Starting back in 2010 I began going to comicons. I would usually attend 2 a year, but then after putting my first book out I’ve dramatically increased con attendance. I went from 2 a year, to around 18 con or comic events in just 1 year. This gave me plenty of time to sit behind the Faith & Fandom booth smiling, making contact with people while waiting for them to stop by, and taking in some spiritual similarities to the people you see at cons. These are broad concepts and don't apply to every fan or every con, but it's a fairly blanketed perspective.
Group 1: Attendees.
You’ve got the people who show up. Whether it’s for a 1 day visit or a 3 day pass, people come. Some only once, but some come annually. Some people walk in the doors of a con and are either so overwhelmed or so underwhelmed that they never come back. Bottom line, it doesn’t matter how good of a show you put on; if people don’t show up, the show falls apart. The same concept works for faith and the church. When I mention the church I don’t just mean one specific building on a specific day, but the community of believers as a whole. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:24-25.
When we attend shows together, they become a lot more fun, the experiences we have at events like these are greatly amplified by the people we share them with. If we are going to live life as people of faith, the same goes for us, we are meant to not only show up, but to be in this thing together. If the “Church” is people of faith living life together, then you aren’t really getting the full benefit and effect of the Church if you are going through this alone. Attendees are there for one purpose: to receive what they want from the experience, and then go home. They aren't obligated to contribute to the quality of the event or the experience, just to consume. There are lots of attendees at churches, and that's great, we want visitors. God wants people to see and experience what this looks like, but for us to remain spiritually healthy there has to come a point where we transition from just attending to actually being a part of the family God called us to be.
Group 2: Promoters.
We wouldn’t have the ability to attend if we didn’t have people promoting. A good promoter can break or make a show. Some promoters have a natural gift for bringing it all together, and some promoters mean well, but just fall short of bringing their vision to life. These are the people that gather artists, vendors, meeting spaces, the media, and everything in between. In short, these people are the leaders, the shepherds, the pastors.
Just like every good con has a leader, or multiple leaders, we need to have godly leaders in our lives. In Psalm 23, David calls the Lord his shepherd: “1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Someone who guides, protects, heals, provides, encourages, that’s the kind of shepherd David described the Lord as. If we don’t have people in our lives who guide us, it’s easy for us to just scatter and stumble, but just like a con, when we have competent and focused people leading, it becomes much easier to live out the experience we are meant to have. I've worked cons where the promoters wouldn't respond to emails, didn’t put in the leg work to get the word out, and just outright failed to make a show succeed because they didn’t have the ability to pull it off. Make sure that the people who lead you spiritually are actually qualified and are not only willing to follow God but to also be diligent enough to help not only you but their entire flock succeed.
Group 3: Artists, Celebrities, & Vendors.
One of my favorite things about shows is just to walk around and see the stuff that people create. This usually results in me spending more money than I should and bringing home stuff I have no need for or place to put it, but still. I love to bring my comics to get signed by the people who poured their heart into their work. I love watching guys like John Hairston paint or to walk by and see Candice Davis crocheting a cuddly curiosity. I like to shake the hands, and if I can afford it take a picture with celebrities whose work has brought me joy and entertainment. There’s just a great experience to being in a place where so many creative people are expressing their artistic talents, because in a world where we live with 9-5 jobs, or jobs with even crappier hours, it’s really easy to lose all sense of art and beauty. So if you have talent, use it. Use it in the Church, use it in the world around you, and let it bring God glory.
As we see in Exodus 35: “31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.”
God gives people skills, and we see that when He gives skill, He gives them to be used. I was at a show recently where I was the biggest “artist” there and I had the thought that if I was the best artist they had there, this show was in serious trouble. But it’s so cool to watch people go from just attending to actually pouring into it. Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart for God, and not for man.”
Group 4: Cosplayers.
Cosplay is just so much fun. I like doing it, I love watching the skill that people put into their outfits. I love just the sheer joy when one of my favorite characters turns the corner and I yell from across the room "CAN I GET YOUR PHOTO!?". I love seeing people like Jackie Craft who builds phenomenal armor and then doesn’t just show off her skills, but she guides other people on how they can also grow and make their own great stuff. While people like Jackie are awesome, it's equally great just to see a little kid dressed as their favorite character and how proud they are, even if it's a recycled Halloween costume. I always make it a point to compliment people’s cosplays, and if I recognize their character to address them by that name, because not everyone is good enough to win a contest or get asked for photos. They are in essence all imitations, and some imitations are better than others, but it's just so much fun to be able to do this. Scripture tells us that in order to actually be living our lives the way God has called us we need to be imitators as well.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2. We get so caught up in trying to imitate the concept of what a good person should be, or a good Christian, that we forget who we are really supposed to be imitating is God, not other people’s perspectives of God. I appreciate when a cosplayer stays in character. Yes I’ve heard more Harley voices than I really care for, but I admire the dedication. If we are being imitators of God, then we will be like children following the lead of a father they have an intimate relationship with, we’ll be loving, we’ll be generous, we’ll put others before ourselves, we’ll be someone who is a blessing not only to God but to others around us. I personally feel like good cosplay makes every con better, and if believers imitated God, the world would be better on a whole.
Group 5 Volunteers:
As much as anyone else, volunteers make cons not only possible, but great. A con with a lack of volunteers, or volunteers that aren’t committed to helping will truly suffer. You usually see them in matching shirts or specialty lanyards, but these volunteers answer questions, put up with annoying people, do dirty jobs, and sacrifice their comfort constantly with the simple heartfelt goal of making a show as great as possible. Jesus set the example that this is what true greatness looks like: volunteering and serving. It's the attitude we need. In Matthew 25 Jesus stated, “26 ... But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”” People may pay $110 bucks for a photo with David Tennant, or spend hours in line for Stan Lee, but honestly the people that are sacrificing their time and giving and the biggest VIPs at a show. That goes for the life of faith too. Yes we should use our art and gifts, but that's not what makes us great. It’s when we follow Jesus’ example and serve others, meet needs, and live out the concept of the servant. Not everyone who serves others on Jesus behalf gets a cool t-shirt or early admission to special events, but we will be considered great in the eyes of our Father.
I love so many elements of Con life, that even though I’m exhausted when one’s over, I immediately start looking forward to the next one. In some ways I could just do this constantly, but as believers that’s a reality. There aren’t lulls and breaks in living out your faith; it is constant. If we are living our lives as believers the way God intended, demonstrated, and called us to be, then there’s no reason it shouldn’t be as fulfilling and rewarding as con life. In fact it should be more rewarding. But, you know, still go to cons of course.