A few years ago, Christopher,* a former Agnostic and recovered alcoholic, sought Christian community and purpose. “I began by surrendering to God, who led me to One Accord the Guild, where other Adventist kids like to build, so [I could be] built for the great commission.”
When Christopher joined OAG, he was baptized but still struggled to understand some things theologically. He also felt isolated as the only Adventist among his family and friends. So, he spent most of his time studying the Bible and playing video games in his room.
OAG “helped me mature as a Christian, [providing] Bible studies and peer support. And the staff offered superb advice when I struggled with depression. They held true to the spirit of one accord like [the early Christian church] in Acts 2,” he said.
Today, Christopher, 22, is one of the ministry’s success stories. He distributes GLOW tracts and works as a literature evangelist, with an interest in further studies in ministry.
An Unexpected, Spirit-led Beginning
One Accord the Guild, an Adventist-run server, or online community, for gamers and creatives on Discord, materialized during a Zoom meeting on June 24, 2020.
Jay Razzouk, a lawyer and content creator, shared his burden to present on ministry to gamers with Felecia Lee, then-projects manager of the Center for Online Evangelism. Lee arranged a webinar with Razzouk and Jamie Domm, then-digital strategist at the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“I presented on the need to tap into this huge mission field, [as] one in three people globally play games, and one in 10 Americans identify as a gamer. More than 100 people attended,” he said.
Razzouk also recommended the chat app Discord as ideal for reaching gamers. While it was created for gamers to play and communicate with friends, the app is now mainstream. Users can access video, voice, or text chat, live stream, and share screens within an online community.
He further suggested live streaming while playing Minecraft, “a video game in which players create and break apart various kinds of blocks in three-dimensional worlds.” His vision was to build biblical settings as “immersive Bible studies” and create YouTube videos based on the builds.
OAG has built and created content based on Noah’s Ark, the Garden of Eden, Babylon, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jerusalem, and recently, Jericho, incorporating Bible studies into the design.
Working in One Accord
Several current OAG leaders were on that Zoom call, including Mike Soto, Tempe Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor, and Marae Hoover, brand and technical advisor at Abide Network, faith-based mental health services, and freelance mental health coach.
Mid-presentation, Soto formed a Facebook group, and others started collaborating. Lee said excitedly, “Of all the webinars I’ve done, this one is my favorite, seeing how you guys in the chat started launching your own ministries before the webinar ended. It’s an answer to prayer.”
Today, the team includes Razzouk, OAG producer, Soto, founding member and director of OAG’s Content Creators Summit, and Hoover, director; Andrew Carroll, who contributes his graphic design skills and experience managing an in-person center of influence; Roque Rojas, an audio-visual volunteer at his church, OAG board member, and the guild’s resident Minecraft guru; and Eliezer “Eli” Irizarry, a youth/young adult leader, OAG board member, and Discord moderator.
“God’s Spirit has been the driving force bringing us together from the beginning. We have different skills and abilities, and we’re all on the same page,” said Razzouk.
More Than Playing Games
Since 2020, the guild has grown to 875 members and offers live gaming and Minecraft events, gaming channels and groups, voice chats, live hangouts, and Bible studies. Chat channels include sections on prayer and Bible study. They also provide tips on finances, content creation, graphic design, streaming, and video production.
And while Minecraft is a popular element, OAG isn’t just about playing games. Instead, playing Minecraft and other games facilitates deeper conversations about mental health or spirituality. It’s not uncommon for members to request to play games with a leader when they need to talk or bring up spiritual questions while gaming in a group setting. “Any moment can turn into a mentorship or discipleship moment,” said Carroll.
Hoover estimates that 85 percent of her interaction with people in the OAG server is mental health coaching on depression, anxiety, or interpersonal conflicts. She and Carroll typically provide initial mental health support, then direct members to professional counselors at the Abide network. The server also features crisis help information.
Whether doing mental health check-ins, coaching, or typing up prayers or promises for people, Hoover said, “A big chunk of what we’re doing is supporting people where they are in the moment.” In this sense, OAG leaders consider the guild a digital center of influence.
Gathering the Lost Sheep of Israel
In February, the Adventist world church shared a post about OAG on its Facebook page. While the number of OAG followers on Discord doubled in 10 days, the guild received a mixed response. OAG staff countered concerns by focusing on the unique ministry opportunity of reaching gamers and young people. Involving them in ministry “shifts the mindset of how they’re utilizing games,” said Hoover.
Leaders also regularly emphasize OAG’s emphasis on safety, including encouraging members not to share any identifying information; ensuring leaders have a background check and recommendation; and immediately shutting down any sparring, bullying, and profanity.
One poignant response to negative feedback on the GC page was: “We are going out to gather the lost sheep of Israel wherever they can be found. We’re using our Minecraft and Discord servers as a church building and multi-purpose room where we meet, pray, worship, plan, and minister to all who tune into our content. Rather than being preachy, we are trying to live the sermon, showing people a happier, better way found in Christ.”
Interestingly, while leaders’ envisioned OAG as an outreach ministry, more than 75 percent of their members are Adventists. A third each fall into the categories of 13 to 17, 18 to 24, and 25 to 34.
“People aged 15 to 35 [sometimes] don’t feel welcome at church. But they still love God and the Bible [so they seek a spiritual community],” said Hoover.
Several testimonies indicate OAG offers that community. One member stated, “It’s cool that I can talk about stuff I don’t [feel comfortable discussing] with pastors.”
“I feel blessed for joining OAG because I found awesome friends here with whom I can freely talk about what I’m interested in, like video games, art, tech, and of course, my relationship with God. And the community is always ready to support you during hard times. I finally found a place where I can just be myself,” said a 15-year-old male church member.
A 28-year-old female member asserted, “The server helped me finally have heart-to-heart conversations with people of my faith. I didn’t identify with people at church, but here I have found my people. The guild is my second church.”
Making Disciples Who Make Disciples
Discipleship is OAG’s ultimate goal. The guild is already engaging in discipleship on a small scale through mentorship and coaching. When they surveyed people on Bible study topics they wanted to cover, the most requested were ministry and evangelism. Moreover, a typical question from members is, ‘How can I talk to someone about the Sabbath without sounding like I’m forcing something upon them?’
“We are seeing [our discipleship] efforts bearing fruit, and people who’ve felt aimless, purposeless, are now feeling called to ministry and evangelism. We want to encourage people – God doesn’t care if you’re perfect. He wants a relationship with you right now. And you can find your purpose and calling in a way that will also fulfill what God wants you to do,” said Razzouk.
He continued, “When targeting gamers, we’re also getting creatives. We’re talking about a huge body of potential digital ministers. And if we support each other in ministry, we have the potential to reach thousands and hundreds of thousands.”
One Accord the Guild has also made efforts to build an offline community. On February 5, 2022, in Casa Grande, Arizona, One Accord the Guild hosted its first Content Creators’ Summit. Soto said, “This was an idea I prayed about, and I felt very strongly God had pressed me to put something like this together.”
Its purpose was for attendees to “fellowship, network, and learn how [they] can use technology, gaming, and social media to spread the gospel.” By God’s grace, six unchurched individuals also requested Bible study at last year’s summit, and five were baptized.
The second convention has the tagline “Accelerate your digital ministry” and will be held in Tempe, Arizona, from April 14-16. [Click here for more info.]
Both in-person and online, OAG is targeting a demographic that has been difficult for the church to reach. Through the unique platforms of Minecraft and Discord, they aim to create more missionaries like Christopher, who concluded, “With the help of God and everyone in the guild, the blocks of my life are not as scattered; they’re stacked.”
Want to Help Reach Gamers and Creatives?
As One Accord the Guild grows, so does the demand. Leaders seek a full-time pastor or a few dedicated pastors to host programs on Friday evening, Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon. They are also looking for full-time content creators to help boost their reach. Click here to contact them.
* Not his real name.