RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia man has launched has an online “church” for those who like to play video games, called “GodSquad Church.” He says that if Jesus were walking the earth today, he would be on Twitch playing games in order to evangelize gamers, a remark that some say is a misapplication of the Scriptures.
“[Jesus] always went to where the people were at,” Matt Souza, 27, recently told The Washington Post. “One of the huge [mediums] of how to meet people today is through video games, and I believe 100 percent that … if Jesus were here walking on the earth, he’d be gaming with people because he knows that’s where the people are at.”
“He’d be on Twitch 100 percent, and he’d be the greatest streamer of all time!” he claimed.
Souza said that he has been a gamer from his youth, playing for seven hours straight after finishing his homework, and continuing to play games while attending Bible college and later working as a pastor’s assistant, spending his evenings and weekends in front of the screen. He outlined that he tried to keep his obsession quiet.
“I went through my life considering myself to be a closet gamer,” Souza told the outlet. “I never wanted to attach that negative connotation to myself—the negative connotation that people think gamers are irresponsible, immature, going to live in their mom’s basement until they’re 35.”
He said that he worried what his coworkers at church and others would think of him if they knew, but said that “God began to help me understand that he loved me the way that I am.” Souza later found Twitch, a site that allows users to stream their game live and is stated to have an estimated 2.2 broadcasters each month.
He noted that others had a significant following, and soon decided to use the platform as an avenue to share his faith while streaming his games for hours each day.
“It’s definitely what I would consider to be an unreached people group,” Souza said. “If we believe as Christians we have a command to go to all the world and share God’s love with people, how do we share God’s love with people who don’t leave their house? Going in to the gaming community is how we do that.”
His idea seemed unorthodox to his wife, Amanda, at first.
“In the beginning, it was kind of hard for me to wrap my mind around,” she told The Washington Post. “I was like, ‘Okay, [so] you’re just going to tell people about Jesus while you’re shooting them in the face?’ And he was like, ‘Exactly.’ [But] now I get it.”
Souza, who delivers a sermon each week in addition to streaming his plays daily, has approximately 4,000 viewers throughout the week. In addition to fielding questions about the Bible and Christianity, he also explains to followers how to differentiate which games are good and bad, how to be a good competitor and how to act when one gets killed in the game.
While Souza believes that using Twitch to reach gamers for Christ is something that Jesus would have done himself, others disagree.
“In no way would Jesus be gaming were He walking on earth today,” David Whitney, pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Pasadena, Maryland, told Christian News Network. “Indeed massive numbers are draw into the gaming world. Those games are designed by the manufacturers to be hugely addictive. Souza admits as much in his own experience. The word of God commands us in the Epistle to the Ephesians not to be drunk with wine. Would this not also apply to other things in life that powerfully draw us to what can be described as addictions?”
When asked whether it makes any difference that Souza exhorts others not to swear or play uber-violent games, he said that video games still simulate killing others, and that is a problem, even if not done in real life.
“The assumption is that what you do in the cyber world makes no difference in reality. I believe it actually does,” Whitney explained. “Jesus showed us that the commandments plumb deep into our intentions when He gave us the understanding that to hate our brother in our heart was to violate the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill.'”
“Our attitudes and thoughts can be sinful even if we don’t take specific actions based upon those thoughts. When Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as yourself it implies that we would not engage in purposely harming others,” he outlined.
He said that he found Souza’s response to his wife to be “telling” when she asked him, “So, you’re just going to tell people about Jesus while you’re shooting them in the face?”
“So, he seems to think that what you do in a video game to another person in that game can be violent and yet loving at the same time, because he will preach the gospel after ‘shooting them in the face,'” Whitney noted. “If Jesus taught that our thoughts and attitudes can be sinful even if we don’t act upon them, would He teach us it is fine to kill other people in a game simulating reality because we ultimately want to tell them the gospel?”
He said that it is not the job description of a pastor to play games, but to devote themselves to the word and prayer.
“I think it a misunderstanding of the nature of pastoral ministry,” Whitney opined. “In Acts 6, when the Apostles were selecting the first deacons, they contrasted the ministry which the deacons were called to do with that which God had called them to do. They said in verse 4, ‘But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ That is the essential calling of a pastor, not playing video games.”
He also outlined that Jesus did ministry face-to-face, and that His followers should similarly be present in the lives of others, as the modern day addiction to technology—whether it be whether gaming, texting or scrolling through Facebook—has left men lonely from lacking real, in-person interaction.
“The gaming world reveals the shallowness of human relationships today. You can see this for example in any eating establishment. People sitting across the table from one another, not talking at all, but face glued to the screen, texting, posting on Facebook or any other activity—anything but personally interacting with the person right there in front of them,” Whitney said. “The result of our shallow human relationships is that loneliness is epidemic.”
“As disciples of Jesus Christ we need more than ever to live incarnational lives,” he exhorted. “As Jesus came into this world a fully alive, flesh and blood human being, fully man and fully God, so we need to become like Him. To love the lost all around us begins by forming face-to-face relationships with them loving them as Jesus did.”
In his book “The True Christian,” the late Anglican preacher J.C. Ryle wrote, “[T]hey who are taught and called of God may soon be distinguished from the sleeping children of this world. These have no leisure for vain amusements; their eyes are fixed and their thoughts are engaged upon the narrow path they have to tread and the crown they hope to receive; they have counted the cost and come out from the world; and their only wish is that they may finish their course with joy.”