Today celebrates the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. Star Trek has influenced an entire generation of science fiction, and it still has a lot of relevance on the pop culture landscape. I am a Star Trek fan, but that was not always the case. In fact, loving Star Trek is a recent development over the past several years. As I think about my journey to loving all things Vulcan and Klingon, I see some connection to good Christian evangelism practices.
Starting around season four, my family did make it a habit to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. I watched that show and I enjoyed it, but my fandom of the show was at a very casual level. When the show went off the air, I watched a couple seasons of Voyager but I gave up on it quickly. For the most part I considered myself a Star Wars fan, and that is where my passion was. Fast forward to 2009 and Star Trek gets rebooted. The rebooted movie really appealed to me, because quite honestly it looked more similar to Star Wars than what I thought of as Star Trek. I really loved the 2009 Star Trek and I wanted more.
Fortunately for me, the Star Trek series were on Netflix so I started watching Next Generation episodes. I found myself really liking the shows a lot more than I did when I first watched them in the 1990s. As I was nearing the end of the final season, I mentioned watching Star Trek to a friend and he told me that Deep Space Nine was one of his favorites. I watched all of that series, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The last couple of seasons of Deep Space Nine have a very militaristic bend to them. Being a gamer, this got me interested in the idea of a Star Trek space combat game. This led me to discovering the board game Federation Commander. I had a friend who got into this game with me, and it quickly became my favorite board game of all time.
Federation Commander is inspired by the original Star Trek series of the 1960’s, so the board game led me to watch the original series and buy all of the original series movies. By the time Star Trek: Into Darkness was released into theaters in 2012, I was a fully immersed Star Trek fan. Since then I have only dove deeper into fandom by reading hundreds of Star Trek comics, playing Star Trek role playing games, and it is to the point where I consider myself as much a Star Trek fan as I am a Star Wars fan.
Because I tend to look for connections in everything, I do see some similarities between my journey to loving Star Trek and the journey that some people might take to loving Jesus. Specifically, I see ways that my experience with Star Trek connects with evangelism.
#1 A New Method to Reach New People
I grew up with a passing familiarity with Star Trek, and many people grow up with a passing familiarity with Christianity. I had some small but overall pleasant experiences with the franchise, and that might sum up a lot of people’s experience with church. They attended vacation bible school or on Christmas/Easter but that was mostly it. However, what brought me in was something new catching my attention. The new movie took Star Trek and attempted to repackage it for a newer generation and a different audience. It worked for me. In the same way, churches should not be afraid to try new things to reach new people. Trying new techniques, new approaches, or new modes of thinking may not always work. However, if doing these things increases the odds of introducing a new person to the saving love of Jesus then we should do it.
I think one of the keys to me becoming a Star Trek fan is that in 2009-2010 I did not run into any haters. There are a lot of old school trekkies who hate the new movie series. A single bad run in with one of those guys could have really dumped a bucket of cold water on my new found passion. Sadly, this attitude exist in the church as well. It seems whenever a congregation or pastor tries something new to reach new people there is always a voice that chimes in “we’ve never done that way before.” There is always someone who is quick to complain and full of hate for what is new. To share the gospel with new people we are going to have to try new things, and we are going to have to do it without hating on those new methods.
#2 Easy Access
The biggest key to me coming around to the Star Trek bandwagon is that the shows were easily accessible on Netflix. If they were only available by working with a cable syndication schedule or spending a lot of money buying DVDs, then I would not have messed with it. Also, I was able to approach Star Trek at my pace and in an order that worked for me. If I had started with the original series over Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, then it probably would not have took.
When people are interested in exploring the Christian faith for the first time, we need to make it as easy as possible. It is important to make it accessible. If 10:00 AM on Sunday morning is not the most accessible time for the people we want to reach, then perhaps new times should be considered. It is also vitally important to offer intentional bible studies and providing resources that people can digest at their own pace.
#3A First Mate
If you look back up over my story of becoming a Star Trek fan you will notice at a couple of key moments, a friend encouraged me along. It is largely because of that friend sharing his passion for Deep Space Nine and playing Federation Commander with me, that Star Trek really took root for me.
Having someone come alongside a person exploring the faith is vitally important. This can be through a formal mentoring process or through small groups. Faith flourishes in community. Any outreach effort will fail if part of it does not include connecting the person to the faith community. Sharing a testimony and leading someone to say a special prayer is poor evangelism if that someone cannot get connected to other believers who they can share their newfound passion with.
A final aspect to this point, my wife was never even a casual Star Trek fan. However, as I began to get into it she tiptoed in as well. When Star Trek Beyond released this year she was just as excited to watch it as I was. Evangelism is not about converting people, it is about sharing passion with them, letting that passion catch in them, and then walking alongside them as you boldly go following Jesus.