Pokémon Go Lures Unbelievers to Church

SaddlebackPokemonSince the release of Pokémon Go on July 6, churches are now capitalizing on the augmented reality game to lure unbelievers to church. Local businesses are luring customers, putting Pokemon to work, and small businesses are “enticing” shoppers with Pokemon Go. It should come as no surprise that worldly churches also follow these business practices to “lure” unbelievers to church.

Apparently Pokémon Go “has sent millions of people to church” according to Christianity Today. Many people are complaining about the fact that many PokéStops and PokéGyms are located in church buildings. The CT article continues:

The game’s popularity is unprecedented. After only a few weeks, it already has more downloads than the popular dating app Tinder and is on track to surpass Twitter in total users. If you’ve spent much time outside lately, you can tell: PokéStops, where players gather supplies and can lure pokémon, and PokéGyms, where players battle and train their pokémon, are associated with public buildings and landmarks of historic or architectural significance, and they’re attracting players in droves. These sites include sculptures, murals, libraries, post offices, memorials—but many more, it seems, are church buildings.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 10.36.51 PMIn seeking to please the world, apostate churches often mimic the world, even its debauched practices. For instance, the Harlem Shake was a perverted Internet craze in the form of a video which went viral in early 2013. Many people from all over the world uploaded their own similar performances of people lasciviously dancing to the song “Harlem Shake.” Apostate churches such as Saddleback’s High School Ministry uploaded its own Harlem Shake video. Now Saddleback is capitalizing on the latest mobile game craze. On his Facebook page, Rick Warren said,

All Pokemon Trainers are welcome at Saddleback Church Lake Forest this weekend! We have 6 Pokestops & 4 Trainer Gyms on our 120 acres. Check us out!

Services are 4 pm and 6 pm on Saturday and 9 am and 11 am on Sunday.

My first comment on Warren’s FB page was deleted, possibly by Rick Warren himself. In my second comment (which has not yet been deleted) I wrote, “Looks like my previous comment was deleted. I was pointing out how the Purpose Driven and Seeker Driven ‘churches’ use the ways of the world like Harlem Shake and Pokémon to draw unbelievers. ‘They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them’ (1 John 4:5). Does Rick Warren not want you to know about this video? https://youtu.be/R9y9ly6YvCw [a link to our video Church of Tares].”

I agree with the statement from Church Watch Central:

With the release of the Pokemon GO! phenomena sweeping the globe, we anticipated that sooner or later there would be seeker-driven churches once again relying on worldly methods to try and draw a crowd of people to church. Rather than “contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), their latest approach as usual, will be entirely man-centered rather than Christ-centered.

One of the foundational flaws within the megachurch methodology is that the church exists for unbelievers. But the New Testament church is “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). The church is not for entertainment and playing games like Pokémon Go. By definition, the Church does not exist for unbelievers, let alone for playing unbelievers’ games like Pokémon Go. In the book of Acts, the church sent evangelists out into the world rather than changing the church service to lure the Romans.

The Christian Post asked “public relations expert” Hunter Frederick, “What churches are participating in this parking lot evangelism?” He answered, “Churches of all sizes! A church with 300 people to a church of 10,000. I’ve seen many creative ways based on the size of the church and location. Lakewood Church, I know, is taking great advantage of the game.”

Pokechurch

Following the trend of Pokémon Go, other worldly churches (in addition to Saddleback and Lakewood) “welcomed Pokémon players into their buildings,” said CT. Churches “announced their stops and gyms on social media, and even changed their signs to acknowledge their role in the massive gaming phenomenon.” The church sign of the First Baptist Church in Roanoke says, “Looking for Pokemon or Jesus? Both Found Here” (see also What to Do if Your Church is a Hub for Pokemon Go and 13 ‘Pokemon Go’ Church Signs That Now Exist).

Tempting a person to go to a local business with Pokémon Go is to be expected, but “luring” is an unacceptable practice for churches. To Emerging Churches and Megachurches, the Great Commission is like bait-fishing and “luring” in the bad fish. In an article entitled Pokémon Go lure event 2016: An emerging church strategy?, the author reported:

Sevenoaks thought opening the church to the community through a Pokémon lure event would be a good opportunity to help people with socializing issues.

“Lures” can be bought while playing the game. The lure attracts Pokémon, which in turn attracts people. If there are more people in a lure area, more Pokémon should appear in the game. . . .

[T]he game [is] “giving churches around the country a great opportunity to meet people from their area who might not normally come to church.”

“Place welcome signs outside: encourage them to come inside and offer them drinks and snacks,” the church reportedly said. “The game also uses a lot of battery so why not create a battery charging station? If you’ve got it, let them connect to the church’s wifi.”

Members were also advised to learn how to play the game so they can start conversations with the visitors.

And below is the apostate Church by the Glades live cover of Pokemon in a “worship service.”

In sum, these are the business tactics of the world being used in churches. Pokemon has absolutely nothing to do with the kingdom of God, and therefore should have nothing to do with the church. John the Apostle said, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16). James declares, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (4:4).

Rather than transforming the world through the Gospel, these churches are conforming to the entertainments, practices and games of the world. The Bible says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). Perhaps we could understand these social communities better if we stopped calling them churches. This is not a game!

SEE ALSO:

Church of Tares

Drucker’s Discipleship