I’m a big geek. I play video games regularly, read comics every chance I get, and try to watch every sci-fi or fantasy movie as soon as they come out. So, when I heard about an organization called Geekdom House, I was very interested. Meeting Kyle Rudge and talking about his mission had me convinced that the existence of this community and my presence here in Winnipeg was most assuredly the work of the Spirit, so I started not only engaging with them, but trying to think of ways Crestview Park FMC could help support their mission. I’m also the pastor of Crestview and one of the things they said when hiring me was that they wanted to engage their community and find new ways to reach out.
As Geekdom House has grown and developed, planting a church in their community has become the next step in where the Spirit is leading them; I began to not-so-subtly encourage them to think about the Free Methodist church as an organization to partner with, in no small part because I am right here and wanting to help, but also because our movement is trying to encourage these types of organic communities and find ways to work where the Spirit is working, rather than forcing our own models. Other people have also been at work in that encouragement and after much thought, prayer and deliberation, a formal relationship between Geekdom House and Crestview Park FMC formed.
When Jared Seibert talks about church planting, his throat catches, his voice takes on a bit of a hard edge and he says though the work is good, even God-ordained, it is going to take its kilo of flesh from those involved. There’s part of me that wants to scoff at this, but he’s been in the world of Church planting for a long time, so there’s wisdom there.
I hoped that if Crestview could shoulder some of the burden and challenge in planting a church with Geekdom House, maybe we could share the bill and offer up a few grams of our own flesh to reduce the wear on theirs. I figured even if we split that kilo of flesh, with a church of 60 people, each person only has to offer a couple grams of themselves to the cause. It turns out not many people like offering up a bit of their own flesh for someone else.
It was fairly easy to sell the idea of partnering with Geekdom House to the church. Every church wants to support missional activities, see people come to know Christ and be part of good work—especially if it’s in an area that is considered pagan, ungodly or un-Christian. But the reality of embracing the “other” and engaging with people who live in what has traditionally been seen as inappropriate for church, is different.
I’ve had to field the question of whether fantasy and video games should be things we talk about in church. Some people scoff at cosplay or roll their eyes when you talk about comic conventions. And more and more, I’ve had to answer to an unspoken implication that as the pastor I’m spending too much time with these geeky people and their geek things and not enough doing “real” pastoral work.
And when rubber meets the road, when the actual implications of hiring people and making sure their finances are in order; making sure they aren’t violating any CRA expectations lest we become an object of their scrutiny, there was genuine resistance. It turned out Jared was more correct than I realized: there was going to be a cost to planting this church, and it wasn’t going to be something everyone was going to shoulder.
But thankfully, there are a lot of people who are willing. Some people have stepped up and offered to help with bookkeeping. Others have been very vocal that when it comes to leading new missions, we have to set aside our demands on the pastor and leaders of the church and allow them a season to encourage others. There are people who see the value of a new thing, and most of them aren’t geeks at all; they have stepped up to shoulder the burden of time, energy and encouragement because they realize that with new ministries, the cost is always upfront, and the benefit comes later; that sacrifice literally means giving without getting back.And for every person who asks if it's appropriate to talk about geek stuff at church, there are two or three who thank God for sending a weird pastor to help them connect their church to weird people for the glory of God and the mission of his church. Click To Tweet
And for every person who asks if it’s appropriate to talk about geek stuff at church, there are two or three who thank God for sending a weird pastor to help them connect their church to weird people for the glory of God and the mission of his church. From this tumultuous relationship and the complexity of trying to help, I’ve been pondering a few thoughts:
It is surprising who is and isn’t for new work
I thought the younger people in the church would be all over this and the old people would take all the convincing, but the opposite has been true. Many younger people in the church are extremely busy. With multiple jobs, families, continued education and trying to find moments for rest, they aren’t excited to hear they can spend more time and effort on something, and the idea of risk is frightening—one small step for many of us could result in financial ruin. To my surprise, it was many from the older generation that have encouraged and supported this relationship. Their faith has been tested and they have endured, sometimes monumental things. It has been their backbone of patience, understanding and encouragement that has helped many of younger people feel like they can step out and step up.
The costs need to be shouldered by more than church planters
Being missional has taken a toll on the leaders of Geekdom House—they are stepping out into unknown territory, something I haven’t had to do as a pastor in my community. I know where my paycheck is coming from and how much it will be. I know even that were I to turn inward and just focus on making the people of the church happy, I could do this for a long time. The Geekdom House staff don’t have any of those assurances. They spend time, money and energy with no idea if it will pay off. They step into traffic everyday with families who need feeding and lives that need living, and hope they don’t get hit by something they can’t recover from. We owe them, as the established church, to take a bit of that burden from their shoulders. We have it easy and could afford to be a little less comfortable in order to keep these people from burning themselves into the ground.
Root church planting in community serving rather than saving
There is a tendency, and I’ve heard it from time to time, to think about church planting as saving people from the communities they are in. We may think it’s necessary to save people from the evils of video games, comics and fantasy. But a church planted with this mindset is doomed to fail. The thing that has made Geekdom House a success, and why I believed Crestview would be foolish to pass up the chance to engage with them, is their serving a community where they are and looking for the working of the Spirit within. Kyle, Allison, Jason, Justin and Jeremy all recognize the good inherent in geek culture, and seek to tease it out. They look for the Spirit already at work and come alongside it; that is ultimately why both Crestview and myself have felt working with them is worth the risk.
What I hope to discover, as this relationship progresses, is that we will find ourselves participating in good work by shouldering some of the burden. We have the resources to assist with new missions, resources we often don’t know where to put, and here is an opportunity. By connecting the resources, support and encouragement to those who feel the calling to new ministry, I think we can plant churches in a less violent way. We still have to make sacrifices, but our Lord sacrificed every drop of blood and every gram of flesh for us, so we can probably ante up a bit in return.