In less than two months Pokemon GO has become the most popular app of all time! But could it be that Jesus came up with the idea first?
Gracefully graying Mike is in his front yard shushing through fallen leaves when his bright red rake hits a bright blue sneaker.
“You’re standing in front of Charmander!” Janiece, a caustically clever teen, protests.
“Sorry, Charmander,” Mike says to the empty space behind him, “I didn’t see you there.” He turns to Janiece and smiles. “Still don’t.”
“We’re playing Pokemon GO!” Janiece’s 10 year old brother Noah shouts.
“So how do you play it?” Mike asks.
“You have to have a modern phone,” Janiece snides, gesturing toward his house. “Not one of those—“
“Telly phones? But then you probably mean the kind without tails.” Mike pulls a digital phone out of his back pocket.
“Great!” says Noah. “Now you just gotta download the app.”
“Got it. What are the rules?”
“Gotta catch ‘em all!” Noah enthuses. “Pokemon means ‘pocket monster’ and there’s like 150 of ‘em. Maybe more!”
Janiece rolls her eyes. “You don’t really want to hear this, do you?”
“I do,” says Mike.
“Well, first you have to go—“
“Go and look for ’em. Got it.”
“Right, go. But then you have to capture them, and train them.”
“Hah!” Mike laughs. “I’ve been doing that for years!”
“What? No, this is new.”
“No, it’s pretty old, actually.”
“How old?” Noah asks.
“About 2,000 years.”
“You’re not that old…are you?” asks Noah.
“Me? Oh, no, I’m only a few hundred. But the version I play is. It was invented by Jesus. You’ve probably heard of him.”
Janiece rolls her eyes again.
“Yeah. In church!” Noah shouts.
“Well, sure, but he’s not just there. That’s the whole point of my version, Jesus GO. You try and see him everywhere.”
“Hey, Miss Karen said that last week!”
“That’s our Kids Church lady,” Janiece explains.
“But I didn’t know it was a game!” Noah exudes, scanning his phone. “How do I get the app?”
“Don’t need a phone,” says Mike. “You download Him here.” He taps his heart.
“That’s totally different!” Janiece objects.
“Actually, Jesus’ rules are pretty much the same. First, he said to go into all the world…”*
“Go!” Noah echoes.
“…and tell people about him, making Jesus followers out of them…”
“Yep. He captured me. Changed me forever!”
“You?” Noah asks, puzzled. “You’re a Pokemon?”
“Well, Pokemin, actually, Pocket Minister.”
“You’re a pastor? Like at a church?”
“Nah, but wherever I go I try and teach folks to be like him. Jesus told us to makes disciples out of people—that means train ‘em to be Pokemins! Only to do that you need to not just see Jesus everywhere, you need to be Jesus everywhere. That’s the advanced version.”
“Whoa! How do you do that?” Noah asks.
“Only Jesus can be Jesus!” Janiece objects.
“Exactly!” says Mike. “That’s why I downloaded his Spirit into me. So people can see him in me”
“Are there updates?” Noah asks.
“Oh, yeah, every day.”
“So, are you like him?”
“Working on it.”
Noah signals for Mike to bend down, then stares intently into his face. After a moment he steps back and announces, “Yep! I see him!”
“Well, all that’s cool, I guess,” Janiece says, “but there’s other stuff in Pokemon GO that your version doesn’t have.”
“Bible verses!” Mike points to his head. “I download ‘em all the time. Next to letting people see Jesus in me, there’s nothing better for capturing Pokeyhearts.”
“Potion? That’s the medicine that restores Pokemon.”
“Prayer! Wouldn’t be caught dead without it!”
“Incense? That lures wild Pokemon to you.
“God’s love. It’s what captured me!”
“Gyms? Those are the places where you do battle.”
“Work. School. Supermarket. Family reunions. Wherever people are is a spiritual gym. Big challenges—even for advanced Pokemins!”
Noah suddenly runs off toward the street corner. “I’m gonna see how many more Jesuses I can collect!”
But Janiece lingers. She turns. To her astonishment, no one is there. Only Mike’s rake. Standing. By itself.
But then the rake falls over and, as her eyes follow it down, she sees Mike on his knees searching among the parti-colored leaves.
Janiece gets down on her knees too. She spots Mike’s phone and hands it to him. She asks, “So…if I wanted to learn the advanced version, the, you know, be-like-Jesus version, what would I have to do?”
“Actually,” Mike says with a smile, “here on your knees is the perfect place to start.”