Take a moment and imagine the following scenario . . .
You find yourself in a game of Settlers of Catan. The game has been going for several rounds now, and many of the players are within striking distance of getting their final victory point. You are confident that the player on your right is looking for a few more ore cards to seal victory. Likewise, the player on your left keeps looking at her development cards. You’re sure that if one of those is a soldier, she’ll grab largest army and win on her turn.
The player on your right grabs the dice and rolls a four. Bad luck for him. He doesn’t have anything on four. He needed a six. You, however, got everything you needed with that roll. With the eight cards you have in your hand, you can snatch victory away from your opponent. However, if you roll a seven, the robber will snatch away four of your cards, leaving you helpless as the glory of winning passes you by. You pick up the dice, juggling them nervously in your hand. A couple of the other players, realizing the importance of this roll, are now standing up beside the table. They hold their breath as the dice twirl and bounce in your hand. You are about to let them fly when suddenly —
“Hey guys? Sorry, I know you’re enjoying your games right now, but can you put that down for a minute? We’ve got a speaker here who wants to share something important with you.”
That feeling you probably have right now after merely reading through that scenario? That is why we put a moratorium on any form of message, break out session, or any other buzz-word label that’s been associated with formally presenting the gospel from any sort of pulpit or stage at events we run. We want churches to be involved in gaming as a hobby and be part of the community. However, the moment gaming becomes nothing more than a strategy to push message, it will fail. Gamers know when they’re being played. We may be an unabashedly Christian organization – but we are ALSO gamers ourselves, and we have no desire to do that to folks.
To function at its best, the gaming environment has to have an uninterrupted flow. Players need to be able to interact, talk trash, and generally be together without feeling like they are going to be ripped away from it. We believe that if God is important to you, if He has really transformed your life from the inside, then you don’t have to manufacture a moment to talk about Him. Your people will bring up what He’s doing in a natural way in the context of sharing their lives with another. If you try and bring the game to a sharp stop in the middle of the action, you become an interloper. You are trespassing on their game, and you will not be welcome.
The relationships being crafted during that game are delicate things. They need time before they can fully come together. If you stop the process prematurely – it cannot be recaptured. Even if a speaker is dynamic, the message is on point, and the Spirit of God is moving through the crowd, that game is over. The moment having passed them by, the players will most likely pack up. While they may not have anything bad to say about the experience, tolerating or maybe even enjoying the speaker’s efforts – the tension and feeling they had been caught up in together has passed.
Our hope is that you want to start a group in your church or run a game night with your Bible study. To do so, your table needs to be a place where everyone is welcome and able to feel safe. It needs to be a place where people feel they can be open without hearing a lecture. They need to know that you came to play – not trap them in a bait and switch for Jesus.
This isn’t cut and dry. Church folks that feel like they want to try this need to know that it isn’t a one-and-done sort of calling. This sort of ministry is not about getting people to hear, but, instead, serving them in order that you can get the opportunity to speak. It’s about being somebody they know they can count on, somebody they can trust, and somebody who will show up with a truck and some pizzas when they need to move across town.