What I learned about church through #PokémonGO

(Photo: http://www.13wmaz.com)

It was like something out of a horror movie. Hundreds of them coming on foot and by car, flooding a vacant lot, heads turned downward, eyes glazed, slowly moving through the night. If I wouldn’t have known better, I would’ve thought it was a zombie apocalypse. But it wasn’t that at all. It was hundreds of teenagers gathering together to play the new Pokémon GO game. It was like nothing I had ever witnessed before.

I was flabbergasted and shocked that so many people would come together for one common goal. I couldn’t help but laugh at their essentially useless goal. In a world of ISIS and police shootings, hundreds of people are preoccupied with fake monsters in some alternate universe with minimal human interaction. I accusingly thought, “How can they all get together like this for no real purpose? There’s something seriously wrong with this picture.”

And of course only God, in his infinite mercy, gently corrected me. He reminded me of another occasion when people gather together for one reason and for one purpose. Yet now, this Pokémon game had me wondering if outsiders were asking the same thing of the church: “What are they doing in there? Do they even have a real purpose?”

Hundreds of us gather each week. We sing a few songs. We contort our faces in adoration. We stare down in our Bible apps. We sing a closing song. We get up, and we go home. But how big was our impact? What did we do, really? I can’t help but imagine what would happen if hundreds of Christians gathered outside the church in unity, love, and service. What would it look like if we walked out of the church building on Sunday, entered into the local neighborhood, and began meeting the needs of the people there? It would be shocking and strange. And it would be exactly what the world needed.

I can’t claim to have all the answers, but I sense that if ever there was a time when the world needed Jesus and Christians committed to serving them, it is now. The harvest is ready. May we be willing to do the work.

(…Or at the very least, maybe you can place a few Pokémon monsters in the location of your church this Sunday so hundreds of young people will show up in search of something truly out of this world.)

Rejoice!

“This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.”–Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)

You may have heard this verse before. Maybe you even sang the song in Sunday school. Some mornings, like today, I even wake up with that verse in my head. It’s a nice little chorus, and I always thought it was a fitting way to jump into a new day. But as I went to check the verse this morning, it appeared to be so much more than a simple child’s refrain.

Like many verses in the Bible, this one is full of meaning, and I really suggest that you read the whole chapter to really get a feel for why the Psalmist was rejoicing. Taunted and hated by his enemy, he had every reason to fear, and yet, line after line he is praising, rejoicing, and giving thanks to the Lord Almighty, in spite of his bleak circumstances.

And yet, here is what we can glean:

  • God is still in control.
    The fact that the earth is still spinning and the sun is making its way over the horizon gives me hope to believe that the God of heaven and earth is still on the throne. We can find in peace in knowing that no matter the political landscape or the thoughtless violence, God is still victorious, and He is still working everything for His ultimate good.
  • God is still loving.
    With a new day freshly dawned, it’s a good time to forgo yesterday’s mistakes and shortcomings. Lamentations 3:22-23 reads, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Today we have been given a second (or a third or a fourth) chance to discover his magnificent, unending love that offers help, hope, forgiveness, and healing.

  • God is still faithful.
    Not only do we get another opportunity to witness the power and authority of God, but we also get another chance to sit at the feet of our faithful friend. God, will never leave nor forsake us. He is trustworthy and true. We can go to Him at any time with any need. We can seek solace under His wings and find the comfort we desperately need.

It’s good to know that while we may change, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can place our trust in our eternal God. We can delight in what is called, “today” because we have a God working outside of time on our behalf. What do we have to fear? He’s got this. So, be of good courage and Rejoice! Again, I say, Rejoice!

Love 2.0

What does it mean to love? Is it baking a cake for a new neighbor? Is it treating an ornery waitress with exuberant cheer? Possibly. But has anyone else stopped to wonder if our vain attempts at love are drawing people to Christ?

It seems like there have been many discussions on the topic of love lately. Love your neighbor. Love your enemy. Love the sinner. Even nonbelievers are quick to shout, “God is love!” when Christians disagree with them on an issue. Now, I am in no way saying that love is not important; after all, it is a command given to us by Jesus. But honestly, there are times when I don’t even know what “love” is supposed to look like. The American culture has adulterated loved and has often turned it into something akin to a dancing cupid or a “Kumbayah” sing-along. Romance movies have condensed love into some kind of awe-inspiring, one-liner: “You had me at ‘Hello’,” for example. Commercials have turned it into an object of desire only fulfilled by the mass accumulation of material things.

It would be surprising if we did not confuse it.

Recently, I attended a Bible study centered around Kelly Minter’s book, Ruth: Loss, Love, and Legacy. In the book, she brings to light the fact that Ruth’s position was less than that of a servant girl. As I went through the study, questions began filtering through my mind until this thought occurred to me: Maybe it’s humility (not love, necessarily) that has the potential to change the world.

I don’t know about you, but I have often prayed, “Lord, help me to be more like Jesus,” only to find that I steer clear of the things that are considered “less than” or things that would require me to go out of my way for someone else. And yet, here are some things I noticed when I read Philippians 2:6-8:

• Jesus humbled himself.
• Jesus made himself to be nothing (“of no reputation,” NKJV).
• Jesus took on the nature of a servant.

Honestly, this was not what I thought of when I prayed to be “more like Christ.” These requirements were much more difficult than anything I had ever imagined. All this moved me to ask my next question, “How is this love?”

Almost immediately, I thought of the verse, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13, NKJV). In verse 12, Jesus commanded his disciples to “love one another,” but in verse 13, He tells them how.

For some reason, I always associated the phrase, “to lay down one’s life” with death, maybe because I knew the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for us when He laid down His life on the cross. However, it occurred to me that this is more likely a death of self. What I personally gleaned from this was: “Sacrificing your needs for the needs of some one else, is the greatest act of love.” This is in essence what Philippians 2:3-4 tells us. And in verse 5, it admonishes us to have the same mindset as Christ, which would require that we:

• Humble ourselves
• Become nothing (as in, do not worry about obtaining a name for yourself)
• Take on the nature of a servant

This, then, is love.

I can’t even imagine what the world would look like if we stopped loving people and started serving them. It seems like lately, we have been “loving” people right out of the church. Dare I say that some of our ideas regarding love have become muddled and in some cases, worldly. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see the church try a new approach. Maybe love through humility and sacrifice is the key.

I think I’m going to pray for opportunities to serve others this week without expecting anything (not even a “thank you”) in return. It’s not going to be easy to do something my flesh doesn’t want to do. But if my flesh objects, I’m probably doing something right.  Of course, this will require me to cling onto the greatest Servant of all, Jesus.