At the risk of revealing how out of touch I am, I thought I would weigh in on the Pokémon GO phenomenon this week. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then join the club, because I really don’t either. Just about the time I start to figure out the interwebs and the Facepage and Tweeter, something new comes around to confuse me all the more.
I do know, however, that our Shelby Crossings campus is apparently a “PokéStop,” and we’ve had our share of millennials and teenagers showing up with their phones, taking pictures of our sign, and capturing Pokémon, whatever that means. That may all seem a little strange–because it is–but in case you are worried, these Pokémon are not real, but only figments of someone’s cyber-imaginations and part of a virtual game. Kind of like a scavenger hunt, I think, but a little more technologically complex.
Pokémon has been around a while, and was known for producing colorful cards and later video games for kids, many of whom have grown up into young adults who are now chasing virtual Pokémon around the planet. They use the Pokémon GO augmented reality app which makes use of players’ smart phone GPS to locate where they are, then makes Pokémon appear on their phone screen in real-life locations. The goal is for players to catch all 151 virtual creatures.
The app has become a viral sensation among teens and young adults, overtaking Tinder and Twitter in daily users though it is less than a month old. Most of us just began to see it appearing on social media a week or so back, and before you know it, everyone was talking about it. According to a noted online research company, Pokémon GO is now the biggest mobile game in U.S. history.
Players are walking and driving around with their phones, finding “PokéStops” and “Gyms” at local places of interest, like libraries, parks, art galleries, zoos, and yes, even church buildings. I don’t know if it’s a good sign or bad that Shelby Crossings made the list of PokéStops, but it is obvious that it has stirred up some interest in the community among millennials about our church, or at least about the virtual creatures who are hanging around here. Perhaps it will open up some opportunities for us to minister to some of our community without even leaving our campus.
Which brings me to my point, or actually two of them. On the one side, I believe Pokémon GO is a metaphor of our day. We live among a generation of seekers. If there’s ever been a time when people were searching for something–even if it’s silly virtual creatures–it is now. The more the wheels seem to be coming off as a culture, the deeper we spiral into the moral abyss, the less satisfaction to be found in chasing after sin’s pleasures, the more the spiritual appetites of our society are whetted for something deeper. And that soul-satisfaction can only be found in a personal relationship with Christ, the one for whom the world ultimately seeks.
Which moves us to the second point. We as followers of Christ have been given a mission by Jesus–a Great Co-Mission, actually–and that is to “GO into the world and make disciples.” (Matt. 28:19) Like those who are roaming our communities staring down at their phones, in search of the elusive Pokémon, we partner with a Savior who said His own purpose was to “seek and to save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10). And so while we are still here on this earth, Jesus calls us to “go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in” to His kingdom. (Luke 14:23)
You don’t have to have a Pokémon app, you don’t have to have a smart phone…and you don’t even have to be smart. You only have to be obedient, to the mission…to GO! The world is seeking and searching, and waiting for you to point them to Jesus.
May He bless you as you serve Him today. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.