all men" wildly out of context.

On issues like this, we've got to have our own convictions before the Lord without question. But let's be sure that we're not trying to put a sanctified face on our own fleshly desires.

Garet Pahl said...

Good comments solameanie.

"it never ceases to amaze me how things like this stir up controversy, and it seems so needless"

It is, but I understand why. There is a huge emotional component attached to a lot of these cultural displays, and those emotions are very polarizing.

On the more conservative side you have: "How could a real Christian do X cultural display, its of the world?" And then the more liberal side becomes defensive with "How could a real Christian judge me, when I'm free in Christ to do X cultural display, because to the pure all things are pure!"

Both sides seem to be putting a sanctified face on fleshliness in this scenario.

Matt & Monica said...

What an encouraging post! Thanks for sharing their story Phil.

Phil Johnson said...

Garet: "But they felt the need to abandon something that was in fact a locus where a certain culture of people were being confronted with the Gospel. Why?"

They didn't abandon their community. Who ever said that? Their "locus" is exactly where it always was. They simply turned a tattoo parlor into a church. But they're still in the same community, reaching more people than ever from that same district, and reaching others as well.

What changed (once more, and this time I'll put it as simply as possible:) was the connotation of the message they were unwittingly sending. Instead of telling people who are mired in a culture that glorifies sin and self, "Look, we're cool and so is Jesus; we fit right into your culture and our way of life is just like yours"—they are now saying, "Jesus changed us." And they are making that clear through every means they can think of (including the name they chose for their church).

It's not really a complex point I'm making here.

Garet: "In perusing their website, as I did, I found that its content was heavily dependent on the big names in reformed evangelicalism. Which is fine(I really like those guys too), but it is also what made me feel uncomfortable, only because I have experienced many who have passed through a 'good doctrine' fad, wielding Piper like Thor's hammer, only to move on or fall away."

I know exactly what you mean. Hey, the iMonk himself once wrote a piece about how cool Calvinism is. And John Armstrong has seemingly never held a steady conviction for more than eighteen months at a time, even though he has at various times enthusaistically championed every trend from stern high Calvinism to postmodernism as the answer to everything that ails the church.

So like you, I hope the brethren at "Changed by Grace" don't keep overhauling their whole paradigm every other year—like little girls changing their dolls' clothes. But I certainly did not get the impression from these guys that they are of that sort. If you think they might be, challenge them about it. For the time being, however, they definitely have the right idea: Preach the word, even though everyone else is currently saying that's out of season.

That's my point.

Phil Johnson said...

Steve: "That's a great bit of 'artwork' in the sidebar for This Month in Pulpit Magazine."

Thanks. I liked it, too. In fact, I liked it so well, I'm thinking of getting it tattooed onto my right forearm.

Saturday Night Ideas said...

Solameanie said:

"As Christians, why on earth do we want to IMITATE the world rather than confront the world?"

From my vantage point (downtown in a metro area), most of the "world" looks exactly like the photo of the guys at the top of this post. Suits, ties, nice shirts...looks like a group of up and coming execs to me. Why do we not call that the "world" and discourage the imitation of worldly business dress?


DJP said...

Maybe as simple as the difference between "dressing" and "trying to dress like"?

Saturday Night Ideas said...


Why do we presume that people who dress like us are "dressing" and people who don't dress like us are simply posers who are "trying to dress like"?

I guess all I'm reacting to is the presumption (spoken and unspoken) buy many that "emerging" Christians are just posers who are "dressing like" the world, but that more conservative Christians are just being genuinely good folks when they dress like the conservative world.

This has nothing to do with the Changed by Grace folks. I'm sure they are authentic Christians doing His bidding. I was just curious about the worldly Christian vs "changed" Christian sterotypes.


Sled Dog said...

Hey Garet,

I haven't posted here in eons! How are you doing? Still in Temecula Valley?

I'm always a bit hesitant about the "right way to dress" argument. I like Brad's angle that wonders if a suit and tie is worldy! One way or another, everyone is trying to fit in.

One friend of mine, who can present himself quite casually once told me that, in his business, he has certainly gained much attention when he has dressed down, but never heard a complaint when he has overdressed.

By the way, I bear no tattoos...and haven't preached in a tie for years.

Random thoughts from a random guy...

DJP said...

Why do we presume that people who dress like us are "dressing" and people who don't dress like us are simply posers who are "trying to dress like"?

Because I'm writing like I've read the thread, and Phil's responses, and you're writing like you haven't?

Garet Pahl said...

Phil:Fair enough.:-)

Kurt! Hey! No, I actually moved to North Carolina in January. I'll email you. And all I can remember you wearing is Flojos and Op shorts, so maybe that makes you pre-emergent.

Brad: Perhaps the difference isn't "dressing" and "trying to dress like". It is "Baptist" and those "trying to dress Baptist". It is confirmed by trail of neckties stretching all the way back to the 1689 confession.us

Phil Johnson said...

For the record (and after all I have said, I shouldn't really have to say this): There's no doubt whatsoever that someone who wears a suit and tie can be just as worldly--or even MORE worldly--than the guy in casual clothing. Some of the worldliest churches I know are formal almost to an extreme.

This post wasn't about "how we dress," though. It's about ministry philosophy, and whether it's better for the church to confront culture or adapt to it.

See, the fact that we were originally talking about tattoos, not neckties, kind of makes that point inescapable. For the third time: all of these guys all still have their tats. The only thing that has changed is their approach to ministry.

I didn't bring up the subject of neckties. I wouldn't bring that up. The point isn't germane to anything under discussion. It's a red herring. No one here has ever suggested that it's "worldly" to come to church (or even occupy the pulpit) without a necktie.

But it IS worldly to think the omission of a necktie empowers your gospel preaching in some special, contextualizing sense that will open hearts to your message in a way the gospel itself can't. That's MY point.

In other words, I object to the reasons Rick Warren gives for wearing hawaiian shirts in the pulpit, but not to tie-less shirts per se. Jay Adams never wears a tie, and he is something of a hero of mine.

I myself wear hawaiian shirts at times. I just try at all costs to avoid polyester.


Phil Johnson said...

PS: All those sermons on the Ten Commandments are now downloadable here.

Thanks to my good friend Will Moneymaker, who operates that website as a labor of love.

Garet Pahl said...

Phil, I was making a joke... I'm in fact wearing a necktie right now.(begrudgingly I admit)

For the record I didn't bring up dress either; just used it as fodder for a baptist necktie joke. Probably not as well received here as in my office where I was laughing out loud with myself.

I object to wearing neckties for the same reasons you object to not wearing them. And, as a California "surfer dude" now residing the South, I've had someone say in my general direction "God would want you to wear a suit to church."

So we are a identifying the same error made on different sides of an argument regarding a topic neither of us brought up. I'm confused.

Saturday Night Ideas said...


I have been listening. You're wanting to hear something that I am not saying.

Here's a quote from Phil's March 1 post on this issue:

"The most effective way to minister to any culture—and this goes for every culture, from highbrow society to white middle-class suburbia to the urban street gang—is to challenge and confront the culture instead of conforming to it. "Therefore 'Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean'" (2 Corinthians 6:17)."

I think Phil's got it right. The gospel should confront every element of society. No one gets a pass.

If you'll read my original comment, you'll see that I was not responding to the original post. I was responding to solameanie's comment: "As Christians, why on earth do we want to IMITATE the world rather than confront the world?" Read in context with solameanie's other comments, it just seemed to me that he was equating "the world" ONLY with "the counter-culture." If that's the case (and I'd like to hear from solameanie to see if I read him correctly), then my observation stands: much of the fallen "world" that we see around us dresses in suits, slacks and nice clothes, and we can't say that "cleaning up and dressing nice" can be equated with "coming out of the world."


MTR said...


Sorry. Not a sin. Try again.

did you comb your hair this morning? How worldy of you!

mensa reject said...

This whole argument is exactly while you'll only ever see me in culottes and tank tops.

Matt Boyette(fourth from the right) said...

Im one of the men pictured above. Fourth to the right. Big portrait of Jesus on my torso. I just wanted to clear the air on some of the questions that keep popping up, so here is an overview of my testimony. I used to be really into the heavy-metal tattoo scene, usually friends with people who were into the same things as well. I got saved by someone (Chip Merkle kneeling in photo) confronting me in sin and and questioning a childhood aisle-walk that I was clinging to as my ticket to heaven. Upon my conversion I started sharing Jesus with people who I was around (mostly people with tattoos) and stopped getting the culturally-savy tattoos and started getting christian-themed tattoos. One really good thing about getting tattoos, especially big ones, is that you can share Jesus with the artist for quite along time and you know that he's not going anywhere. Long story short people started to get saved. One of the artists got saved and moved to Japan (his wife was Japanese) and started sharing Jesus with the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia)and one of the leaders got saved and gave him protection. Upon leaving the U.S. my artist friend GAVE his well established tattoo shop to another artist friend of mine who came to know Christ as well. During this time I and my friend Chip Merkle started a church called Higher Ground Ministries and we didnt have anywhere to meet so my friend let us use his tattoo shop on Sunday mornings to meet in. Soon we outgrew that place and started meeting in a three-car garage. We soon met Steve Hereford who is the founder of Changed By Grace and he brought us the structure that we so dearly needed. The more that I have grown in grace, the less it has been about tattoos. I am not against tattoos nor do I regret getting any, they have brought just as much baggage as they have blessing but I would not recommend getting any unless you are ready for the BAGGAGE (association).
This should not be about tattoos! This is about some guys who got got saved, by the power of the preached gospel, who had tattoos. My problem was that I saw my culture camoflouge (tattoos)as helpful to people getting saved. When God in His sovereignty most definately used them, I am commanded to PREACH the gospel. I quickly learned that I have nothing to offer Christ but my obedience. I hope my life can be characterized by my obedience not my tattoos.

Phil Johnson said...

To the "From the Morning" guy:

Dude, I don't think you have ever once commented on this blog or linked to us from yours without misrepresenting something we have said. Either you have a serious reading comprehension problem, or you just don't care whether you represent others correctly.

For the umpteenth time: No one here ever said tattoos per se are sinful.

In fact, that position has been repeatedly disclaimed.

Some tattoos, however, are clearly scars from a life of sin and Christless nihilism. Other tattoos are blatant emblems of sin by virtue of what they portray. I'd post some illustrations for you, but that would be inappropriate—and you prolly still wouldn't get it anyway. Fortunately, most people who actually read this post aren't that daft.

Phil Johnson said...

Well said, Matt. Thanks.

Matt Boyette(fourth from the right) said...

Thank you so much Phil for your faithfulness to Gods Word, for your hospitality in Calif. and for your approachableness in the conversations we had. I pray that we can continue this relationship. By the way, we told our congregation that you were coming to preach and they are eagerly awaiting your visit, so you're commited. Don't make me out to be a liar. ha ha

Chip said...

Hello my name is chip merkle (the one neeling),I am the one that The Good Lord has used to wittness to these guys,also God chose to give a harvest in salvation too. This may cause even more trouble with people,(which is not my intention)But I got tattooed after coming to Christ,And in a world where the church is full of a bunch of cowards,When it comes to confonting a brothers sin,so these tatooes in my new birth were going to act as a form of accountability. BY that i mean if i had scripture in my heart i wont sin against God, and if i had it on my body others could read it,and watch my lifestyle.Trust me friends its no fad,Its a commitment because its there for life.I have 7 children, from the same woman (tat on my leg in photo)(Tats arent for everyone just like salvation is not for everyone,except Jesus call them and drag them from there vile darkness),Ive been married 18 years and been with my better half since 1985,I understand commitment and that is what it has taken to desciple these guys,Calvin is dead, and yes that can be a fad and you can leave calvinism but Christ is a alive and the doctrine of Grace is a faith and to leave tha is apostacy and one who is true can and will never leave because it is Chist that keepeth us. I jump from thought to thought because the world tells me i have all the alphabet deseases a.d.d., a.b.c.,d.e.f, ect..hahahah.any way the fact of the matter is that God Gave me not only 7 earthly children to shephered but also many spiritual children as well,Have we made mistakes? yes, butt God is gentle and kind, and unlike many very longsuffering,This may not make much sence but i hen peck when i type and by the time i'm done with a sentence another thought has bombarded my mind ha ha ha. Brothers we are told to test the Spirits to see if they are of the Lord,now once you have tested and they line up with the truth of scripture, from there you build relationships with the other party,i say that to invite you to listen to the sermons i have preached and then see if you can be more likeminded with us and unite withus and pray thatGod will continue to use all his children for His Glory.P.S I recomend listening to the more recent sermons,when i started preaching i lacked tact i guess you could say ha ha ha and we all start from somewhere.. Love the Body.. Love the lost Chip Merkle

gegraphtai said...


With all the churches you know here in Florida you can start a preaching Circuit.

Just a thought

Kim said...

I just try at all costs to avoid polyester.

Well, that's certainly a relief.

Homeschoolers are totally against polyester, and I may have had to make a stand.

donsands said...

"We are not under the Law of Moses, of course, but we ought to look at the commandment in question about marking skin, and try to understand WHY the Lord frowns on it." -solameanie

Thanks for sharing that thought. It's worth thinking over.

I have nothing against "tats", but I certainly don't like them very much; definietly not my bag. Perhaps an anchor on a bicep would be cool. Or a USMC logo if I were a Marine.

But I love the two testimonies that have come to this blog from our brothers Chip and Matt.
Thanks for sharing. I'll try to keep you in prayer from time to time.

Garet Pahl said...

Really stoked to hear that testimony, and very blessed that you took the time to write it out. Thanks.

Keep at it brother. Many of my favorite preachers lack tact. Jesus certainly didn't hold back the unvarnished truth. Blessings in your ministry.

Suziannr said...

I am so grateful from men likes th ose pictured, personally especially grateful for Phil and his online ministry. What a witness for us to hear the testimony of those changed and matured by the Holy Spirit for the work of the ministry. God bless each of you and thanks for this post.

MTR said...

Uh... the entire posts talks about how sinful these guys tattoos were... Heck, after a sermon they were made to feel so guilty as to want to get them removed!

What did I miss?

Centurion (God bless the guy), in his posts here has even said that tattoos are sin. Okay, not in those words, but he goes back and says old testament levitical law applies, right?

Levitical law--maybe we shouldn't go there, eh?

My fear here is that if we're making Christianity about hiding tattoos or feeling ashamed of a past life or about physical appearance, we're going pretty far off track.

I don't doubt you guys. I can tell where you're hearts are. But sometimes you tiptoe dangerously close to legalism on this blog.

LeeC said...

You gotta show more than that bro.

"Uh... the entire posts talks about how sinful these guys tattoos were... "


You may get that "feel", but no where was that said, or even implied.

Garet Pahl said...

Mtr, I feel you man. But apparently we are somehow "missing the point".

anita said...

thank you so much for this post today. i had a very discouraging day with "missional" issues swirling in my head and i really felt greatly encouraged reading this post. young men who love the Word! yes Lord!

SolaMeanie said...

Saturday Night..

Since this seems to be a regular chivaree of everyone missing everyone else's point (okay, I'm exaggerating for humorous effect), read what I said again. I was trying to say that we really need to look at the true, heart reasons for things we do that are questionable, especially when Scripture raises a red flag. Wanting to witness to a counter-cultural group is certainly a noble motive, but I don't think we all need to smoke hookahs and down Quaaludes to enhance our witness among them.

I understand the point you're making, but honestly I think it's a diversion from the point. I certainly do not intend to zero in on the "counter-culture" and say that they are the lone contestants in the game to be worldly. People in Armani suits can be just as worldly. But the very reason for being counter-culture typically is REBELLION and self-centeredness. That is certainly not something to be encouraged.

I think we get too hung up on culture as if it's a sacred cow to be protected. A common view among liberal theologians is that Christian missionaries committed genocide when they took the Gospel to other cultures. Well, excuse me, but I don't think the Hindu suttee is something to be celebrated and cherished. It needs to stop, and conversion to Christ helps accomplish that goal.

The men in some parts of Irian Jaya wear gourds over their nether regions and nothing else, but I wouldn't recommend walking in downtown Peoria like that. I have seen examples of when these people come to Christ and begin to learn the biblical concepts of modesty and covering their nakedness.

We need to recover what it means to be biblical in our thinking. This is not legalism, but drawing closer to the mind of Christ. That is my point, perhaps expressed not as coherently as I would like. I hope this hits closer to the bullseye. And BTW..I don't necessarily disagree with Phil's assessment in this meta. I'm just trying to get us all to think about why we fight so hard to justify things that are dubious. "All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient."

MTR said...

All I could think about is what a shame it is that that tattoo parlor is gone. Seems like a great way to meet people and talk about Jesus.

I had a great talk about Jesus with the guy who gave me my tattoo. He was curious, and wanted to know... He asked, "What does John 15:13 say?"

Let me tell you...

Now, I didn't need a tat to do this, but it sure did open up a door. And I don't think of my tattoo as a scar from a past life of sin.

My tattoo is a constant reminder of Christ, no different than a cross tattoo.

donsands said...

"Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God." Sam. 6:7

Seems to me that Uzzah did a good thing here.
Any thoughts?

Phil Johnson said...

MTR: "What did I miss?"

Practically every salient point.

Again (and for the absolute last time in this thread), no one here has suggested that tattoos per se are sin. You want to get a tattoo of Smurfette on your ankle? Knock yourself out.

On the other hand, tattoos which flagrantly violate the second commandment, pagan emblems, pornographic pictures, and other evil imagery are something else.

We could discuss what constitutes a violation of the second commandment, but I get the distinct impression that you wouldn't really care to give the matter much serious thought anyway. After all, your caricature of my position is so much easier to ridicule and dismiss than any of the points I have actually made.

Have fun with it. I'm sure you are cracking yourself up.

Sled Dog said...


Get the email from my blog. I'm no longer in Sacramento.

Phil Johnson said...

Matt and Chip:

Next time I'm in Florida, I'm there. But what I'd like to do is listen to you guys preach.

In fact, I'm looking for Chip's oldest messages to download. Having heard a couple of his more controlled diatribes, I can't wait to hear what he sounded like when he lacked tact.

strammel said...

well, I like most of what there web site says they are about. They however say they are non-charismatic. What is that supposed to mean. If you believe in the unchanging word of God, then you believe in sings, miracles and wonders, etc. That is the unchanging Word.

It is actually possible to properly exegete scripture and be 'charasmatic'. Not the kind that is man centered, but the kind that allows God to move and puts no limits on Him.


Chuck said...

EveryDay Mommy:

Try this site:
I've never been there, but I've heard Jim Elliff preach on several occasions and I have several of his books and resources. I would imagine that his church is Word-centered.

MTR said...

"On the other hand, tattoos which flagrantly violate the second commandment, pagan emblems, pornographic pictures, and other evil imagery are something else."

I agree. 100%.

And I invite you to respond on my blog... I'll even post it.

BTW--I really do like you guys, and don't doubt for one moment that we're in agreement on more than we are not. Honest. I bet we could have some fun talks over a beer.

Do you drink beer? ;-)

Changed By Grace said...

Hi, I'm the senior Pastor at Changed By Grace (not pictured). I have been encouraged by everything I have read in your responses to what Phil has written about our church. Before I say more, I want to thank you Phil for investing in us! I don't feel like I need to chime in on what everyone has said because I believe Matt and Chip have responded already to it. But I do want to make a comment on what Strammel said since he went to our web site and looked around. The best way to know who we are and what we're passionate about is to listen to our messages and read everything on the site even my blog, and especially our stance on being "non-charismatic." We are cessationists. We love people like CJ Mahaney and John Piper who aren't but rather than me explain it all here, let me post the link to where you can listen to what we have taught on this.

Strammel wrote, "well, I like most of what there web site says they are about. They however say they are non-charismatic. What is that supposed to mean. If you believe in the unchanging word of God, then you believe in sings, miracles and wonders, etc. That is the unchanging Word."

Stammel, and others who are interested, listen to my message called "The Truth About Tongues." I address what you are asking. You might even want to listen to my series on spiritual gifts. Here are the links:

"The Truth About Tongues".

"Spiritual Gifts" (on the gift of tongues,etc.).

p.s. As you listen, you should be able to hear who discipled me:>)

Garet Pahl said...

Phil, it was not your salient points about the transcendent relevancy of the Gospel that anyone has taken issue with. It was the less than conspicuous point that initially struck me as incongruent with the thrust of the whole post and that MTR picked up on as well:

Boyette told me he listened to a tape of a sermon I had preached on the second commandment ("Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image") and was devastated.

I agree with the second commandment- that should go without saying. But it came across to me(and apparently others)as gloating that your Biblical preaching caused these emergent dudes to denounce their tats out of guilt and condemnation. Now, if what you are saying is they were "devastated" by the realization that they were foolishly pursuing pragmatic means to make the Gospel more "relevant" to the counter culture when all that was needed was to preach the Gospel- Amen! That was the main theme of your post and what you communicated to us in the meta and I support that. And after Matt and Chip graciously unfolded their story for us in the meta, it is clear that is how they think.

Tattoos are irrelevant. My question, as inarticulate as it may have been, was in a sense asking- are you sure these guys haven't been Judaized? Does that make sense? Just as the Christian Jews and Christian Gentiles where chowing down on some good lobster, the Judaizers come along and say hey stop that- the Torah teaches X, Y and Z! Being zealous new converts they are "devastated" and the lobster eaters denounce their appetites for lobster.

I am not saying you are a Judaizer, or accusing anyone at this blog of that, nor would I ever, the overwhelming evidence is to the contrary. I was asking, did they receive the teaching in that manner? Did Chip, Matt and the boys overhaul their whole ministry because they felt guilty about tattoos? No they didn't. Well, okay. Praise God for the reasons why they did.

THAT was my salient question, which was answered, though never directly.

My concern comes from the reality that often, zealous new believers can over apply good teaching to a wicked extreme. In years of youth and college ministry I've seen it time and time again, as such reaction has birth hyper-Calvinism, legalism, antinomianism, aestheticism, etc. By the zeal of yearning to be right(often for the sake of piety), they overshoot the mark by miles.

Am I making sense here? Or am I still coming across as tangential and thick skulled?

MTR: I'll have that beer with you.

CalvDispy said...

I find it interesting that many Christians are constantly seeking to justify their worldliness and anyone who might question such practices is immediately deemed a legalist. The legalism card always gets pulled when the murky world of worldliness is questioned. It reminds me of the deceptiveness of sin (Eph. 4:22; Titus 3:3; Heb. 3:13). Sin always lures us into thinking that something is okay. Sin never bares its ugly face and says I am harmful, destructive and distracting to what is pure, holy, righteous and promoting our spiritual health.

SolaMeanie said...

One more comment on this, than I am done. I've probably said too much already.

In connection with the Torah's proscription against marking the skin were the pagan practices of the nations. God's command to His people was to be separate and distinct from pagans, and to not adopt their practices. That is the HEART message behind the proscription. That is what I have been trying to point out all along. When individual Christians consider getting tattoos, drinking beer, Coca-Cola, swamp water or some other liquid, getting earrings, using certain slang or words, or any other thing we might encounter, we need to ask ourselves the question of why we are doing it. Will the things we want to do serve to identify us wrongly with the culture we are confronting with the claims of Christ?

Secondarily, just because our motivation might be to witness to others, that is no justification for glossing over or ignoring a Scriptural command or principle. Some of the Emergent types think they should use potty language to identify with the people they're trying to reach, despite the Bible's clear statements that we are not to talk like that. You don't violate Scripture to fulfill Scripture.

I make no secret that I don't think much of Christians getting tattooed post-salvation, however, I am not going to say that they are sinning per se. That is between them and the Lord. I don't really think much of most fads that come down the pike. I caved in one time to a fad in my youth and bought a pair of bell bottom trousers to fit in with the fashion rage at the time. I immediately felt very foolish. Since then I have resolutely ignored what is fashionable. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. And believe me, I have very little to be vain about! The older I get, the more my head resembles a Chia pet.

Seriously, I would encourage anyone considering these things to clearly think through the issues and be guided by the leading of the Holy Spirit working through His Word. And may we all be able to discern between His leading and something that we are motivated to do for the wrong reasons, be it style, fashion, being cool or "with it," etc.

The only mark I want on me is the seal of the Holy Spirit promised to all who believe. The marks left on me by my earthly sojourn I can't wait to cast off forever.

jbuck21 said...

Matt and Chip,

Wow! Praise God for your testimonies! We LOVE to hear of the lost getting saved - my wife and I were super encouraged by your stories.
A good friend of ours suggested a book called "The Soul Winner" by Spurgeon - it's incredible if you haven't read it (though hearing your own words about your lives in Christ, I'm sure you have).

Again, thanks for the heart-warming, and keep winning souls to Christ!


Phil Johnson said...

Garet: "Am I making sense here? Or am I still coming across as tangential and thick skulled?"

If you're asking me, I think you still sound a bit tangential and thick-skulled. You're still complaining about something no one said anyway, dealing with ground that has already been well covered and then re-tread repeatedly. It sounds to me as if you are protesting too much.

Look: I don't like legalism; I deplore it. People who know me best will all tell you I'm no legalist. Even my sons (all three of whom in the past decade have traversed their teenage years and have now arrived at adulthood and independence with their faith intact) will tell you that they never once thought of me as a legalist, nor did they feel I was too punctilious in the imposition of parental restrictions. You can pore over everything I have ever written on my blog, or listen to a decade's worth of my sermons that have been put online, and I don't think you will be able to point out one thing I have ever said or written that could legitimately be construed as arguing in favor of extrabiblical rules, promoting lists of culturally-based dos and don'ts, championing teetotalism, or cheerleading for any of the classic extrabiblical issues often cataloged and forbidden (or mandated) by some of our more overweening fundamentalist brethren.

In fact, I'm constantly reminded that there is no shortage of people who would be eager and ready to expose such a transgression on my part, because every time I mention any issue that hits within the outer perimiters of a region close by someone's cherished Christian liberty, the false charge of "legalism!" is the first sound you will hear. But in all the discussions we've had here, not one critic has ever seriously pressed that argument against any position I have taken. They invariably fall back and claim they brought the issue up not really to charge me with legalism, but merely to make sure there's plenty of indulgence-margin so that no one will ever think this or that favorite activity might be morally questionable.

And while they're at it, they invariably declare their love for beer.

Can I be frank? That all adds up to a very foolish position for anyone who really understands human depravity. Because as fallen creatures, we are all prone to make idols of anything and everything. Calvin rightly referred to the fallen human heart as an idol factory. And when you make an idol of something, that is sin of the worst kind. Matters of personal appearance are especially productive clay for human idol-factories.

So while I don't say tattoos are sinful per se, I'm also not going to suggest, as you seem to wish to hear me say, that tattoos are a harmless, always-benign, perfectly Christ-honoring hobby for Christians to indulge in.

Ditto on the beer. (Don't promote it in my comment-threads, BTW. There are less savory districts in the blogosphere where that sort of thing is more appreciated. In the future, please make your drinking appointments in their comment-threads. What? They don't allow comments? Well, bummer.)

Back on topic: If you have a tattoo (especially a religious image) that is such an idol to you that you cannot resist blogging about it and posting pictures of it every few weeks, and boasting about how God-honoring you think it is, perhaps you ought to look into options for surgical removal. In Matt Boyette's case, it seemed clear to me that he has outgrown the "this-tattoo-is-the-Jesus-I-worship" stage, so I did not suggest that he get it removed.

That's what I mean when I say tattoos aren't the real issue. Perhaps you mean something different.

As for "gloating," I'm sorry if I gave that impression. My intention was not to commend myself, but the power of God's Word and Matt's response to it. It wasn't meant as any kind of boast—though I do gladly celebrate the power of God's Word and rejoice with a full heart when anyone responds to it with conviction.

And for reasons that I think would be obvious to most mature believers, I do think it's actually commendable when a guy with a bigger-than-life image of the face of Jesus tattooed on his torso hears a message on the second commandment and soberly, biblically examines the question of whether he has violated the second commandment--regardless of your opinion on the propriety of tattoos per se.

Anyway, if you want to hear my thoughts on the actual subject of legalism, I preached three messages on the subject just last October, as a part of a study in Galatians. You can download them here. (Look for three successive messages with the word "Liberty" in the title.)

Garet Pahl said...

Arrgh. Okay, this is the last time I am going to post on this topic to the best of my ability.

Phil, why do you keep defending yourself from attacks of legalism by me? I have gone out of my way to insist that is not my opinion of you. Nor has it ever been. As an avid reader and fan of James White I learned of your blog on the day of its inception, have been following it and commenting at it every since and would never suggest such a thing about you, Frank, or Dan. I know better. Sometimes you may come across as stuffed shirt Baptists, but I would counter that any man who likes to eat whole baby ducks still in the egg isn't a stuffed shirt. Not to mention your frequent employment of Biblical humor and the general jovial mood found on at Team Pyro. Although, Frank still is the funny one.

And I don't think tattoos benign, nor do I want you to express such. If you read my comment to Frank, in the beginning of this thread it reads, There are many good reasons why Caleb shouldn't get a tattoo. I don't have tattoos, nor do I ecstatically endorse them, regardless of the content. I have counseled many friends and students out of getting them. My original question had nothing to do with you personally or what you teach, it had to do with how that teaching had been received by someone else. There is the reality that sometimes people take good teaching the wrong way, and that is what I was addressing. I sincerely regret if it came across as an attack on you and apologize for being obtuse. This whole "controversy" has been counter productive in the sense that I agree with you and rejoice in what has occurred in Matt and Chip's lives due to the preaching of God's word and the sovereign influence of His Grace.

I apologize for accepting an invitation for a pint with MTR in your thread. I concur, not appropriate. I feel free to accept such in invitation due to Romans 14, feeling I am in good company with the Reformers and Puritans, but realize this is not the appropriate place. I will listen to those sermons with interest(as will I the sermons on the Ten Commandments).

I have genuine Agape for you and your ministry here Phil. Sometimes I disagree with you because I'm confessionally reformed and covenantal in my thinking, but when it comes to soteriology, the power of the Gospel for salvation and the wickedness of the pomo emergent "philosphies" of ministry, I couldn't be more more in harmony.

See you in other metas...

By His Grace, Garet

MTR said...

"If you have a tattoo (especially a religious image) that is such an idol to you that you cannot resist blogging about it and posting pictures of it every few weeks, and boasting about how God-honoring you think it is, perhaps you ought to look into options for surgical removal."

I blog about it, same post, often because you might be amazed at how many Christians are searching to find out if a tattoo is a sin. It's not, and frankly I'm happy they find my blog as a way of learning about leagalism and how not to sweat the stupid stuff.

It's not gloating. It's not showing off. It's not pride. It's talking about what the Bible has (or doesn't have, in this case) to say about something.

300+ hits a day of just people looking for info about Christian tattoos... It's amazing that our culture has made following Christ about such legalism. Very unfortunate. So I repost the tattoo post on my blog frequently because I happen to think it's helpful.

dad said...

hey Phil its Chip,i don't know how these blogs work after bing one day old it might be yestudays news.i wanted to thank everyone for your post they were very good.On a serious note to you phil, if you have tortured myourself and listend to a message or two that i have preached,Your input would be greatly desired,even if you tell me to keep my day job,or even if you sue me for plagorism.No seriously i would love some direction from one whom i respect dearly.I would also like to invite people to our web site changedbygracechurch.org and click on about then praise band and give a listen or watch the video of two songs i wrote The reformed Jesus loves me and also Before the earth,let me know what you think.Remember im an artist therefore that makes me sensetive..Rebuke a wise man and he becomes wiser...Faithful are the wounds of a friend..Open rebuke is better than secret love..Thanks again everyone.This was my first envolvement with blogging.P.S. the greek word for beer is Satins Urine..Not too tastey..Love chip

donsands said...


How do you interpret Lev. 19:28?

"You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD."

The Lord meant something here. What's your thinking?
I don't have a firm interpretation for myself as yet.
The important thing for us is to find out what the Lord desire is.

MTR said...

Leviticus? Have you read the rest of the chapter? Levitical law... Probably not a good path to go down, unless we are all to stop wearing polyester and sideburns. Lots of sinners in the 70's, I suppose. ;-)

Lots of fun dietary restrictions in there too.

These were old covenant laws to the Levites. I don't know, maybe we're still under old covenant law. If we are, it sure does change a lot.

dad said...

This is Chip,to respond to donsands,The word tattoo, is only a few hundred years old,a better word would be engreved,just like isaiah 49:16 i have engraved you in the palms of my hands oh isreal and her walls are ever before me.This word engraved means like an image or to know all about one, like a finger print,like as if ones face could be seen,later translation render the word tattoo,in isaiah.In lev.19:28 they were(the pagans) cutting themselves and worshiping the dead .side note kind of like a tattoo that might read in memory of or alot of dale ernhart tats,that seem as if one were a god.For instance my wifes picture on my leg,if she were to be taken to be with the Lord,my tattoo would take on a different meaning,not to me, but in the form of worshiping the dead? possibly.now to me it would just be a memory or picture near and dear.this is one reason tattooing can be so dangerous.for instance an idol only holds meaning to the one that holds the veiw of what it means to them.entertian me a little while please,for instance the peace sign to a hippie may mean peace dude,but to one that knows its an upside down cross with the sides broke representing nero...Ruling and defiling it..to that person it means more than peace.God does entend for His people to be separate.In lev you must also stay with the rest of the chapter for instance blocking your har or beard,no articles of clothing woven from two materials( this was for the reason of the rabi tassles so that they would recieve the royal blue dye to color them to signify a rabbi or teacher and two woven materials of a different kind some tighter than the others it would not properly recieve the dye).all this said and i know not to clearly but Those particular ruleings dont apply directly to us but principaly they ar very important. i encourage one to know all about this befor marking your self for god Knows the Heart.The ink in my skin is not the sin but the heart thats deep within born in sin.tattooes become very addictive for some,even th pain of them is some what able to saticfiy Your flesh.be careful..anything not done in faith is sin..those things a man knows to do and does not do it it is sin for him.. Love Chip Merkle

dad said...

Comment to MTR I do agree that a tattoo is not sin..But what it can do for the individual can be.Say a new convert runs out and gets a tattoo yet his best friend who also is a believer cant handle it....then we are right back to the weeker brother...and if frogs had wins they wouldn't hit their but when they jump I know....But there is always repercutions for every thing...My advise is that one just seriously search it out,and ask God to search the heart and reveal ones motives for doing so... i feel ya brother... Chip

donsands said...

"Those particular ruleings dont apply directly to us but principaly they ar very important."

Thanks Chip. I can see that you fear and love the Lord, and His Word.
I appreciate your sharing your heart.
All for the Cross. Galatians 6:14

Phil Johnson said...


As a matter of fact, I played one of your sermons for Darlene last night, then listened to another one on the way to work this morning. I love your passion, and it's obvious you prepare well. One of the sermons I chose was was one of your older ones: "God Is. . .You Aint." (75 minutes! I can't get by with that.) You had a great observation about 19 minutes in: "Christianity is a constant battle with imposters--a constant confrontation with people who claim to know Jesus yet experience no change of heart." Good stuff. There were lots of other statements I wanted to write down, but I was driving. I'll listen again when I can take notes.

But not tomorrow. Tomorrow I'm listening to Matt Boyette.

SolaMeanie said...

Could this be the moment for an injection of sardonic humor to let the steam out of this thread?

How about that we all collectively make the following rulings:

1. Anyone with tattoos needs to be flayed and confess to the Spanish Inquistion in the Comfy Chair.

2. Anyone wearing an earring must submit to the Chinese Water Torture, with the drip of the water focused precisely on the earlobe receiving said piercing.

3. Anyone who confesses Christ, but still maintains a fondness for Black Cavendish must be thrown immediately into the crater of Kilauea Iki.

4. Anyone who confesses Christ and still insists on dipping snuff (or cocaine) must allow a qualified M.D. to cauterize their sinuses with silver nitrate. Or at least to remove the packing without anesthesia.

5. Anyone believer who insists on maintaining a taste for White Zinfandel must be forcibly subjected to a direct I.V. drip of Everclear.

6. As General Eisenhower often told his cabinet, "This horse has been beaten to death. Let's move on to another one. "

MTR said...


Awesome. Yes! We agree! :-)

I have this post about tattoos (and I wont link it here because I don't want to appear to be trolling for hits) where I go into details about tattoos/sin. I talk about how tattoos are not sin and how they can become sin.

One way a tattoo can become sin is when people cause others to sin with them.

I get many emails about this post, and some of them are from young people wanting tattoos but saying their family will be mad because they think tattoos are sin.

Paul's words tell us that we shouldn't lead people into sin, and heck, if this kids dad is going to be upset that he got a tat there are bigger issues. I always urge them not to. It doesn't make sense to hurt a family for a tattoo.

Tattoos aren't sin. The results of a tattoo can be. I'm really cautious about this, since many people email me for advice. If one is concerned about the outcome of a tattoo, it's definitely not worth it.


CalvDispy said...

Will Christians with tattoos retain them when they recieve their glorified bodies?

Benjamin Ady said...

I found your post enormously sad. I think tatoos are fairly kewl, and I think god probably rather likes them, and ... i honestly can't stand the way that certain streams of christianity seem to produce ... chrisitans something like producing cookies--all from the same batter, and in the same shape.
and are you truly and honestly trying to apply o.t. wierdness to christians? I mean do you guys not wear clothes that are made from more than one type of fabric, etc etc etc.?

7K said...

There is an Old Testament verse or two prohibiting tattoos; and I never cared for them or jewelry. But in this age of grace, it is a non-issue. So is it a non-issue if you consider yourself emergent or not. You are where you are in your development in Christ from whatever stage of life you began. You bring into the church your unique gifts and experiences. Yes, try to line up with scriptural guidelines but beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is legalistic obsessiveness. Develop humility and love for Christians and non-Christians and you will go a long way in fulfilling your calling.

Were you called as illustrated men? Seek not to become unillustrated.

robby said...

It could be worse, you could be "singing for the ministry not for the industry" :-)

Let's not get hung up things such as this. But focus on God. Is it a sin to have a tattoo? Why, because Moses said so? Who are we as Christians to judge other Christians? Some people change fast and some change slow, that is for the Holy Spirit to work on that person. But it is a process of change. I say this all with love.

Morgan Hall said...

Wow I googled my old church to see if anything new and crazy had popped up! What you don't know about CBG is that the church was completely dissolved. The pastors destroyed the lives of so many young people with their manipulation of scripture. I was kicked out of the church in March 2007 because I refused to shun another family and because we were looking for a new church home. Steve Hereford and Chip Merkle are heretics who truly believe they are ambassadors of the Lord. 10 years later and I am just barely recovered while I continue to seek healing and restoration like many others from this congregation. Boyette doesn't even attend church anymore...I found through my search this morning that Steve is a pastor of another church. My chest tightened as I became incredibly fearful of the flock of poor souls he is shepherding.