Until the COVID-19 pandemic, Roman Khripunov didn’t realize the missionary potential of video games.

Khripunov ran soccer academies for refugees and immigrants in Houston, using the sport as a platform to share Christ with children. When the coronavirus paused in-person outreach, the ministry came up with an alternative: Soccer coaches would begin playing video games on the livestreaming platform Twitch and invite players to watch and ask spiritual questions. On Twitch, participants talk with each other as they play or type back and forth in a chat box.

It was a hit. Teenage soccer players reluctant to spend 15 minutes discussing spiritual matters in person were willing to engage for three to four hours over video games online. Eventually, the ministry opened its Twitch channel to the public and began to establish a presence on other gaming platforms as well, with coaches talking with people online. Among the success stories, a man from the Netherlands professed faith in Christ while gaming, then brought five friends to hear the gospel too.

“The people that we’re starting to observe on these [gaming] platforms are actually seeking a lot of spiritual things,” Khripunov said. “They’re very hungry for the gospel.”

Khripunov isn’t the only one who has realized esports can be used for ministry. From Houston and Brazil to South Africa and China, esports has emerged as an extension of Christian sports ministry.

Esports—video game competitions—has more than doubled its viewership in the past decade to an estimated 454 million people worldwide last year. The most popular esports championships rival the Super Bowl in viewership. When South Korea hosted the world championship finals ...

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