Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Eavesdropping on a Bunch of Gamers, Part II (Classic)

Yesterday, I posted Eavesdropping on a Bunch of Gamers, Part I... so today, I'll post Part II. I am nothing if not a man of numerical order.

I'm known in the gaming hobby not just for my love of "fluffy" games but also for my former "day job" as a pastor - and so I get some very insightful questions about Christianity & faith. Yesterday, you got to eavesdrop on a bit of conversation about evangelicals & mainline churches, as well as how I believe we're supposed to relate to non-Christians. Today, I want to share with you an exchange I had with Mister Cranky (real name: Josh Adelson; home state: Pennsylvania) on fear & religion.

Just a short note: it starts with a Mister Microphone joke, which probably means that all of you under the age of 30 will be scratching your heads... and some of the rest of you will wonder what I was talking about - and I'm sorry, but it's in reference to a very geek-y gamer thing and I won't waste three paragraphs trying to make sense of it for you. Just trust me on this one.

For this new version of the post, I have managed to find a copy of the Mister Microphone ad... yes, it was the 70s.


In the words of the Mister Microphone ad, "I'll be back for you later."

Mister Cranky: My goodness, that's ominous. No wonder I've always been too afraid to buy a Mister Microphone. Speaking of scary clerics, do you think that fear has any place in the promulgation of one's faith? [Note: "cleric" is another way of saying "minister" - used pretty commonly by gamers because it's a player class in Dungeons & Dragons.]

In just a second, you're going to ask me about fear. Here's what I fear: you, Mister Cranky, with a Mister Microphone in hand.

You said: "Speaking of scary clerics, do you think that fear has any place in the promulgation of one's faith?"

Well, yes... but you know I'm going to qualify that statement, right?! :-)

Gavin de Becker is a security consultant to the stars (who, frankly, spends way too much time on entertainment TV shows to make me entirely comfortable if I was one of his clients) who has also written a very good book entitled The Gift of Fear. (No, I don't get any royalties.) He ascribes our fear "instinct" to evolution (and since it's a micro- rather than a macro- kind of deal, I won't argue with him)... I'd attribute it to God. Either way, fear can serve a very useful purpose - to keep us out of danger.

Coercive fear ("become a follower of ___________ or I'll punch your lights out") is never OK... conversion by the sword was/is a dumb idea for Muslims & Christians.

OTOH, pretending that there isn't an element of fear in the Christian faith would be the rough equivalent of going through the Bible and cutting out passages you don't like. (The word "fear", btw, appears over 300 times in the NIV translation of the Scriptures.) But I think/believe that this is a healthy fear, similar to what de Becker talks about - fear that serves a useful purpose.
Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.     1 Peter 2:16-17 (NIV)
Now, two caveats:
  1. Fear is not the only and/or the main motivator to follow God.
  2. Trying to increase other's fear levels in order to get them to knuckle under & cry a spiritual "Uncle" misses the whole picture of God as portrayed in Scripture.

But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.     Psalm 86:15 (NIV)
So, the traveling evangelist who went church to church in the 1960's & '70's wearing a special shirt that he could light on fire - then scream about "this is what hell is like!" - is, let's just say, freakishly over the top. OTOH, if I don't preach from the Bible about hell, I'm simply editing out verses (a LOT of verses!) that make me uncomfortable.

Mister Cranky: Very nicely answered, if I do rantlessly say so myself.


Notice something here - Josh (aka Mister Cranky) wasn't offended by my use of Scripture or my belief in hell when it was set in the context of an actual answer to   his question. Which is a nice reminder that sharing the truth about Jesus doesn't have to devolve into an argument... from either side! (Also note: part of the reason I get the freedom to write like this is that I'm a contributing member of the online boardgaming community - I didn't just show up & start spouting off about Christianity. People know me as an avid gamer with both a sense of humor & solid moral principles... and then as a spokesman for Jesus Christ.)

As well, the whole "fear & faith" topic brings up another question for you to consider: how well do you balance a legitimate fear of a holy God with the truth of His compassion & graciousness? Be honest with yourself - which one of those  sound more like the God you believe in?

Whichever side you're leaning toward, make sure you take some time to ask God to give you a COMPLETE picture of who He is... to expand your relationship with Him.

Quote to Ponder
People outside of the church who aren't in relationships with those inside the church might never hear the gospel or get to see it lived out in someone's life. Instead,  they'll only get an impersonal tract that focuses on hell or see a street evangelist who many times ends up making things worse. Sometimes when I talk to pastors about this, someone will quote Romans 10:14 - "And how will they hear without someone preaching to them?" - and tell me that their job is to preach the gospel in their church. 
But people who need to hear the gospel most likely aren't going to church. On Sundays, they are sleeping in, shopping at the flea market, going out to breakfast - they're anywhere but a church meeting. I don't know why we think that if we have good preaching or add a worship band or have coffee & candles that they will come. Those things are all good, but people outside the church aren't looking for a church with those things. They aren't looking for a church at all. 
It is in the context of relationships with missional Christians that they become inspired to come to worship gatherings. But the sad part is so many outside the church don't have a relationship with someone inside the church. I'm always amazed at how many people outside  the church say they don't know any Christians personally. It's not that they would mind hanging out with one if a true friendship was built, but the Christians they work with or attend school with don't make themselves known to them or befriend them and spend all of their social time with other Christians. And so we widen the chasm.     Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus But Not The Church

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