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?
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.
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).
[reminder]How will you engage Pokemon Go? …and other games?[/reminder]
|⇑1||Read about this and more here: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jul/20/pokemon-go-accidents-robbery-police-car-crash & http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/15/health/pokemon-go-players-fall-down-cliff/|
|⇑2||A further discussion can be found here:|
George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: a commentary on the Greek text (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1992), 420.
D. Lea & H. P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 219.
|⇑3||Read about this and more here: https://www.baptiststandard.com/news/texas/19299-churches-welcome-unexpected-pokemon-generated-traffic|