Do Something Already

January 16, 2018 Justin Peter Gudel

“PunkChiridion was there because no one else would go to them.  The church consistently talks about reaching out—but how and when have they ever reached out to this group—or other similar crowds.”

As 2017 came to a wintery close, PunkChiridion snuck in one last engagement within the public sphere.  My friend Jon, an early adopter/supporter of PunkChiridion, secured for us an action grant from Thrivent.  With the bit of seed money we received, we invested in several of our ongoing projects.  Most notably, we took an aspect of our investigative evangelism (which I’ll abbreviate as IE for the rest of this post) to a local game store, Power Nine.

The gist of IE is the creation of positive interactions, where we honor the other individual, in trust that it will lead to opportunities for us to also share.  It is not a hard sell.  It is about listening.  It’s about spending time and asking questions.  

Sometimes it’s about research.

On December 29, Chris (another PunkChiridion volunteer) and I went to the Power Nine with the intent on creating casual interactions with a crowd of gamers who were showing up to compete at that evening’s FNM, aka Friday Night Magic.  I’ve been a gamer at various times of my life and am familiar with the scene.  It’s demographic is dense in dechurched and unchurched.  It’s the perfect place for some IE.

Power Nine’s owner permitted us to take over a corner of the store.  So we did.  We laid out a Thrivent banner.  Set up our info and stickers.  Then artfully laid out the box of collectible cards we got as a premium for those who spoke with us.  

Our host shouted a wonderful introduction for us, and then the festivities started.  Over the next three hours, patrons casually popped over to see what we were about.

There were several reasons that we were there.  

We had a carefully written survey with two vignettes, which we hoped would illustrate a perceived cost to conversion.  But that was a secondary reason.  We also had stickers and promotional info, but honestly, that was just icing.  

The real reason…

PunkChiridion was there because no one else would go to them.  The church consistently talks about reaching out—but how and when have they ever reached out to this group—or other similar crowds.  In my pessimistic opinion, the typical church sees evangelism as an attachment to filling in a hole on a person’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  It’s as if the church doesn’t have the confidence to interact with a person unless they are homeless or in need of an ESL tutor.  In which the subtle message is, I’ll help you out as long as you listen to my message.  

I ask you, is a carrot offered as incentive love?  

So…

Under the guise of a survey and self-promotion, I had the opportunity to talk to 40+ people.  Most of the conversations were short.  Many of the discussions happened merely for the free merch.  But still, in the end, I can say it was a formative moment in laying down a future dialog with many of them.  Several, have continued the conversation online, a few others have promised to get together for coffee.  

In the next week or two, after I’ve had time to add additional surveys to the pad the sample size, I’ll be sharing the qualitative analysis from the vignettes.  But for today, I do have something that I can share.  Many of the gamers approached us with a sense of trepidation that I hadn’t expected.  They repeatedly wanted to know why we were there or what I wanted to get out of the survey.  

I hadn’t thought about it beforehand, but our very presence was in a sense, an invasion of their safe space.  For the average gamer, their local game store was a respite from the rest of the world.  

Thus, when we set up a table and solicited conversations, everyone was waiting for a catch.  Here’s the best part.  At the end of each of my introductions and short dialogs, they left with ease.  I repeated over and over again in my now rehearsed explanations that we as Christians/humanity need to be more comfortable and human in conversations.  Many approached hesitantly and cautiously, yet nearly all of them left with toothy grins and an out loud affirmation that they, in fact, didn’t feel at all awkward talking to me.  

This is where evangelism needs to begin.