A Story by Clarence and Tonya Williams
We have been looking for ways to transition our small group into a missional community- we want to learn how we can intersect our lives with unbelievers more. I came across a website called Meetup.com and I discovered that there is a group for just about every interest imaginable! And if you can’t find one you’re interested in, you can create one! There’s a croqueting club, outdoor adventure groups, a couples-only group, women without children, women over 40, an atheist group, a Spanish club, a French club, book clubs, moviegoers club, etc. And it’s nationwide!
Well, Tonya and I love board games. Since we already have frequent game nights with friends, we decided that sacrificing some of that time would give us the perfect opportunity to meet unbelievers while doing something we enjoy. We made a profile together and joined the “People Who Love Board Games!” We RSVP’d online. The night before, I checked the profiles of the people who were coming and realized there were a couple of people who were also members of the Atheist group. Some others were members of a “Geek and Free Thought Alliance Club.” I thought to myself, “We must be crazy to even entertain this idea.” I prayed that night that Jesus would shine through our lives.
Game night took place right in our neighborhood! The couple that hosted the event lived two blocks from our house! That crazy Friday night we sat outside in our car for a few minutes trying to talk ourselves out of going inside. Nevertheless, we mustered up the courage to go inside. For me, it felt like going to my first college party…but with much older people. And that’s not a good thing! Although my uncomfortable feeling was quickly soothed by pizza and Dr. Pepper, Tonya was having a panic attack after being surrounded by a 6’3” 500 lb. tattooed woman and her 6’5” 400lbs tattooed husband! We were so uncomfortable! Tonya was immediately trying to catch my eye to figure out an escape. The girl who was a part of the atheist group avoided us at first. She quickly introduced herself and left after a short game. We were finally able to relax somewhat and laughed and played a great strategy game. Tonya sat next to the tattooed lady and talked to her about her own tattoos. Tonya even showed hers as well!
As I looked around at the four different game tables filled with people from all kinds of backgrounds, it was clear to me that they operated like a small group. They have been attending game nights together for over two years. I witnessed them caring for the host couple’s kids and even going upstairs and putting the kids in bed while the parents were playing. They were eating together and enjoying each others' company. They started at 7:30pm and many times don’t end until 4am. They meet at different houses Wednesdays, Fridays and most Saturdays for many hours. The host couples (they rotate) open their homes to anyone who makes a profile and signs up to join the club! And there were some interesting folks. There was even a guy who talked to himself very loudly. I didn't see any Bluetooth device so I'm pretty sure he was answering his own questions! There were three major observations that affected me the most: One- The host couple just laughed and tried to make everyone feel at home. I was humbled by the fact that unbelievers would open their home to this many types of characters, because I wouldn't have done it and I am a believer. Two- There were quite a few young, single men there playing board games with 30-50 year olds on a Friday night! But when you look closer, you see these guys enjoying a place where they feel they belong- no judgment, no pretending, just an atmosphere created to relax and have fun. How much do we still pretend in our own gatherings? (Something to ponder while I waited for my next turn to play.) And three- After we left around 11:30pm (because we could tell they were getting too relaxed and it was really about to get crazy), I prayed and realized how uncomfortable we were in the midst of all those unbelievers. And it hit me, “Why do I think that Jesus should automatically be so comfortable with our gatherings? We're sinners too…only difference is we are redeemed by Christ! A holy God sits in our midst every time we gather and loves us too much to feel uncomfortable.” That humbled me. I prayed for each person I had met by name. I prayed that they would have a holy encounter. I'm sure most of the people we met probably have NO ONE bringing their names to the feet of Jesus and NO ONE asking Christ how to serve them. That's why He allowed us to be there and that's why we're going back. Only next time, Tonya and I will pray together days before (and after!) We didn't pray before we went to their house- our mistake. But we are forever learning how to depend on the Spirit and not just ourselves. That next morning I looked at Tonya and my heart overflowed that we get to be Jesus' hands and feet together.
I am humbled and grateful that I have a wife who loves me like Christ, and that I get many chances to love and serve her through Christ.