We’ve recently been introduced to two styles of problem solving: Human-Centered Design (HCD) and Gamification. HCD says to spend a lot of time interviewing the people you’re creating something for, and to involve some of them throughout the whole design process. This process really sees people, their aches, and their hopes; and there are plenty of examples of it in the Bible (Prov 19:2, 20:5; Mark 2:17; Acts 17:22-29; Phil 2:3; 1 Thes 2:7-11). This is how we developed a gospel presentation specific to people from an honor/shame culture as well as our StoryRunners ministry.
The drawback of the HCD method is that it costs a lot of manpower, time, and the money to customize a solution for a specific audience. There’s also the danger that the people you involve won’t accurately represent your whole audience, or that you will have to re-design for every new audience you want to engage. That’s where gamification comes in, which looks at why people voluntarily spend their time/money on games (from sports to slot machines) and says that “people are called to action and transformation through these common motivations.” After all, God already knows what motivates the hearts of mankind (Psalm 139:1-2; Prov 21:1; Matt 6:8). Do we get people to do what’s good for them by appealing to their better natures, referred to as “white hat motivators” (Matt 28:18-20; Mark 1:17; John 1:12; Romans 5:8; 2 Cor 5:20)? Or, do we try to move people toward God through the discomfort and urgency of “black hat motivators” (Ez 3:18; John 15:2; Luke 12:20, 16:27-28; Heb 9:27)?
As we come up with ways to build communities, equip believers to spread the love of God, and invite new people into His family, some balk at the idea of “playing on people’s emotions,” which is a valid concern. It may be impossible to avoid it completely, but what we can do is make sure we are primarily focused on truly seeing and loving the people we’re engaging. In all we do, let us allow Christ to lead our hearts, and let the Spirit produce His fruit in our lives (1 Cor 9:16; 2 Cor 5:14; Phil 1:15-18).