"If I can’t get the young people to come here, I want to go to them,” said Kenneth Grimes, youth pastor at Hacienda Heights church.
In 2018, Grimes started an online video gaming ministry via Twitch, a video live streaming service where people come together to chat and interact in real time. Grimes brought the idea to Brett Poynter, senior pastor of Hacienda Heights church at the time and current senior pastor of Temple City church. After prayer and consideration, this unique ministry began to take shape.
“The essence of this ministry is to reach people and share Christ,” said Grimes. “I’ve learned how to share Christ in non-traditional spaces, and it’s helped me better understand this quote from Ellen White: ‘Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow me”’ (The Ministry of Healing, p. 143).”
Now, Jeff Rosenthal, senior pastor of Hacienda Heights, continues to support this ministry. “Pastor Rosenthal has encouraged and challenged me to continue to preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words,” Grimes said. “He believes that good relationships with people may start with gaming but can blossom into a love relationship with Christ when they see how blessed we are.”
This relationship-building ministry has brought the youth and young adults at Hacienda Heights closer to each other. “The gaming ministry has allowed me to fellowship with my brothers in Christ virtually,” said Christian Ochoa, a young adult at Hacienda Heights. “During the pandemic, and even when I was on lockdown because I had gotten sick, I was still able to spend time with the youth of my church.”
The ministry has also allowed Grimes to build relationships with people who otherwise may not have stepped foot inside a church or opened their hearts to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When Grimes was testing new technology equipment to use for Hacienda Heights’ livestream worship services, he shared a sermon on his own Twitch channel. He soon received comments from followers interested in learning more about Jesus and the Adventist faith, which resulted in occasional Friday night vespers held on his Twitch channel. “I started getting questions like, ‘What is the Sabbath?’ or ‘What is vespers?’ or ‘I saw online you have 28 fundamental beliefs. What does that mean?’” Grimes said. “I pray for questions like that. It allows me to stay in touch with people and allows them to grow in Christ with the time and space a physical church may not allow.”
“I’m not introducing people to the games; these games are where God’s people are at,” Grimes added. “I believe it’s our calling as God’s people to sometimes go to a place where we feel uncomfortable in order to achieve His mission.”