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Featured: Guest Sermon @ Royal Oaks UMC

In this sermon from Nerd Pastor Nate, delivered at Royal Oaks United Methodist Church in Concord, NC, on July 25th, 2021, he discusses the freedom given to us from sin in faith and what we should do with that freedom.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 New Revised Standard Version

19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

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TRANSCRIPT (unedited):

well good morning how's everybody doing this morning doing pretty good good well i am glad to be here with you this morning i'm glad to get to come and share a little bit with you i don't get many of these very often anymore so i do want to take just a moment to kind of explain who i am where i come from where i'm serving why i'm available on a sunday morning uh all of those things right and you need some explanation here my name is nathan webb uh and it's actually kind of a name that i don't necessarily go by in my community anymore my name my community is nerd pastor nate how do you like that nerd pastor nay i am a church planter here in the western north carolina conference of the united methodist church and i'm planning a church called checkpoint church checkpoint church is the church for nerds geeks and gamers now this is kind of a strange church this is kind of a weird thing to do but whenever i was growing up i'm a pk my dad was a pastor in the united methodist church as well and we served in a rural church and then moved into a contemporary church and i loved my church i loved my youth group i loved being a part of it but i never really fit in i was really wanting to play video games and talk about comic books and my peers and my friends in my youth group are wanting to play another round of horse on the basketball court and that was fun and i enjoyed my time with the youth group but i never really clicked with the video game crowd and so i had these two groups in my life where i was i had my gamer friends who didn't really like my church friends and then i had my church friends who didn't really care for my gamer friends and so i saw this great divide this great division that we have in our world and in our church community and i thought why why do we have that why does that exist i want to do something about that and so i went to our person who was in charge of church planting at the time here in the conference and i expressed this desire i said i really want to plant a church it might not be the right time but i want to plant this church for nerds geeks and gamers and he looked at me and he said well what are your thoughts on dungeons and dragons i said well this is you know this is do or die here i said i play every thursday night with my college buddies i said i understand if you need to say no he looked at me and he said i play every sunday night with my buddies so the church planter for the conference turns out was a big nerd he was just like me and so we clicked right away we saw eye to eye he saw this vision and saw we were doing and so he said let's give it a shot let's see what this looks like let's see if this is something we can do and so so far in my ministry i've served a lot of different contexts a lot of different church plants a lot of different settings but this is definitely the strangest by far during my time at duke i actually served a church very much like this one this is very nostalgic for me this is definitely something that i remember and that i cherish and that i love and so i love the opportunity to get to come back to to the traditional church for the rural church and get to share a little bit about what we're doing here and what's being done and about the ministry that's being done and just get the opportunity to share a sermon that isn't necessarily about anime or cartoons or video games it is nice to come back home to come back to a place where i can share this good news of the gospel and my goal here is not just to evangelize checkpoint to you i don't want to just tell you what we're doing at checkpoint and let that be the end of it but instead i want you to to leave this place knowing that the same spirit that fills this place is the spirit that fills the digital community of checkpoint it is the spirit that is within us all it is the same god doing something amazing in all of these places and in all of these ways so with that let's dive into our scripture for this morning we're going to be reading from one of the epistles of paul first corinthians chapter 9 verses 19 through 23. i think it'll be up on the screen for us or if you'd like to follow along in the bible in your pews whichever or the bible that you might have brought with you when you're reading from the nrsv this morning that's my preferred translation so here now these words of the apostle paul first corinthians chapter 9 verses 19 through 23. for though i am free with respect to all i have made myself a slave to all so that i might win more of them to the jews i became as a jew in order to win jews to those under the law i became as one under the law though i myself am not under the law so that i might win those under the law to those outside the law i became as one outside the law though i am not free from god's law but i'm under christ's law so that i might win those outside the law to the week i became weak so that i might win the week i have become all things to all people that i might by all means save some i do it all for the sake of the gospel so that i might share in its blessings this is the word of god for the people of god thanks be to god will you pray with me dear heavenly father i ask that the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts together be acceptable in your sight oh god for you and you alone are our rock and our redeemer amen now when it comes to paul we wrestle a lot paul and i wrestle with our words and with our understandings and with our things that we talk about and for a while i didn't understand why me and paul agree on so much disagree on so much butt heads paul is someone that's very powerful with his words he has a lot of things to share and what i think is so important to understand as we read through paul is that we have to understand that he is writing these messages within a context within a ministry within something that is being done for example right now this community that we are sharing with here at royal oaks umc is very different from the one at checkpoint church on a monday tuesday and wednesday as we stream on twitch whatever that is right these are very different things these are very different places and so what we have to do is we read through as we understand the words of paul we have to not just look at what he's saying but why he might be saying it if we just copy and paste the words of paul into our setting it won't make any sense for instance no one needs me to be jewish because i'm not and because i'm not trying to reach a jewish community so if i were to just try and carbon copy what paul says in this passage and say to the jews i became a jew you'd probably be confused you might accuse me of identity crisis and say that we have a real problem going on so it doesn't work to just copy and paste a to b so why does paul write what he writes here why is paul writing what he's writing in this passage of first corinthians an important thing to know is that first corinthians despite the fact that it says first corinthians isn't his first interaction with the people of corinth instead this is paul's third interaction his first interaction was whenever he went he actually founded the church he actually did the thing he got the people together he did the planting and that was the incredible first act of his ministry then there's a second interaction that we don't have we don't have that letter but we understand that it didn't go very well we understand that paul is not very pleased and it's only gotten worse by the time first corinthians comes around paul is responding to a great deal of division and hurt that has happened in the community in the church in corinth it's caused by pride it's caused by knowledge it's caused by a cockiness that they think that they know better than other people do they know better than god himself might know and so paul covers a lot of ground in this in this letter he covers a whole lot of ground talks a lot about faith hope and love in this letter but here he's talking about another idea a minor idea a minor part of paul's argument and he's talking about this word that we know well this word freedom we like that word we like the word freedom don't we that's a great word it's a powerful word it's a word that evokes a lot of imagery in our current context but remember this is a totally different context this is about 1700 years before we start considering our american idea of freedom so what is paul actually referring to what kind of freedom is paul talking about what is it that he's referring to paul is talking about freedom from slavery to sin before paul before christ before this understanding before this new wave of the way before all of this happened we were enslaved to our very sin and then jesus came and broke the chains casting us from our slavery making us free the corinthians understand this they've been taught this paul's already done the founding work the groundwork has already been laid they know freedom make no mistake the corinthians know what freedom is so the problem that paul is addressing isn't whether or not we have our freedom whether or not we are free but instead how are we using that freedom the corinthians are abusing it they're hurting each other in our community at checkpoint we have to have rules we have to have a structure within our actual group whenever you're online it's anonymous anybody can come in and drop in at any given time and so we have to have a framework for people to work within and so sometimes communities online will have certain rules that they'll lay out and they'll be like you know the ten commandments they'll look forever long and people have to read through a full contract before they enter into a chat room and they'll get stressed out so i made it easy at checkpoint and we just have our our founder our methodist founder john wesley he had three general rules and so i wrote those three rules nice short and sweet number one if you want to join our community you have to agree to do good number two you have to agree to do no harm number three i considered most people probably wouldn't understand what attend upon the ordinances of god might mean so i just said strive to grow those are our three rules short sweet to the point easy to remember easy to agree to maybe because the corinthians here they're breaking our number two rule we agree to do no harm and yet the corinthians are harming one another with their words with their judgment and it's causing division and so paul has to explain here that our freedom is important but it's only half of the equation it's only half of what we're doing remember it's not just the what it's the why why did jesus give us freedom from sin for what reason did jesus set that up for what reason are we free what does jesus say about it remember the passage in which jesus says my burden is easy my yoke is light we know that passage right we know that phrase we have that in our minds what does that imply

there is a burden there is a yoke a yoke is this great thing that you put around the bowl or the ox to pull the card it is something that you have to pull something that you have to do the burden does exist just because christ freed us from our slavery to sin doesn't mean that we're then free from a burden whoa that's a serious thing that's a serious thing to wrap our minds around because we really like to be in control right i have a feeling if i said let's raise our hands if we like control every hand would go up right we like to be in control we like to be the ones in charge because of course we do i do but the reality that paul is presenting here is that in our freedom in our being free from sin we serve a new master we serve something new and what is that what is the new master that we serve i'll let that cook a minute while we move on and talk a little bit about why i'm doing nerd ministry why am i in this setting why do i do this thing why do nerds need a minister why don't they just come to church why don't they just come to our churches that we already have why do we need to plant a church for nerds geeks and gamers why does that need to exist there's one big reason in my mind and it actually has to do with the very first sermon that i ever wrote the very first thing that i ever did whenever i was in youth group i was i was a pk i was a shining star i was somebody that everybody always you know wanted in the leadership role always wanted in that position and so i was preaching sharing our message on our youth sunday one sunday and i preached this sermon that's probably heretical where i called it keep your faith on a leash and the reason that i preached this sermon the reason that i ever shared this sermon was because i had been to the dixie classic fair have you ever been to the dick's classic fair it's a good time it's a good fair it's kind of like the north carolina state fair uh it's in winston-salem that's where we kind of grew up and so i went there one year and there was someone that was a bible beater standing in one of the convention halls and i was probably 12 years old and he came chasing after me asking me if i was going to burn trying to do the turn and burn method on me and i was like no you don't understand i'm in the youth group i'm a youth leader i'm good don't don't come at me don't yell at me and yet they did they did yell at me and it scared me and it turned me off entirely from the idea it made me really question things about church that experience that encounter was a negative one it was one that hurt me and so i expressed it in this sermon as i said keep your faith on a leash sometimes we've got to restrain that sucker we're excited about it and i get that but sometimes it comes across as cruel as judgmental as hurtful and all this is to say that this is why nerd ministry is necessary nerds have one pretty major thought about christians they only get to experience us really in one major way let's assume for a moment in this hypothetical scenario that there might be this person who doesn't really go to church who doesn't have any family members in church all they really have is they really like doctor who or they really like something like that and so they go to the comic con galaxy con is this upcoming weekend in in raleigh they go to galaxycon and they only get one interaction with a christian a year when they go to galaxycon and do you know what that interaction is the one interaction that they get is right outside of pretty much every comic-con pretty much every convention there is a street preacher this street creature is normally yelling obscenities really being angry and aggressive and mad somehow they always find these apple crates i don't know where you find an apple crate nowadays i don't have any idea where they find these apple crates but somehow they find an apple crate they stand up on and they've got a megaphone and they're yelling these turner burn god hates you for what you do hate the sin and maybe maybe love the sinner but definitely hate that sin that's what we want you to know so let's be clear this is a form of ministry it is making an impact it is becoming something in people's heads it is getting an idea across it's one that i personally disagree with it's one i believe is ineffective i believe it's antithetical to the jesus that i read in the gospel but it is a form it is a method for sharing the gospel even more than that it's a perfect example of our freedom we have the ability in jesus christ we are free from sin we have the ability to do that exact thing we are free to yell and shout we are free to hate and divide we are free to do that we have the ability in our freedom from our sin freedom isn't the concern we know that we're free the corinthians knew they were free the question then is how we use it how do we use that freedom so let's go back to paul paul says we are free and the corinthians go wild with it you remember they're free to tell others what's good what's bad what's best how to pray right how to talk right how to eat right how to stand right all of that stuff and naturally this leads to division because what else could it do and paul writes this message in first corinthians chapter nine and this is my translation what are you thinking what are y'all doing

you aren't free to hurt one another even if we do have that freedom it brings harm and so your freedom presents you with the choice you have the choice and this is ministry this is what we're doing we are free from our slavery and our sin and so because of that freedom who do we choose to serve we can serve ourselves and we can hate and we can divide we can make ourselves feel better than we ought to we can find an apple crate wherever they are we can stand and yell and act like we are better than we are or we can do what jesus did we can do what paul is saying and we become like servants to one another we serve each other i know you're saying hang on hang on just a second preacher i don't like everyone i don't know if i want to serve everyone now these people in this room i like these people these are my friends these are my family i see them every sunday i don't mind you know holding the door for them to the bathroom i don't mind you know letting them step in front of me in line i don't mind that stuff but i don't know if i like everyone i don't know if i want to serve everyone and i hear you me neither i don't like everyone i don't find everyone that i want to get along with

and here's the thing the kicker is you have the freedom to not do it you have the freedom to not love everyone but not if you want that title of christian not if you want to be like christ a little christ what does jesus do when presented with the freedom to do what he wants to do he washes his disciples feet he eats meals with the tax collectors he eats with the sinners he has a chat with a prostitute and the woman with the many husbands by the well jesus is the ultimate example of having ultimate freedom and ultimately choosing to relinquish that freedom for the sake of the other to serve to love to be better than we could ever hope to be in our act of being like christ so back to my apple cart person back to my person who is screaming at these folks that is a choice that that person has made we can be free to make that choice or we can be free to serve our neighbor i am going into the places where my beloved nerds geeks and gamers are i'm not yelling at them i'm not standing out on the corner and telling them that they're wrong or bad or evil i'm in these places things that have you probably never even heard of places that i've never even heard of they make me feel old i'm in discord i'm going to comic cons i'm on twitch i'm doing all of these strange things in these strange places so that i can be with so that i can serve under these nerds geeks and gamers i do not see myself as a leader i see myself as a servant to them

who looks more like christ is it the one who's standing up with the megaphone yelling or is it the one down on hands and knees washing the feet inviting people in with a smile with some time with love

so i always like to end my sermons with a so what so what what do you do with this information you sitting here today you listening online what do you do with what you've just heard what does that mean for you well the good news is you are free from sin you are free from your slavery to sin so you have the choice you get to make the choice you have that freedom as for me what choice will i make well to the nerds i became a nerd to the geeks i became a geek to the gamers i am a gamer i have become all things to all people that i might by all means save some the burden is light but it is still a burden are you doing something with your freedom what choice are you making may you freely choose to serve the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit amen

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