18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18 ESV
I have been a gamer since the day my father brought home an Atari back in the early 80’s. I would rather be behind a computer on a game than at a party (sad I know). I have always been drawn to the computer screen. In college I saw something new a first person shooter, Doom, played across a local network in the dorm. It was glorious. And then I found a way to play X-Wing vs. Tie-Fighter over dial up with a friend. The online world exploded the intensity and fun of gaming. This world became fully realized when I first signed up for x-box live to play Halo2. I was hooked fighting in ranked matches on this FPS (first person shooter) gaming platform and it was awesome. I am older now and do not play any of these kinds of games anymore because it seems there is a season to everything and my season of life has moved on. I do have an admission to make however. There is a new game I am hooked on. It has been a long time since a game has entertained me for any length of time. I am almost embarrassed to admit that a grown man is playing Pokémon Go but hey it is true. I like the novelty of it not being a game that one sits in their home to play. It is a game that encourages people to explore and move outside in the sunlight. To be honest I look forward to where this kind of platform will go in the future.
As with everything we do in life moderation is required. If you drink, drink in moderation. If you watch TV, watch in moderation, If you facebook, facebook in moderation. Same with games. Everything has a time and place. And this brings me to the point of this post beyond reminiscing about past gamer days. What was the witness left along the way or was it only a diversion of empty hours wasted?
When I played Halo online my gamer tag was a Bible verse. This tag stuck out and created endless opportunities to connect with other Christians and more importantly allowed an opening for conversations about Christ. Typically I would get a question what does Romans 9:16 mean? My response “it does not therefore depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (I have carried that tradition into this very blog Human Effort). Or I would get immediate insults for bringing anything Christian into the game. I remember one young man that as soon as he saw my tag in the party started mocking me for being Christian. He was spouting what could have been written on any Atheist propaganda web site. I answered a few of his mocking questions and then he turned serious. Several hours of in game conversation moved quickly as he asked and I answered questions in a real meaningful way. He had never been in a conversation like that and I could tell it moved him. I don’t know his name or more of his story in real life but I do pray that it was ground plowed in a God honoring way.
One other aspect of those halo days was the discipleship I received from another gamer who has the spiritual gift of evangelism and he used that gift online. I am now friends in real life with this brother. I have been to his home and he has been to mine even though we live in different parts of the country. Our bond in Christ is real, strong, and has endured for over 10 years. He repeatedly shared the gospel in game and kids responded praying to accept Christ. I was blown away every time it happened. It was amazing to hear him use words I could have said and then to see a response in ways that I never experienced. I witnessed his gift and gravitas lift up Christ and then the Holy Spirit moved on these hearts. Hearing this first hand over and over opened my eyes and changed my walk with Christ.
While I do not have that kind of online interaction anymore, I am working it out in real life serving others as Christ leads, I do want to interject Christ into anything I can in the public square. I have found a few ways to do that with Pokémon Go. I would encourage other Christians reading this to think about their own entertainments and diversions. Are you leaving a witness of Christ behind in that life and culture?
Because Pokémon Go forces the gamer out into the real world to stops and gyms it is easy to spot people playing the game. Even more interesting is that Churches seem to have a greater chance of being a gym where much of the action occurs in game. The beauty here is that people playing must come to that location in order to interact with the game. Imagine lost people willingly showing up at a Church. Christians must use this to their advantage.
First rename your Pokémon with a Bible verse. When you insert this Pokémon into a gym it will be recognized by other gamers and could be an encouragement to them. You never know what response the Holy Spirit is placing into the hearts of others.
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. Acts 2:20 ESV
In the first picture of the Larpis I named Isaiah 1:18 the Pokémon is an ice type that has an attack of blizzard. So I felt that an appropriate verse might be that the blood of Jesus washes our sin white as snow. In this second picture I renamed the Vileplume to Acts 2:20 because this Pokémon’s primary attack is a moonblast. I wanted to remind the gamer that God is in control of all the elements and that these will fade away on the great day when He returns. For the faithful gamer immersed in the stats of a game world this kind of care and Biblical relation to where they are at might connect in a real way even if interaction is limited to a kind of Easter egg.
The second interaction is a truly evangelistic opportunity and it is physically meeting those people who are training their Pokémon in the gym at the same time and place as yourself. Observe people that might show up to the same gym each day or week. Pray in advance for an opportunity to speak with them and if the opportunity presents introduce yourself. Ask if they are one of the avatars in the Gym. Be ready to note who you are in game (my avatar is aSinnerSaved and that alone is a conversation starter) and see where the conversation will go. Maybe they will ask about the Bible verse that your Pokémon has been named for. Be prepared to know the verse. Most will want to know if you know what the verse is.
If you have practice sharing Christ with others then this is an easy call however some people reading this are intimidated by the idea that their game has now crossed over into real life people who live in the same community. That is understandable but engage, keep the conversation real, and know your story. You do not need to be a master of apologetics. Be ready to share, in a brief few minutes, who God is to you and why Christ maters in your life. You never know where that conversation will go. God and His Spirit are working in ways that I rarely expect.
I would love to hear stories or other ideas in regard to evangelism in the public square so do not be shy use this comments section!