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Jesus Geeks: A convention of connection and community

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 2:  A Convention of Community and Connection

Video Transcript:

The gift of a lanyard is that you can hang them anywhere. You never have to get rid of it. You can wear as many as you'd like. Here are my most recent two... one from the Queen City Anime Convention and the other from my denominational conference.

Both have memories attached to them as well as namecards. But the events themselves are undeniably different things.

My name is Nathan Webb, I pastor Checkpoint Church, an online community for nerds, geeks and gamers.

What first drew me to the world of the nerd, geek, and gamer was the convention as a concept. Growing up in the church, the closest parallel that we had was a $10 Christian Concert with a double-length sermon in the dead center. 

The only cosplay at a Christian convention was put on by the youth pastors. 

No booths, art, or camarederie. At best, we had our fandoms based around our favorite bands. 

The bands that, I presume, the youth pastors were cosplaying.

And while I love the thought of a cheap jam in the winter, there was something else out there that I didn't know existed - a place where people were gathering together, dressed as their favorite gaming protagonist or bright-haired anime waifu. 

A place where artists were not just welcome but elevated with an alley of their own. And not just those with the credentials of Newsong or Elevation Church, but independent artists, unknown names, using their creative gifts given to them by a creative God.

A place where panel discussions weren't on the state of the declining reach of the pews, but instead on the vibrancy of a culture that was loved by all who were present. 

A place where food is eaten not off by one's self, but in a sea of fellow fanatics, shoveling down junk food, energy drinks, and some barely authentic takoyaki from the food truck just outside the convention center. 

A place where cliques click by the bonds that are formed around the gaming table, whether it be a one-off in a dungeon with a dragon or in the latest bird-themed board game. 

While I was passing the bright orange offering bucket, there was a place that was hand-crafted just for a nerd like me. For the nerd, by the nerd, to the nerd. 

When I discovered that such a mecca existed, I needed to know more. At first, I was jealous. 

Then I saw that the nerds had something that the church did not, but it didn't have to be that way. 

I had pitched the possibility for the church to bring Jesus to the nerds - and we would. But what I knew deep down was that the education would go both ways. 

Our church conventions bear the heavy responsibility of sharing the gospel and transforming lives. 

But the nerd convention also bears the weight of transforming lives and, I'm afriad they might be a bit better at it than us. 

But it doesn't need to be a zero-sum game. We can learn and offer invaluable gifts to one another without taking from either’s mission. 

To the nerds, we offer the Body of Christ. We offer the freedom of the risen Savior. 

But to the church... to the church, we offer a renewed sense of community that we lost somewhere along the way.

In the beginning, the church devoted themselves to teaching and fellowship.

Imagine a non-mandatory panel in the church. Imagine a passion to return to teaching and fellowship of the best bits.

In the beginning, everyone was filled with awe at the wonders and signs.

When was the last time we had awe at a convention other than the words that just came out of so-and-so’s mouth?

In the beginning, the believers were together and had everything in common. 

When can we return to what we have in common?

In the beginning, they met together with glad and sincere hearts, praising and enjoying the favor of all the people.

And the Lord added to their number.

We talk so much about growth, instead of doing the things that lead to it actually happening. 

This past conference in Western North Carolina, one of our District Superintendents, the same one that served as Church Developer when Checkpoint was approved, hosted a one-off campaign of Dungeons and Dragons. We had so many people at the table that we had to form several conference tables before all was said and done. 

In Ohio, one of my friends Derek White will be instructing pastors on how to take D&D&D into their churches - that is to say, Dungeons & Dragons & Discipleship. 

Times they are a-changing, or maybe reinventing the very beginning, and the pile of lanyards keeps stacking higher and higher. And the best part of a lanyard is that you don't have to just wear one.

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.