This week I’m doing something a little different by releasing an audio version of an upcoming video I’ve produced to help churches and Christian organizations understand the importance online missions […]
This week I’m doing something a little different by releasing an audio version of an upcoming video I’ve produced to help churches and Christian organizations understand the importance online missions and how they work to help people move from virtual life to Eternal Life.
Imagine waking up one day to find the news reporting that explorers had found an undiscovered country. Somehow, this huge country, of 140 million people, seemed to spring up out of nowhere. And as you watch, you realize that it is unlike any other place in the world.
First, it turns out that it’s entirely made up of people that were born somewhere else. Almost every citizen felt like an outsider in their own country, so they made the journey to this secret land to be with other, like-minded people. And, these people are young! A vast majority of the country are between the ages of 16 and 34, mostly male – but everyday more and more women cross their borders.
But – there is something strange too – something that baffled those who discovered it – everyone in this nation communicates exclusively electronically. They use texting, voice calls, video chats, television, internet, blogs, and pre-recorded videos just like other modern nations – but they rarely, if ever, meet face to face.
But, that hasn’t stopped them from building incredibly close-knit relationships with their fellow citizens. In fact, where you might invite a few people into your home for a chat, they will have conversations with thousands of people – at the same time! And then, they break into more intimate groups – consisting of hundreds of like-minded, supportive people, just like them. Every day, trillions of hours, and tens of millions citizens are actively participating in these groups.
This strange communication phenomenon has created some very interesting cultural dynamics. For example, the vast majority of them, even though they are mostly young men, don’t care about sports. For them, it’s video games that get their adrenaline pumping, or is their comfort watching after a stressful day. Sure, there are lots of other popular groups to connect to – talk shows, comedians, people showing off their pets, live artists and musicians, people cooking, or playing chess – but at the end of the day what connects them all are the games.
But this nation has a dark side too. Loneliness and depression are so normal it’s odd to find someone who isn’t suffering in some kind of personal darkness. Most of the games are increasingly violent, bloody, sexual, pagan, and even purposefully blasphemous – mocking God and the spiritual world. And, like every other nation on earth, pornography is becoming more and more normalized as women, of all age groups, are exploited, dehumanized, mocked, and abused by lonely, angry, addicted, young men. And celebrity worship is basically their unofficial religion.
And that’s the other thing – this nation has no official religion. They, like China, for example, are purposefully and willfully secular. The only worship allowed is toward the leaders and celebrities.
In other words, this nation is almost entirely untouched by Christianity. If you search their media for words like “religion”, “Christianity”, “Jesus”, or “Church”, there are no results – except for a few people who have corrupted their meanings to dissuade others, or worse, as traps to promote the pornography. There have been a few dozen Christians have tried to evangelize there, but their organizations are small, their funding is low, and the amount of actual trained missionaries – men and women with seminary training, ministry experience, evangelistic purpose, and the technical skills to understand and participate in this unique culture – can be counted on one hand. This nation, these 140 million people, are almost completely untouched by the gospel.
The news segment ends, you turn off your screen, and you sit there for a moment.
Now, let me ask you a question: As a Christian… upon hearing about this large, perplexing, troubled, secular nation… is your heart stirred to bring light into this dark place?
What if I told you this nation really does exist – but it’s not a country with traditional borders – it’s a website, and it’s called Twitch – and it’s the new frontier of global missions. Today, even as you watch this video, God is calling brand new, online, Hudson Taylor’s, David Livingstones, William Careys, and Jim and Elisabeth Elliots from around the world, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ on this new mission field.
Hi, my name is Al Descheneau, known all over the internet as Christian Ninja, and I believe God wants me to dedicate myself to being a full-time online missionary to gamers and streamers, and I’ve been working hard to make it a reality for a while.
You see, the thing is, that despite the fact that these people are all around you, likely even among your own family and friends, they have been, for the most part, almost untouchable by our traditional church ministries – before the COVID lockdown and after it opens up again. You won’t bump into them at the coffee shop or around the neighbourhood. They won’t come to your youth groups or concerts or open houses. And they are so deeply sceptical of religion and spiritual authorities – that it would never occur to them to reach out to a church in a time of need.
The only way to reach them is to do the same thing missionaries have been doing for years. Go where they are, speak a language they understand, show them the love of God, walk with them in their struggles, and then invite them to meet Jesus and become part of a faith community.
That’s what I believe God has called me to do – and He’s been preparing me for years to do it. I’ve been in ministry in big churches and small for over 20 years, more than 15 of them as a solo pastor. I have a Masters of Divinity with emphasis on pastoral counselling, a bachelor of religion with emphasis on missions, and a passion and aptitude for using technology to evangelize and disciple people in ways that attract and inspire – and I’ve already seen some wonderful success.
I want to tell you a couple of stories, but first, let me share how this online missionary work brings people from virtual life to eternal life:
The first contact they have with me is when they discover my creative content somewhere online. Whether it’s my blog, podcast, YouTube videos, Instagram photography, or the Twitch gaming livestreams, they somehow stumble across me and find some interest. (And let me tell you, that is a real challenge considering that at any given moment, 127,000 people are streaming at the same time. That’s a lot of noise to break through!) Think of that step the way we used to think of Youth Groups or Community Events. It’s the first contact.
Once they become a regular part of my online community, chatting with me and making friends with the other people watching the livestreams, the next step is to invite them to join my private Discord channel. Discord is a program that lets people have private group conversations, and it allows this new contact to move from watching and chatting – to having direct conversations with me and the community, 24/7. Remember, this is a global community, so there’s almost always someone on there to talk to! Think of like someone moving from only attending the big church service to joining a home group.
The Discord server is where a lot of the relationship building happens as they share their needs, struggles, life stories, victories, and deep questions – along with pictures of their pets and crafts, funny links, memes, and silly moments from the streams.
Once they’re connected on the Discord, the next step is to invite them to listen to the podcast, tune into the Sunday Q&A where they can ask me anything they want, and encourage them to tune in a little early on Thursdays for the little, pre-gaming devotional. It’s really an expository sermon series on the book of Philippians, but I just call it “Devos & Chill”. Both of those are designed to purposefully present biblical truth and give people an opportunity to hear the gospel message. That’s where people start meeting Jesus and even calling me their “pastor”.
But it doesn’t stop there. The final step is to use this wonderful virtual community as a bridge to help them find a local body of believers, a real church, for them to attend and a local pastor for them to connect with – all the while continuing to walk with them as their mentor and friend on Discord and Twitch.
And, God is already using this system to do amazing things! Like the man who connected to me through my podcast, curious about what I was about, even inviting me to be a guest on his podcast. That connection has allowed me to start a relationship where he felt safe to share a lot of his personal struggles with me. We’ve built a friendship and I often connect with him online through video and voice chat to give him counsel and share the gospel.
Or how about the Muslim man from Indonesia who connected with me through a Twitch gaming stream because he wanted me to play a game level he designed – his interest in me playing his game led him to join the Discord where he is now part of a community with a bunch of Christians who are building friendships and showing him God’s love.
Or, even the group of almost 50 young adults that recently been able to connect with through Minecraft. One evening I was purposefully looking for some I went looking for some smaller streamers to connect with, came across a young man’s stream, and after a little chatting, he invited me to play on his private server. Not long ago they were total strangers, but now we’re bonding over our shared love of a certain game.
Let me close by saying this. I’ve never been a “gamer”. I’ve had my nose to the grindstone as a pastor for a long time. I didn’t have time for games. But, this ministry feels like something I was born to do. Not only am I passionate about it, and skilled at doing it, but God has been blessing it so much. It may look like I’m just playing video games, but it’s actually a lot of work. I stream for hours per day, at least 5 days per week, and most days I spend a bunch morehours working on creating content, editing videos, connecting with people on Discord and social media, building a network of online missionaries, writing the podcast and weekly devotional, and coming up with new ideas to improve the stream experience. Oh, and did I mention I have a wife and three kids?
If I’m going to do this right, and reach as many people as possible, it really does need my full attention. And that’s why I made this video.
It is my hope that you will catch the vision that the Lord has given me about reaching lost people online, and that you’d be willing to partner with me. It’s my dream to not only dedicate myself to serving these people, but to expand the ministry into becoming a place to train other churches and online missionaries, expanding the work to reach people groups that no one else can. I would love to create Christian based gaming communities and youth events. You all know children and youth that have no interest in soccer, hockey, or baseball? What if you could get all the benefits that sports can teach – comradery, sacrifice, teamwork, how to win and lose well – but do it on a competitive, Christian e-sports team? Imagine how many more youth could mentor if we connected with them in ways that they are actually passionate about?
This mission is still in its infancy, but the potential is incredible.
And there are three ways you can help:
First, you can choose to be part of my offline community. Maybe you don’t play video games or want to watch someone set the world record in beating Minecraft – but you understand the importance of it and you’re willing to supporting me in prayer, send encouraging notes, and share this video and my website with other Christians and churches who might be interested in what I’m up to.
The second way you can help is to help me find other Christian gamers and people who want to dedicate their lives to bringing the gospel to the gaming community. We are few and far between, and the more connections we can make with each other, the greater our collective impact will be! Like I said, you can’t just punch Christian into the search bar. It’s actually really hard for us to find each other. So if you know someone, let me know!
And third, I could really use your financial support. As you can imagine, there are a lot of costs associated with streaming and gaming – and like any other traditional missionary, committing myself to reaching this distinct people group requires a huge commitment of time, energy, and resources. So, it would be really helpful, if you’d and your church family would be willing to commit to supporting me through a one-time gift, or even better, commit to partnering with me through a regular, monthly donation.
Thank you for taking the time to watch this. God bless you.