Sunday, April 28, 2013

Loving Minecraft

(this is my church newsletter article for May.)

Loving Minecraft

All the kids are playing it.  Which is not in itself is a reason to love something, I'll give you that.  But a lot of the adults are playing it too.  If you've never tried Minecraft, you should probably try it right now- there's a demo at  If you're not an internet person, here's the gist of it:
there's a large world, made entirely of blocks.  You get to run around in it, and build things out of blocks.  Four planks of wood make a crafting table.  Two sticks and some stone make a shovel. 

The thing about Minecraft is that everybody plays it differently.  Rachael's brother is in college, and he and his fellow engineering students build huge construction projects and elaborate pranks for one another.  I was talking with some of the young women at our First Communion class, and they are all building castles and palaces.  Some of our middle school students are learning basic programming and computer logic by building machines in Minecraft.  When I play, I mostly just hop around and build stuff.  There's no plot to speak of, no linear story winding through the game.  (It's arguably not even a game at all.)  But I love it, and I think it has some things to teach us about how to be church together. 

First: In Minecraft, building is joyful.  The game has its own physics- you can't just build anywhere, but you can build a lot of things.  And the mechanics really encourage you to try things, to build things, to pile blocks on top of other blocks not just to avoid the monsters that come at night, but because it's really fun.  We are a community of builders here at Zion.  And when we are doing the hard work of planning and preparing, of organizing potlucks and getting people to sign up for the mission trip, it can be easy to forget about what we're building.  What looks like one more committee meeting, one more Sunday school lesson, is actually building, just as clearly as if we were stacking iron in Minecraft.  We are building something awesome here at Zion- a place where people feel welcome, a place where God's call is lived out, a place where we get to be family for one another.  It should be really fun. 

Second: We don't all have to play the same way. I alluded to this above, but one of the things I love about Minecraft is that there's a lot of different ways to play.  Maybe you really like seeing how deep you can dig.  Maybe you just want a little house and a barnful of chickens.  Maybe you're really good at figuring out how to make your automatic crossbow trap shoot flaming arrows.  Maybe you just want to wander and explore the ocean, the tundra, the mountains.  Maybe you want to play by yourself, maybe you want to get all your friends on the same server, maybe you want to play with crazy designers or battle-ready warriors or artists from around the world.  We do well to remember this kind of ethic when we're at church.  We share a common story, a common life in the Spirit.  But that looks very different for different people.  We don't all sing in the choir, we don't all bake bread, we don't all chair a committee.  But we all have our piece of the building.  If it were Minecraft, we would all know that four planks makes a crafting table.  But it's church, so we all know that the bread is the Body of Christ.  Everything else builds from there. 

Finally, Minecraft is a game that encourages trying things until something works.  Maybe I didn't make my castle walls thick enough the first time.  Maybe it takes me ten or twelve tries to figure out how to build a shovel or the right kind of clock.  But because building is joyful, because there's no one right way to play, there's a freedom in it.  Even if the zombies eat you, you just get to start again, and starting again is fun.  This is another thing we would do well to take to heart at church.  Not every class is going to be well attended.  Not every mission project is going to be successful.  Not every youth group lesson will be super-interesting and engaging.  Some of them will, and that's great.  But the work of the church is not about success.  I think too often, in the church, we don't try things because we might fail.  That doesn't work in Minecraft, and it doesn't work in God's call to us.  May we try eight things and fail at seven of them.  May we build big and know when to run away before it crashes down on us.  May we laugh amidst the rubble of failure for a moment before we start building again.  May we take up our pick-axes and blocks, our songs and our gifts and our talents and our sheep- and join in the joyful building. 

May it be so.