I have a distinct childhood memory of attending a church service where the pastor prompted everyone in attendance to write down what he or she most desired. The answer came to me instantly: “I want to walk into church and feel joy instead of shame.” On this particular morning, like many others, I felt out of place, misunderstood, and ashamed of who I was. I grew up in a church, and in a culture that didn’t look fondly at hobbies that were considered nerdy—things that were an important part of my life. Many of the influential men in my life regularly jested about how men with artistic inclinations were somehow less masculine than those who had an affinity for the things they deemed more manly. Even today, I often receive sideways comments from Christians about the way I dress or the hobbies that I partake in.
Many nerds have been hurt by the church in ways that have caused real trauma. Walking into a church building is accompanied by feelings of shame, guilt, and anger rather than joy and fellowship. I praise God that I was fortunate later in my life to find healthy local churches who offered a more biblical definition of what it meant to be a Christian, and that the trauma caused by the unhealthy church culture that I grew up in would eventually heal. However, I realize that this is not everyone’s story.
In fact, some Christians have been so hurt by the church that the thought of reuniting with a local body is simply too much to bear. It is no secret that many local churches in recent history have not been kind toward those who find value in art and media. However, it is also true that all local churches can’t be condemned because of the actions of some. The healing process may be a long and hard one, but it is one that I firmly believe to be worthwhile. Jesus instituted the local church so that through one another he might show us our beauty and worth, help us bear the burden of sin, teach us unity in diversity, show us our blindspots, and give us a safe space to be transparent in our joys and our sorrows – all to the glory and praise of God. To that end, here are five reasons every nerd needs a local church. May they bring healing to your relationship with the bride of Christ and help you begin the steps of counting yourself among her numbers once again.
The Church Can Show Us Our Beauty and Worth
One way that misled churches have harmed the artistically inclined is by making them believe that they have no value. By convincing them that their hobbies and interests are wasteful and unproductive, they have squandered and minimized a gift that God has given to the church. In the context of the local church, everyone has a part to play (1 Corinthians 12:21–26). A healthy church can help us see how we fit into God’s plan and how he has uniquely designed us to participate in the work he is doing to redeem all of creation.
No One Can Faithfully Follow Jesus Alone
An overwhelming number of the commands given in God’s word apply to how people relate to one another, and how Christians relate to one another, in particular (Galatians 6:2–10). It is impossible to be obedient to Jesus without being in a binding relationship with other Christians such as the covenant membership of a local church. It is true that there are Christian communities that exist apart from the local church, but it is also true that Jesus instituted the church to accomplish the very purpose of Christian community (Matthew 28:19–20). This is not to say that a Christian’s fellowship with other Christians should be limited to the local church, but it does mean Jesus intended those relationships to be the ones where we are most likely to grow, to be nurtured, and to be uplifted.
The Church Can Make Us Aware of Our Sin
Though many of the accusations against nerd culture are overblown or lacking context, they are not entirely false. It is true that some research has made a connection between nerdy hobbies and sinful habits, such as escapism and addiction. This is why it is uniquely important to be part of a diverse community of Christians. We will never see our blind spots by positioning ourselves in echo chambers or affinity groups, but we can help and be helped by finding unity with Christians who are different from us (Galatians 2:11–14).
The Church Can Help Us Heal, and We Can Help It Heal
We all want to have a community. We want to become better, healthier versions of ourselves. We want to please God. We want a church where we can experience joy and belonging without having to mask who we are. Pushing back into church will be scary, and it will require us to be vulnerable, but we can only help the church change by being a part of it. We see biblical evidence of this in Acts 10:28–34, where the author makes clear that God sees benefit in the church being made up of people from different backgrounds. This is one of the first instances of God revealing his plan to graft Gentile believers into a previously Jewish-only community. With God’s help, the vulnerability and open-mindedness of Peter and Cornelius would serve to catalyze a change in the church that would result in the salvation of many more Gentiles for years to come. Similarly, as our local churches become more welcoming to nerds, more and more of us will be able to experience the benefits of belonging.
We Are Called to Live Life in Community with Other Believers
Even when it is hard to reconcile Jesus’ intent for the local church with our experience of it, we must be obedient to what he has called us to. Part of being obedient to him means trusting in his goodness even when it is not apparent. Christians are called to regularly gather together (Hebrews 10:24–25), and the entirety of the New Testament suggests that this gathering is meant to happen in the context of the local church (1 Corinthians 14:26). Jesus teaches this explicitly (Matthew 28:19–20), and the actions of the New Testament church testify to this understanding of his teaching (Acts 4:31–35). In obedience, we must not neglect to gather with the church.
All nerds need a local church. They need a church so that they can change the church from within, they need a church so that they can be lifted up, and they need a church so that they can be humbled. The power of the gospel, in the context of the local church, will show people their value and show them how they can grow. The Christian life involves bearing one another’s burdens and rejoicing with one another. Even when obedience to the Lord brings trials, Christians must trust that the Lord will use those trials for their own good, for the good of the church, and for his glory.
This is the first of a 2-part series. The second part – 5 Reasons The Church Needs Nerds – will be coming out in the near future.