By LeighAnne Turner and JC Williams
What does Pokémon Go have to do with evangelism? For some, the connection is clear. If you’re not one of those people, don’t worry, we’re here to catch you up.
Pokémon Go is the new augmented reality game that places animated characters in the real world for you to catch. Those who play the game are known as “Pokémon Trainers” and all they need to play the game is a smartphone.
The object of the game is to capture as many Pokémon as possible. Once a player has put together their own personal team of Pokémon, they can compete against other Trainers in “Pokémon Battles.” These simulated battlefields occur at predetermined “PokéStops” that are situated at various churches, businesses and other landmarks – it’s a huge part of the game.
Did you catch that important bit of information? Churches are a huge part of the game. Many churches have responded by welcoming the opportunity to jump in and bring new people through their doors. There's been a stir in conversations on Facebook and Twitter from pastors and church staff who are trying to figure out new and innovative ways to welcome players in their doors.
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER VIDEO GAMES?
Pokémon Go requires physically moving around outside of the house - A LOT of moving around. The game uses Google Maps and then places Pokémon at actual GPS coordinates. My 18-year old daughter walked over 11 miles IN ONE DAY when she first started playing the game. She also met new friends, which brings me to my next point.
Pokémon Go is played within a community rather than in isolation like traditional video games. Instead of being secluded or confined to a room, friends gather together to play the game outside. Parents and kids are walking around in the real world with an interactive game. Friends are reaching out to one another and inviting other friends to meet up and play Pokémon. Strangers see other mobile-dazed players, strike up a conversation and sometimes start playing along with them too.
Wait….so parents and kids? Strangers meeting other strangers? Kids reaching out to other kids? This game seems to have ignited a wave of opportunity that we might miss if we are quick to reject it as simply a passing fad.
ARE THERE OPPORTUNITIES FOR EVANGELISM WITH POKEMON GO?
As Christians, everything we do and say should be done to bring glory and honor to God. Our purpose in this life is to go and make disciples and help reconcile people back to God. Since God has graciously welcomed us into His family through His son, Jesus, we should be taking advantage of every opportunity we have in making this Good News known to others.
As strange as it sounds, Pokemon Go could be used as a chance to evangelize. With so many people walking around and venturing into new areas, there are endless opportunities to start discussions about the Gospel.
OPPORTUNITIES AS A CHURCH
Download the app (or ask around in your congregation) and see if your church is a PokéStop. If it is, you have an awesome opportunity. Here are some ideas other churches are applying:
Create signs welcoming Pokémon Gamers.
Provide Pokemon coloring sheets, refreshments and bottled water bearing labels with an invitation to return.
Create a charging station for drained players.
Have friendly faces around that can answer questions and engage players in conversation.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL CHRISTIANS
Not only does Pokémon Go open the doors to conversation, but it also provides the chance for community. Sure, ideally people would get community at church or from a small group or bible study, but there are many people who just aren’t ready for that. But those same people wouldn’t hesitate to accept an invite to play Pokémon Go! Maybe this is the first step needed to build a relationship where eventually a salvation conversation could take place.
Perhaps Pokémon Go will lose its luster and the popularity will die down, but until then, the conversations we could be having when we meet random people could be impacting their salvation forever.
If you are playing Pokémon Go start looking for opportunities to spread the gospel and to engage with people that you otherwise wouldn’t spend time with. Be looking for people that need a friend or need to hear the Good News about Jesus. Be intentional and ask God to use you. Trust the Holy Spirit to give you the words to start a conversation because it might, perhaps, be their only opportunity to hear about a new life in Christ.