Archive for Saturday, July 25, 2009

New interface: Game designer returning home to Lawrence to start new church

Matt Cox, foreground, a former Lawrence resident, performs at EastLake Community Church in Seattle. He and wife Emily, along with an eight-person team from Seattle, will begin a new EastLake church in Lawrence this fall.

Matt Cox, foreground, a former Lawrence resident, performs at EastLake Community Church in Seattle. He and wife Emily, along with an eight-person team from Seattle, will begin a new EastLake church in Lawrence this fall.

July 25, 2009


Matt Cox works in his office in Seattle. The video game designer most recently developed “Scribblenauts,” which debuts Sept. 15 and earned “sleeper hit” status at the recent E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) trade show.

Matt Cox works in his office in Seattle. The video game designer most recently developed “Scribblenauts,” which debuts Sept. 15 and earned “sleeper hit” status at the recent E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) trade show.

Matt Cox, a former Lawrence resident, plays guitar and sings at his church in Seattle. Cox is returning to Lawrence to start EastLake Community Church this fall.

Matt Cox, a former Lawrence resident, plays guitar and sings at his church in Seattle. Cox is returning to Lawrence to start EastLake Community Church this fall.

EastLake Church preview events

EastLake Community Church will hold a barbecue at 6 p.m. Aug. 15 for those interested in learning more about the church. E-mail for more information and directions.

Preview services for the church will begin at 10 a.m. Oct. 11 at South Junior High School, 2734 La. To learn more about the church, visit

Most everyone has a dream job: the perfect vocation in the perfect place that fits perfectly in the most perfect version of the world.

Matt Cox had his dream job — video game designer. For three years, it was exactly what he wanted to do.

Wanted, as in the past tense, because it’s no longer his job.

He wasn’t a causality of the down economy or of a dream turned into a nightmare or some other cruel twist of fate.

He walked away.

Turns out a dream job is only a dream job as long as another dream doesn’t come along.

“It’s not just like I sat down one night and weighed my options,” he says. “God was working in me.”

So Cox plans to found EastLake Community Church in Lawrence, a town in which he lived for nearly a decade. Next month, he’ll leave his dream job in Seattle and follow his vision of helping “people who hate church” find their perfect place to be with God. The church will begin preview services Oct. 11 and hopes to meet regularly after the first of the year.

“I’ve always wanted to be a part of a church where I can invite my friends who don’t know God and, you know, just don’t really like the whole traditional church thing because just the atmosphere,” Cox says. “I’d rather be in an environment where I can just come and relax and feel like ... I don’t have to learn the secret handshakes, the lingo, just kind of sit in the auditorium, just kind of check out Christianity.”

Choose your own adventure

For three years, Cox worked as a video game developer in Seattle. A lifetime gamer and former video game columnist for, the career was more than a dream job: Cox, 29, and his wife, Emily, had found what they considered to be nearly heaven on earth.

“Seattle is just a gorgeous area, amazing people, lots of great hiking, water — blah, blah, blah — and we found a church also called EastLake out here that was that sort of place that we’d always dreamed we could be a part of. We got involved and volunteered,” Cox says. “And we just kind of thought it was kind of the end of our story, just because we found everything we always wanted.”

Cox jumped from his initial job with Cranky Pants Games to a role as a lead designer at 5thCell Media, a company that had worked with Warner Bros. to create video games and which happened to be run by someone he met at church. The most recent game he helped design, “Scribblenauts,” debuts Sept. 15 and earned “sleeper hit” status at the recent E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) trade show.

Ironically, Cox’s life today could be some alternate “Scribblenauts” level, as the game’s premise is a sort of pick-your-own adventure based on nouns.

And Cox isn’t the only one going on the adventure. He and Emily are part of an eight-person crew coming to Lawrence from EastLake in Seattle. Four of those folks have never been to Lawrence. Seattle resident Heather Dougan, 28, is one of them.

“I was on staff at EastLake in Seattle. I just really believe in the vision of the church, and I believe that there needs to be somewhere for the rest of us,” Dougan says. “For me, personally, before I had gone to EastLake, or before there was an EastLake in Seattle, I was not following God or going to church at all, and so since my life was ... so changed by it, I’m fully behind it and I want to be able to ... offer the same kind of thing to other people.”

Finding comfort

Besides the Seattle team, Cox also has a group of about 20 Lawrence residents dedicated to the project. Kelli Szrot says she jumped at the chance to be a part of a church that wants to throw the “rules” out the window.

“I feel like the goal for this church is to accept people rather than toss down judgments on them,” says Szrot, who decided to volunteer after watching videos about the church’s concept on the Internet.

Cox says that it’s important to him that those involved understand that there’s no pressure at EastLake. He says though the church’s main focus will be to introduce the estimated 70 percent of “unchurched” Lawrence residents to the Lord, there’s no big push to convert visitors into volunteers overnight.

“Out of the 100,000 approximate people in Lawrence, only 30 percent of the people go to church at all ... our vision is for that other 70 percent — that’s who we’re starting it for,” Cox says, citing population survey data. “The team that’s coming with us and the people who are volunteering in Kansas are very passionate about providing that environment where anybody can show up on a Sunday and kick the tires of Christianity.”

That also means there’s no pressure for him to forget who he once was, even though now he’ll be the Rev. Matt Cox, rather than the gamer Matt Cox.

“I’m not like selling all my video game consoles or anything like that. I’m still a gamer at heart,” says Cox, who was ordained by EastLake a few weeks ago. “It’s not one of those (in a dramatic voice) ‘I’ve realized the sins of the video game industry, so I’m going to follow God.’ It’s absolutely nothing like that.”


WHY 8 years, 10 months ago

Good luck man, but the reason 70% of us don't go to church isn't because we are scared of pews rather the education level in Lawrence is higher than most communities.

bearded_gnome 8 years, 10 months ago

their statement of faith evinces a low fiew of Scripture.

and, when "the band is loud" then it is impossible to have quiet introspection. God speaks in the stillness. God speaks loudest in the quiet of one's own heart.

I would agree with about two-thirds of their statement of faith.

JuliansWright 8 years, 10 months ago

Do we really need another church in this city?

Cait McKnelly 8 years, 10 months ago

Do we really need someplace where people can go to church that's non-judgemental? Where somebody can go to church in jeans and no one will bat an eye? Where politics and platitudes aren't preached from the pulpit? Christianity as preached by the Big Guy in the Bible was to be a religion of the "common man". I checked out EastLake' in Bothell, WA's website. If they are what they say they are (and I have no reason to doubt them after reading the church's blog) they truly are a "church for the rest of us". Good luck in spreading your message Matt. Plant the seed and watch it grow.

dcnusong 8 years, 10 months ago

Matt, I look forward to meeting you and helping you anyway I can. Please contact me if you see this post @
/> Blessings, Pastor Dennis Carnahan BridgePointe Community Church

Jason Bailey 8 years, 10 months ago

Why would anyone waste time on a fallacy? I wouldn't spend one valuable minute of my Sunday morning sitting in a church with a statement of faith as out of whack as these guys are. In my mind, there is truth but this ain't it.

The fact that Matt says he wants to create a church where people can come and sit back and check out Christianity is laughable. Scripture is very clear that Christians are expected to be engaged in work for Christ not sitting back and "checking out Christianity", "just sit in the auditorium". I'd rather they not even come if that's the extent of their involvement.

This is yet another watered-down church that is a part of the problem in this country when it comes to the truth of Christianity = picking and choosing what you want to believe and how engaged you wish to be vs. following Scripture for what it says and the commands therein.

trvlronda 8 years, 10 months ago

the first comment from "why" is a bit silly. Matt is coming to Lawrence, from SEATTLE, a city with one of the most educated populations.

Ken Miller 8 years, 10 months ago

If these guys celebrate Festivus, I'm in.

WHY 8 years, 10 months ago

trvlronda-- No doubt Seattle is a well educated region. My point is that educated people are less religious than poorly educated people. 70% of Lawrence doesn't go to church because 70% of us know that church is ridiculous, not because we feel judged or intimidated to wear jeans to church. I know a guy in Lawrence who started a church with the same goals and ideas as this kid, a church for the unchurched. It just doesn't work. The unchurched won't sign over 10% of their paychecks and that is what keeps the business of church open.

Glenn Reed 8 years, 10 months ago

I wonder if they'll have the option to meet online. Like in Second Life. Better yet, in World of Warcraft.

"We have gathered at the gates of the Ulduar to bring PWNAGE to the bosses there, and gain phat lootz!"

Glenn Reed 8 years, 10 months ago


soldier1 8 years, 10 months ago

Almost every church I go to has multiple doctors, lawyers, etc.

Most people come to church because they are already believers. Some come to church to find God, to find answers about their life, not because they believe. But seeing as though some are presenting themselves negatively on a faith-forum-like article, do you come to question or just ridicule? Since some want to 'waste precious minutes' commenting against those that have faith, then why not bring it to a church assembly one Sunday morning. Just stop the service and speak out. Question it like you do on these forums. Come as you are and speak whats on your mind. True christians would not turn their back on you if you come seeking answers.

notjustastudent 8 years, 10 months ago

Jason2007- I don't think they intend for people to observe forever- I think what they want is for people to feel less intimidated when just begining. I've known plenty of people who are interested in attending church, but are scared to do so because they don't know what they're supposed to do, or they have no one to go with (or they know that certain denominations don't even want them there if they are not baptised/confirmed/saved/ or other wise indoctrinated into their particular faith). Sure, they can read books, but that just isn't the same. I also know people who spend what seems like every moment of free time volunteering, but they don't feel right, or accepted, or they don't agree with what's out there right now. In other words, I know people who seem to be natural, but not indoctrinated, Christians, who willingly embrace and live the teachings of the gospels. And it seems to me that an all or nothing attitude is a bad one, and that living it 6 out of the 7 days in a week (rather than just Sundays) could only be topped by living it all 7, even if it isn't 100% traditional.

Also, there's this thing called freedom of religion, and although I don't excercise this freedom myself, I get very upset when those that do are criticized.

labmonkey 8 years, 10 months ago


The scriptures were written by man...and not is what we consider the word of god written by man, but is actually translations from centuries of handwritten copies with additions, subtractions, and errors. Most of my beliefs are of the Protestant Christain, but I cannot stand going to a place where it is demanded I believe in a literal interpertation of the Bible (and okay...I will admit to my addiction to NFL football). To those who don't believe in evolution, I ask "According to the Bible, which of the three following stories actually happened: Jonah and the Whale, The Good Samaritan, or The Prodigal Son?" The answer is Jonah and the Whale (which is obiviously just a story) while the other two were parables told by Jesus. If Jesus taught in parables, then couldn't the writers of the Old Testiment have done the same? But my argument falls on deaf ears.

I have also been to too many churches where I have seen the members and clergy who were fake. If Mr. Cox helps to lead someone down the right path, more power to him and I wish him the best of luck.

labmonkey 8 years, 10 months ago

I meant "...not only what we consider the word of God written by man..."

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