Last night, I found myself visiting a park in downtown DC that I’d seen but hadn’t visited. It was a nice park, familiar to anyone who’s ever binge-watched Netflix’s House of Cards, where it’s featured prominently in the opening credits. As I walked around the small, lush, square, I chatted with some of the 20 people who were also there - we ranged in age from about 7 to somewhere in the mid-forties. We all had different backgrounds and experiences. We had different lines of work and lived in different parts of the city. But we were all there to catch Pokémon.

Pokémon, the wildly popular Japanese game in which players capture and train mystical creatures, made a major comeback this weekend with the launch of a new game: Pokémon Go. When you open the app, you’ll see a map of your location populated with PokéStops, Pokémon Gyms and - most importantly - Pokémon. The game encourages people to go outside and explore - to track down rare Pokémon, to visit PokéStops for supplies, and to interact with other players at gyms.

pgo-outside.jpgYou may be thinking: Thanks Matt, now we know how much of a nerd you are. What does this have to do with the Gospel? And you’d be right, I am a nerd. But what amazes me about this game isn’t the graphics or the fact that I get to live out a childhood fantasy. What amazes me about this game is its capacity for building community.

Jesus commands us to go - to carry the Good News of God’s reconciling love for all creation out into the world. We’re called to speak and listen as others share how they’ve encountered the holy. We’re called to build community as we work to hasten the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. While Pokémon Go is a simple, secular game, it’s encouraging people to go outside, to explore, and to get to know their neighborhoods - and their neighbors - in unprecedented ways.

So, if Pokémon Go can do that, what would it take for us to get ourselves out into the streets sharing and listening and looking for God? After all, our message - that God loves each of us and yearns to draw us into ever-deepening relationship with Godself and each other - is far more powerful than any game.

If Pokémon Go can get people out of their comfort zones and building community, then surely we can too.