Episode 72: “Faith and the Video Gaming Community” featuring David Petty and Russ Dornisch

Leading Ideas Talks
Leading Ideas Talks
Episode 72: “Faith and the Video Gaming Community” featuring David Petty and Russ Dornisch

Is there space for faith in the world of online video gaming? David Petty and Russ Dornisch discuss CROSSFIRE: faith + gaming, the innovative online Christian community they have created for gamers.

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Is there space for faith in the world of online video gaming? David Petty and Russ Dornisch discuss CROSSFIRE: faith + gaming, the innovative online Christian community they have created for gamers.

Note: If you’re not a video gamer yourself, you may hear two terms in this episode that are unfamiliar:

Dischord is a group-chatting platform built for gamers. Discord also allows users to voice- and video-chat, as well as livestream games and other programs from their computers.

Twitch is a live-streaming platform for gamers. Twitch streamers “broadcast” their gameplay or activity by sharing their screen with others who can hear and watch them live.

Doug Powe: Welcome to Leading Ideas Talks, a podcast featuring thought leaders and innovative practitioners. I am Douglas Powe, the director of the Lewis Center and your host for this talk. Joining me is Rev. David Petty and Russ Dornisch, the host of CROSSFIRE: Faith + Gaming (crossfirecast.com). It’s a podcast they do, but also a community. Our focus for this podcast is the intersection of video gaming and faith. David and Russ, welcome to our show. I’m excited to talk with both of you. And I want you both to know up front. I want to be clear that we’re talking about video gaming. I’ve had a couple of people, when I use the word gaming, think that it was gambling. But I want to be clear. We’re talking about video gaming.

David Petty. Yeah, we do have a lot of people in our group that are video gamers, some people that are tabletop gamers. But yes, in general, we are not talking about gambling games, but video games.

Doug Powe: So glad to have you both. I want to begin by just asking both of you to share a little bit about your faith background.

David Petty: Sure, I’ll go first. I grew up in the Methodist Church. This is David Petty. I grew up in the Methodist Church as the son of a pastor and as really like, I don’t know, I’m the fifth generation Methodist pastor in my family line. So, you know, it’s kind of always an expectation that faith was there. But, you know, I think as a lot of people do, I got to a point in my mid-teens where I started questioning things and started asking, you know, “Is this my own faith? Or is this, you know, the faith that I was handed?” And then I spent a lot of years just kind of deconstructing that, a lot of years running away from the calling to be in ministry, and then eventually kind of realizing that, no, unfortunately, you can’t fully run away from the call to ministry. And so eventually coming back into it. But, yeah, that’s my faith background. Born and raised Methodist and, you know, kind of deconstructed that for a bit, but still pretty wholly United Methodist and Wesleyan in my thinking.

Doug Powe: Great. And Russ?

Russ Dornisch: Yeah, so I grew up in the nondenominational Evangelical church and pretty much spent the whole life in the church, went to a Christian college in Colorado. After college, I met my wife, who is a Methodist pastor, and I transferred converted over to Methodism. And that was how I got connected with David. So I kind of have that connection of just knowing a ton of clergy and getting connected with him. And we both had the similar hobby of playing video games, which is how we got connected.

Doug Powe: Great. That leads into my next question. So the two of you obviously met and both enjoyed video games. So then what sparked the idea of creating this intersection between faith and video gaming?

David Petty: Yeah. So for me, the idea really came because I was spending a lot of time kind of reassessing where I spent my time. And I think like a lot of people that are in my generation — I’m 34, so that gives you an idea — a lot of people in my generation, I think, have been spending their lives, you know, working a full-time job, working a side job, working another side job, you know, doing everything we can to get ahead. Because society has told us that if we don’t earn enough, if we don’t make enough, then we’re not inherently valuable enough. So I kind of pushed back against that and said I need to reconnect with the idea of play and fun and do more things that I enjoy. So I started asking, “Okay, what are those things?” And so eventually I found video gaming. That was the thing I really loved doing when I was a kid. And in that space, I found a lot of community. But I also found a lot of community of people who were very different from the people I ever saw in church. And some of those people I even found in the gaming community were folks who said “You know, I specifically don’t want to go to a church. I’ve been hurt by the church. I’ve been alienated by the church. You know, the church doesn’t welcome people who look or think or love like me. So I find community in a gaming space.”

So I thought “Well, wouldn’t it be neat if there was a faith expression that was specifically for gamers that was so different from what we offer in our brick and mortar buildings?” And I threw the idea out there to my wife. And I said, “What do you think about the idea of creating a church for gamers?” And she said, “That’s a terrible idea. Don’t ever do that.” And then we got started and as it eventually bloomed, we found there was a lot more, I think, need for that in this space than I ever had even imagined.

Russ Dornisch. Well, that kind of brings me into the picture, David founded CROSSFIRE: Faith + Gaming and I came in a little over a year ago. My wife introduced me to David from getting to know him through the different Methodist events they had and said, “Hey, there’s this guy that runs a Christian gaming group. Obviously, I know you’re a big gamer. Maybe you should reach out and see about joining the community.” So I did that. And before I joined CROSSFIRE, I had been a part of some other Christian communities. And the one thing that I felt kind of alienated in those groups, because while they were groups about gaming and Christianity, they were extremely, extremely conservative Christian groups that didn’t agree with all types of gaming. There was still some kind of conditions that you needed and to be a part of it.

So when I joined CROSSFIRE, you know, I really thought “Okay, this is a great place for people who, you know, have kind of fallen away or feel disconnected from the church. And this is a way to get back into that.” And when I came in, I told David “You know, I think there’s a way we can grow and increase our exposure to other people.” And that was the creation of the podcast and being able to create different avenues and venues in ways that we can create content for our community. So David did a great job establishing the community. I came in and was like, let’s try and start giving something back to our community and create some content that can help the community grow. So that’s kind of where my position came from.

Doug Powe: Excellent. I want to sort of tease this out a little bit further. Can the two of you share a little bit about how other gamers find and join CROSSFIRE. Is it word of mouth, invitation, social media? And then talk a little bit about the community itself. How long has a community been around? And just give us a little bit about how you sort of engage one another so that you truly embody both a faith community and a gaming community.

David Petty: Yeah, so right now, most people have been finding us for a long time through word of mouth. You know, it started off and it was just kind of like me inviting a dozen people who I thought would connect with this idea. And to be honest, this community started off as a group to talk about how we would create such community. And before long, we kind of looked around at each other, you know, looked around in a virtual space and said “Wait a second. We’re creating the community while we’re talking about creating the community.” So then we just started inviting more people in. So it went from my friends to my friends of friends, to their friends. So for the most part has been word of mouth.

But I think we’re really kind of on the cusp of, you know, a lot of people are finding us through social media avenues. Russ has also done a great job reaching out on, you know, things like Twitter and Instagram. We started a Twitch channel a while back. And so we’re doing that branching out where people are able to find us more organically, I would say.

And then just to follow up on that, I think the big question that we’ve been tackling this whole time is “What does faith look like? And what does church look like when it doesn’t look like church?” You know, when you take away the one hour on Sunday morning and, you know, a Bible study group, what does it look like to just live in community with one another and create a very transparent and open space where people with faith questions can tease those faith questions out and where we can engage with one another and say, “You know, maybe we’re just fellowshipping and we’re playing a video game and someone is like, hey, you know, I was wondering what’s the difference between the Methodist Church and the Southern Baptist Church? Because I always thought they were pretty much the same?” You know, and then that’s an opportunity for us to kind of really talk about all of our faith differences. The other thing is Russ and I have done a Lenten devotional last year where we did a daily devotional every day of Lent and then we did an Advent devotional. So we’ve been trying to also engage the faith pieces. But, you know, Russ and I are super part time, so, yeah, I don’t know what else to say on that. Russ, do you have anything else ?

Russ Dornisch: Yeah, well, and as far as like what we do to create that church and to create that community and what we’re doing with it, you know, we meet once a week on Discord, which is a great platform to be able to talk and do that. And so that’s almost like our church in a way of us getting together, our small group. We have, like you said, the Twitch streams, which, you know, we go online, we play video games, live, people can interact and chat with us. And we’ve gotten some great interaction there, you know, from prayer requests to people having questions, like David said about, you know, faith and Christianity and Methodism and all these other things that we have going on. So we’ve created that avenue to kind of interact with people, live through that aspect. But it’s just it’s finding the different ways that we can communicate and be able to talk about this. And we’re slowly now talking about, “Okay, how can we expand on this a little bit more, include more of the faith aspect of the different things that we do?” Whether that’s, you know, even streaming an online Bible study or meeting once a week to do a Bible study online. Those are some things that we’re starting to explore now as we expand what the community is and the ways that we can reach them through faith.

Doug Powe: And you all have touched on this a little bit and talk about sort of the activities that you engage in as a community and where you would like to head. But as you talk about this on Discord, and I want you all to know, I just learned about this recently because of my son, who is a gamer. He and his friend use it also. But how many people are often on with you together in community at a time when you have your weekly meeting and you have small groups? And it’s different small groups together? Or that one large group? How does it work in terms of coming together?

David Petty. Yeah, so we before I answer that, I want to follow up really quick, your earlier question. You asked me how long the community has been around. We started it in 2017. So that’s three going on four years now. But yeah, back to the Discord. Typically we have anywhere between five and 10 people in our Discord group. And I would say that that is five to 10 people out of maybe 20 or so different people that will join at any given Monday. And we’re kind of at that point where we’re pushing the boundaries of small group. You know, if you get to eight or 10 people, it becomes hard to have a conversation. You really need somebody to moderate that, as probably all of us have learned, doing virtual meetings and Zoom things as last year. So we’re right at the cusp of trying to figure out what does it mean to break into more small groups, to have more small groups? We have multiple meeting at once. Do we have different ones on different nights? So we’re exploring that right now. But hopefully that answers your question.

Doug Powe: Yeah, it does. Thank you. Let me move to this. I’m curious, do you get interest from those who are outside of faith communities completely? Or is it mainly gamers who or are currently a part of a faith community or they were part of one at one time and now are sort of disenfranchised?

David Petty: I would say we’ve got a little bit from across the spectrum. I would say, you know, we’ve got a few pastors in the group who have just kind of found this is a neat place to hang out, you know, because gaming is one of their hobbies. We’ve got some people who are within the church. And so this is kind of a supplement to their to their normal church going. And they just enjoy having this as a small group. And then we’ve got a handful of people who are, you know, really have not been connected with the church in a long time, either because they’ve been disconnected or disenfranchised or because, you know, at some point they got hurt and said “I’m never going back there. I’ll never step foot in the church building again.” Russ, anything else you want to add to that ?

Russ Dornisch: Yeah, so and I’ve seen this on even the Twitch streams. As you know, obviously, Twitch is a much more secular platform that tons of gamers use regularly. So when we get new people who are coming into our chat and who are interacting with us, you know, they’ll bring up some questions about faith and they’ll state like “Oh, well, I went to church growing up. Not really a big time churchgoer now. Don’t even know if I really believe in that stuff.” And so we’re able to kind of have interesting conversations even through that. And again, being able to kind of break down the different things about religion, or why we believe what we do, or things like that are really great to kind of open that conversation of kind of introducing people back to that. But also introducing people to the fact that church isn’t always what we thought it was, which was sit on a pew on Sunday, listen to somebody speak to you about a book that sometimes is confusing or difficult to understand. And they’re like “Wow, you can be a gamer and a Christian at the same time? That doesn’t make sense with what I was raised on.” So I think that definitely opens a lot of conversations that we’re able to have on that platform as well.

Doug Powe: Great. And you all sort of have started going down this path. I’m sure many are interested. And I’m curious, are you finding that most of the individuals connecting with you are young and male, or are you finding more diversity in terms of the community ?

David Petty: So I think we’ve kind of hit, as I mentioned earlier, because we started the group with, like my friends, friends of friends, so a lot of the people are in the similar demographic as me, you know, kind of 30 to 40. We’ve got a lot of males in there. I would say we’ve got a decent amount of diversity in terms of our, you know — we do have a lot of gender diversity in the group. But, you know, I would say that right now we don’t have a lot of things that push towards kind of women’s ministries. You know, a lot of the group just kind of tends to be guys hanging out, which is not a bad thing, you know. Because part of what we’ve talked about before is that there is a massive gap, I would say, for men having community. And so that’s a thing that we’ve said. “Okay, you know, if it’s just guys that are hanging out, let’s kind of talk about that. Like, why is it that guys have a hard time creating deep and vulnerable communities where they can be open and honest about their feelings? And how can we foster that rather than saying ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, we need to make more diversity?’” And just open the space up and or try to force a certain amount of diversity where it’s not happening. So we’ve got some diversity. We could use more. Russ, anything you want to add.

Russel Dornisch: Yeah, so as far as like age, yeah, most of us are in our 30s, 40s. I think right now that’s become a very big group just because we’re the people that really grew up during the time that video games really started taking off and becoming popular. But as far as the younger generations, we do have a decent amount of younger people. And what I really appreciate is I’ve had some parents reach out to me and say how grateful they were to know that the community existed. Because their kids were able to play a certain game with us or be a part of that. And they felt much safer allowing their kid to be a part of the community and to play a game with people that they kind of have an idea of who they are and what their backgrounds are. And you’re not necessarily playing with, you know, the normal toxic gaming community that you sometimes hear about, that’s I think perpetuated by the media, of people who are cursing and doing all sorts of stuff throughout the online chat. So it gives them kind of a safe place to allow their kids to say “OK, you can game with these people. It’s great. I know what you’re doing. I’m involved and can understand what’s going on.” So we kind of do have that aspect. We’re slowly starting to grow, I think, a little bit more and look for ways that we can increase that community and that participation.

Doug Powe: That’s great. I was struck when you were talking about parents contacting you and are excited that their children are connecting with you all. Do you find that to be challenging? I know sometimes the church has a hard time with generational things. So, you know, having people who are in their 30s and people who are in their teens together in community actively is sometimes a struggle for the church. So do you find that is easier because of your common interest of gaming? Or do you find the same struggle that the church sometimes has in terms of a generational ministry?

David Petty: I think it opens a lot of opportunities for conversation. You know, we’re learning and growing and exploring as we as we grow. But really for us to say “You know, let’s be in conversation and in community with these parents, with these kids.” You know, it’s a conversation we’ve had before of what does it look like? What would it look like if we had a youth ministry in this space? Or what would it look like if we had specifically a children’s ministry in this space? So I don’t know that it’s any easier or any different than a physical space. Certainly there’s an ease, I think, with just being in a virtual space instead of another space. But you have the same kind of concerns of, you know, wanting to make sure that it is a safe place for kids, wanting to make sure that parents feel comfortable with it. So in a lot of ways, I think it’s pretty similar to what the church goes through. And I think that those are struggles that are healthy and they’re important that we have those conversations and those struggles to say “You know, how do we make sure that kids ministry is not just a flippant thing we do on the side, but is really intentionally a safe and creative and productive space. That’s also in conversation with parents as we raise children to become adults?”

Doug Powe: Great. Russ. anything to add?

Russ Dornisch: Well, I think, you know, my background. I work with kids a lot. I coach kids. I work at a school. I’ve done youth ministry in the past. And the one thing that I’ve noticed every time I bring up the fact that I’m a gamer or, you know, I’m wearing a gaming sweatshirt around the kids that I work with, they’re like, “Wait, you play games ? What do you play ? Do you play this ? Hey, do you want to play with me?” Like they find it really cool that somebody older than them is interested in something that in their eyes they think is a kid thing. And I think that also comes along with the stigma that kind of gaming has been given, which is it’s something only for young people to play and adults shouldn’t partake in it. And I think it’s kind of a cool little connection piece that you can have with younger kids and younger generations that I think you may find more difficult in churches with other topics and other ideas and things. So it gives us a great way to connect with younger generations. But like David said, you definitely still have some of the struggles that you have in other groups and other ways of connecting with them. This just kind of gives you common ground to start the conversation and start the connection. But you got to kind of bridge that gap and go on from there.

David Petty: I want to hit on something Russ said, which is the stigma around video games is huge. And so part of what we’ve aimed to do with this group is to really destigmatize video games, video gamers. You know, for some reason we often hear the anecdotes in society of, you know “If you’re a gamer, then you’re 30 years old and you live in your parents’ basement because you don’t have a job.” And you know, which in and of itself is a whole other stigma with, you know, why don’t you fit in with this notion of society and capitalism that we adhere to. But really trying to destigmatize that and say, “Look, if you’re a video gamer, like you’re just a human being. You’re a beloved child of God.”,

Also destigmatizing and having those conversations about, like violence in video games. You know, people often think, well, violent video games lead to violence in real life. But what we find, if you actually look at so many of the studies, is that that’s not the case. You know, so maybe there’s violence in a video game. And that’s a conversational point. You know, Russ and I talked a lot last year about a game that came out, the Game of the Year last year, The Last of Us Part 2. It’s an extremely violent video game. But the violence is there so that at the end of it you go “Holy cow, this was brutally violent in a way that I don’t want to play violent video games anymore because it really deeply affected me.” You know? And so there are games that have commentary on the violence in the violence, similar to the way I think you look at some Scripture and say “Holy cow, they did what in that battle? You know, we should never do that kind of thing.” So really, yeah, that’s a huge place that we’ve tried to hit on is destigmatizing video games and video gamers so that also we just feel more comfortable.

Like most of us would tell our friends “Oh, yeah, man. I love to play basketball.” But we might not just go tell our friends or co-workers, you know “Oh, hey, man, you know, I’m going to go play on the PlayStation for a bit.” For some reason, that’s a part of adults that play video games that they keep hidden. And we want to change that notion so that people are feeling more open to be who they really feel like they want to be.

Doug Powe: I want to stay in this vein and talk about the stigma, particularly related to violence. And I appreciate your answer and helping explain and push back against the violence some. Can the two of you do the same with misogyny? Because, you know, the other thing you hear all the time is how misogynistic many of these games are. So can you sort of address that issue?

Russ Dornisch: Well, so I think in recent years we’ve actually seen a bit of a shift, especially in the video gaming industry. I mean, if we look at even just the last year, female powerful female characters are becoming the norm and they’re starting to grow. Mind you, it needs to still change. And we definitely are a part of the mind that, you know, we like seeing strong female characters. We’re not one to get angry about that. There definitely is a section of gamers that get very angry at that. The game we just talked about The Last Of Us Part 2. Its main character is a lesbian female that you play and that has caused a lot of issues in the gaming community, where people have been very upset and frustrated that, you know, they feel that they did that just to make a point when that’s not the case at all. It was done very well. And very important and specific way of doing it. So I definitely think things are shifting to not be so misogynistic. I definitely think there was and for a very long time for throughout history of games, that misogyny was a very, very big aspect to it. But now you are seeing more female gamers. You are seeing more female characters. You are seeing more females in development and on the forefront of video games. So just like I think society as a whole is moving more and more away from that, we’re also seeing that shift in games within the community.

David Petty: I also think some of it is, you know, some of it’s systemic, right? We need to back out and look at the biggest picture. Especially for many of us who are men who talk about video games that are not inclusive of women, we’re often talking about video games that we ourselves might play. And missing from the conversation might be the voices of women. And so, you know, a perfect example is like, you know, our group might consist mostly of men. And we’ll talk about “Hey, what are you guys playing?” And if we had a group of women and we said “Hey, what are you guys playing?” The answers might be very different. There’s a recent study that came out in 2018 about what the demographics are of a gamer. And I can’t remember the exact statistics, but like the average gamer age is 35, which tells you that for every teenager out there playing video games, there’s a 60-year-old playing video games. You know, there’s the gaming grandma who plays Skyrim. But you know, also then there’s a lot of women who play video games, but we might not think of them as video games because they’re not the Triple A High Graphics titles. But many of the men out there playing, granted this is, you know, a whole binary thing that that breaks down in seconds. But, you know, a lot of women that I’ve talked to play games like Animal Crossing. My wife is a good example. She’s been playing through Sack Boy recently. So she’s not playing the shooter games. She’s playing a puzzle platformer game or Animal Crossing. That’s like a fun. I don’t even know what to describe Animal Crossing as other than Animal Crossing. You know, which I would say is far from the misogyny that we see in some other games.

So I think video games and the games industry has come really far in getting away from male dominated main characters, male dominated industry. But it still has a long way to go. I think the latest statistic I heard was like nine to 13 percent — somewhere in there, don’t quote me on that — but somewhere in there is nine to 15 percent of the video game industry is women. Right. That’s a huge discrepancy in who’s actually making the games that we’re playing. But, yeah, I mean, we saw a whole shift, I would say probably as recently as 2017, 2018, where you had games coming out. You know, you had the latest Tomb Raider Game, Horizon Odon came out a little bit before that, the game we just talked about, The Last of Us with a female protagonist. The latest Gears of War V, I think, has the female protagonist. And then there was a lot of pushback when they put a female protagonist in. Oh, gosh. Battlefield V. I want to say people were really frustrated about that because they said, “Well, you know, women weren’t in the war.” And then there was even pushback on the pushback that said, “Well, actually, no, there were a lot of women that were fighter pilots in the war. And let’s talk about that history.” So if nothing else, I think the conversations that need to happen are happening, but there’s still a long way to go.

Doug Powe: Thank you. I appreciate that. And from your responses, it sounds like the community plays an array of games from The Call of Duty to Grand Theft Auto all the way to Super Mario and Animal Crossing. Am I correct in that you all sort of run the gamut ?

I would say so.

Doug Powe: I want to ask, are you all familiar with the concept of Fresh Expressions Church? And do you consider yourselves possibly a Fresh Expression?

David Petty: I’ve heard the term before. But I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it described or heard an accurate definition of Fresh Expressions. Do you have one that you’d give us?

Doug Powe: I’m not going to say that mine is accurate, but a short definition would be Fresh Expressions are sort of a third way of thinking about church. So you have individuals who are looking at sort of traditional spaces and ways of engaging in church, but they’re looking for sort of a different expression of how a faith community could come together. So in that sense, someone may have a canoeing ministry or church. Or someone may have a yoga community or church. So the question would be, would you see yourself sort of in the same vein? Or do you see yourselves as doing something different?

David Petty: Yeah, I think I would definitely see us in this vein. The funniest thing is that when we started CROSSFIRE — which is both a Fresh Expression of a faith community, and also I would say it’s an affinity group within the church. And the funniest thing was I was starting to ask myself, like, OK, well, could you have a group that is a church but is also specifically focused on one particular grouping of people. And so we were looking for domains for our CROSSFIRE church. And I think one of the first domains we looked up, I want to say it was crossfireumc.com or crossfireumc.org, or something like that. And apparently, if you look up CROSSFIRE UMC, there is a biker church that was created at some point a while back that was named CROSSFIRE. And it was both a church and a group of bikers, you know. So it was affirming for me to say, “Okay, there are plenty of other places where people are doing this kind of affinity group as a church model”. But, yeah, I don’t know. Rusty, would you agree with me ? Are we a Fresh Expression?

Russ Dornisch: Yeah, I absolutely feel we are. I looked up before we got on the background of that and what it looks like. And even we’re not the only ones in this space. There’s tons of other groups that do very similar things. The big thing I see and what I think we could eventually get to, I mean, there’s lots of ideas of how do we make this into a full-fledged church. And again, I think one big thing that I’m seeing a lot of, especially in younger generations, and I think you know the statistics show that people are leaving the church in droves. And so for me, it’s like “How do we reach those people?” And I think a lot of that has to do with church, doesn’t have to just be a building on a Sunday. And I think in the last year, we’re starting to realize that a lot more as a church community, especially with dealing with the pandemic and having church more focused online and people meeting in multiple different places in multiple different ways. And all over the country, you know, some small churches, like my wife’s church is growing because their membership is growing not from local people, but because of the online aspect of the church that now is available. They’re growing from people all over the country. And so us as a gamer church can tap into that. We can tap into the people who don’t want church to just be sitting in a pew on a Sunday. It’s what kind of community does that look like on a regular basis? What is being offered? What are ways that discipleship is being grown? And so those are just things that we’re on the tip of, of just trying to figure out what does that look like as we continue to grow and how do we include church more in what it is we’re doing? So I absolutely believe that, yeah, we’re definitely a part of that category.

Want to learn more about Fresh Expressions? Visit churchleadership.com and enter Fresh Expressions in the search box for articles, podcast episodes, and videos on the subject.

Doug Powe: And let us conclude with this question. I’m curious from both of you. If you had a crystal ball and you were thinking of where you would like to see CROSSFIRE go in three to five years, what is your answer?

David Petty: I think if I had to look three to five years out, I see a couple of different potential futures — or as we would call them in nerd space a multiverse of potential realities. And I think the group could continue on its current path and, you know, grow to a few hundred people, and, you know, grow to a few more small groups in Discord and continue putting out high quality content. I think the group could also really bloom and flourish to be, you know, eventually a couple of thousand people and, you know, be almost a full-time job for me, you know, trying to put together content and keep the community engaged. I think, you know, in some ways I wonder if it wouldn’t be best as an expression, as I mentioned, an affinity group, if it kind of partnered alongside of churches, you know, and I said churches like partnered alongside the Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church, because we’re pretty open denominational.

You know what if this became the Methodist Men of Gamers or the Methodist Women of Gamers? And what if there were, you know, in every church a pamphlet at the front door that said, “Are you a gamer? Check out this way that the United Methodist Church or the Presbyterian Church is reaching out to gamers?” Because I think in so many ways there’s more community when there are more people. Right? And so, you know, the more people, the more community, the more content. The other thing is our community has really gotten to the point where people are posting things regularly and people are engaging with one another on a regular basis. And Russ and I aren’t having to always add new logs to the fire, so to speak. So I see a couple of different potential realities. And it’s really going to be defined by whether we’re doing the things that I think we should be doing. And really, at the end of the day, whether what we’re doing is honoring and glorifying God and bringing more people to their faith. So I think the most we can do is is aim at that goal and work towards it.

Doug Powe: Russ, anything to add?

Russ Dornisch: No, I think I think David hit most of it. I mean, we have dreams, we have goals we want to hit. Whether we hit those or not, you know, it’s going to be something that we have to wait and see. But we definitely see, I mean there’s obviously potential in gaming as one of the biggest forms of media that there is right now in the world. And it’s only growing every single year. So if we can find a way to tap into that, especially as the church, I think we’re going to find that there is a vastly untapped source of people that are, you know, yearning or could benefit greatly from hearing the message of God.

Doug Powe: Well, I want to thank both of you for this conversation. It has been helpful and interesting. And I think a lot of individuals who listen to us will be interested in learning more about CROSSFIRE. I certainly believe you all are doing a Fresh Expression. And it’s something that I do think there are individuals seeking this sort of community where they can actually combined faith with what they love to do. So thank both of you for your work and for joining us today.

David Petty: Thank you.

Russ Dornisch: Yeah. Thank you for having us.

Announcer: On the next Leading Ideas Talks we speak with Beth Norcross about awakening our visceral knowing of God through nature.

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CROSSFIRE: faith + gamingLearn more about CROSSFIRE: Faith + Gaming on their website (crossfirecast.com), podcast (crossfirecast.com/podcast), Facebook (facebook.com/CrossFireFaithGaming), and Twitter (twitter.com/churchforgamers).

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About Author

David Petty

David Petty currently serves as the pastor of Meeker United Methodist Church in Meeker, Colorado, and is the founder of CROSSFIRE: faith + gaming.

Russ Dornisch

Russ Dornisch is host of the CROSSFIRE: faith + gaming, a ministry dedicated to bridging the gap between the gaming community and spirituality. He lives in Billings, Montana, and works in finance for a local church-based organization.

Rev. Dr. F. Douglas Powe, Jr.

F. Douglas Powe, Jr., is director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership and holds the James C. Logan Chair in Evangelism (an E. Stanley Jones Professorship) at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. He is also co-editor with Jessica Anschutz of Healing Fractured Communities (Palmetto, 2024) and coauthor with Lovett H. Weems Jr. of Sustaining While Disrupting: The Challenge of Congregational Innovation (Fortress, 2022). His previous books include The Adept Church: Navigating Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Abingdon Press, 2020); Not Safe for Church: Ten Commandments for Reaching New Generations; New Wine, New Wineskins: How African American Congregations Can Reach New Generations; Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith; and Transforming Community: The Wesleyan Way to Missional Congregations.