Lisa Damour of the New York Times wrote, “Every so often a game comes along that conquers the hearts, minds, and thumbs of gamers everywhere. Fortnite: Battle Royale is the latest victor in this category.” The notion that this game has the ability to capture hearts and minds is what most intrigues and concerns me.
Fortnite is an online video game developed by Epic Games that was first released in 2017. The game can be played on a variety of platforms: computers, mobile phones, tablets, and gaming consoles. It’s is a competitive shooter-survival game for up to four players to fight off zombie-like creatures and defend objects with fortifications that can be built during the game. Since September 2017, it has amassed more than 125 million active players and made more than $1.2 billion for its developer, Epic Games.
As I consider the recent Fortnite phenomenon, I can’t help but wonder if we’re truly aware of the increasing number of digital distractions vying for our time and attention? Are we—Christians in 2019—in danger of what Neil Postman refers to as “amusing ourselves to death”?
I’m not here to condemn Fortnite or cast judgment on parents who let their kids play it (or play it themselves). I want to raise imperative questions regarding distractions and obstacles to Great Commission work in the digital age. Questions like,
- are our minds and affections more concerned with fictitious battles than we are with spiritual battles (2 Cor. 4:4)?
- are we so distracted by virtual reality that we lose sight of eternal reality (2 Thess. 1:8-9)?
These questions and others like them, as sensitive as they can be, are timely and important for us to consider as we remember the call of Christ and our mission to make disciples of all nations.
Since the inception of the information age in the 1970s, the church has continually faced new digital distractions. Television, computers, gaming systems, and mobile devices have changed the way we live. While there is much good to be celebrated with new technological developments, the church must also recognize the ever-present reality that these devices are constantly vying for our attention and affections. Therefore, the church must be vigilant in the fight against temptations and distractions that come with every new technological fad.
“The church must be vigilant in the fight against temptations and distractions that come with every new technological fad.”
I’ve been convicted by my tendency toward captivation with my iPhone. The urge to check email and constantly consume information can be a hindrance to me caring for my wife, shepherding my children, and fulfilling my role as an ambassador of the gospel. Yet, I know that these types of distractions aren’t unique to me. These kind of technological distractions are attracting the attention of Christians all over the world.
If we’re not careful, Fortnite, the iPhone, gaming systems, TVs, and computers—none of them inherently immoral—can become instruments of idolatry. These devices offer instant self-gratification and oftentimes serve as an escape from the real world.
So how should Christians respond to these increasing reality of digital distractions in our lives? I want to call us all to prioritize people, invest in future generations, and ultimately present a more compelling story (even more compelling than Fortnite).
The Great Commission call of Christ was to go and make disciples of all nations. Discipleship requires person-to-person interaction. And—lets be real for a minute—our digital friends on social media can never compete with our real flesh-and-blood relationships.
“Living on mission means more than merely being with people, but not less than that.”
We who have been redeemed by Christ are called to be in the people business. We must prioritize face-to-face time with actual people and ensure that we’re not spending more time staring at a screen than we’re conversing and engaging with real people.
Living on mission means more than merely being with people, but not less than that.
Invest in Younger Generations
In recent years psychologists have become more aware of the dangers associated with access to technology among iGen (those who Jean Twenge says were born between 1995–2012). The troubling reality is that, in many ways, we’re losing this younger generation to technological devices.
The opportunity has never been greater and the time more urgent for Christian adults to invest in younger generations. Parents and older saints in the faith, let’s not lose our children to digital distractions (see Tony Reinke’s “12 Tips for Parenting in Digital Age”).
Let’s spend quality face-to-face time with children and youth, investing in their development and maturation as men and women of God.
Present a More Compelling Story
The next Adoniram Judson, George Liele, or Lottie Moon may be an elementary-aged boy or girl in your church who is currently obsessed with Fortnite. The story, the battle, and the overall goal of Fortnite is endlessly interesting and intriguing to them.
But what if you were able to share, show, and teach that boy or girl an even more compelling story? What if you were able to help them see the role they might be able to play in God’s redemptive story? What if they truly understood the reality of the eternal battle that is raging between the god of this age and the God of the world? What if they began to pray for and give their lives to the ultimate goal of seeing people redeemed and reconciled to God through the atoning work of Christ on the cross?
It is that story, that battle, and that goal that are worth giving our lives for until our King returns.
Paul Akin is the team leader of assessment and deployment at the IMB. He can be found on Twitter @PAkin33.