If you've seen a bunch of teenagers or 20-somethings wandering around with their faces in their phones more than you normally dowhich is to say, a lotthere's a reason. Pokémon.
Since Thursday, young people everywhere have been caught up in Pokémon GO. What is Pokémon GO and how does it differ from the Pokémon games that have been popular since the late 1990s? German Lopez of Vox explains:
The Nintendo-owned franchise, which exploded in popularity in the late 1990s, is again taking America by storm this time through Pokémon GO, its biggest entry into the mobile space, now available for a free download on Android and iOS. It's so popular that it's on the verge of overtaking Twitter in terms of daily active users on Android.
In simple terms, Pokémon Go uses your phone's GPS and clock to detect where and when you are in the game and make Pokémon "appear" around you (on your phone screen) so you can go and catch them. As you move around, different and more types of Pokémon will appear depending on where you are and what time it is. The idea is to encourage you to travel around the real world to catch Pokémon in the game. (This combination of a game and the real world interacting is known as "augmented reality." More on that later.)
Caitlin Dewey, the always-brilliant tech writer for The Washington Post, reports this staggering news:
Pokémon GO has already been downloaded more times than the dating app Tinder, and it is rapidly encroaching on Twitter, which has been around for a full 10 years. Nintendo's stock soared nearly 25 percent Monday because of the game its biggest gain in more than 30 years.
I remember hearing about this game when Nintendo released the launch trailer a while back, and I was excited then. Finally, it's available, and it's more popular and fun than most people expected, I think.
Why write about Pokémon Go, though? In the Pokémon games previously released, there are various buildings at which you can stop in the cities throughout the game, namely, "gyms," "PokéMarts," and more. In Pokémon Go, there are gyms and PokéStops, where players can grab items.
These landmarks in the game are attached to landmarks in real cities around the world.
Many of those landmarks are churches.
Yep. Your church might be part of Pokémon GO, whether you like it or not.
And, whether you like the game or your church building's role in it or not, you should care about it. Why? Here are three reasons pastors should care about Pokémon Go:
1. Your congregants are playing it.
You don't have to play Pokémon Go, pastors. Don't hear me saying that. But, you should know that many of the people in your churches are playing Pokémon Go, so you should at least become aware of what it is. Especially, youth and young adult pastors, the people you shepherd are almost definitely playing it. It's still summer. You should make a day of Pokémon Go! Make an announcement at youth group this week, grab a church van, drive to your town square or a nearby park, and go catch some Pokémon togetherseriously!
2. Your church may be a location in the game.
Like I said above, your church may be part of the game. No joke, this is a picture I took when I was leaving the square on Sunday. There are six 20-30-year-old guys sitting on the steps of a church in my town.
3. It may provide your church with ways to live on mission.
I'm taking an "Introduction to Evangelism" class for my master's degree right now, so I've really been thinking in the evangelism mode recently.
When I was walking around the town square on Sunday, I met six or seven people and we had brief conversations about our Pokémon GO adventures. I should have shared the gospel with them, but by the time I realized that, I was nearly back to my car. Walking aimlessly around your square, your city parks, or other places will give you and/or your congregation opportunities to talk to people you don't normally see.
Pastors, you have plenty of very important matters with which to be concerned, so many of you may not have time to try to catch them all. But, you should care about Pokémon GO, because it may very well bring the unreached to your church's doorstep.
Chris Martin is an Author Coach at a Christian publishing company. He blogs regularly at MillennialEvangelical.com to help pastors better understand, reach, and equip millennials. You can find him on Twitter@ChrisMartin17 or on Facebook at Facebook.com/MillennialEvangelical.