They say God moves in mysterious ways. All these years, churches all over the land have been speeding up the music, slimming down the homilies, spiking up the youth pastor’s hair, switching from slacks to jeans, all in an attempt to stay relevant to an ever-changing society and get people through the door.
Then, last month, like manna from heaven, seekers drifted into churches across this land. True, they may not have been seeking spiritual nourishment, preferring the siren call of the Pokémon to the hound of heaven, but that does not mean God does not have a plan.
A Pokémon Primer
Pokémon is basically WWE meets animal husbandry. The basic concept is that kids acquire these fantastical creatures by catching them in the wild, then battling them against opponents’ Pokémon. The game first surfaced as a card game that required an advanced degree in theoretical math to figure out, because Pokémon have different levels of strength against other Pokémon depending on their type, experience, level of evolution, FICO score, and cholesterol levels. This turned out to be a boon to parents, as small children attempted the kind of math that could put a man on the moon and mom got to take a shower uninterrupted for once in her life.
The television show continued this concept, with every Pokémon battle somehow also being a battle to save the country, the world, and the universe from some horrible, undefined fate. While the fate of everything good hung in the balance, mom could throw together dinner without someone having a tantrum underneath the dishwasher.
Then the show became a video game, which allowed mom to sip a quiet gin and tonic and reflect how grateful she was for Pokémon. Now this video game has moved into virtual reality, and kids can catch Pokémon right there on top of the credenza, or right there in the cereal aisle, or right there in the middle lane of the highway, and can you slow down or maybe stop?
To battle these new forms of Pokémon against other people’s Pokémon, the kids have to go, physically go, to spaces designated by the program as gyms. And, lo, it came to pass that many churches are gyms, yea a great many churches are gyms.
How to convert those Poke-seekers into Poke-believers? Well, speak the language of course. Here are some ideas to help you catch ‘em all (souls, that is).
God is a Poke hunter, and you are his beloved Pikachu. Text: Luke 15:3-7. “Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.’”
Likewise, if any of you has a hundred Pokémon, do you not go after the one you do not have? And when you find it, do you not say to your friends, rejoice with me, for I have found a Pikachu?
Jesus is the best Jigglypuff. Text: Revelation 3:20 (NLT). “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Just as Jigglypuff wants to be your friend, Jesus wants to be your friend, too. We all have Jigglypuff-sized holes in our hearts, and the only solution is Jesus.
The story of the prodigal Squirtle. Text: Luke 15:22 (NIV). “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
Like wayward sons, Pokémon are sometimes unruly. They escape and run off. They do mischievous things. A good Pokémon Master will long for the return of his wayward beast, desire it above all things. When it returns, he or she rejoices! If your Squirtle ran away, wouldn’t you throw a party when it came back? You are that Squirtle to God!
Of course, there may be some variation for the different denominations. Anglicans will want to plumb St. Augustine and St. Francis for their insights on Pokémon. Southern Baptists may explore whether these beasts really evolve and what the Bible says about their design. Pentecostals will probably look to the Book of Revelations to see if and how “Pokémon Go” will usher in the antichrist. The Reformed will assure us that some are predestined to be flying type and some were predestined to be ground type.
And the Mennonites? They’re pretty much: See? Technology! We warned you!