Last week, Kevin did a wonderful job making the case for the Church to take advantage of the amazing opportunity to share the Gospel leveraging Pokemon GO. He invited me to write a practical list of do’s and don’ts to help churches carry out the Great Commission in this unique and wonderful context.
Without further ado…
Do: Invite Them In
Have clearly open doors and signs letting people know they are welcome! It’s okay! Honest! Not everyone is going to ask if it’s okay to come in, particularly if they don’t have a church background.
Do Not: Turn Them Away
This ought to be a no-brainer. Would Jesus turn away people who show up at the doorstep of your church? He would not. Go and do likewise. (Mt 25:31-46; Heb 13:2)
Do: Offer Them Shelter
Whether it’s shade, air conditioning (or heat in the winter), safety from the elements, a clean bathroom, or simply a place to charge your phone, speaking as a dedicated Pokemon GO player, all of these things are worth gold. I live in Southwestern Missouri. It has been incredibly hot and the humidity has been awful. Also, Pokemon GO drains your battery faster than an education kills your bank account. I cannot tell you how much I have valued the library in my time playing for these reasons.
What if your church was the place people knew they could safely go to rest and recharge (soul and phone)? What if your church seized this opportunity for the surrounding community to associate it with all of these things (and everything else on this list, for that matter).
Do Not: Refuse Them
There have been a few stories floating around the Internet about some people and some churches who have reacted negatively to Pokemon Go players in and around their churches. Go back up and read those verses from Matthew and Hebrews again and ask yourself if that’s a good idea…
Do: Give Them Water
Unless you leave your house/apartment/condo/flat/dwelling prepared, you get thirsty on a walk trying to catch ’em all. The other day, there was a local pizza joint that had a table set up with a giant cooler handing out hundreds of free bottles of water in the square downtown. It was HOT. Words cannot describe how much I (and likely numerous others) appreciated that.
What if that was your church? Heck, this is probably one of the only times where doing this is actually appropriate:
Do Not: Leave Them Thirsty
Ostensibly, your church worships Jesus, this same Jesus is famous for, among other things, asking people for water and then talking with them about how He Himself is living water. There is no more Biblical form of evangelism than this. (John 4: 5-15)
Do: Offer Them Food
Whole meals would be absolutely wonderful, but even some snacks could go a very long way. When the church meets we break bread, have meals together, talk, enjoy each other’s company, and pray with one another. We call this fellowship. Jesus calls it evangelism.
Do Not: Leave Them Hungry
We need look no further than Zacchaeus and Jesus’ interaction in Luke to see this principle in action. Zacchaeus’ conversion happens in the context of a meal shared with Jesus. Would this be expensive? Potentially, but this is Great Commission ministry at its most genuine, what else should you be spending money on? (Luke 19:1-10)
Do: Be Friendly And Engage In Conversation
It is unbelievably easy to come across total strangers who are also playing Pokemon GO and strike up a conversation. Unless they already attended or are otherwise involved with your church, you have no way of knowing what is going on in their lives. They might be going through a rough time. (In fact, so many players are that psychologists are studying the link) You simply don’t know. Use being interested in their game of Pokemon GO as a bridge to communicate that you value and care about them.
Do Not: Ignore Them
I am afraid there will be churches and leaders in churches who will see the wonderful opportunity the Church has been given (on a golden platter, no less) to welcome people into their churches through and because of Pokemon GO and dismiss and belittle it because they see it as a simple child’s game that doesn’t matter. The Church cannot miss this incredible opportunity, the likes of which I have never seen before.
Do: Let Them Use Your Parking Lot
Catching Pokemon around town the other day, I saw this sign:
I thought it was an absolutely brilliant idea. Sure, in Springfield, Missouri, all parking downtown is free.
But what if your church was in an area where it wasn’t? A little free parking could go a long way.
Do: Look For Opportunities To Share The Gospel
To do a better job explaining how to do it by showing the Church how using Pokemon GO to further the Gospel of Christ, I point you to this article. On July 19, 2016, students and faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas hosted a lure party on campus. (Lures are in-game items that you can use to attract Pokemon to specific stops. Visible on the map, they often attract other players looking for a place to catch Pokemon faster and easier.) Providing water and welcoming conversation, they had around two hundred people from the community come over. Six of them left professing faith in Christ. If you are at a loss on how to begin to reach out to your community through Pokemon and would like to know how, read that article. Please.
Do Not: Open Air Preach Or Play Last Week’s Sermon Through The Speakers
I am twenty-eight years old. Nearly every person I know from just above my age on down is playing Pokemon GO. (Gen-Xers and Millenials) A lot of people I know from my age group who do not come from a church background and/or already are professing Christians will be turned off by feeling like they’re being preached at. A generally more effective way of sharing the Gospel with people of my demographic on down is exactly how SBTS did. Engage people in conversation, show you care about what they have going on in their lives, and share your story of how Jesus so deeply and profoundly affected yours.
To share the Gospel, Jesus wants us to go where the people are like He did. And right now, people are playing Pokemon GO.
So, GO! Catch em’ all! (Matt 4:19)