Join Me At The Table
By Anthony Casperson
Today is International TableTop Day (ITTD). It’s the day of the year when many will gather to play tabletop games together. Several different livestreams will join forces to celebrate gaming and have fun. Geek and Sundry began the gaming holiday in 2013, with events held in over 60 countries. It’s only grown from there.
While I was thinking about today, I asked myself about the ease with which people can join together over gaming culture, while it can often be difficult for we followers of Jesus to join forces. I mean, the livestreams don’t feel as if they’re in competition for their audience. There’s no animosity between different livestreams. And some streams even cross by inviting people from other livestream channels to play.
They’re in this event to coordinate a gaming extravaganza to excite those already invested in tabletop gaming and to showcase to those outside of the lifestyle how great it is to be in gaming culture. While there could be many differences pointed out in the details, can it not be said that being a follower of Jesus is similar by exchanging out gaming for Jesus? We followers of Jesus can join together to excite those already invested in Jesus and to showcase to those outside of the lifestyle how great it is to be in God’s Kingdom.
Rather than focusing on the differences, I thought about what we as followers of Jesus can learn (or be reminded about) from gamers, when it comes to serving together. I came up with four thoughts for us to remember when we followers of Jesus come together. (And that’s for both a grand international level as well as a community-wide scale.)
1. That which unties us is something we all love.
The biggest thing to remember is the reason why we’re coming to the table to begin with. Gamers all love playing games. Followers of Jesus all love Jesus. If we lose sight of what we love, we become selfish, in it only for our self-gratification. The tie-that-binds unravels, leaving us looking for an escape.
For gamers, the reason we come together is to have fun and play. The point isn’t to win. It’s not to be the most well-known group playing games on ITTD. The second that we start being in it only to win, fun is lost. We grumble and complain because we’re not winning, or rub it in people’s faces when we are. And the people playing with us lose interest in playing because they’re tired of our complaining or gloating.
For followers of Jesus, the reason we come together is to glorify God, worshiping him. The point isn’t to take the spotlight. It’s not to be the biggest or fanciest church joining together. The second that our own glory becomes the most important thing, worship is lost. We grumble and complain because we’re not the center of attention, or rub it in others faces when we are. And the people who should be worshipping God around us become distracted by it because either they’ve joined in giving us attention, or they’re annoyed by our egotism.
In order to properly join together in unity, we have to keep the thing that we love as the center. Otherwise, it becomes lost. And how can we say that we’re celebrating when it gets left to the wayside?
2. Community is an important aspect.
Speaking of how our love keeps us together, the concept of community is important for both. While it is possible to both play games and worship God in an individual manner, the more powerful experiences in our lives come when we look into the faces of those who share our interest and develop strong bonds with them because of the community.
On previous years of ITTD, Geek and Sundry has connected with people playing games all around the world. They take some time to step away from the games that they’re playing and talk to people in other venues, like a game shop on the other side of the country, or a group on the other side of the world.
We followers of Jesus have even more options when it comes to connecting with other worshipers of God. Not only do churches far outnumber game shops in most towns and cities, but the gospel has spread all around the world for millennia. And part of the gospel is about living life together as the family of God.
Community is necessary for both. We need other people to share in the things that we love so that we can have the most fulfilling experience in either. Some of my favorite times playing games have been the human interaction above the game more than the game itself. Likewise, my favorite moments of worship have come when the Spirit moves in the midst of those gathered to unite us in one purpose.
3. Preferences shouldn’t stop us.
One of the biggest issues when you gather a bunch of people together who all love the same thing is that they all love different aspects of it. There are as many preferences as there are people. But as a group, you can only do a limited number of things at the same time.
There are so many different types of games. RPGs, cooperative games, competitive games, games with traitor mechanics. Each changes how you view the other people gathered at the table. And the mechanics are all different. There’s worker-placement games, roguelike games, tile-laying games, card games. The list can go on and on. Nobody likes every type of game. But even if somebody wants to play a game we don’t like, we know that another game will be played later. And that one might just be our favorite.
Likewise, there are many different methods of worshiping Jesus. We have learning from his word, prayer, songs of praise, giving, and serving one another. Not only this, but each of these have different methods. Do we prefer big groups or small groups? Hymns or praise choruses? Silent prayers or exclamations of joy or need or repentance? Nobody will like every possible way we can worship God. But when a part of the gathering comes up that we don’t like, we know that another part will come. And that one might just be our favorite.
We can’t get hung up on favorites. If we do, we make the point of gathering about ourselves. At which point, I refer you back to point #1. Just because we don’t like the exact thing that’s going on in the moment, it doesn’t mean that others aren’t having fun, or that God isn’t being worshiped.
4. We can learn about new mechanics.
One of the best things about gathering with people, especially those with whom we haven’t had much contact, to learn new things. How do we come to discover new things we love about this community if we don’t learn about new things?
ITTD gives us the excuse to try many new games. The whole day’s set aside to play. Who knows what new game mechanics we can discover? And this new mechanic might just become we love even more than what we’ve experienced before. I’ve mentioned Sentinels of the Multiverse before. It’s my favorite game, but I had never heard of cooperative games before I played it. (Granted, that game was one of my introductions to the hobby in general.) Had I not tried it, I might not have come to love the hobby as I do.
Gathering as fellow followers of Jesus gives us the ability to learn about practices from other liturgical practices. Events and seasons on the calendar differ among the various groups of God’s people. Who knows what new practice might help us grow in our relationship with Jesus. This past season of Lent, we spent weeks on blogs focusing on the cross, burial, and resurrection. The reason why was because the church I currently attend took the season of Lent to heart last year and I experienced the practice on a deeper level than I had before. I came to see it’s purpose and clung to that.
New doesn’t always mean better. But sometimes our backgrounds can blind us to mechanics and practices that we would actually love if we gave them a chance. A gathering on a scale beyond just our local gaming group or our local body of Christ can facilitate introduction to these practices we’ve never heard of before.
So, as we gather at the table of games, let’s not just have fun with others. Let’s also think about how this day can teach us to gather at the table of fellowship with our fellow followers of Jesus, how we can worship him.
Join me at the table.