Community Through Story
Less than a year ago, I began watching a show on Geek and Sundry’s website called Critical Role. It’s a show where a bunch of nerdy voice actors play D&D. The exploits of Vox Machina in the world of Exandria had only recently begun being streamed on Twitch when I first started watching the show (though the players had been playing offline for a couple of years before the show started).
To the surprise of even the 8 players and DM, a community of people (calling themselves “critters”) had grown around this living tale of a band of adventurers, even though they had only been on the air for a few months. Talented people created fan art. They sent dice, prop weapons, a giant stuffed bear, figures of the characters, even a flame-thrower to the players.
Now, after over a year of weekly streaming, the community built up around the story of this intrepid band of adventurers rates in the thousands. Even through the many changes of the show, including the loss of one player, another player being less capable of regular play, and some behind-the-scenes people’s transitions, the community continues to grow.
As surprising as the success of Critical Role is to the people involved, I find one thing interesting about this success. This community of people who pour their artistic talents, time, and energy into the story of Vox Machina have been brought together because of their love of the story. The community was built through a uniting story.
A handful or two of people sitting around tables rolling dice (that the viewers can’t see) and reading mechanical descriptions of spells out of books doesn’t sound interesting. It’s the story they tell that’s captivating. It’s the sight of a tiny gnome soloing an entire enemy stronghold as he polymorphs into a triceratops. It’s the image of a female half-elf who’s so tight with her money that it took over 40 episodes before she paid full price for an item. It’s heart-breaking emotion as the party tries to keep their members from falling into the permanence of death.
A uniting story is important to any community. Whether it’s a group devoted to a certain author’s books or a country built around rebellion from tyranny, story builds community. Ask any group of people, from a group of work friends to a band of military brothers, why they spend time together and expend energy to help each other, and you’ll get a story. All community is built around story.
This is true even in Christianity. We who are followers of Jesus have a uniting story: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The true tale of God coming to earth, enfleshed in humanity, in order to provide a way for right relationship with God through his sacrificial death. This is why we sing songs of praise to God. This is why we join together in community on the day of the week that Jesus rose from the grave. This is why we pour ourselves into each other’s lives, building each other up.
It’s the story of Jesus that unites us. It’s his death, burial, and resurrection that we proclaim as we tell others about God’s desire to live in relationship with them. A group of people sitting there listening to one guy speak about a book written over two thousand years ago and singing songs written centuries ago doesn’t sound interesting. It’s the story that captivates the heart. It’s the story of a love so bold that even repetitive rejection can’t stop God from giving his all. It’s the heart-rending account of the God-man paying the price of justice for his creation’s sin and rejection. It’s the telling of sin, death, and destruction being dealt a killing blow in one fell swoop as the Father raises his beloved Son back to life.
But are we, as followers of Jesus, pouring our time, energy, and artistic talents into the continuation of this tale of life? Has the story of God’s plan to redeem humanity filled us with such joy and pleasure that we desire to join in on the story, no matter the cost? Is the tale of the God-man something that consumes our thoughts and words and time? Or do we tiredly say that we don’t have time to devote to it because of all of our other responsibilities?
I’ll admit I have those times when I'm more of a fan of a show than I am devoted to the things of God. But it’s usually at those times that he reminds me how much more beautiful his designs are than anything humanity can create.
My challenge to us all is to look once again at the story of the Creator of the universe providing the only way for his creation to have right relationship with him and join together to create something beautiful. Artistic or not, followers of Jesus uniting in community around the story of Jesus is beautiful. Community comes through story. And it is beautiful.