Note: This article has been excerpted from the SmallGroups.com training tool called Effective Affinity Groups.
I can see it in my mind's eye: a life that is seamlessly filled with the love of Christ. I can see myself living out my hobbies, mowing my yard, and enjoying the relationships around me. It is a vision I have had for my life and for others for a very long time. It is what I call a life-integrated ministry that engages popular culture while sharing the gospel. What and where are these communities for us to engage? They are all around us: bicycle clubs, LAN parties, Texas Hold'em parties, sports leagues, work-out gyms, book-reading clubs—subculture after subculture after subculture.
Wikipedia defines "subculture" as a group of people with a culture (whether distinct or hidden) that differentiates them from the larger culture to which they belong. And if that's true, then subcultures are all around us. We are a part of one as Christians, and sometimes we find ourselves too immersed in that subculture to even realize there are other social networks around us.
A Subculture Case Study
A few years ago I purchased an Xbox just so I could own and play a game called Halo (you may have heard of it). It was shortly after playing this game that I realized I needed to play it with friends, so I invited them over and we had a blast! After a couple of months of mayhem, my friends invited their friends, and then their friends invited their friends, until we had about 18 people showing up on a weekly basis to play Halo.
We were creating a subculture, although in some ways we were actually engaging a subculture that already existed. I knew this to be true because many of the guys (and a gal) who were showing up already played Halo online—we had simply brought those two subcultures together.
After about 9 months of us playing every week, I kept having the urge to show the guys I was a Christian. I wanted to open the gaming night in prayer or something, but for some reason it just did not feel right. Some of the guys who played the game were Christians, but I waited. One night, one of them asked if we could pray for his cousin, who had just committed suicide. And of course we did. After we finished praying, we started up the Xboxes and began the video game madness, just like every other evening.
But it was that prayer and that night when God took our simple community and started bringing gamers to Jesus.
One by one, guys started turning their life to Christ. We saw baptisms, guys attending celebration services after being away for years, people serving in ministry and leading small groups—even sacrificial giving. How did all this happen? One answer: God's grace. We were there to just play video games, but God had other plans. I am glad he did.
As I've gained experience in these subcultures, I've learned new ways to be more intentional about creating opportunities for spiritual conversations:
- Pray. Pray that God gives you the right spiritual moments in which the group can be a part.
- Hang out. If you're already in a subculture, try to get the group together in a different capacity. It doesn't have to be church, but do something other than shoot each other in video games. Go to a bar, catch a movie, play darts—something that allows conversation.
- Keep it real. Even if you are not engaged in a "Christian" subculture, like a traditional small group, you don't have to keep faith matters at arms length. A lot of the guys at our Halo parties are now Christ-followers, and we talk about church because we love it. We are not afraid to keep it real. Be yourself.
- Have fun. Most people think Christians are boring and do not know how to laugh. We make sure there is plenty of that in our group!
It has been almost five years since we first gathered to play Halo, and we are still at it—playing Halo 3 in a finished basement at that same friend's house. Guys are still showing up who do not know Jesus because someone who plays invited them. We'll see what happens. But I am so excited that God has taken would could be a mindless gaming experience and turned it into a mission field.
- What kinds of subcultures am I aware of? What subcultures am I a part of?
- Do I agree that a fruitful community can form around something like playing video games or working out? Why or why not?
- What subcultures am I a part of that could