There was a time when multiplayer online games seemed to be filled with only two kinds of players: Gankers, whose perverse desire to disrupt the game for others was too often successful; and Newbs, whose rookie status was evident from their ignorance of how to play the game effectively.
Needless to say, I didn’t play a lot of online games at that time, unless they had a robust solo option. Since then, I’m encouraged that rookie ramp-up tutorials, balancing algorithms, anti-griefing measures, and other techniques have made teaming up a less-unpleasant experience, and there are some games that do a really good job of making it fun to be on a team (even if you’re not sitting around at a LAN party with your buddies).
Some days, though, the Body of Christ can seem like an old-school MMO. There are those who seem set on trying to make others’ experience uncomfortable. These “gankers” are often found pointing out others’ faults, or complaining about things that other people are doing. They hide their prideful belief that their way is the only way (and, when this happens, their way is usually not Jesus, who is the Way) behind verses taken out of context, and big church words. (Those of you who are genuinely seeking to help others grow in the faith, or address serious doctrinal errors in the church, I’m not talking about you; just be sure that your correction is tempered with love and grace.) These people – including me, at times – don’t seem to appreciate that not everyone is the same in the Body of Christ (nor that this is actually a really good thing).
At the same time, congregations of believers – at least, the healthy ones – have their share of newbs. It’s great that new people are choosing to give their lives to Jesus, but sometimes they don’t seem to know the “rules”. They may still use words that qualify as “coarse” (Ephesians 5:3-4). They might worship God like they root for their favorite sports team or band. They might even dress differently, have a “unique” hairstyle, or wear tattoos of things that were part of their pre-Jesus life.
For those who have been in church for a while, these newer followers might make us a little uncomfortable. Maybe they remind us of a lifestyle that we left behind (or, are still trying to). Maybe they jar our comfortable church experience. Maybe they trigger our struggles with a sin that we are trying to shed. Or, maybe they just challenge us to be accepting of those who are different from us.
So, what do we do about it?
First, I suggest that we evaluate our own behavior: If you are a “ganker” in the church, spending way too much of your time attacking others, or taking away their joy, don’t forget what Jesus prayed for:
“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.
John 17:22-23 NLT
Clearly, unity and oneness within the body were important to Jesus, who was no stranger to diversity. Just look at the incompatible team of apostles that He selected. The goal of being part of the church is not to prove our correctness or superiority, but to make disciples.
If you are a “newb” in the church, welcome! I have no words of rebuke or correction for you, but I want you to know two things: First, it’s ok to not know everything at once, and you should not feel like you have to do certain things to “fit in” to the Body of Christ. All followers of Jesus are welcome to share in His salvation and to be a part of His family, and there is an important distinction between “traditions” (things that smaller groups of Jesus’ family are used to doing), and God’s Will (the general principles that God has spelled out for us to live by, as well as the specific plan that God has in mind for you). Secondly, God does expect us to grow and become more mature. This doesn’t mean that you need to memorize the Bible by the end of your first year as a Christian (although that’s a great life goal), or learn to pronounce “exegetical hermeneutics” (although that might impress others at parties). It does mean that you have a path to take: not just going along with the currents of life, but actively learning about Jesus (our great example), and the exciting plan that God has for you, specifically. That will take some work, but it’s a good and rewarding activity (and not drudgery, if done with the right attitude).
And, if there are questions that you want to ask, but are afraid how you might look, please don’t let that hold you back. If it helps, here are a few articles that cover some of those “afraid to ask” topics:
- Fancy Prayer Words – And Why You Don’t Need Them
- Bible Notes
- Two Tips on How to Worship God
- Jesus is Lord,…but what does that mean?
In Part 2 of this series, let’s consider what our responsibilities are when we meet other people in the church who fit into one of these categories.