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Jesus Geeks: The body made digital

Rev. Nathan Webb wanted to bring the church to the communities of nerds, geeks and gamers he participated with online. This started an adventure through which he found those communities had a lot to teach the church about connection, support and faith. Get ready to let your geek flag fly as we learn about the surprising ways faith forms community in digital space.

Episode 4: The body made digital

Video Transcript:

I'm contemplating that I've careened into a contemporary contemplative community by coincidence. 

What I mean to say is this... Checkpoint, the church for nerds, geeks, and gamers hasn't stopped moving since the moment we launched our Discord community space.

You see, I've learned recently that the Church is, in fact, the building. 

I grew up in the church as the Pastor's Kid and my day-to-day life was when we would arrive at the church to open the doors and how long it would last until the last car pulled out of the parking lot so we could lock those doors back. 

It was a series of entrances and exits made up of powerful worship and relationship-buiding.

And it was good.

I then went into the ministry and was gifted with the opportunity to serve a new church start in Winston-Salem, NC. I would arrive to open the doors on Sunday morning to prepare the space for worship and then I would wonder how long it would last until the last car pulled out of the parking lot so I could lock those doors back. 

And it was good.

Then I was appointed to a church and, you guessed it, I measured my days by the time that the church was locked and unlocked. 

And it was good.

So, like a short-sighted Pastor ought, I assumed that Checkpoint would be one and the same. That it would be a series of opening and closing digital doors. 

Instead, I discovered a beating heart of a new kind of old organism - the church was alive. It wasn't being resuscitated on Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings - it was alive.

I started with Twitch, where I would open the doors three days a week for a few hours at a time. But I began to discover that when I would end our live streams, there were people still waiting outside the door. Something needed to change.

The community commanded a place called Discord, that I'd barely even heard about, let alone used for the church.

But I humbly began to craft, building shaky brick by brick, byte by byte, of what would become a digital church building. 

I opened the doors, certain that the nerds would call me out on my shoddy workmanship. And they did, to be fair. But they stayed and helped me carve out the rough spots and line up the drywall seam. 

And when we were done working, they didn't leave.

They stayed in the building. 

And even now, as I write, say this, or you watch this - they're still there. 

Ever since that first moment that I built those digital doors, they've never once been locked.

Some days the halls of the digital building are quieter than others, but they're never empty. 

In my home church, there's a door that never locks, too. It's a prayer room. In that room, there are guides and Bibles and comfy chairs and tables. Drawing utensils, tools of contemplation.

I've always loved that room. I've always loved the idea that it never locks.

But I never thought that the whole building could remain unlocked. I've always seen the building as not being what the church really is. I've always thought we worship it like an idol. 

One critique I hear of the digital church often is that we don't have a physical building, so we cannot be a church. My usual retort was that the church is not a building. 

But maybe it is. Maybe we've just gotten confused about what we actually built. 

We assume that the building is brick and mortar, but what if it's not that at all? 

What if the building that is the church can't be locked, protected or insured? What if the building that we call church is something built by people and their time and their willingness and desire to be together?

I careened into the contemplative culture known as Checkpoint. It's monastic. It's contemplative. It's 24/7 community that is the beating heart of the church. 

When God felt distant from the people of Israel, God built a dwelling place.

When the dwelling place wasn't enough, God built a dwelling being. 

When the dwelling being died and rose, God left a dwelling Spirit. 

And that dwelling Spirit descended upon the people to dwell within the Body.

And the dwelling Body we call the Church. And the Body is alive. 

What is being built? Where is the fruit being seen? If the church is building, where is the Spirit alive?

Look - I am doing a new thing.

The Body digital has not stopped moving since. It is alive and vibrant.

When the Body began to decline, the dwelling was made digital. So be it.

Nathan Webb is a major nerd in just about every way. He loves video games, anime, cartoons, comic books, tech, and his fellow nerds. Hoping to provide a spiritual community for people with similar interests, he founded Checkpoint Church--"the church for nerds, geeks and gamers." Nathan can be found lurking on some visual novel subreddit, reading the latest shōnen entry, or playing the newest Farm Sim. Nathan is an ordained provisional elder in the United Methodist Church in the Western North Carolina Conference. He hosts a weekly newsletter podcast: To The Point.