Should Christians Play Pokemon Go?

Finding the Balance between Distraction and Opportunity

The more I hear about the new Pokemon Go app, the more it makes me think. I’ve seen the game act as a distraction and also as a ministry tool. My question: do we have to worry about balance?

pokemon-go

For those living outside of the Millennial/Gen Z craze, Pokemon Go is a new game played on your smartphone.  In its simplest form, you have to walk around, with your device in hand, looking for Pokemon (cartoon creatures) to catch.

This might sound a little obscure and silly, but so do many games until you start playing.  In fact, games can become highly addictive. A little silly game can quickly consume large portions of our time and conversation.  Candy Crush is a great example.

I’d be the first to admit that I spend my fair share of time playing silly phone games. I’d also be the first to admit, that it doesn’t help me grow in my Christian journey.

I’ve started to re-ask myself a very basic question, “If Jesus were here today would He be trying to ‘catch ‘em all?’” It might be a complicated answer.  There are two questions we have to keep in mind: 1) is it a distraction; and, 2) is it an opportunity?

Pokemon Go as a Distraction

There are many things that can distract us from what is actually important in life.  Games, in general, definitely make that list.

Actually, “distraction” might be an understatement. Pokemon Go has caused car crashes, people to walk off cliffs, and otherwise completely disregard all forms of basic humanity.1

Games like #PokemonGo have the potential of distracting a whole generation from the #gospel. Click To TweetIn writing to Timothy, Paul warned him to avoid “youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace…” (2 Timothy 2:22). The phrase “youthful passions” is often debated, but it’s fair to view this in a general sense.  It’s a tendency to be lured into “immaturity” and the “new thing” and distracted from what’s important – “righteousness, faith, love and peace” (ie. the gospel.) 2 Games like Pokemon Go have the potential of distracting a whole generation from the gospel.

Paul also understood that we live in grace.  There are many things that we are free to do, “but not all things are helpful” (1 Cor 6:12, 10:23).  Paul was discussing specific issues when he wrote that, however, he was simply stating our freedom and responsibility in Christ.

We can participate, but is it helpful?

Pokemon Go as an Opportunity

Just like there are distractions, there are also opportunities.

Jesus made the most out of every opportunity while bringing people down the road of #SpiritualLife. Click To Tweet

Jesus connected with people in culture. In fact, he connected with them wherever he went. Jesus made the most out of every opportunity while bringing people down the road of spiritual life. Shouldn’t we aim to do the same?

Several local churches have made new connections with youth and young adults through the game.  Some have set up a charging station, put up a sign to welcome Pokemon trainers, and otherwise interacting with those running around their city or town.3

Check out this local church (their building happens to be a Pokestop):

Paul wrote, “I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).  That means, for the sake of the gospel, we sometimes need to engage with things in order to connect with people.  It’s not a call to avoid holiness, rather a call to relate. We are by no means threatening our relationship with God by engaging in Pokemon Go.  But, by participating, we may in fact connect with kids and teens for the Kingdom!

So What Do We Do?

Ultimately, we all need to distinguish between a distraction and opportunity for ourselves.  As I observe, however, these are my best suggestions:

  • Understand the game and learn why culture is so caught up with it;
  • Sign up for the game and try it out; and,
  • Interact with those around you; BUT,
  • Avoid becoming personally invested in the game; and,
  • Keep your attention towards relationship building and Kingdom growth.
#PokemonGo can help us engage w/ culture so we can lead others to what really matters – Jesus! Click To Tweet

I won’t say Pokemon Go (and other games) are “sinful” or “ungodly.” However, if God wants us to live our lives for His glory, the Devil is certainly excited to see Christians fully engaged in silly games.  If we’re not focusing on our spiritual journey, then we won’t be able to lead others to Christ.

If, however, we use games like Pokemon Go to help build the Kingdom, there are some great opportunities.  Pokemon Go can help us engage with culture so we can lead others to what really matters – Jesus!

On a physical level, there could even be some positive outcomes to playing such game (12 Surprising Health Benefits Of Playing Video Games).


Your turn…

Question: How will you engage Pokemon Go? …and other games? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

 

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Fasting: 3 Reasons Why We Fast

I’ve come to realize, many don’t fully understand what fasting is and why we do it.  Much of our understanding of fasting is based on tradition (namely – we fast to gain some benefit, like an answered prayer).  The selfless biblical understanding of fasting, however, seems to be completely lost.  I don’t know for sure, but perhaps we’re in this position, at least in part, because we seem to ignore this act of piety in our modern culture.  It’s unfortunate because fasting is one of ways we can live out our righteousness and hear God’s heart.

fasting

So what is fasting?

Fasting is “the complete and voluntary choice not to eat (or not eat or drink) for a specific period of time.” Biblically speaking, it is an act of Christian piety that connects us with the life of Christ:

“The Christian is the person who has absorbed the Story of God in Jesus Christ, and that gospel Story teaches us that God’s grace comes to us in a way that redounds to the glory of Jesus Christ – not to ourselves. One might even say that Jesus’ own fasting (4:1-11) perfects any fasting we might do, and our task is simply to participate in his fasting the way we participate in his life, death, and resurrection.”1

But why do we respond with fasting? Here are three reasons:2

1) Self-Denial

Fasting self-denies our basic need of food and water to focus on the situations around us. For example, Nehemiah fasted in response of the past sins of Israel (Nehemiah 9:1).  It was an expression of humility and self-denial before God as they were about to rebuild Jerusalem.  Esther gave us another example.  Before she brought her request to the king, she fasted as an act of self-denial knowing that a good result would be beyond her own ability (Esther 4:16).  We fast today as an act of self-denial and humility as we respond to grievous moments behind us (death, sin, sickness, or pain), or big moments before us (fear, threats, needs, or taking a faith-based stand).

2) Self-Discipline

Fasting aids in our ability to have self-control.  Paul used the metaphor of an athlete. Just like athletes need to discipline their bodies for success, we need to spiritually discipline our bodies (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).  We have to remember that our bodies are made in the image of God and are God’s temple.  Fasting, then, actually helps us to guard ourselves against the sin of gluttony.  With that said, we certainly can’t fast to lose weight or try and bring “suffering” upon our bodies – that would be immature.  The goal would simply be self-control and discipline.

3) Self-Awareness

Fasting helps us understand those without food.  The fast is for sharing our “bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless poor into your house…” (Isaiah 58:7).  In our fast, we hear God’s heart for the broken.  We may not always be able to physically feed someone, but fasting should help us become more aware of the need in our world and cause us to act appropriately. On a day-to-day basis, this could mean setting aside a regular “lunch fast.”  It could even be a time to sacrifice a lunch and offer it to someone else in need.

Biblical Fasting and Prayer

Prayer is simply communicating with God.  So yes, prayer and fasting work together, but fasting is more than giving up food and drink to speak to God.  Prayer is about sharing our heart TO God (“Prayer: The Sincere and Authentic Heart”).  Fasting, on the other hand, is about hearing the heart and will OF God.  The two can work together, but fasting isn’t simply a form or means of prayer.

If #prayer is about sharing our heart TO God, then #fasting is about hearing the heart OF God. Click To Tweet

Biblical fasting is about our selfless response to sacred and/or grievous moments.3  In our journey of faith with Christ, fasting brings about self-denial and humility; self-discipline; and, self-awareness so we can hear the heart of God.

I encourage everyone to make this a regular part of their Christian faith and journey.

Further study:

Fasting: The Ancient Practices by Scot McKnight

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