Summer means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It means ball games, days on the lake, cookouts, fireflies, and fireworks. I like and enjoy those things, but if I am being honest one of the things that summer means most to me is that it is the final countdown to Gen Con. This annual convention, called the best four days in gaming, is a highlight of the year for me. Over 60,000 people will be attending the convention to play just about every kind of game imaginable. For several years now I have volunteered to host events at Gen Con. Over the summer I spend a lot of time preparing and prepping for these events. One of events I run annually is for my favorite game of Federation Commander.
While I look forward to Gen Con I am also looking forward to some of the plans my church has this summer. We have several things going on that continue our emphasis on reaching out to build bridges to the community while also inviting people into experience radical hospitality from the church family. As I consider these two different things I am looking forward to this summer, I do see a connection between them.
Federation Commander is my absolute favorite game. I love it. I think I could play the game daily for the rest of my life and never grow tired of playing it. This game excites my imagination and fully engages me in the tactics and strategy of it. However, I realize that this game is not for everyone. It is played on a hex grid, with one inch by one inch counters. The game requires consulting charts regularly, and the rulebook is 108 pages long (yes, one hundred and eight, that was not a typo). On top of that, the game is about spaceship combat so it already has limited appeal.
While Federation Commander, is my favorite game it is not a game that I would use to introduce someone to gaming. In the past twenty years there has been a renaissance in board and card games. I believe that today there is a game out there for everyone. If they give it a chance, I think everyone could find a game that really appeals to them and that they will love. If I took someone who was beginning to explore this new world of gaming and threw them straight into deep end by forcing what was my favorite thing upon them, the most likely outcome is that it will be a frustrating experience for all involved. There are incredible games out there, but if the average non-gamer’s first experience with these new games was Federation Commander it would probably leave them feel like board games are too complex and not for them.
In churches we can have a similar issue. We have an incredible message of love, of forgiveness, and of redemption. We have the gospel of Jesus. However, we do not always do the best job presenting this. Instead, we sometimes have a tendency to take one of our favorite parts of the faith and present that. Maybe it is a specific social issue that can be polarizing. Maybe it is a topic, like the book of Revelation, which might be hard for a non-believer to relate to. When the way we speak about and introduce our faith to other people is based solely on what we find most interesting then we have a high tendency of not truly reaching the people we are trying to reach.
The point of playing games is to have fun with other people, so when I teach games to new people I need to keep that in mind. I need to present games that I think they will enjoy. The point of church and Christianity is Jesus, and when we share our faith with others we need to present it in a way that speaks to them. This summer as we reach out and invite in, may we all seek to share the gospel of Christ with those around us. May we seek to always remember that people do not need our most favorite side issue of the faith, what people need most is Jesus.