I work at a Christian organization. When I first took the job, I had just come back from a short-term mission trip and was especially zealous for evangelism opportunities, but I quickly realized that building a network of friends from various religious backgrounds was going to be difficult now that my primary sources of community—work and church—were made up entirely of Christians. Developing friendships with non-Christians was going to require branching out of those more traditional sources of community. I considered running groups, professional meetups, and a variety of other social activities, but none of it worked.
That is, until I started attending events at local game stores. What I found there was a group of people eager for community, from diverse cultures and backgrounds and in various stages of life—friendly, welcoming, and interested in many of the same things that I was. I was fascinated by the diversity among the people I met there, but I was also fascinated by the similarities between them. Most everyone I met was engaging, creative, social, and inclusive. But the most attractive thing about them was that they were unashamedly, authentically, and transparently imperfect. This fostered a culture where they could be themselves—awkward, different, and unique—and be accepted.
They shared their issues and worked through them together. They taught me how a community can acknowledge the faults in themselves, and in one another, with a posture of helpfulness rather than criticism. In short, this community reflected many of the qualities that I longed to see more prevalently on display in local churches, and ironically, it was made up almost entirely of people who would not consider themselves to be Christians.
To be clear, that’s not to say that nerd culture consists entirely of unbelievers. There are many people who are deeply embedded in both church culture and nerd culture, but I fear that creativity among members is not often enough recognized as a gift to local churches because it is not as inherently spiritual as some other gifts. I am convinced that creatives are one of the most underutilized tools that local churches have at their disposal and I long to see local churches encourage and affirm creativity, storytelling, art, and an appreciation for beauty among their members. To that end, here are five reasons why every local church needs nerds.
Nerdy is the new cool
It’s often not that difficult to gauge what the world is taking interest in. Likes, views, tweets, and box office numbers keep this information at our fingertips. A quick look at the data will lead you to a glaringly obvious and indisputable conclusion: The world is full of nerds. Of the ten highest grossing movies of last decade, seven of them are either Marvel or Star Wars movies. The trailer for Star Wars Episode VII had 112 million views in the first 24 hours. The movie itself grossed 391 million dollars in the first week alone. The world is nerdy, and to reach people we need to take interest in them and be able to engage with them (Acts 17:16-34). Having nerds already in our midst will help us to engage, love, and persuade those who are still lost.
Nerds are imaginative
God’s greatness is something that no one can fathom (Psalm 145:3). This is especially true when the experience of human life is so limited. Ingesting stories of heroes and villains does not dull our imaginations, it expands them. In his book On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature, C.S. Lewis remarks: “Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” I would argue that this sentiment extends to adults as well as children. We cannot possibly imagine God or fathom his greatness, but imagining fantastic things might flex some of those muscles and help us to see him in a way that is greater than we did before.
Nerds reflect God’s image
The world exists as we know it because the God of the universe is creative at his core. Examples of God’s creativity are not just trickled throughout scripture—the pages of the Bible are drenched in them from Genesis to Revelation. In fact, creating is the very first action we see God take in the Bible (Genesis 1:1). In other words, there is not anything inherently less spiritual about integrating creatives of various sorts into the church than there is in strengthening our theological muscles. God cares that we have sound doctrine, but he also cares about design, beauty, and crafting things well (1 Kings 6). If we desire for our local churches to reflect God’s character to the world, we must not get lazy with creativity. Nerds can help the local church reflect God’s character to the world.
Nerds are social and diverse
A fascination with video games runs in my family. Some of my fondest memories are of summers and holidays huddled up in my grandma’s living room with my cousin, my uncle, and my brother celebrating the defeat of a pesky dungeon boss after countless hours and attempts. Apart from biology and video games, we did not have much in common. We lived hours away from one another and were all over the map in terms of age, economic status, interests, and life experiences, but we stayed in touch and did life together because of our common interests. Years later, I still consider these men some of my dearest friends. This microcosm extends, on a much greater scale, to nerd culture as a whole. Set one foot into the doors of a convention, look past the fabulous cosplays to the faces behind the masks, and you will see a tremendously diverse group of people, from different religious traditions, nations, cultures, backgrounds, economic circles, sexual orientations, and stages of life. From conventions to events at local game stores, to board game meetups, there is no shortage of opportunities to socially engage with nerds, and nerd culture is saturated with people who need to experience the love of Jesus and hear the good news about what he has done for them.
Nerds understand brokenness, beauty, and storytelling
A humble, unlikely hero gloriously combats injustice at his or her own expense, defies death, defeats the bad guy, and saves the world. Sound familiar? That might be because you are a Christian and know the gospel narrative, but it might also be because you have watched any movie, ever. The gospel is the best story ever told and, because of that, most good stories have elements of the gospel embedded in them. Human beings were created and imbued with a holy dissatisfaction with the way things are. We sense that something is wrong with the world. We long for justice and we are fascinated by glory. Whether we know it or not, we long for the gospel. Nerds understand beauty and storytelling and can teach the church to help nerd culture build connections between their own life experiences, the stories they love, and the gospel.
Nerds are engaging and imaginative. They reflect God’s image to the world. They are sociable and diverse. And they understand brokenness and beauty. Oh, that churches might encourage and affirm the creatives in their midst and long for more to be added to their number. Wounds will be healed. Hearts—and the world—will be changed. Souls will be saved. And God will be glorified.
This is the second of a 2-part series. Here’s the first part: 5 Reasons Nerds Need the Church