Video Games for Jesus?

     We broke absolutely new ground this month, as 5 students, 9 staff, and 9 volunteers learned from each other about how to live in a healthy balance with video games as well as how to share the gospel with video game players online and how to host tournament outreaches.  We heard from expert believers who are filmmakers, game designers, professional eSports athletes, psychologists, ministry leaders, and animators.

     We worked together to build an online community where new students who share this interest can make friends and learn from those who feel the call as video game missionaries.  We also put together a toolkit for campus staff around the country to learn how they can reach the gaming communities on their own campuses.

     Please pray that this work will continue to grow after the summer, so that we can truly reach each student on every campus with the love of Jesus, by bringing the gospel to where the students spend their time!

Teaching to Partner

Adonis and Pastor Sam

     What a blessing it has been to work with 9 students from all over the world who gathered at Cru HQ to serve this summer.  They have been faithfully working with me to find Freshmen on dozens of campuses in the US that have no Cru (many of whom have no gospel presence at all that we could find).  Once they find the key “people of peace” on a campus that God is calling to act as missionaries to their school, our students are gathering them for a vision meeting and helping equip them to launch!

     At the same time, I’m teaching these 9 intern-students to look up churches near each campus and start a dialogue about how God could use us together.  This is so vital because the local churches have a regular presence in the community and the opportunity to get into the lives of the students to a degree we never could.  A perfect example is Pastor Sam in Utah.

     Our student, Adonis, has found several believers at the university, but very few have been willing to be outgoing about their faith, especially in such a heavily Mormon area.  Pastor Sam, however, was thrilled to put us in touch with the 15 students that have been coming to his church right across the street.  We are incredibly blessed to have found a partner who can be our guide in an area so strongly represented by a different religion!

What God’s Been Teaching Us

     Have you ever had people look down on you because of something you do, wear, or like?  This is the essence of what I’m learning is called “Cringe Culture.”  It can be as simple and innocent as a surprised reaction, “Ew!  You eat that?!”  Sometimes, though, it can be deeply hurtful to someone, especially when the thing being criticized is central to one’s identity: maybe a speech impediment, or an activity from which they have gained a lot of life.

     Cringe Culture was the topic (during the “Gaming Summer Mission”) of one of our guest speakers: Bubba Stallcup, the president of a ministry called Love Thy Nerd.  He spoke about the heart of people judging what they don’t understand, which can happen with cross-cultural challenges in lots of ways.  InterVarsity made an excellent video teaching us how we can overcome these differences by leaning in with curiosity instead of pulling back in fear or judgment.

     Bubba went on to discuss just why being the victim of cringe culture bullying (which truly can reach bullying or abusive levels) can be so devastating to those who fall into a “geek” or “nerd” category.  Often, these kinds of interests (comic books, video games, sci-fi, fantasy, STEM, anime, etc) draw those with deep creativity and intelligence combined with an atypical social style or lack of natural social graces.  They pull into themselves when they feel condemned by the community at large, and sometimes find great relief and even social connection with others who share their interest.  Those interests can be their greatest source of life and hope, so when others tear it down or call it “weird,” it forcibly reminds them that they don’t belong.

     Jesus left the 99 to find the outcast (Matt 18:12-14).  He told us that He is the judge while we are to treat others the way we would like to be treated (Matt 7:1-3, 12): as part of the body, even if we are different (1 Cor 12:21-22).  Let’s lean in and learn from those who seem weird!

Sharing Jesus on Campus

Colleagues Clayton and Dan with a student they talked to about Jesus

     It was a beautiful day to be on campus!  Karen and I were able to spend time at one of the biggest colleges in the nation last week.  Our goal: to talk to students and faculty about Jesus.

     We got to meet many people with the simple question, “would you help us with this survey about spiritual things?”  Billy, an AC contractor, was wary, having been approached several times in the past by people who only seemed interested in pushing their faith.  Steven, a Math professor from Canada, acted deeply content in his atheism, though he struck us as almost dead inside. 

Karen and Jeff talking to students about video games and Jesus

Peter, a student from the Philippines, voiced his pain over being tied culturally to a religion that always acted unloving, but showed great interest in the gospel booklet we gave to him (students LOVE paper things)!  Mike, a marketing professor, was fascinated by our presence and has been texting Jeff ever since!  Please pray for our team that will keep reaching out on campus all summer!

Summer Team Training

     As our staff team gathered from around the country to prepare for leading our students on summer mission, we had the chance to spend extended periods of time in prayer, build team bonds, and get oriented to the mission work ahead. 

     We also got to learn from some of our expert leaders about Innovation, At-Risk Leadership (warnings, prevention, and resolution), the Abundant Life offered in Christ, and some awe-inspiring doors to ministry opening up in a part of the world we’re calling “The Crescent Window.”

     All of these were powerful times, but it probably isn’t a surprise to you that our favorite was the segment on innovation.  Building relationships between Cru and other ministries and local churches, ministry to board game and video game community… yeah, we’ve always been “outside-the-box” thinkers, but I can’t remember the last time I saw Karen get this excited!  She was so full of creative ideas, and free to inspire and be inspired.  Edison set a personal quota of one invention every 10 days.

     The innovation team extends an invitation once each year for staff members to attend their residency program in the Fall.  Please pray that we are selected to take part in helping to shape the future of Cru with the innovative wiring God has given us.

What God’s Been Teaching Us

     During our time working with missionaries these past few years, we have seen how they, like the rest of us, have been challenged with added stress, fatigue, and anxiety.  Fueled by her own journey, Karen has been learning and collecting resources that can help us understand what’s going on “under the hood” and walk with the Lord toward healing and healthy habits. 

     The Bible has a lot to say about how important it is to pay attention to both your mind and your heart, and how to take good care of them in order to thrive for the long run (Ez 36:26; Rom 12:2, 15; John 15:4-11; Prov 4:23; Prov 15:13-14a; 1 Peter 5:7-8; Phil 4:6-7; Ecc 3:1,4; Eph 4:26-27), and Cru has even developed a mental health outreach!  We’ve been greatly blessed by these resources, and many have voiced their own appreciation as we share the best we’ve found, so here they are.

Our Missing Peace ·  How to Process Emotions ·  Doctrinal Affirmations

Journaling out Chronic Pain ·  The Welcome Prayer ·  Abiding in Christ

Cinema Therapy ·  The Daily Examen

     Please pray for how God might continue to use Karen to empower missionaries around the world with an intimate relationship with the Lord and their own hearts.  While we highly recommend investing in a licensed therapist or counselor, Karen and I want to let you know that we are available to talk and pray with you as well!

JESUS STORIES AND GAMES

     Do you know any young people (high school or college) who love Jesus AND love video games?  Please send them this image and pray that God would show them how to live in balance, walk with Him in every area of their lives, and use their passions and opportunities to be a light to those of similar interest!

     In preparing to engage this people group that is new to Cru, I sought to learn from Karlena from a Cru ministry called StoryRunners.  Many of the unreached people groups they serve have no written language at all, so how do you teach someone the Bible when no one can read?  The same way Jesus did, by telling stories!

     Traditional teaching is proving less effective in a “post-literate” America, too, but story still gets to peoples’ hearts.  This is certainly true among game players, who LIVE for story.  Please pray for our students to become great listeners and great storytellers!

NOT ASHAMED OF JESUS

     “Sorry I’m so tired,” Tito told his discipler. “I was up until 4am last night.”

     Tito is a senior on the football team, and a member of our sports ministry there, called Athletes in Action (AIA). He’s the kind of guy who always has a question–something he is ruminating on–but he has struggled in the past to move from thought to action.  When challenged to lead the weekly Bible study, Tito has declined every time. When challenged invite his teammates, he rarely did. Tito has been thrilled to grow in his faith at AIA, but has stopped short at sharing this faith and community with others.

     That’s why what he said next surprised his discipler so much: “I’m glad we’re having lunch today, because I ended up talking about faith and God and stuff with my suitemate and another good friend from the football team. It was wild. But I actually really enjoyed it and was so surprised at how much they wanted to talk about it.”  He had the biggest grin while saying all this.

     Please pray that Tito would continue to feel a growing sense of God’s pursuing love for his friends, and an increasing boldness in lovingly sharing his relationship with Jesus during his final weeks in school and for a lifetime after graduation.  It is such a blessing to help build these communities where students learn to become missionaries to their friends and family in every area of life!

What God’s Been Teaching Us

Descartes, the father of deconstruction, doubted everything doubtable but concluded God MUST be who He says He is

     According to Pew Research, the percentage of Americans who consider themselves Christian has dropped 15% in the last 15 years, while those who say they have “no religion” have grown by about the same amount.  So, is the Church falling apart?  The newest series of sermons at our church (on doubting and “deconstruction”) has been possibly one of the most important we have heard there so far.  The pastor quoted Dr. John Marriott of Biola University: people who doubt their faith have experienced that “the stories in the Bible about miracles, witches, giants, demons, etc. began to feel as out of place as Santa.”  This escalates for those whose parents pretended to believe in holiday fairy tale characters.

     This kind of gap or “cognitive dissonance” between what we see in the Bible and what we experience in our daily life is something that most Christians wrestle with.  As CS Lewis says, “it is all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before [our] eyes.”  Wrestling is not unhealthy, though.  It is wise to doubt and question and even to run away from the false teachings about God that are often taught.  On the other side is a deeper, more mature faith. Just ask Descartes.

     A bigger danger comes from feeling forbidden to ask honest questions without being cut off from God’s community.  One ex-churchgoer put it this way, “I spent years pretending to believe because the fear of losing my social network was greater than really examining what I actually believed. In the end, it just made me resent people who did believe, and left me feeling more and more empty.”

     Several of the disciples went through their own period of doubt, but Thomas’ story (John 20:24-29) illustrates how being honest and exploring doubt while still committed to fellowship opens the door to see Jesus meet us right where we are.

Gaming Ministry Experts

 If we think of the video game community on a campus as an unengaged people group, there’s a lot we can learn that will help us better bridge the gap between them and the Church.  One step that is always helpful is finding expert guides. Enter Nick & Jessica!  Among their many skills, they are animators, game designers, and screenwriters who have partnered with our Jesus Film ministry in the past. Like us, they’re also totally geeks!

     Jessica wrote a fascinating research paper on how the average geek is wired compared to an average churchgoer.  Some things that make it hard to connect are the fact that Geeks tend to always want to casually explore new ideas and ways of expression while modern church culture tends to draw those who prefer structure, tradition, and social norms. Like Jesus, we’re called to meet the outsider where they are, bringing hope only the gospel provides. Click here to find out more about what we’re doing.