A new writer for Theology Gaming, Andrew Crawford is pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Christian Leadership and Education from the Baptist College of Florida. He hopes to discover ways in which to connect the local Church to real ministry in the gaming culture. Andrew also has a passion for student ministry, writing, and sports. He even has a crazy dream of having his own sports podcast or column. He has (very) recently taken up writing about gaming to further these goals.
Although quit busy doing his own thing at 3 Day Respawn and in other pursuits, Crawford took the time to write about his own path to ministry. So, without further ado, let him describe himself (that sounded weird).
I felt the privilege as the Lord led me into an exciting new area of ministry: bringing the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the culture and community of video games. I came to see the immense need for evangelism and ministry among gamers, and how they are, by and large, a community left out by the Church at large.
My journey starts in Christmas 1997 when I received my first gaming console: a Nintendo 64. I immediately fell in love with gaming as I traveled the Siberian snow with James Bond, saved the Princess as Mario, and defended the galaxy with Star Fox. From then on, gaming turned into my favorite pastime. Though I participated in other activities like football, basketball, and guitar, the end of the day found me with a Game Boy, computer, or console playing my favorite games.
My life changed forever as a freshman in high school. I had always attended church. Since God blessed me with a family of strong believers, I knew about Christ, but I went simply because my family went. Nothing I heard from the pulpit really stuck with me. Then my student minister taught on a Wednesday night and she told us that we could indeed fool everybody around us: our friends, family, and fellow church goers, but we could not fool an almighty God. He knew if we truly loved Him, or if we were just playing a game. Then she shared how we could foster a real relationship with Him, not the inculcated one I kept before. The Gospel message that I had heard so many times before seemed real for the very first time to me.
That night in my bedroom in Fernandina Beach, Florida I stopped playing games with God. He answered my prayers and Jesus saved me. Suddenly, my priorities changed, and the more that I read my Bible I knew that I wanted to make a difference. As I went through high school and got more involved with the student ministry, I felt God’s call on my life to the ministry. In the Fall of 2009 I arrived on campus at the Baptist College of Florida: fresh out of High School, bright eyed, and ready to change the world right then and there.
Like all young people, of course, I realized that I knew very little about ministry – or Jesus for that matter! So I took to the task of studying and learning about this God I would serve. I learned more about Jesus, the Bible, and the meaning of being a minister of the Gospel. Yet, the love for video games remained the same. Every night after my homework was done (though perhaps occasionally before) I powered on my Xbox 360 or my computer, grabbed some friends and had wonderful times. What I didn’t understand was how my gaming related to my ministry calling. As I learned more and desired to seriously consider that call, I pondered in my heart if God wanted me to give up gaming. I posted and took down numerous ads selling my games and console as I struggled with what I saw as conflicting desires: to do the work of the ministry, or playing video games.
Fast forward to fall 2012. Now a junior in college, I completed my last pre-requisite class: Introduction to Missions. I had went on a couple of mission trips and had a heart for the nations. So I sat in class with Dr. Richard Elligson and soaked in the history of missions: missions in the Old and New Testaments and missions organizations. We then studied what they call “para-church” ministries. Dr. Elligson challenged our class that we could take anything we loved doing and search Google, and we would find tons of organizations that used those things to reach people for Christ (Editor’s Note: Almost like a Christian version of Rule #34…maybe I shouldn’t have put that down). My curiosity piqued, I returned to my dorm room and began the Google search!
Contrary to Dr. Elligson’s assertion, I found little in my chosen area. Ministries devoted to reaching gamers came few and far between relative to other subjects. Troubled by the results of my search, I felt unsure whether video games could turn into a ministry opportunity. So I turned to a fellow who previously served as an the interim pastor at my church, Dr Craig Culbreth; I had went to Haiti on missions with him. He now served as a missions strategist with the Florida Baptist Convention, and seemed like the right person to sort out what stayed on my heart. We conversed for a long time about it, and he simply told me that I might have found myself a people group that was not being reached. The Lord may very well be calling me to go to them.
After another season of prayer and discussions with Dr Craig, I found that the Lord indeed showed me something grand. He revealed that the two desires in my heart did not conflict at all: they were one and the same. He called me to minister the Gospel, not only in a church setting, but by simply using what I love doing: playing video games. He told me that He created me exactly the way that I was and that I was a video game nerd for a reason. He wished for me to share His Word with other people just like me who didn’t know Him. Since then, I have had numerous opportunities thrust in front of me (many of which I’m sure will show up in future writings), and have gloried in the peace of knowing His call on my life.