Fear, Geek Culture, and the Church

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Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

Michael Mendis, writing for Geeks Under Grace, recently wrote a piece titled “Geek Culture and the Church“. As he weaves through the history between the church and geek culture, he touches on something I have always found interesting:

Over the years I have heard numerous stories about Christian geeks who feel that they have to hide their hobbies from fellow saints. I’ve met a well-respected leader in a church who can’t reveal to the rest of his leadership team that he plays Dungeons & Dragons. A gaming missionary I have worked with tells a story about how he once visited a church to talk about gamer culture, and after his presentation, two people came up to him—back-to-back, but independently of one another—to privately confide that they were gamers, and that they were afraid to tell the other people in their church.

On a basic level, I get that we can’t 100% be ourselves at church. Fellow Christians may struggle with things that we do not, making it un-wise to talk about whatever it is in front of them. I get that. But playing video games, to me, is just as normal as watching television or following sports. In all my time, living in the buckle of the Bible Belt for over sixteen years now, I have never felt like I needed to hide the fact that I enjoy playing video games and tabletop games (and I get that my experience may be unique).

I remember approaching my pastor, soon after college graduation, about how I wanted to start a video game ministry. He encouraged me to talk to our youth pastor; who then encouraged me to think outside the box and not go to seminary. “Just do it”, he said like a Nike commercial (it was deeper than that). I’d like to think that my experience here isn’t unique, I was encouraged by my East Texas based church staff, not discouraged from where I felt God leading me in that moment.

As I edge closer to 40, I have learned to not be as worried about others opinions, to enjoy what I like. I have found that there are others out there, in the church, who share my hobbies. I want to encourage you not to live in fear. Be passionate about what you are passionate about. Own your video games, your hunting, and your love for modifying old cars.

Update 5/23/19 – My wife lovingly reminded me that I have encountered instances, at church, where fellow Christians have been less than loving about my hobby. Funny how one forgets such things when not in the moment. As with anything, I think you quickly learn who you can talk to and who you should avoid talking to about nerdy things. Such is life. – Bryan

I met my wife in hell

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I met my wife in hell. In the bowels of a Christian haunted house. I was playing some sort of motorcycle riding bad boy; she was playing the role of my sister. Nothing weird, just evangelism.

I remember my dorm floor chaplain asking me to be in the play. I wasn’t interested. And yet felt that I needed to be a part of this “scare people to Jesus” movement.

At our first practice, I was immediately attracted to the other woman playing my sister. You see, we had two casts that rotated turns acting throughout the night. No polygamy or Arkansas relationships going on here. Turns out I was attracted to a mean married woman. I’ve never known much about the lady folk beyond Jane Austen.

We rehearsed, rotated through the different walkthrough sets, finalized how things were going to go down. I didn’t notice Tabitha until the next night.

We were between scenes. It was late. I was laying across some chairs, tired. She didn’t see me and almost sat on me. We laughed. I knew I could talk to her about almost anything. I told her something about my Grandpa Ayers, not sure what. The sister I hadn’t paid a second thought to was suddenly front and center.

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Tabitha and I always laugh about how we first met. How we were both in a place where we had given up on dating, on finding the “one”. Heck, Tab wasn’t even supposed to be at school that semester. A cancelled class, much to her displeasure, put her on campus at the same time as me. God is funny.

Life hasn’t turned out the way either of us thought it would. I’m still working in an unhealthy work environment with zero room for advancement. We haven’t been able to have any more children beyond our only son. The Special.

I think we’ve been in a period of refocusing. Trying to figure out who we are as a family and who we want to be.

I’m not sure what the future holds. We could be leaving East Texas; we could be adopting children. I have no idea. But I do know that obedience to God, that stepping out and following Him, has always been hard but good.

Time to Hop Out

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Woke up yesterday a bit late. Didn’t have time to exercise. So I jumped into the pool for a bit. In May, East Texas received record amounts of rainfall. I was beginning to think that I had somehow moved to Seattle. As I got into the pool, I noticed a small frog on top of a lounge float. He didn’t stay in the pool long. One might say he flipped out.

Work has been slow lately. My firm is in the midst of gearing up for two projects. Both projects are simple. I’m not sure what anyone is going to be working on after we complete them.

After seven years of working as an office manager, I am feeling ready for a new challenge. I am ready to work for a company that offers job growth outside of going back to school to get a degree in architecture. I don’t want to be a frog stuck in the same pool. Time to hop out.

Just need to figure out what hopping out looks like.

Great Texas Balloon Race – 2014

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Saturday night, the family and I buckled in and headed out to the Great Texas Balloon Race for the balloon glow. 10368391_10154436237110521_5710903903240490913_n There is nothing like standing among 30-40 hot air balloons and feeling the heat come off their burners as they all fire in unison. 10553322_10154436238020521_3377637352394727598_n The weather was cooler this year than in years past where we’ve experienced 90 degree heat. Couple the outdoor temperature with the heat from the balloon burners and suddenly you feel like you are in an inferno of sorts. 10525713_10154436236985521_3051195024239664992_n Until next year.

Fasting by Jentezen Franklin

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Neon lights mix with the sound and smell of sizzling fajitas, nothing like a Mexican food restaurant in East Texas.

My pastor and I had a lunch meeting a few weeks ago. During the meeting, he encouraged me to start fasting as well as read Fasting by Jentezen Franklin. I have since done both.

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In the book, Jentezen discusses a Biblical command that is often ignored, fasting. Matthew 6:1-18 serves as the Biblical aircraft carrier from which he launches his book. The following are some quotes and notes I jotted down while reading.

“Jesus said, “when you give…” and “When you pray…” and “When you fast.” He made it clear, that fasting, like giving and praying, was a normal part of Christian life. As much attention should be given to fasting as is given to giving and to praying.” (p11)

According to the book, there are three types of fasting:

  • Absolute fast
  • Normal fast
  • Partial fast (giving up particular foods or drinks for an extended period of time).

“Whenever you begin a fast, remember, if it doesn’t mean anything to you, it won’t mean anything to God.” (p35)

“…fasting is a constant means of renewing yourself spiritually.” (p71)

This one was interesting:

“When you fast, you abstain from food for spiritual purposes. I have heard people say that they were planning to fast TV or computer games or surfing the Internet. It is good to put those things down for a time of consecration if they are interfering with your prayer life or with your study of God’s Word or you ministering to the needs of others, but technically, that is not fasting. Fasting is doing without food for a period of time, which generally causes you to leave the commotion of normal activity. Part of the sacrifice of fasting, seeking God, and studying His Word is that normal activity fades into the background.” (p111)

What do you think? Any thoughts on fasting?

Thinking Aloud: Why We Don’t Need Another Church Building

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In East Texas, especially in the City of Longview, the locals jokingly say that there is a church on every street corner. If you think about this, this means that the city’s original churches fractured and then multiplied. Division beget division; street corner after street corner was soon bestowed with a church.

Just as the Internet does not need another Christian video game site, the world does not need another church building. While it is true church buildings serve as a central place for Christians to receive Biblical teaching and fellowship with fellow believers, we were never meant to stay in one place. If you think about it, what do church buildings help foster? Isolation. Sure we can invite our “lost” friends to church, but do we? Most of the time, we fail at reaching out to those that Christ came to save for the sake of comfort. I’m guilty of this. Why invite an outsider to Cheers, right?

Instead of hanging out in fortified churches, how should we be reaching out to those around us in our community? My friend Scotto happened to hear the rapper Lecrae speak on this at The Resurgence Conference the other day. Lecrae talked about how:

…he intentionally lives in Atlanta because all the other major rappers live there. He wants to be in the culture, because he knows that God can use him there. Same goes for him using rap to spread the Gospel.

His points were:

1. Engage the culture. (Learn the culture, speak the language.)

2. Love the culture. (Really develop relationships. Care about people. Don’t just wait for opportunities to give your gospel points.)

3. Rehabilitate the culture. (How can you restructure what you already do to glorify God?)

I do think that it is important that we, as Christians, grow and fellowship with one another. I just think that the emphasis on the building, that some churches put into theirs, is wrong. The Church isn’t about the building but about the people. We need to be engaging, loving, and acting as Christ’s hands and feet in this broken world, with or without a building.

What do you think?

God: Working Behind the Scenes

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I stood out in the front yard last night watching the clouds swirl by. A storm was coming. The sky was growing darker by the minute as the clouds rotated in an eerie fashion. Sirens blared off in the distance, a tornado had been spotted in the northern part of our county. Beauty and death danced before me in the clouds, such a mix of awe and fear.

Back in the house, the weatherman was drenched in full HD glorified sweat. I openly wondered if he was going to have a heart attack. He didn’t. He did, however, rant and rave about “rotations” and “charging up your cell phone”. There was no calm, no awe in his voice, just fear.

When the weather outside is possibly life threatening and the weatherman is swamped in a fear-induced froth, I find it hard not to become fearful as well. But fearful of what? Tornadoes, “death from above” as I like to call them, are random creatures. They can be slow moving and quick to strike without notice. In other words, I have no control over them.

Journeying through life, we live under the illusion that we are in control. We aren’t. Lately, I’ve been studying through the Old Testament. Reading through the book of Joshua, I have read time and time again of God orchestrating massive events, even using evil things for good. Though we are not in control, God is. Even in times where it doesn’t seem like He is answering our prayers, He is working behind the scenes as the book of Haggai points out. But even with God in control, our daily choices still matter. Choices such as whether to let fear rule our lives, instead of the hope of Christ (for those who have accepted Him), these choices matter.

Are the clouds of fear swirling around you? Does destruction seem to be looming on the horizon? Take hope in that God is orchestrating all things for the good of those who love Him.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (NIV)