Digital Parish: How it started vs. how it's going with Jate Earhart

More from Pastoring in the Digital Parish

New series: “How it started vs How it’s going.” First up is Jate Earhart and the community around JateLIVE and LOVE CLAN. With Jate, we dive into the world of online ministry and planting churches with a focus on non-believers and gamers. Jate shares insights on the importance of prayer and honesty in building relationships, as well as the power of immersion and action-based learning. We also discuss the growth of their Discord community and how they balance Christian and non-Christian focuses. We explore the use of technology in creating spaces for discussing science and working towards inclusivity, as well as the challenges of balancing physical and digital ministry and discerning God's plan.

The Episode

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Show Notes 

In this episode:
(00:00) "Pastoring in the Digital Parish: Jate Earhart's Journey"
(10:22) "A Creative Epiphany"
(17:35) "Build a Thriving Gaming Community Through Word-of-Mouth"
(20:31) "Breaking Taboos: Inviting Non-Science Professionals to Discussions"
(29:31) "Fostering Authenticity: A Pastor's Focus on Community"
(38:17) "Streamers logging up to 19 hours daily!"
(42:59) "Balancing Discipleship and Evangelism: A Journey"
(49:26) "Digital Ministries for Gamers: A Guide"

This session is made available by:

Safer Sanctuaries: Nurturing Trust within Faith Communities is a new and comprehensive resource that continues the tradition of Safe Sanctuaries ministry by building on its trusted policies and procedures.
To learn more go to or call 800-972-0433

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Related sessions of Pastoring in the Digital Parish

Ryan Dunn [00:00:00]:

This is Pastoring in the Digital Parish, your resource and point of connection for building digital ministry strategy and bringing your congregation into the digital age. Hi. My name is Ryan Dunn. I am the proctor for this podcast, which seeks to be the digital ministry class that you just didn't get in seminary. On this episode of Pastoring in the Digital Parish, we're starting a series that we'll revisit several times this season. We're calling it how it started versus how it's going. First up is Jate Earhart and the community around Love Clan. With Jate, we dive into the world of online ministry, implanting churches with a focus on nonbelievers and gamer. Jait shares insights on the importance of prayer and honesty in building relationships, as well as the power of immersion and action based learning. We also discuss the growth of their discord community and how they balance Christian and nonchristian focuses. We explore the use of technology in creating spaces for discussing science and working towards inclusivity, as well as the challenges of balancing physical and digital ministry and discerning God's plan.

Jade Earhart grew up as a PK, but he never wanted to follow in his father's footsteps as a pastor himself. After studying digital art and design at Fullsale University and working for big companies like Google, Nike, and ESPN, jate felt a calling to do something more meaningful. He found inspiration in Ephesians 210, which speaks of being created for good works that God has prepared in advance. And though Jate initially doubted the idea of having a specific calling, jate now believes that as long as he follows God's plan for his life, he will find meaning and purpose. Currently, he is exploring the idea of using digital media to create a new kind of church experience. We're going to hear all about it next on Pastoring in the Digital Parish. This particular meaningful episode is brought to us by Safer Sanctuaries. Nurturing Trust Within Faith Communities is a new and comprehensive resource that continues the tradition of Safe Sanctuaries ministry by building on its trusted policies and procedures. So to learn more about Safer Sanctuaries, you can go to or give them a call at 809 720433. And also, I could use a favor from you. Ratings and reviews really help the visibility of this podcast, meaning that they make it more visible to both listeners, and this is the important part to prospective guests. So if you are appreciative of what we do on Pastoring in the Digital Parish, then just tell us by leaving a rating and review on your podcast listening platform. Okay, let's see how it started in Digital Ministry and how it's going with Jate Earhart. Jada Earhart, first, thanks so much for.

Ryan Dunn [00:03:15]:

Joining us and Pastoring in the Digital Parish, I hope you're doing all right today.

Jate Earhart [00:03:19]:

I am. How are you doing?

Ryan Dunn [00:03:22]:

Well, man. I'll be asking the questions. Thank you very much.

Jate Earhart [00:03:27]:


Ryan Dunn [00:03:29]:

No. That said, I'm doing great today and super appreciative of you being here and I'm really looking forward to hearing your story because you're kind of one of those folks that I followed from a distance for a little while and haven't had an opportunity to engage with.

And so for me, it's exciting when podcasting kind of gives the opportunity for me to interact with people who I just happen to find interesting. This is a cool opportunity for me appreciative of you saying yes, for sure. So with that in mind, let's go back away. What first drove you to start in digital ministry in the first place?

Jate Earhart [00:04:09]:

Yeah, so it was not like a theological thing or I definitely had a stage where I was maybe struggling a little theologically, if I should. Originally, I was asking the question, is this a church? Like, is digital possible to do for church? But before even that, I grew up as a PK, and so my dad was pastor and I want nothing to do with that. Didn't want to be a pastor for sure. Stuff happened in the church. Yeah, I have very common and I actually went to college for digital art and design at Fullsale and got a Bachelor's and very expensive. Went from that and did, like, graphic design for Google, Nike, ESPN, estee Lauder, ted Baker, Cleveland, Cav 76, ers, Conor McGregor, like a lot of really big, really big teams and companies and stuff like that. And kind of killing it as far as, like, graphics goes. But I felt like there was this verse that we're, your workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works that God prepared in advance for us to walk in. And that's ephesians 210 and that kind of, like, became my life verse because it says that there's something specific that God's prepared for every person. I didn't really know if I believed in calling necessarily at the time before I read that verse, especially with verses like, in whatever you do, do it for glory of God or eating or drinking or whatever you do. There's lots of this whatever you do kind of talk that makes it seem like we don't really have specific callings. Obviously there are people in the Bible that do, but I don't know if that's for everybody. And for me, it just felt like, yeah, as long as I'm following what God wants for my life, then I don't know if he really has a plan.

Ryan Dunn [00:06:09]:

Yeah, there's a narrow road. That's a bad analogy, but there's a precise path that God pinpointed for you to reach.

Jate Earhart [00:06:18]:

Right. And it's kind of why and I still believe, like, a good majority of life, I don't think God's really worked up about if I eat pasta or pizza today. And some people go into that where they're like, well, every single thing has a purpose. And so therefore, if you get pasta, it's because God's trying to use it. Whatever. But I took it kind of the other way. At the time, my theology was just kind of what and it's still kind of who knows? But I listened a lot to like, Steven Furdick and I've got problems with some of his theology, but there was something in there that was a lot about like, God's wills, whatever. I just didn't know. I just didn't know because I heard things from both sides and if I don't know, then I don't care. So I just say, man, whatever. And when I read that verse, then it kind of changed things for me. And it felt like, okay, maybe God does have something specific, so I'm going to pray for that. So I prayed for about six months every day to and from work. I would say, hey, I'm going to go to work today and here's the verse. If you want me to do something else, then just make it really clear to me. And if not, I'll keep doing what I'm doing and then just give me something to do in that. Because I wanted to follow God. I've always been a Christian. It wasn't my full time thing at all, and I didn't feel like what I was doing was leading towards that. So I just prayed for it, if that's what he wanted. And after probably six months of praying this, I felt like I heard God say, what about a game church? And I was driving to work and I'd prayed it, who knows, like an uncountable amount of times at that point. Literally for months, I'd been praying the same verse, just kind of as a morning routine, let me know. And I hit a point where I said I would go anywhere and do anything if you wanted me to go to Africa. I don't know why that was my thought, but it was like place with.

Ryan Dunn [00:08:17]:

Isn'T that always what we kind of conjure up, at least for people in our context, kind of like these Western Christians and white.

Jate Earhart [00:08:28]:

Sent on mission, it's going to be somewhere where I'm just completely out of my element and there's no Internet. So I just said, I will go there if you want me to. Just make it very obvious because I'm not going to go if you don't tell me to. And I felt like it wasn't even like, do this. It was sort of like, how about you just try something? Why not a game church? What about a game church? And I'd never thought about that. That was ten years ago or something now. And that led me down a path that kind of started me down where I am today. And even before that, I remember there was a thing where before that, where did that verse come from? A lot of it was I was at a Calves game and.

Ryan Dunn [00:09:17]:

During LeBron era.

Jate Earhart [00:09:19]:

Yes, it was the time that they went to I like, joking and being like, it's the time LeBron went to the Super Bowl because I don't really care about sports at all. Yeah, the time LeBron went won the Super Bowl, I was there. And so they did this graphic, though, that I made, and everybody stood up and cheered and it was like, Cabs, let's go. And filled seeds. This is before COVID And my boss nudged me, actually.

Ryan Dunn [00:09:50]:

What year are we talking about?

Jate Earhart [00:09:53]:

I don't remember the exact year because, again, I'd have to go back and look at it. But it was like the height, I don't think, like two years after this, LeBron wasn't there anymore. So whenever that is, yeah, so you probably would know better. But that was like but really, I'm.

Ryan Dunn [00:10:17]:

Just trying to place, like, you know, the technology that might be in place. Like, what are you envisioning when you're thinking game, church, that kind of thing?

Jate Earhart [00:10:22]:

Right? Well, yeah, so we were doing projection mapping and so we did it all on the courts, where it made the court look like it's moving. I don't know if you've seen that on houses or buildings or whatever, where they make it look like it's moving with projectors. That's what I did. So I was doing projection mapping and we made the court look like it was moving. And so it did this big wave thing that I built and we freaked out and my boss nudged me and said, like, you did that? That's so cool. And the CEO or whatever, is there, like, the owner of the calves is there next to me and all this craziness. And I did that for lots of teams, but obviously Cavs were like a popular team. I did cooler stuff for the 76 ers, but nobody cares because they were 76 ers. I actually remember the 76 ers at one point. The guy said, well, we pay you, and that's totally fine because we know that we can trust the projectors. I just can't trust my team. I was like, you can't say stuff like that anyway. But yeah, all this stuff happened. And I'm watching this happen on the court and everybody's freaking out. A whole stadium of people that they don't know that I did it, but they're cheering for something I made. And I'm thinking, this is the coolest thing I ever made. And I remember in that moment, God said, is it Is this the coolest thing you've ever made? And so I started thinking about other projects that I'd done. And the longer story is that there was a smaller church that I attended, and I was the tech director for a very short time, for like, a year between college and an internship that ended up landing me into a bigger thing. And at that church, there was a kid who never listened to anything. And I had to make video game references like minecraft just to get them to listen to what I was saying. And they were crazy. They would flip over tables and whatever. And I remember after a while, one of them said, Will you baptize me? And I thought, I don't think you actually know what that means. But they would tell me, like, no, I want Jesus to be Lord of my life, and I know that I've made mistakes, and so I want to be baptized. And so I did. I baptized him. And then his dad started coming to church, and he was baptized, like, a few months later. Her and just it was in that moment at the courts, I remembered that and felt like I was kind of telling me that was way more important than the thing you're doing right now. You could do this over and over again, but that one thing just mattered more. And so it kind of ruined my job. That's when I started praying for something else, was, well, my job's kind of ruined now, because every time I do it, I'm thinking about how it really doesn't matter, and I'm just making money and not really doing anything that has lasting purpose. And if I believe that, then I feel like I'm just going to waste my life. I'll get to 60, and I could be the very best of my job and still feel like I didn't do anything that mattered. Yeah.

Ryan Dunn [00:13:09]:

It just kind of becomes a paycheck, right?

Jate Earhart [00:13:11]:

Yeah. And so that was kind of when I started thinking that way. And I started working at a church, planning church, because I just happened to be already attending a church that I told them, and they said, well, we plant churches if you want to go, like, learn how. And so I started working there. I worked there for about five years while learning to plant churches helped other churches plant. Had a whole number of people that came through. I ended up doing a church planner residency. I was going to physically plant a gamer church, and in the process, I started finding other people online that I could communicate with and that were like that was very, very new. At the time, Discord hadn't quite started, but I was there the year Discord started and made a server within the first year, that was, I don't know, like 17, I think it was. I think I think my account I think I checked this. I think 2017 is when my Discord account was made. So it was before that, but then whenever it started, that's when we made a server in the process of the Discord server, that's when I started thinking online is because that just blew up. Like, people wanted their friends to join. There's a prayer channel that was being used daily. We had lots of even, like, Bible discussions. We were doing small groups through Discord, and people started joining through that. So I hit a point where I recognized that if I started, I continued to go forward with church planting, physical church planning, that I would be ignoring a large majority of the people God already had in front of me. And so it wasn't because I wanted to do online or because I thought, oh, it'll be easier, or that I can reach certain number of people. It was just, God already gave me these people. If he had given me local people, I would have started it locally. But because he gave me online people, I had to, I had to continue to because I wasn't going to ignore the people that God had already given me. We just sort of kept going that direction. These are people from all over the world. We had people from UK.

Ryan Dunn [00:15:18]:

How did you meet them? Where did it start? Because normally, especially in those days, you think church planting, you think, okay, it's a geographic location, sure, we're going to put our pin down in this spot, and we're going to grow around this neighborhood. And it's interesting. So what was it that you were utilizing then that got you in touch with people from the UK?

Jate Earhart [00:15:39]:

Yeah, for me, it's really easy to start groups. I think it's not that difficult, and I think it's easier now than it ever has been. But even like my live stream, I didn't pull from our discord. Even our discord had over 1000 people before I even started streaming. And then whenever I started live streaming, I mean, my live stream is at four point something thousand people. And I've never posted in our own self promote area, I've never posted my stream in there because I didn't want people to think, oh, well, you just have a big discord and then that's how you do your stream. I wanted to show that, no, you can kind of grow it organically. So at the time I was working with Game Church, which is a it's not really a thing anymore. Game Church City is what the thing was called. And then that turned into like just there's lots of other groups that have all kind of all over the place. And whenever I would meet somebody, either I've talked to people when I'm playing games, so if I'm playing a multiplayer game, I would get to know people. We played Destiny was really big at the time. I would raid with people and I ran Sherpas. So we did a thing called like, Love Clan, and it's called Love Clan now, but Love Clan at the time was because it was a clan first in Call of Duty, and then we started it in Destiny. And the goal was that we would help people do really difficult content because they felt unable to do it. And they were like, well, I don't want to stress about if I mess something up. And so we just had really chill people that were willing to be patient with people, and people responded with that. And we're like, oh my gosh, these are the people I want to play with are these chill guys who are not gaming to push back on.

Ryan Dunn [00:17:30]:

If I reach you for being a newbie.

Jate Earhart [00:17:35]:

That'S an easy invite. You just say, hey, if you want. We have a group of people, this is how they are. And so if you like this kind of thing and this is what you want to be a part of, we have a discord. And then they would join and they'd be like, oh, there's prayer stuff in here or whatever. I had conversations with people all the time where I would join. I'd be in discord at the end of a raid and everybody else would leave and one person would just keep talking and I would just be like, okay. And I would just keep talking with them and he'd be like, hey, do you want to go run this thing now that that's over? And I was like, sure. And then we'd go run and we'd just chat and like, hey, we should play again sometime. And that happened pretty regularly and it only takes ten people. It's not as crazy. You need ten people. And those ten people know at least one person who would want something that's if they like that, then they'll invite their friends to that. And once you have 20 people, then you're already at the point where you're like, yeah, when we do gamer nights in overwatch, it's completely full, like a full lobby. And people are like, we never have full custom lobbies. That's crazy. I don't know any group of friends that has a full custom lobby. And you're like, yeah, invite your friends if they want to play cool custom lobbies with us. And then it's like, we got 40 people. It just goes like that word of mouth, I think is underrated. We never did promotion. Like we never paid for any promotion for our server or anything like that. And we were pretty open about we didn't want a Christian hangout. And that's always been the thing is we didn't want it to just be Christian. We really, really focus on people who are not going to churches. But our discord definitely became more that it was definitely more focused in that direction for a period of time. I think we've kind of gotten it a little bit more back to where it's not just that, but for sure my live stream is not the love stream.

Ryan Dunn [00:19:32]:

Yeah, well, you name it too. I've seen it on several of your posts throughout the week. And even when you get to Bible study you'll say, hey, this Bible study is for people who haven't necessarily studied the Bible before or aren't feeling that.

Jate Earhart [00:19:44]:

Comfortable with it, right? So with that specifically, since you said it, I will never say Bible study on stream. You'll never hear me say it because I don't like the word study. I think that it is like so this is something I say a lot, but I take the word study and replace it with the word discussion because I think it's much better to have a Bible discussion. And the reason I did that is because I think about if I changed the word and I said science instead, if I told you, hey, man, do you want to come to a science study? We have a science study that we're doing where we study science and we talk about science with people that are scientists and that like science and would you like to come study science?

Ryan Dunn [00:20:30]:

You're boring me.

Jate Earhart [00:20:31]:

Yeah, I would never go to a science study. I don't know anything about science. Am I studying for a test? I don't know why you're inviting me to the science study, but if I said, like, hey, do you want to come to a science discussion? It's a bunch of people that are not really smart when it comes to science are not really like, yeah, we've all kind of heard about it and we've been around it, but we want to have a space where people can discuss it because we think it's important and it's something that should be discussed more. But it's kind of a taboo thing unless you're in school. And so we want to say a thing for people that are interested in the discussion and who may not have all the answers, but at least we can talk about it. And so in my brain, that's why I always replace Bible with science, is I try to think, is this a sentence I would be interested in if it was said the other way in a totally different side? And obviously the Bible and science are not at ends, but if I can't make it make sense with science in place, then I shouldn't say it. So I eliminate the word science from my thing. I pushed back. Yeah, sorry, that's what I meant, study. And I say the same thing, actually, for churches, when they're thinking about trying to get people to come to their church, you should try to think about how to get people to come to a mosque, because church is such a normalized term if you've lived in church forever. Whereas if you say, what would it take for me to go to a mosque on Sunday? What would it take for me to not say, let me invite you to a church. But if somebody invited you to a mosque, what would it take for you to go to that? And for me, coffee would probably not convince me to go to your mosque. They said, we have really good coffee. The music is actually really good, and the sermon is like, killer. And it's like, you're going to love our mosque. Our mosque is really great. I am on edge because I'm like, that's a different religion. I'm not supposed to be there. I don't know what this is. And it's silly to think that somebody is not feeling the same way if they've never been to a church before. So I think if somebody sat me down and said, hey, here's the thing, I do actually go to a mosque every Sunday. And I know it's probably weird, but I believe that stuff and I would love for you to come just to see it and to experience it and we can talk about it afterwards. I'll pay for lunch afterwards. But I just want to know what your opinions are on this because you're my friend and I care about you. Here's what will happen. We will go in and there is snap acts at the beginning and then we'll sit down and they're going to tell you to stand up and then we're going to do some song stuff and the music is okay. And then we'll sit down and they're going to say some stuff and then we'll leave. But it's like in and out and it's an hour. But it would mean a lot to me if you would just come try it. I'd be like, okay, I get it. I will come try your mosque. I'm not interested in your religion. I don't care anything about your God, but I care about you. I would try your mosque. And honestly, I think even that is there should be steps before that where you're discussing the Bible and so on. But it doesn't really matter. Just when we think about the word church, I feel like I say that the same when I say replace Bible with science and replace church with mosque. And if you can't make it make sense, you're probably not thinking through the eyes of a first time person.

Ryan Dunn [00:24:06]:

Now a short interruption with a word from our sponsor for this episode. If you're working with young people, you'll want to take some care to put policies and practices in place that protect the vulnerable admits your community and the changing landscape of how we relate with one another means that we need to keep up on evolving policies and practices for safety. Safer Sanctuaries Nurturing Trust Within Faith Communities is a new and comprehensive resource that continues the tradition of Safe Sanctuaries ministry by building on the trusted policies and procedures that have guided churches over the past 25 years. This resource contains theological grounding for the work of abuse prevention, psychological insights about abuse and abuse prevention, basic guidelines for risk reduction, age level specific guidance, and step by step instructions on how to develop, revise, update, and implement an abuse prevention plan in your church or ministry. For Christians, resisting evil and doing justice are ways that we live and serve Jesus. Safer Sanctuaries provides help to do just that by framing this work as life giving, community enhancing and proactive. It enables communities to be empowered and flourish as they develop and implement policies and procedures that make everyone safer. To learn more, go to or call 1809 720433 again 809 72043 and now back to our conversation as we.

Ryan Dunn [00:25:36]:

Dial back six years again here. When you were first taking these steps to start this ministry, did you have this overall vision in mind where, I don't know, you were going to make connections with these people and build a cool arcade and have people come hang out and build worship services and Bible discussion groups off of that or what was going on then?

Jate Earhart [00:25:59]:

Yeah, I still have multiple Xboxes. I thought we'll do Xbox 360, Halo Land parties and we'll have board game wall. I think that's not a bad idea. That would still work. It's not that it was like, wow, God really saved me from doing that 100%. That could be an effective ministry in a lot of ways. To a lot of people it might look more effective, like, wow, he's baptizing people more. I would baptize more people if I was doing a physical church. I bet that's true. I think it would be a very effective ministry for people that are local, that feel like completely isolated from the church, and that maybe people that were hurt. It's probably a lot of the same people, but it's not the people God gave me. So it doesn't really matter. That's what I wanted, but my plans don't really matter when they're up against God's plans. So as long as I'm making sure that I'm being receptive and saying, hey, feel free to mess up my plans because this is what I would like to do, the reality is that's so much easier, it's more money to do that, but it's so much easier to get funding for that. I would have been funded ten times over. I know other people that have that's such an easy sell for a 70 year old person who's like, oh, I would never be able to do I would never want to do that. But I'm so glad somebody's doing that for the generation and I'm ready to just give my wallet for that thing and then I never have to think about it. And I can feel good about the fact that my son or daughter is in a place where they feel heard and stuff. There's so many good things in that. But it's the same thing with if I feel like I want to have a really big stream, I want it to be like blown up and like all these people or whatever, but God tells me, no, then you don't do it. You just say, okay, I'm going to listen to that and I'll be receptive and you're in prayer and making sure that God really has you where you want and you pray. I think a lot of when people are like, yeah, how do you know? How do you know what God's saying in these things? Some of it is if you pray and you're actually willing to hear the answer, then he'll answer it. But if you pray and you're not, you're. Like, no, this is what I want to happen.

Ryan Dunn [00:28:34]:

I just want you to confirm what it is that I want to have happen.

Jate Earhart [00:28:38]:

Right. Which is kind of funny because there's like the story of the mist or the dew on the blanket. He's like, okay, let's do this. And then he's like, yeah, okay, let me see for sure that if that's really true, they pray something and they get an answer that's not what they want. And they're like, okay, but then have somebody else say it then. But yeah, I just really try to be open to what is God actually trying to tell me and not get in the way. And it makes sense in the long run, but yeah, it's kind of hard sometimes in the shorter run, I think, to do that kind of stuff.

Ryan Dunn [00:29:24]:

So what has that openness brought you to now? What is the rhythm of your ministry look like now?

Jate Earhart [00:29:31]:

Yeah, so for me right now, it's a huge focus on 50% of my flock or the people that I'm in regular community with. I want at least 50% of them to be non Christian. I want them to be people that have never been to a church, have never read the Bible, and that's like, together with people that if it's the other 50%, I want them to be seeing that my focus is for the 50% that aren't them, because I want them to have the same focus. I want those people to feel that, wow, like everything he's saying, I want people to be like, wow, I don't feel like I'm really getting emotionally fed here. I'm not really getting spiritually fed. I don't want people to feel like they're in a really good sermon and they're just, like, getting all this new knowledge unlocked about the Bible and I'm really going into it about coina and about I'm like, Whoa, it's so good, guys. Once you understand what the meaning of this really is, I don't want any of that. And I don't want there to be any faking either. I don't want it to feel like it's such a great production that this service is just really connecting me with God. I really just push back on pretty much all of that stuff because I want it to feel very real and I want the people that are there to be like, yeah, that's what a relationship with God actually looks like. And it's love out in a very real way. So more often than not, it's me trying to share all the garbage going on in my life and all the hurts and all the we talk a lot about my struggles with pornography and just like, if I'm dealing with stress, then we'll talk about that. But we have lots of other people that have depression and we talk through those things. It's a lot of prayer. Prayer is probably the number one key point of the whole ministry, is letting people know that my favorite thing to do for anything on stream is to pray. And so when people come into the stream, we're very like, hey, this is a place where you don't have to wear masks. I have, like, a 1 minute testimony that I share. And a big part of it is I don't want people to feel like you have to fake to be here, and I want you to be able to make sure that the things that you say are how you're actually feeling rather than feeling like, well, I don't want to bring the mood down. I want people to know that they can say, I'm having a crappy day and that sucks, and not feel like someone's going to say, well, why are you telling me about it? And I just give it to prayer. It's interesting because if I didn't have prayer, that would be very hard to do that on a regular basis, especially for as much as I stream. It'd be really hard because it would just wear down on me. It already does. I feel the emotional weight of when I'm streaming that when certain people come in, I'm like, yeah, I already know this person has continuously had a bad day for every day for the last year and so I will have to pray for this person again. And that can be hard because I'm like, I feel like it's not working. God, why isn't this helping? But at the same time, those are the same people that message me on a regular basis and say, you don't realize how helpful this has been for me. And I'm like you're right. I don't, because I don't recognize that. To me, I just feel like, why hasn't your depression been solved? And they're like, But I'm being able to talk about it and it's working out. It's just it's slow and it takes years for some people to really deal with all of that. It's tough. I think it's tough because it's so much emotional put out there. But at the same time, it's really freeing because I already know I've shared everything. I've already shared all of my dark stuff and all of the good stuff. And so it's really humbling and it's really freeing to just kind of be at a stage where I don't have to watch anything I say. I just say it like, hey, here's how I'm feeling about this. And people are like, whoa, I can't believe you said that. And I was like, really? Because I've said everything else. I don't know why that's surprising to you. Maybe we should talk about why that's surprising because that shouldn't be surprising. But in this society, I can see why that would be kind of weird in it. And I feel like I could share that stuff because I have so much put in the bank that I can pull it out at any time. And if I get into a spiritual conversation, with somebody that I know is not a Christian. That conversation is rarely like a debate or like a pushback. People are like, well, I know that you care about me because you've already proven that and you've given time and effort to getting to know me personally. So when I say I really want to pray for you, it doesn't sound like I'm just trying to put it off or whatever. It's like, no, I legitimately think that is the best thing that I can do for you right now is this. And I don't have anything else I can give you. I can't give you the money or I can't give you whatever. And that wouldn't help anyway in this situation. And so I'm going to pray for you because I legitimately think that will help this problem. And that matters. That matters a lot to people way more than my theology or my, you know, the right verse at the right time or, you know, I me being able to say, let me, let me try to connect. I don't know. They get it at that point. And I don't have to write a sermon on depression to try to talk about it. I just talk about it realistically. And I'm going to use the Bible as a reference because that's like my main source and I'm going to use God as the source we need to go to. And we can talk about it without it being like a really good pastor, a really good preacher, specifically, because those can be different. A really good preacher would know their community really well and they would write a sermon based on what they think the community was dealing with. But even in those cases, one thing I say a ton is that pastors have a tendency to answer questions people aren't asking. Like, they'll write a whole sermon on a verse and they're like, whoa, I just was reading this and it just hit me that blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and isn't that crazy? And let me expound on that. It's like a 30 minutes thing that I would never look up on YouTube because I just don't care. I never thought about that. It didn't matter to me. Sure, it's great to have knowledge, but I'm still struggling with depression after this sermon and so it's not really helpful to me. And so that's kind of the brilliance and the joy of live streaming for me is that we're just chatting and then things come up and it's a topic where I'm like, oh, the Bible actually talks about this. So I guess it's now we're going to talk about it. And in that moment, I'm not writing a sermon, but I am like, we're having a heart to heart that's going to involve the Bible and God. And that's just regular part of my life. And if it's something I struggle with, then we get to talk about that. And if it's something that I don't struggle with but that I've read about. Then I could be like, well, here's what the Bible says about it and we could talk about it that way.

Ryan Dunn [00:37:28]:

But yeah, it's truly a ministry of presence. And that's the beauty of digital ministry and that it does give us that accessibility. When I was in kind of the regular parish ministry, we used to talk all the time about how we just had like a limited window to be with people. And I was in youth ministry, so it's like I get to interact with a kid for like 2 hours a week, if I'm lucky. In the meantime, coaches have all this extra time. Teachers have all this extra time. Well, you're able to go to these deep spaces because as you put it, you have the equity in there, have enough drops in the trust bucket or whatever to be able to do that. And that is because of that accessibility. And so you're streaming every day, is that right? Or just about every year?

Jate Earhart [00:38:17]:

Yeah, pretty much every day. I don't stream on Sundays because that's like my day off, but I stream usually. It depends on the days and how I'm feeling. Like two days ago it was like a 19 hours stream. The first year it was 17 hours on average, and the second year it was closer to, I think 13. But this year I've been closer to between ten and eight. I keep going less and less. I'm trying to narrow down what the time is that most people can be there so that it's actually not as beneficial for me to just do a long stream all the time. So I'm trying to kind of allow for more time to be able to do like this. I wasn't live during this time and I've been awake for like 4 hours and I've been working on stuff. So I think that's where I'm at right now. But still like 8 hours a day with a lot of the same people, even if they just have me up in another tab. I spend more time usually on a day with some people than they do with their spouse. I legitimately have more conversation with people than they do with their kids. I have conversation with some people's kids more in a day than they do with their dad in a whole week. It's just kind of how it is. It's just sort of the nature of what I'm doing. And that's sort of like a digital friend at this point. Some people would pull that apart and be like, oh, that's really bad and that's negative. That's just reality, right? That's just what is. Me being somebody's friend online for 8 hours a day is not somehow taking away from somebody being with their dad or something like that. When people are not in this situation, they are looking for other places. I would rather be there than them going to any of these other places that are available on the internet.

Ryan Dunn [00:40:26]:


Ryan Dunn [00:40:26]:

The reality is that they're probably going to be on Twitch in some way, shape or form, and it just so happens to be that in the positive now they're on Twitch with you.

Jate Earhart [00:40:36]:

Yeah. So God sends them and then we just say, okay, you're in now you're in the family group, so welcome to the team and we're going to hang out and let's play games and we're going to talk about life and if you're dealing with stuff, we'll pray for you. It's weird to me because for some people, like, wow, it just really means a lot to me. But I'm like, yeah, but I need it too. I need friends online. I've moved 27 times. I'm about to move a 28th time. So I have had times where I was really involved in a local ministry or really involved with local friends. I had a local group that we played Dungeons and Dragons, Twitch. I had a local group that I played board games on a weekly basis. I had a roommate that played video games that we played every night. I've had that. But most of my friends online were my friends. Those are the majority of my friends because I wouldn't be able to hang out with them or chat with them or keep up with them if I didn't have online. So it's just sort of at the place that I'm at now. I'm online a lot because I'm extrovert, 100% extrovert. You were saying maybe you're introvert.

Ryan Dunn [00:41:54]:

I'm like, you have such a low key kind of, I don't know, just an easy passage to you that yeah, it doesn't feel like the kind of hyperactive type extrovert that you think.

Jate Earhart [00:42:07]:

Right. Which is funny because I'm super ADHD too, but it's, like, changed from the hyperactive to more of just like I'm just scatterbrained a lot of the times where I'll think I'm trying to do too many things at once and things have to keep being active and interesting. If it stops getting interesting, then I lose attention. But yeah, I think it's been good.

Ryan Dunn [00:42:34]:


Ryan Dunn [00:42:35]:

Well, now that you're six years into this journey, at least, what is maybe some advice that you might have offered your younger self to the J who was just getting started in this digital ministry, who had very different plans? What's something that you might look back on now and say, like, hey, if you do this, your life is gaming to be so much easier?

Jate Earhart [00:42:59]:

Yeah, there's probably a couple of them. I mean, for a while there, I had this thought that discipleship was like, I was such a I had I went where I think a lot of people did where I grew up, and it was just like, yeah, Evangelism has always made sense, but I don't really know what discipleship is. And then I started to understand what discipleship was. So then I went really heavy into making disciples, which primarily are Christians. And so then I was really heavy in the Christian side of things, but in the process was kind of ignoring non Christians. And now I feel like wherever I'm at as far as the balance is, especially because I say 50% Christian, non Christian, the point is I want the 50% that are Christian to be watching what I'm doing and how I'm interacting with non Christians. And that's how I disciple. I don't need to sit down and have a discord conversation and here's how you do it and whatever. Even when I was doing, like I told them I was going to do a podcast, some of them were like, we could do it for you if you want. You say the same things all the time. You answer the same questions the same way every time. We pretty much are like we're trained that we could just do it for you if you wanted. And they probably could because I've even said, here, I say this a lot and I have, I've said it enough that they could do it for me. That for me is like that's a form of discipleship. And even if it's maybe not the quote unquote most effective method for discipling, it's sort of like I'm learning Japanese and my way of learning is not, is it's not super, whatever. But the best way of learning if I could do it would be immersion, where you're just in it all the time to the point that you're just kind of speaking it because you just naturally are there at that point. And that's how kids learn and whatever. And that's how I feel like it is right now, is it sort of discipleship by immersion, which does feel like Jesus's method. He's just with the disciples are with him while he's doing all the things he's doing, to the point that whenever he's gone, they're like, well, I guess we just do the things that he was doing. And so I feel like that's kind of where I'm at now, where if I'm there for eight to 10 hours a day doing what I've been saying I'm doing and people are watching me do it, then we're all in the same space at the same time. Then it's really easy. Whenever someone's like, oh, I want to stream, I'm like, oh great. And they're like, how do I do it? I shouldn't have to tell you that you already have watched me do it. If you have questions, ask, but you just get started and just do it. Part of it for me would probably be to focus on whatever that is. I don't know how to condense that. But don't focus too heavy on Christians and don't focus maybe too heavy on non Christians. There's somehow an in between. But have Christians come with you while you're talking with non Christians and understand the difference between those kinds of conversations and then the other one would probably be like, don't care what people think at all. Just completely throw it out. It's care what God thinks and what you think about yourself and then just leave the rest there because it just grows masks that are completely unhelpful for anybody. You start off with caring what people think and then that keeps you from saying truth that needs to be said to somebody who needs to hear it, and then that person's like, it's weird when you do, because then they're like, Wait, what? This sounds like it's coming from somewhere different. And yeah, it's just the whole thing's a mess and life's just so much easier when you're like, whatever, it doesn't matter what people think about me.

Ryan Dunn [00:46:55]:

Well, we're coming to the end of our time here. You got to go be with the people and livestream in a little bit. So I just have one final question for you.

Ryan Dunn [00:47:02]:

What is something that you're dreaming of doing in ministry next?

Jate Earhart [00:47:08]:

Yeah, I don't usually think too much about that, honestly. None of this was really, like, my plan anyway. I didn't sit down and say, like, oh, let's do it this way, or whatever. It just kind of keeps happening. I'm just open, I'm just open to whatever God has next. If he gives some opportunity, then we'll move forward into it, and if it doesn't work out, then we'll be like, all right, I guess we just need to go what we're doing. At one point in time, I was really focused on growing the numbers and the size and all this stuff, and we did actually grow really fast, really quickly, so there was lots more people in it than there were currently, and it was really hard to reach at. I would miss stuff. People had did prayer requests and I would miss them. I wouldn't have time to get to everything. And so for the time being, at least for the last year or so, we've really pulled back and just focused on the group that really, I feel like, needs it right now. And I would say if I had any dream, it would be that those people would replicate and that they would be doing the same thing. And there is some of that. I've seen other streamers and people that have been like, this is an inspiration, and now we're doing it too, and it never feels like cannibalizing or oh, people are copying. Anything I can do to help you. We need more of that because I'm not going to be here forever. And it's such a big twitch, is so big. There's so many people on that platform. There's no chance of me being worried that somebody takes seven of the people or something like that from my group. I really hope that there's way more of that. So if I had a dream, that's probably it just that we're multiplying. Duplicating.

Ryan Dunn [00:49:07]:

Yeah. So it's not bring me all the people, but it is. Bring me the people who can go out to the people.

Jate Earhart [00:49:13]:

Yeah. Just hope they get it. Do it.

Ryan Dunn [00:49:17]:

Cool. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. And yeah, best wishes to you on the live stream a little later today.

Jate Earhart [00:49:25]:


Ryan Dunn [00:49:26]:

That's going to put a wrap on this session of Pastoring in the Digital Parish. Do you want to hear more about Digital ministry for gamer? Well, we have plenty more. Twitch is a cornerstone for jade's ministry. And if you want to get set up on Twitch, then check out season two's episode with the leaders of Crossfire Faith and Gaming. It's from November of 2021 and it's called Understanding and Getting Started on Twitch. Or in September of 2022, we talked with Deacon Havoc and circuit rider of Methodist Gaming, which goes into a gamer ministry that supplements local church ministry. It's good stuff. Again, I'm Ryan Dunn. I'd like to thank, the online destination for leaders throughout the United Methodist Church. They make this podcast possible and of course they host our website, which can be [email protected] And there you can find more online resources for ministry. I also want to thank Safer Sanctuaries for their support. Again. Safer Sanctuaries Nurturing Trust Within Faith Communities is a new and comprehensive resource that continues the tradition of Safe Sanctuaries ministry by building on its trusted policies and procedures. This resource contains theological grounding for the work of abuse prevention. Basic guidelines for risk reduction, age level specific guidance, step by step instructions of how to develop eyes, update and implement an abuse prevention plan. If you want to connect with this podcast, check out our Pastoring in the Digital Parish group on Facebook. You can also send me questions and ideas for future sessions at [email protected] Another session comes next week. In the meantime, peace.

On this episode

Twitch streamer and digital minister, Jate Earhart

Jate Earhart grew up as a PK, but never wanted to follow in his father's footsteps as a pastor. After studying digital art and design at Full Sail and working for big companies like Google, Nike, and ESPN, Jate felt a calling to do something more meaningful. He found inspiration in Ephesians 2:10, which speaks of being created for good works that God has prepared in advance. Currently, he is exploring the idea of using digital media to create a new kind of church experience.

Ryan Dunn, co-host and producer of the Compass Podcast

Our proctor/host is the Rev. Ryan Dunn, a Minister of Online Engagement for United Methodist Communications. Ryan manages the digital brand presence of Rethink Church, co-hosts and produces the Compass Podcast, manages his personal brand, and obsesses with finding ways to offer new expression of grace.


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