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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Ministry!

This is the story of how God revealed a new ministry in my life that He wanted me to do. Something that I never saw coming, and that I look forward to God doing amazing things with!
This story begins about halfway through last semester in my Intro to Missions class. Dr. Elligson had been teaching us all semester about the definition of missions, basic ways to do missions, how missionaries live, etc, etc. Well about October or so of last year he taught for a week or so about Missions Agencies. Seemed like a no-brainer subject to me, as I had already done things with NAMB, IMB, and BMDMI. So I figured I was in for an easy week of class. Little did I know this was just the first small step in God's plan.
After we had done some of the obvious work, and had toured NAMB and IMB's websites, Dr. Elligson started to teach us about the plethora of other missions agencies in existence out there. He started by telling us that when it comes to missions, all we really have to do is find something we enjoy doing, and there are hundreds of agencies and people you can go and do that thing as a missionary. He then showed us an example of how a typical hobby (like Hiking) is being used by lots of people as a way to build relationships, and preach the Gospel among the people who enjoy that particular hobby. This piqued my curiosity, as I had never thought of such seemingly trivial things as valuable tools for missions and evangelism. Dr. Elligson then dared us to search the things we are passionate about and love doing and see what missions activity was being done with it. Now, my curiosity was such that I began thinking about things I enjoyed doing, and for some reason, the thought came to my mind of my hobby of playing video games. At first I tried to shrug it off. After all, what could God possibly use with something so trivial? So I pushed the thought aside and tried to just go on.
Soon though, the thought wouldn't stop bugging me. It just didn't seem to go away. So I reasoned with myself: "I'll do what Dr. Elligson said, and when I see all the tons of people doing some kind of missions with this, then I will be able to forget about it." So I got onto Google, and searched for various combinations of the words "video games", "missions", or "ministry". To my utter  surprise, all I found was a universalist online community, and a tiny outfit in North Carolina that also served more as a community page than a real ministry. I was genuinely mystified, especially at the effect this was having on me. Whereas just a day or two before I had thought it something trivial, and of little or no value to the Kingdom, I suddenly was dumbstruck that there wasn't anybody doing anything. I was troubled, and began to pray that God would show me what He was getting at in my life.
I began to review my notes from previously in the class, hoping that maybe something from earlier in the class would help me understand what was troubling me. It was November now, and for a few weeks God had not allowed this revelation to go away. I then came across the notes I had taken when we had discussed people groups earlier in the year. I noted how some of the distinguishing marks of a people group are shared values, shared language (or shared vernacular distinct from the shared national language), and distinct culture. This information recalled experiences I had had from Junior and Senior years of high school. Back then, I had competed in some local gaming tournaments, and was really connected with the wider gaming community both locally and nationally. Looking back, I saw a lot of the distinguishing marks of a people group. As gamers, people share the same values of quality storytelling and visual imagery, a particular vernacular of English that very often leaves non-gamers lost and confused, and a distinct culture featuring distinct communities within the larger community. I even remembered that among gamers, there are special times of year with significance that non-gamers just don't get: March means E3, August or September means the beginning of the MLG season, and the holidays mean the biggest releases that the community has been talking about for months. I began to understand that the gaming community was more than just a community: it was a distinct people group, and no one was doing any ministry to reach them where they are. All of a sudden, the light bulb came on for me, and I thought I knew what God wanted for me.
But there was one person I wanted to speak to before I made any drastic decisions: Dr. Craig. He had been an interim pastor earlier in my life, and served as a missions strategist for the Florida Baptist convention. He was a close friend of mine, and of all people I thought he could help me sort this out. So after some scheduling, I called him one week early in November. I ran by him everything that had happened up to that point, and I asked him what he thought. His response to me was simple. "Andrew, I believe that you have discovered a people group, and a very unengaged one at that." We talked for a bit as to what to do about this, and it became clear to me that God wanted me to reach this community. So I continued to dialogue with Dr. Craig, and pretty soon both of us had seen a vision of how God could move among this community to reach them with the Gospel.
So in November of 2012, Taking Christ 2 Gamers Ministries was born. Right now it may be in its infancy, and as more people get involved and God begins moving I'm sure a lot is bound to happen. I am excited to see where God takes me, and I am ecstatic bout the vision He has given me for this adventure. Prayers are definitely appreciated, and I sure could use interested people to help as well!

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