Geeks Under Grace: Five Years Later

My tenure with GUG begins a lot like other staff members’. After a tremulous season in my life brought forth from many mistakes I had made in my marriage and career, God redeemed me, providing work that would support my family out of destitution. After a year with my employer, I would benefit from a promotion that would pull us out of poverty. 

I took this new position during the fall of 2014, which, in my previous career, meant a new semester, a new class, a new batch of students to teach, a new batch of books to read and a new pile of essays to grade. But none of this applied to me no longer—I had transitioned from education to business, business, business, numbers and was dying on the inside. Despite essentially doubling my salary, and being able to acquire “all the things” (within reason), I felt unfulfilled. This job paid the bills, but was not my passion.

Keenly sensing my sorrow, my wife, who was still on FB at the time, searched for something that might remedy my affliction. A website bold enough to find alliteration marketable, GeeksUnderGrace, was circulating an ad looking for an editor. Though I had never edited before in a conventional vocational capacity, I considered my teaching experience a translatable skill. The fact that GUG is a ministry interested me further; not only could I use my talents for the Lord, but I could also participate in a community that I could not find in any church. 

Almost five years after I joined GUG, I am still here, cultivating a team of writers from various denominational backgrounds who are dedicated to making Jesus’ name famous. Though the actual fifth anniversary of the ministry itself was in June, I took the time to recruit some former writers, asking them to offer a few words concerning what GUG meant, or continues to mean for them and beyond. I hope that our readers enjoy these as much as I have. ~ Maurice Pogue, Senior Video Games Editor

I really enjoy doing QuickScopes when we get preview (Early Access) copies of games.

Drew Kohler (Founder)

Editor’s Note: Though the following was written in 2015, I thought it would be prudent to reflect on these words today, as they still ring true. 

One year ago today I was a nervous wreck of emotions and feelings regarding what GUG would turn out to be. After focusing so long on a ministry surrounding video games, geek culture was a territory I had no experience in. I had always been pretty geeky about comic books and games, but I didn’t know the first thing about anime, cosplay, books etc…

I took an inkling I had that God was prompting to go bigger than what I was comfortable with. With little experience, a bit of extra money and an idea I stepped out on faith to launch Geeks Under Grace. The response was incredible! When I put a call out for writers there were more than I knew what to do with. With many writers came the need to bring on some volunteer editors to ensure our articles looked professional and read well. As we expanded I felt like we needed teams to head up various responsibilities within the organization. We needed video folks, PR folks, streamers, admins and marketing personnel.

I knew I couldn’t do it by myself, it would be impossible. Rarely does God have us to go alone on any journey. We’ve suffered some crippling losses of staff over this year, but we have built a product that we can all be proud of. We now have the brainpower and ability to take our idea and passion for reaching the geek culture for Jesus. Without Him, we’d just be fans of a thing, with Him we are an unstoppable force….

….Geeks Under Grace is nothing without the people. I could leave GUG today, and it would thrive because it was built on the promises of God, and the desire to see His kingdom grow. These are just mere words for me to show my appreciation for all WE have done over this past year, and I am so excited to see what God has planned over the next. Your support, your prayers and your desire to see Jesus preached has been what has helped us thrive.

You have put aside your denominations, your theological arguments and have said above all things, “we agree on Jesus” and for that reason alone I have the utmost confidence that we are built on the most solid of foundations.

So, happy birthday to YOU, all of you, who can stand with me and proudly say “I am a Geek Under Grace!”

Joe Morgan (Acting President)

In the last five years, I’ve been part of so many things Geeks Under Grace has been a part of, it’s hard to pick just one to share my memories of. I have one, though, that has given me a sense of focus and reminded me why our ministry exists and how we’ve been able to make a difference.

My most prominent memory took place during one of our early Pledge Drives. It was a Friday night during a weekend-long live stream, it was my shift, and I was playing one of the Tomb Raider games. We had been hyping the event up and it was during a peak time. The Tomb Raider game had recently released and our Twitch chat was busy with folks talking about the game, the Pledge Drive, and how God had affected their lives recently.

We had one person in the chat who kind of stumbled across us. (S)he just wanted to see some Tomb Raider. (S)he quietly lurked in the channel, taking in who we were, what we were about, and finally spoke up. (S)he couldn’t believe we were a ministry with a focus and way of operating like we had. Then, after admitting they weren’t very religious themselves, asked if we prayed. I confirmed that, yes, we prayed, and they asked for prayer right then, right there, in a Twitch chat channel!

With tears in my eyes, I paused the game and said a prayer for this gamer who’d stumbled across us and had a need. We met that gamer where they were; we weren’t overbearing or pushy about it, and they opened the doors to allow God to work.

That is the significance of Geeks Under Grace to me. That is why I’ve volunteered my time each week and have for over half a decade. It’s why I play games I don’t always want to play. It’s why I set time aside to record a podcast every Monday night. We want to allow God to use our passions to reach people that feel otherwise cast aside. Though it’s become more socially acceptable to be a geek or nerd in recent years, there will likely always be some sort of social stigma and, sadly, some of it comes from within our own churches. Geeks Under Grace gives us a chance to show those people that God still loves and cares for them, and reinforces that it’s OK to have your hobbies and passions. We can use those to bring Him glory.

When Drew gave Cody Armour a tattoo, and Joe was there to witness it. 

Shawn Bain (Board Member)

It’s hard to believe that Geeks Under Grace (GUG) is turning 5 this year. This ministry has meant so much to me. First and foremost, I have grown in my relationship with the God who loves and made me, and I have had the honor to introduce others to him and his tremendous love. I have made amazing friends, learned special skills, sharpened my beliefs in writing them out, and given all that I can to let a dying world know that Christ can give them life.

Initially, I came into contact with Drew Koehler, the founder of GUG, through an ad on Christian Memes (now Memes for Jesus). Christian Memes shared a GoFundMe for GUG where Drew laid out the vision God had given him to reach geeks of all stripes and interests with the Gospel. Having felt that I would one day use my geeky interests to speak with others about Christ, I wondered if this was where God would use me. After prayer and contemplation, I reached out to Drew with a couple of links to some articles that I had written, and he immediately brought me on.

Geeks Under Grace had not been launched yet, so I wrote articles for the gaming ministry that would eventually be absorbed into GUG, Cross Console Gamers. After contributing about a dozen or so articles, GUG came in full swing, and I was all-in. Every moment I could spare, I devoted to advancing and building the ministry. I designed t-shirts to raise funds, acquired designs for branding, launched the marketing department, pitched the Geeks Under Grace Community and built it from the ground with a couple of other volunteers, and came onto the board at its inception where I have served to my best ability since.

It was during this time that I felt God give me the vision and capacity to tie some of my favorite creative franchises with biblical themes in articles such as “The Christian Traits of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “The Gospel Explained for Geeks,” and “The Seven Deadly VillSins” as well as a host of other articles in the Christian Living department. I also saw the need to examine one of the longest debates Christians have held on a geeky interest in ”Should Christians Play Dungeons and Dragons?”. Many of these articles did just as much or more for growing my faith as they did for others. They also won me our only Writer of the Month award, but I’m not one to brag…well, I guess I kind of did, so maybe I am one to brag?

Now we’ve grown from a man with a God-given vision to a ministry that reaches people across the globe sometimes topping 100,000 visits in a month on our site, has almost 20,000 followers on Facebook, has over 11,000 people in our Geeks Under Grace Community, and attends major conferences like PAX South. All along the way, God’s unmistakable guiding and provision has been evident to me. A motley crew like us could have never pulled it off on our own. I am so thankful that He saw fit to let me be a part of it all. I am also so grateful for each and every volunteer that has served Christ in this ministry with me along the way. God has truly brought some of the outstanding talent to Geeks Under Grace.

With so many great things behind us, it is hard to imagine that more is on the way… but it is. God is giving us grander visions that have us holding onto the edge of our seats. Fans of GUG have a lot in store, so keep an eye out for us, and keep us in your prayers!

Onward and upward,

Shawn Bain

L.J. Lowery (Board member)

Not only do I plug away at reviews for the gaming department, but I am the other half our Public Relations team. I joined Joe a few years ago when a PR company approached me about covering one of their games after they read my Worms WMD review. Since then, I’ve been building relationships with publishers, developers, and other PR companies on behalf of Geeks Under Grace. We are still a growing organization, but we have been blessed to make some great connections.

We’ve also had the opportunity to build relationships at conventions such as PAX. In many cases, we’ve shaken the hands of people we’ve come to know via email. Geeks Under Grace being present at these conventions shows that we are here for more than getting free copies of video games—we are here for the gaming community and geek culture. The best part about being present is that it doesn’t matter how large or small we are, our press badge tells them that we are vetted enough to be there. Then, in the process, we get to see what they brought to the show and they learn about Geeks Under Grace. All of that happens because our teams have spent the last five years putting out great content that our audience loves to read.

LJ interviewing Mega Ran.

John Campbell (Editor)

I was in middle school when I discovered my love for writing. In college, I took a short story writing class and had a blast. Besides the occasional interest in NaNoWriMo, it was difficult to find a good outlet. Eventually, I came across an ad from Geeks Under Grace asking for any interested party to apply to join as a writer for its video game department. It sounded right up my alley, especially since I was an avid gamer. 

While writing experience and practice were indeed reasons to join, what motivated me to stay was a sense of belonging. Contribution and growth is how I would summarize my time so far with GUG. Being able to write reviews of games and provide a safe and trusted site for geeks from any path in life is what I love most about this website. Anyone can come here to read about any sensitive content in a game, while simultaneously finding out if it is worth playing. 

Through GUG, writers have many opportunities to try out new, up-and-coming material from developers far and wide. Praise be to God that we are frequently blessed with review codes and keys to fill the website with current content and to be able to taste what is being developed in today’s independent genre of video games.

One of the most emotionally difficult games I have ever come across was To Leave. It left me pensive and hurting for those who feel alone when dealing with their own personal demons. As I reviewed and critiqued the gameplay, I also had the privilege of addressing these mental health issues face-to-face with the gospel, bringing it full circle back to Jesus, a factor that few websites (if any) feature in their reviews. 

I am thankful to be a part of GUG because it provides a community to talk about interests, find like-minded individuals, and ask for prayer when in need of it. We’re a supportive group who reach out when someone is going through troubling times. God is present in GUG and it shows through its many members who love, encourage and genuinely care for each other. 

 

Michael Mendis (Editor)

One of the things that I have come to appreciate most during my time with Geeks Under Grace is being able to work with so many talented people who love Jesus and are passionate about games. Our volunteer writers share insight into a wide variety of different games and genres, each bringing their unique gaming background to the table. My fellow editors have sharpened my skills as a writer and taught me, by example, the many other important elements involved in running our department. And all the while, our PR people work hard behind the scenes to expand our connections in the gaming industry and secure review copies for our writers. Together, we all work as a team to produce content consistently and of a higher quality than we could ever accomplish individually. That doesn’t mean that everything has been smooth sailing, of course; we’ve faced some bumps in the road during my year with the organization, and we’ve had to stay flexible and learn new things along the way. But God has been faithful through it all, and I’m excited to see what he’s going to do through us next.

Former Writing Staff 

Robert Dever*

Greetings everyone! First I’d like to start off by saying congratulations on your five-year anniversary GUG!

I am a former Video Game Reviewer for GuG. I was born with amblyopia, which throws my depth and motor skills off quite a bit.  I could never draw anything well at all, so I needed to express my creativity by creating images through writing. I’ve always aspired to be a writer ever since I was praised in middle school for my creative storytelling. Also growing up, I became fond of gaming, and it helped me improve my motor skills and hand-eye coordination while at the same time providing a lot of fun.

Over the years with games becoming more story rich and complex, I always wanted to write stories or quests for them. I’ve applied to some places as a writer, but have enjoyed no luck, so I just decided to write for fun. When the opportunity to become a video game reviewer for GUG arose, I acted right on it and was accepted. I was definitely ecstatic that I could finally realize my dream of becoming a writer.

I joined GUG because it was a place that I could fit in. I love how supportive we as a ministry are to each other where we can discuss games one minute then pray for other things in our lives the next.

When I started, the writing community was so nice and willing to help me in any way they could. I was given  content to review, the proper tools for the job, and an awesome editor. When my first ever review was published, the game being Games of Glory, I felt accomplished to have fulfilled one of my dreams; I had something to be proud of. I loved writing reviews for GuG and I had a nice run of it, but then fell into financial hardships and couldn’t find the time to dedicate to reviewing games in a timely fashion, so I had to stop. I still am facing those same hardships today, but one day hope I can get back into it, or some other sort of writing role.

Out of my reviews, I think my favorite was Luckslinger. Going into the game, I had no idea what it was about, or how it played. When I got my review copy, I began playing it immediately and loved it. The platforming gameplay and humor kept me hooked, and I had an awesome time playing it and writing the review itself. It wasn’t the best game I ever played, but it helped me realize that there are hidden gems out there, and you have to be willing to find them. You need to leave your routine once in a while and try something new and you may find it worthwhile!

Though I may not be contributing content for now, I still feel proud to be a part of such a great Facebook community. No matter what our problems are, from being stuck on a video game level to needing prayers for our families,  everyone is here to support us. I am forever grateful to be a part of this group and will continue to be for the many many years it has yet to come! God bless everyone!

At the time of this publication, Robert has rejoined core GUG staff.

 
David Burdette

While I may not have had the pleasure of working with Geeks Under Grace as long as I would have liked, the experience has helped in preparing me to write better than before. I did a lot of message board posts and random articles before, but GUG and the amazing staff helped me refine my style to better suit the medium I was writing in. They are an amazing group of people as well that not only enjoy gaming, but reaching out to people. I was truly blessed in my time there. 

Also, please allow me a quick little anecdote: my very first review request was for Golf Story on the Switch, and it was accepted! I was so excited! Maurice said I should be requesting games from then on, given that that did not happen regularly. I should have probably purchased a lottery ticket that day!

We are a Christian organization with a robust website, which has lead to some responding with “You don’t want to cover our game”—actually, yes we do. We are going to make our readers aware of the content in your game, but we are going to cover it just like any other outlet would. There are many misconceptions about the Christian faith (some maybe rightfully so), and doing PR work gives me the opportunity to show others that we engage in the same hobbies and interests, though we may have different beliefs.

1 Corinthians 1:10 NIV  I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

 

Jon Hill

Writing for Geeks Under Grace was an experience I look back on fondly. GUG  allowed me an opportunity to challenge myself to view my fandoms through my faith and share that with the world. I wrote some video game reviews and articles about comic books, but the pieces I’m most proud of are editorials that gave me the opportunity to challenge others to take aspects of culture and current events and find Christ in it.

Not only was Geeks Under Grace fun to write for, but I made some great friendships in the GUG community. Through the Facebook group, GUG has provided plenty of laughs, dank memes, and deep conversation. Overall, Geeks Under Grace is a lighthouse on the internet for Christ-following gamers, otaku, trekkies, whovians, and fans of all influences to come together and share their faith and fandom. Happy Birthday, Geeks Under Grace!

 

Francis King

While there are a lot of pieces I’m proud of, one piece that I look back particularly fondly on is my review of the first volume of the Vision book that followed Marvel’s soft reboot in Secret Wars, entitled Little Worse Than a Man. As you can see in my review, the book is brilliant. It’s the kind of book you give to someone who’s skeptical about the literary worth of comics. I’m so glad that I was able to publish my thoughts on the book on a platform like GUG. Had I been reading the story casually, I would have really liked it, and that would have been that. But the thing about reviews is that they push you to really dig into why it the subject works so well. Having my thoughts published in a structured and shareable format made evangelizing this book a lot easier. I was told by quite a few people that my review convinced them to give the book a try. For many of them, it was the first comic they’d ever read. Getting someone into a book or a movie or a show that you like is such a great feeling, and getting to do that with a team of fellow Christians is even better. I’m grateful to GUG for the opportunity to have done that so many times.

 

Josh Mors 

Wow, it has been really five years since this all this started! I remember when GUG’s site was launched, I was one of the writers. One of my favorite sensations over the course of my tenure was the realization that I was writing for the community of people that I was around. It felt amazing to know many Christians who loved and enjoyed the same kind of things. I also enjoyed providing content for other Christians out there who might feel ashamed or uneasy about their hobbies.

Over the course of time writing and contributing to the site, I felt more comfortable as a Christian to discuss the very geeky stuff that I enjoyed, even in-person to other people, and to my surprise, these interactions opened a gateway conversation for others to really check out our site and to be apart of the GUG community. I know I also met some friends over the course of time through this site that I remain close with to this very day, and if it wasn’t for this site, I probably wouldn’t have met the people that I met. It’s incredible to see how much this community has grown over the course of time, and I am truly thankful to Jesus Christ for all that He has done through this ministry.



Michael Morejon 


I want to start by saying thank you to Drew, Cody, Casey, Joe, Maurice, and others who I got the chance to work with during the 2+ years I wrote for Geeks Under Grace.

When this site first started, I was ecstatic to see if I could join as a writer and I was given the opportunity. Honestly, I was still growing and my writing needed a lot of editing (still does at times!), but God continues to use those articles to reach literally thousands. I was able to get to know fellow Christian geeks that love Jesus and enjoy the same geeky interests that I have, which are video games and anime, mainly.

One of the strongest characteristics that makes GUG stand out is their love of people, and not getting into “politics” of who is more important than someone else or who has a title. I see that often happen in ministries—geek or not—and I was burnt out from that around when I started, so it was a breath of fresh air. I was able to write freely about what God put in my heart for each post, contribute to collaborative posts, and give my thoughts on decisions for the site.

I pray that God continues to use GUG for his glory, to reach geeks for Christ, and be a place where people can just be themselves but experience Christ at the same time. I also pray that new doors would open to this ministry and that God’s presence would always reside during their staff decisions. God bless GUG, the staff, and all that they do. It takes a lot of hours, with little to no money and dozens of volunteers, to run it. Thank you again for letting me be a part of it, and I hope to continue to collaborate with you all.

 

Daniel Rodrigues-Martin

Writing for GUG has been a pivotal experience in my professional writing career. Opportunities to be published are essential for building an audience and gaining exposure in today’s competitive, digitally-driven world, and few things are more disheartening for a writer than to be unheard. It’s tough enough to get a fair shake as a writer, let alone with the nearly unparalleled artistic freedom I enjoyed writing for GUG. Observant readers will note references to cheese doodles in many GUG articles I wrote, and these were never edited out. That’s both dangerously cheesy and pretty cool.

Thomas Mann said that a writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than for other people. I feel this quote in my soul. A normal workload at GUG was basically a part-time job for me, and since GUG’s writers are all volunteers, the math of my life wasn’t adding up. I left the staff in late 2016, *but still write on occasion thanks to the flexibility of GUG’s games editor, Maurice Pogue, who has always been encouraging of my work.

The chance to write so consistently about things I’m interested in—and for a Christian geek website!—is not something I would have ever imagined happening and not an experience I would trade away. My hope for GUG in the next five years is a larger audience, more writers, the fulfillment of its mission, and the glory of God.

When he is not kicking our butts in Smash Bros, he is active in the field of Utah, ministering to former Latter-Day Saints who are leaving the LDS church and seeking to integrate themselves into traditional Christianity.

 

 

 

Maurice Pogue

Since picking up an NES controller in 1985 at the age of 2, Maurice and video games have been inseparable. While most children aspired to be lawyers, doctors, or engineers (at the behest of their parents), he aspired to write for publications such as EGM, PC Gamer, PC Accelerator, and Edge. After achieving ABD status in English at MSU, Maurice left academia and dedicated his writing to his lifelong passion. He is currently the Video Game Editor at Geeks Under Grace.

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