Question about Guidance for missionaries:
"Would someone with piercings or tattoos encounter problems on the mission field (in terms of culture or religion or from sending agencies)?"
At that time we recommended that missionaries not have tattoos. Today it is possible that the younger generations are starting to do tattoos; I don't know. Younger generations in the countries we lived in tended to copy trends from the U.S.
Can tattoos hinder ministry or close doors? Yes, in some countries and some areas with some people.
Will they hinder your ministry? That will depend on where you will live and who you are working with.
When deciding on a tattoo I was very cautious about what I got and where I got it. My tattoo is located on my forearm and is just a simple compass. I did this so I could cover it with a long-sleeved shirt it I was in a place that was tattoo-sensitive. I chose a compass because it is not an offensive symbol anywhere and it allows me to share about my love for the world.
With all of this said, I personally think that tattoos are not harming for those on the mission field, as long as they are smart about what art work they get and where it is on their body. Tattoos are meant to tell a story (good or bad), so why not use them to share the gospel?
Sometime I think that tattoos get too much negative attention, when the focus should be on the work one is doing. At the end of the day, as long as the tattoo isn't hindering one from performing the work God has sent them to do, then I believe that it's fine.
Editor's note: For another example of how a tattoo could be seen positively, see this story about a Christian worker in Poland: [Journeyman's] Tattoos Present Him with Witnessing Opportunities (Baptist Press).
Therefore, the short answer is: "it depends." If you are meeting members of a motorcycle club, then tattoos and piercings might be a benefit. If you are working with business professionals, tattoos might not be helpful.
If you are thinking of getting a tattoo, ask yourself these questions: Why do I want a tattoo? What will I be communicating with it? Will it enhance the Christian message or detract from it? Will it pass the Colossians 3:17 test, "Whatever you do, whether word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him?"
Remember, you are always communicating whether by your clothes or your hair style, but perhaps especially by your body art.
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