(That’s me, ZEPHYR, in the middle, having fun with members from my guild in Guardian Tales, a mobile rpg developed by Kakao Games)
I’d like to start by saying I’m no professional when it comes to evangelism. I’ve been involved with Christian groups and churches that have done outreach in some ways, I went to a couple workshops and I have even attended a workshop or two on the topic. Just like many others however, I’m still figuring it out when it comes to sharing my faith. It’s nerve racking, tense and sometimes really awkward, but out of a heart that desires for others to know about the the wonderful God I serve, and a desire to be faithful and obedient to the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, I swallow my fear in the abundance of love that God gives and step out of my comfort zone sometimes.
What I do know is that I love God, and I love games. I studied Computer Science in university because I wanted to make games, but was a little scared to fully commit to it for a while, and I’m still figuring that out as well. Regardless of my experience or knowledge, the call of the Christian is clear, and I would love to pursue Christ and my passions, running as fast as I can, and I hope to bring these two together in a wonderful harmony.
The harvest is ripe
Due to the recent pandemic that has taken the world by storm, social distancing has become a norm. The means by which we usually communicate has changed; classrooms became zoom calls, and church services became live streams. Whether we liked it or not, we have plugged ourselves into a digital portal through which we interface with many whom we took seeing face to face for granted.
Now more than ever we see people interacting with social media, playing online games and finding whatever means of escape they can because of the stresses of life, now exacerbated by the coronavirus.
Why not just do a crusade online?
While it is true that God can use anything to spread His Gospel, the internet is a tricky place. The foundations of many social media sites and other content with which people can interact with each other usually were designed not with the Gospel in mind, but money. If there’s something that doesn’t interest someone, it is deemed not profitable, and so discarded. Essentially, most overtly Christian material online tends to only reach Christian audiences.
In the same vein, many believers do use these sites for our own entertainment. We can interface with people over common interests and potentially develop lasting relationships with people we haven’t even met. With that in mind, my approach to digital Evangelism has mainly been that of relational evangelism: which simply involves being intentional about building relationships and being aware of opportunities for spiritual conversations to happen. Often people would be willing to hear what you have to say if they know you have their best intentions at heart, even if they may not agree with the message at first. By being intentional, being salt and light and continuing to share God’s love in various ways, the Gospel can be shared with others, even those who live hundreds of miles away.
A Testimony: Sharing my faith in Guardian Tales
I started playing Guardian Tales in September 2020. I had no intentions of sharing my faith when starting out, only to play and enjoy what the game had to offer, as I usually enjoy playing games of that genre. One of the game’s features includes a guild, which is a group of people that can join together to clear particular content and chat with each other. Because one of the game’s objectives was to join a guild, I picked a random one (ironically called HellTribe) and joined.
Upon joining the guild, I was sent to the guild lobby where other players were hanging out (see the picture above for context if you feel confused). This is unusual, because in many games, guilds often feature people who are just there to do the content and get out, and not really interact with each other. I joined in the fun here and there and found that it was a very eccentric bunch of folks. It was at this point, as I was thinking about sharing my faith in games recently, that I figured that I could try something out here.
Putting in the ground work
The first thing that I realised was that the messaging in the game was frustrating to use. In efforts to prevent swearing and use of inappropriate words, there were filters in place to censor such words in order to keep the experience appropriate for younger players. However, many normal words, (like knight for example) would often be censored as well. I suggested that we create a Discord server (an application that is often used as a chatting space for gamers) so that chatting could be less frustrating, and we’d be able to communicate better. There were some hiccups along the way, but it was established, and for a while things were very slow.
The fruit of the labor
While it took some weeks, the guild chat on Discord became very active. People began sharing a bit about themselves, and we know the first names of a few of us. As I’m on the Latin American server, there are people from Puerto Rico, Mexico and also Argentina. We have an idea of the ages of a few of us and members talk frequently about a variety of topics. Relationships were developing, and friendships building.
One day, the perfect opportunity arose. A member of the guild had posted in our chat a link to a thread where he shared his thoughts about feeling depressed and lonely during the pandemic. I was able to message Him and share the Gospel with Him, and while he hasn’t accepted Christ just yet, he has committed to learning more about Him and so for now I’ve been keeping him in prayer and will continue to do so.
A suggestion on how to approach digital evangelism
Understand your medium and plan accordingly
It goes without saying that not every game, website or forum would be the best to approach evangelism. Some might be outright inappropriate and as a believer you may want to avoid altogether. For example, while you might think that consumers of content from a pornographic website need Jesus, it may not be the best place to tell them there. A game with limited communication may not be feasible to meet others and stay in touch with them, but it may have external resources (such as Discord in my example) where you may be able to build a relationship through the common activity of the medium with the intention of sharing the gospel.
Know that you won’t know who you’re dealing with
Some content might reveal more information about yourself than others. For example, on facebook, it’s usual for someone’s name and picture to be visible. In many online games, that is not usually the case. It is therefore very important that you use your discretion when relating with others, being mindful of how much about yourself you share, and appreciating the fact that they may not be as forward with their personal information either. It’s also very important to know that because of this, you shouldn’t assume anything about who you’re talking to. For example, In the guild I play with, there are a few minors present. If you were the parent of a minor who finds out that they have been having lengthy conversations with a stranger online, you could understand how that may be a difficult situation for them, and so be very wise about how you relate with others.
Don’t be in a rush to share the Gospel
The urgency of the Gospel is very clear, and we know that tomorrow isn’t promised. With this in mind, it can be tempting to desire to share the Gospel right away, but relational evangelism takes both time and effort. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to share God’s love with them, and they will come. Of course, if you believe God is leading you to, go right on ahead and share with them.
There are hundreds of thousands of people who may willingly play a game, chat on a forum or browse a website and never enter a church, listen to a sermon or read a Bible. Especially in this time that we live in, we have the opportunity to interact with them and share God’s love to them in ways that we never thought possible. The only limitation we have is our willingness to be used by God. May every interaction that we have continue to serve to bring people and ourselves closer to the love of Jesus Christ.
How would you consider doing digital evangelism? Feel free to let me know too!
(Featured image from https://www.dermascope.com/)