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Jesus Geeks: Video games and hearts waiting for love

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 1: Video games and hearts waiting for love

Video Transcript:

You've heard it said that video games are all gore, violence, and guns - but I say to you it's about the people you meet along the way.

I’m Nathan Webb, the pastor of Checkpoint Church, an online community for nerds, geeks and gamers.

A quick parable: a human falls into the underground - a fantastic land of monsters and things that go bump in the night. Except these monsters - they don't want to fight. They want to be friends. They want to talk and learn and grow and get to know the human. In fact, they're more afraid of the human than the human is of them. 

In one reality, the human loves and makes friends and rescues them from their prison underground.

In the other reality, there is a genocide and all are destroyed. 

What if the kingdom of Heaven is like a choice between knowing the good and knowing the bad and picking your path along the way?

When I first planted a church among the nerds, geeks, and gamers, I had my own presuppositions about how things were going to go. 

I love the game Undertale - the one I just described - and I wanted to share that with people so that they could hear the story. I wanted to use that story to tell the greatest story ever told. But this plan of mine was short-sighted. The path was already being paved before I showed up.

I quickly discovered that God was already doing something else among the nerds, geeks, and gamers. I discovered another world. I discovered a place called Twitch.

I thought I would have to seek out the nerd. I thought I would have to invite them into my church building. Instead, I discovered that they already had one of their own. 

They were on Twitch. And they were there way more than just one hour on Sunday morning! 

They were on Twitch for hours each day. Hopping into one chatbox after another - connecting, growing deeper with one another. Christian or not - community was being done in ways I'd never seen before.

They had their own language. Their own culture. Their own habits and tendencies. I saw deeper connections than I'd ever seen  in the church. I found the promised land.

I started to connect and enter into that space on Twitch. I got to know faces and voices and text speak. I learned cultures and emotes and pogchamps. I learned that God really did have something greater in store here. 

What started with a vision of a weekly, hour-long Bible study on a video game turned into the prophetic discovery of a community. I was thinking within the parameters I knew, but the Internet was offering a new way to connect. A community that was vibrant and active. 24/7 growth in relationships -  like the church I’d only been able to dream about.

Let us consider how we may spur one another onward towards good deeds and love. Let us not give up meeting together as the established church has the habit of doing, but instead meet more than anyone has in a church building in decades.

Let us encourage one another with emotes, cheers, and PogUs. 

Let us spam the chat. 

Let us encourage and love and shout ‘let's go’ at the top of our lungs at the excitement and the goodness of that which is happening together in community playing video games online.

Another parable: a human falls underground, called by God to do so. He’s fallen to a fantasy land filled with monsters, trolls, and things that scare the physical church. 

He sees before himself two opportunities: one that's been done before, another that is new. 

The monsters of the Internet don't want to hurt him. in fact, they are more scared of him than he is of them.

In one reality, the human continues to do more of the same - planting another church of a traditional background, singing praise music in a building with light and fog. 

In another reality, the human chooses to be friends and discovers no one needs rescuing, they just need a place to be welcomed. 

Which would he choose? 

The kingdom of heaven is like a choice - a choice between knowing the good and the bad and which path you will take.

But the princess is not in another castle - people are waiting right here looking for someone to love them, to teach them, and to help them unite.

Gore, violence, and guns? Sure, you can find them, if you look on the surface. But look a little deeper and what you'll find is people that are waiting to be found. Beating, loving hearts of the nerd, geek, and gamer waiting for a connection.

 


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.