As part of Missions Week, my fellow esteemed writers will share about their own experiences as a missionary for Christ, and how God has called them to such ministry work. I am going to do something different – I would like to discuss the mission work we can do, not just as individuals, but together as the Christian Gaming Community. That community includes me, and (depending on who’s reading this), probably you as well.
We Are All Missionaries
Most evangelicals agree that Jesus Christ gave the Great Commission not just to those who feel called to become full-time evangelists, but to ALL Christians. That’s me, and probably you. Christ gave us a mission. There’s no opt-out clause. It’s not optional. So what IS this mission? Evangelicals differ on some secondary issues, but most agree: the mission is for us to “make disciples”, which entails leading non-believers to Christ (evangelism) and helping one another to grow to be more Christ-like once we are believers (discipleship). Again, this isn’t optional.
Of course we can “do mission” in many different ways. I see generally three approaches: as an individual (witnessing to your neighbor or to your colleague), as part of local church ministry (discipleship and evangelistic efforts of the local church), and as part of para-church efforts. The last one is what I want to discuss in this article. Can the Christian Gaming Community become a missional para-church entity?
The Christian Gaming Community as Para-Church Ministry
There are many good reasons why a gaming para-church entity makes sense. As part of the gaming community, we are specially positioned to understand and minister to non-Christian gamers (of which we are increasingly aware that it is an “unreached people group”). We are, perhaps, the ONLY people who can use our communal video game experiences to edify each other. Lastly, apart from explicit evangelistic efforts, we are uniquely positioned to serve our communities in ways other Christians cannot (I’ll give some examples later).
Yet, there are some reasons why this might not happen. Thus far, my observation is that many Christian gamers don’t seem to care very much about partnering with each other to serve God. Many of us are still talking about games and gaming as consumers (which is not wrong), but we rarely ascend to the level to talk about games as a way for us to serve God. I’m not sure if we WANT to ascend to that level. Even if we do, like all para-church entities there are certain disagreements that may arise with regards to theology and ministry approach. Will we be able to overcome such differences and work together? To be honest, I am unsure.
What Can the Christian Gaming Community Do – A Vision
Even if we can sufficiently agree to work together, what do we DO? Supporting and being involved with the currently existing organizations (GameChurch, Christian Gamers Guild, etc.) is a start. Getting more and more Christian gamers connected (GameChurch City seems like the best platform for this) is also good. But after that, then what? This is my vision of what we CAN do:
- To expand upon GameChurch’s current ministry of giving out bibles at conventions, we can also organize actual evangelistic events next to the convention areas. We preach the gospel and invite people to accept Christ at these convention-based events.
- We can set up regional chapters of Christian Gamers (e.g. one in each major city), to assist those who accepted Christ at the evangelistic events to find local churches, and to act as a proxy discipleship community until they are plugged in a local church. Local chapters can also organize semi-regular meetings to encourage each other, and to discuss issues related to Christianity and gaming.
- We can set up mercy ministries that are related to gaming – I am thinking about service to game addicts, as well as using games to serve latch-key kids (like how GameChurch started out as The Armory).
- Engage and be part of the discussion on how video games can do good and contribute to human flourishing, such as the “Games for Good” movement that James Portnow is currently championing.
- Encourage Christians in the game industry, e.g. participate in Christian Game Developers Conference to encourage them and pray with them.
- Be part of Christian conferences to engage with the general Christian community at large about how to minister to gamers and how to engage with pop culture (e.g. I think Lecrae has been doing this recently).
These are just some preliminary ideas – I’m sure there are more possibilities that others can imagine.
A Clarification and a Call
At this point I need to make an important clarification about what I am NOT saying. I am NOT saying that if you play video games “just for fun” and not “for God” then you are sinning. In fact, if you feel guilty that you’re not doing more for God with your gaming, then you’re probably already suffering from the kind of legalism I want to avoid here. What we need to avoid (and this is true for ALL ministry work) is the mentality that God would find me more favorable or deserving should I labor harder for him. This is utterly untrue. We can never be more favorable or deserving in God’s eyes no matter what we do, because when he looks down upon us, he sees the righteousness of Christ, not our sin-tainted works.
The call is not for us to love our video games less, but to love Christ more. I believe that the more we love Christ, the more our hearts will be shaped to have the desires of Christ, and the more we will desire to reach out to the lost, to encourage fellow believers, and to love and care for the needy. This is the call – to love Christ more. And I believe when enough of us in the Christian Gaming Community do that, amazing things will happen, which may far surpass our imagination. The question is, then: will you heed the call?