Journey to Preterism — Where is the Church Pushback

Is there a distinction between tribulation saints and the church? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A friend of Deeper Waters left a message on our Facebook page about my post on where is the church? In this, I argued that the word church not being in Revelation does not indicate the absence of the church. This commenter left a reason why he thinks the tribulation saints aren’t the church.

For me the strongest argument for the church being a different group than the saints in Trib, is that Rev states that when Satan is cast out of heaven and sent down to earth to possess that false prophet/antiChrist it says “And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”
5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 13:4–8.
This seems to contradict Jesus’ statement that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church, that all authority has been given to the church and Satan has NO authority over the church.
It seems to me that Satan cannot be on earth at the same time as the church if Satan is given authority on earth. So this likely is a different group of saints.
This argument depends a lot on timing. For one thing, the objection here seems to assume that all of Revelation is future. I come from an opposite approach. Look at Revelation 12 where the dragon does appear. What do you see going on? A dragon about to devout a child that will rule the nations with a rod of iron. Biblically, the only conclusion I can reach is that this is the birth of Jesus.
I don’t see any reason to think that this event will happen again, so I take this to be a description of the birth of Christ. When that takes place, the dragon tries to devour the child, namely through the slaughter of the infants. What about Satan being on Earth though?
In Luke, Jesus says He saw Satan cast down from Heaven. (Luke 10:18) This was during His ministry. Is Satan however active while the Kingdom of God is active?
The answer from Scripture has to be yes. In Matthew 12, Jesus casts out a demon and the Pharisees tell the crowd that it is by Beelzebul that Jesus does that. Jesus says that if He casts out demons by the finger of God then the Kingdom of God is among you.
Did you catch it?
Jesus is on Earth and yet He is fighting against the devil. Jesus declares the Kingdom is right there, but so is the Kingdom of the devil. In Matthew 13 next, we are told that the Kingdom grows like a mustard seed or like yeast through dough. This means that the Kingdom of God will keep growing and if it is doing that, it has to be breaking into another kingdom pushing it out.
Any guesses which that is?
By the way, there’s no indication that the Kingdom of God will be removed from Earth and then started over during a tribulation period somehow. God is building up His army and there’s no reason to think that He’s going to remove it en masse at any time. Also, for those who say the Holy Spirit can’t be on Earth during the tribulation, kind of difficult for an omnipresent being to not be, you know, present.
I contend then that if the Kingdom of God is removed, that would be God giving authority again to the devil which would really be a case of a violation of Matthew 16 and the gates of Hell passage.
From my viewpoint, it’s straight through historical. The dragon falls and then not too much later, here comes Nero, who I think is the Beast, on the scene. When we get to the harlot later on in Revelation, who is that? Some of you might be surprised when I say that that harlot is Israel.
Does that sound anti-semitic?
If so, then the Old Testament must be a very anti-semitic book since it regularly depicts Israel as a harlot. This again makes the historical sense of what happened. For a time, the Jews could work with Rome to persecute the Christians, but then the Romans turned on the Jews as well and sought to kill them. That culminated in the fall of Jerusalem which is compared to Babylon in the book.
I wanted to answer this objection because I do try to take objections to my view seriously. I did give a little bit of commentary on Revelation as well. I won’t do this for every objection I get, but I wanted to address this one as it seemed more well thought-out.
In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Journey To Preterism — Where is the Church?

Why is the church not mentioned in the Great Tribulation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Another claim I would often see come up from pre-tribulationists back on my journey was that the church was not mentioned in Revelation after chapter 3. The obvious conclusion to them was that the church wasn’t there. The church had been raptured.

At best, this is an argument from silence. The church only shows up in the Gospels in Matthew. However, it also ignores that there are other ways to refer to the people of God. Saints is a very common one and Paul even uses that for the church at Corinth which was a highly messed up church.

If we consider also that most of the focus on Revelation is on God judging the wicked, it’s not a shock that God’s people are not described as the focus. Still, they are there, such as the dragon going off to wage war against those who hold to the testimony of Jesus.

The problem with arguments from silence is that where there is no reason to expect a mention, the argument is weak. Those who put forward the argument need to state why such an event in any case should be mentioned. This is a big problem Jesus mythicists have as they assume that since Jesus is the most awesome figure in culture today, that surely everyone would have been talking about Him. Especially since this was the supposed Son of God walking on Earth doing miracles.

Most people though would have treated the claims with skepticism and not wasted time and/or capital to investigate them. It’s not a shock that so few people outside of the Christian community mentioned Jesus. It’s a shock that really anyone did mention Him.

So right at the start, we have this as an argument from silence. Now pre-tribulationists will definitely admit that the text of Revelation 4-19 does include references to those who hold to the testimony of Jesus and other terms, but these are usually seen as tribulation saints. These are people who find Jesus after the rapture.

That does work, but the problem is that you have no reason to think that unless you assume the pre-trib idea to begin with. This is especially so since it’s assumed that when John gets called up to Heaven in Revelation 4:1, that the church would have been understood to go up with him, except John is shown on Earth in passages such as Revelation 10 and there’s no indication that the church is understood to return to Earth with him then. Again, when the rules change suddenly, then you can expect that there is something else going on here.

I really do want to stress that I am trying to be fair to the arguments that i came across, but I really do just find them extremely weak. Did I ever return and give them a fair shot later on? We’ll be getting to that in a later post, but for now, this is just another argument that I don’t find convincing a bit.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/28/2019

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

“Lord. Save me from your followers.” How many people have really been burned badly by the church? They’re that group of people that many of us think we have to see on Sunday and go and put on all of our happy faces and act like everything is just fine in our lives. Many times, you dare not say anything controversial or confess a struggle with sin or anything else, because, well, Christians just don’t do that.

If you grow up in Christian culture, you might sadly be used to this kind of thing and know what to expect in a church. What if you’re an atheist and don’t know what to expect? How do you handle it then? Could it be that some people could be turned away from a church that expects everyone to tow the party line?

What about the way apologetics is treated in the church? Can you really do that there? What about questions such as the appropriateness of beauty? If you’re a woman, is it a case that you have to follow a proper dress code because you’re an object of desire, but the men around you might not be put under that same standard?

My guest is someone who came to Christianity as an adult and found that a major hurdle was the church. Even at her first visit where she was supposed to stand before the church and talk about how she came to Christ, the pastor’s wife saw her outside and told her her outfit was too revealing. Fortunately, she stayed, but how many other seekers might have been turned away?

This lady today is a teacher of apologetics and a highly successful one. Her book is called Why I Still Believe. Her name is Mary Jo Sharp.

So who is she?

According to her bio:

A former atheist from the Pacific Northwest, Mary Jo was raised without religion. She is now an assistant professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University and the founder and director of Confident Christianity Apologetics Ministry. Mary Jo is the author of LifeWay Christian Resources’s “Why Do You Believe That?” Bible study and is working on an upcoming book on hypocrisy titled, “Why I Still Believe,” with Zondervan. She is an itinerant speaker on apologetics throughout North America and has engaged in formal debates on Islam. She focuses on using love and logic in order to uncover truth.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to the next episode. If you’ve been watching, we are quickly getting caught up on them and hope to be current before too long. Thank you for your support.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why I Still Believe

What do I think of Mary Jo Sharp’s latest book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I first found out about this book when someone mentioned it in relation to dealing with Jesus mythicism, which it does to some extent, and that got me curious. I got in touch with Mary Jo and was able to get an advance copy for review purposes. I really had no idea at the time what else it was about, but then I saw it looked to deal a lot with hypocrisy in the church. Interesting, but could a whole book really be made about it?

Yes. Yes, indeed.

Not only could a whole book be done, this is one of the best books I’d recommend in helping someone out struggling in this area. Sharp’s book is engaging, but at the same time, it is not preachy. She is an open book in this one and writes about so much of the pain that she has experienced in the church and revealing even what some of her home life is like.

Sharp writes as someone who came to the church culture as an outsider having been an atheist. She then gets involved in the church and on the first Sunday there, the pastor’s wife greets her and tells her she needs to dress better because her clothes look too revealing. Keep in mind Sharp was supposed to go up and announce to the church she had become a Christian, which she did anyway, and there the pastor’s wife put her on the spot like that. Imagine how any investigator of Christianity would have taken it. (And keep in mind that from what I’ve seen in churches, too revealing could mean that if you squint and stare for a few minutes you might see some skin.)

She also talks about bringing a skeptical friend to a church lesson that talked about the age of the Earth. This person knew far more than the teacher including quoting Augustine on the matter. The pastor shut the questioner down and then in the end angrily gave him a stack of literature on the topic of creation. Sharp said she never saw him again and he never returned to the church.

Who can blame him?

Along the way, Sharp discusses issues like the resurrection of Jesus and other Christian claims. One of the more interesting ones she does this with is the topic of beauty. Beauty is something we don’t talk about much in the church. We talk about truth and goodness, but not about beauty. This part was quite exciting.

She also writes about how her own ministry got started, especially with the help of David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi. This is humorously referred to as lessons from a sociopath and an ex-Muslim. The candor and reality of the book is what makes it so endearing.

Sharp also talks about her own struggles. She has a hard time with trusting people and has an idealistic vision of the church and how it should be and gets disappointed when it doesn’t measure up. In some ways, she seems to wish she didn’t know what she did know about apologetics, because it would be so easy to say “This isn’t worth it” and go back to atheism, but she can’t. It’s a reality I can understand and relate to sometimes.

Mary Jo Sharp’s book should be required reading for anyone struggling with what they see in their fellow Christians and expecting something different. At the same time, Sharp also looks at herself in all of this and sees the kind of person she is, which she doesn’t like as well. But then, that is the good news isn’t it? As it is said, if the church only welcomed perfect people, we wouldn’t be members. We can all be imperfect together.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Are Our Churches Teaching?

Are we really being equipped in our churches? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently on my show, I interviewed Clinton Wilcox, a pro-life speaker. He spoke about how if the church got really serious, we could end abortion. This was in the middle of a discussion about why this kind of topic is not normally talked about in churches. I realize there are some that do teach on such serious topics, but the majority I am afraid do not, at least in America.

You see, I can easily predict what you’re hearing in churches most often. Here’s how you deal with guilt. Here’s how you get along with your neighbor. Here’s how you become a better spouse. Nothing wrong with these messages to an extent, but they’re also nothing really unusual to the church. You can get a lot of these from self-help books.

What you can’t get from those is the Gospel. I mean more than just the forgiveness of sins, as great as that is, but also what difference does Christianity make and why is it true? These are questions that are asked every day in our culture. All we are doing often is presenting Christianity as if God is a means to be a better person or a means to get to Heaven.

Let’s talk about some examples. There’s a saying that one in three men in the church struggle with pornography. If you’re a man and you look to the right at church and see a man and he’s okay and to the left and see another man and he’s okay, you could be in trouble. A number of pastors even struggle with pornography. Question. When was the last time you heard a sermon on the sin of pornography and overcoming it?

Along those lines, we live in a culture where more and more young people are living together before they get married. Even older people getting divorced now are doing that. Question. When was the last time you heard a sermon on a Christian view on sex and marriage and why it matters and how you know it’s true?

Go even further and you have issues of homosexuality and transgenderism. This is being spoken of on the news most every day. So what of it? When was the last time you heard a sermon that tackled these issues?

Some could say that with abortion, some pastors could be scared because some women in the congregation have had abortions. Sure. You teach it anyway. Of course, how you teach it matters. A good pastor when teaching will indeed preach on the wickedness and evil of sin and won’t sugarcoat abortion. Yet at the same time, he will teach the awesomeness and greatness of grace and that healing and forgiveness are available for all.

What about other belief systems. It used to be that most people would never encounter an atheist. Now most all of us encounter them and if we don’t, we certainly see them in the media. Are you being told why you should believe that God exists? What difference does it make that He does? Are you being told about the historicity of the New Testament?

What about other belief systems. Now this could depend on your area to be fair. If you are a pastor in Utah, you had better be informed and preaching on Mormonism. It might not be the same in the suburbs of Detroit, but you do find whatever your congregation is most likely to encounter and speak on it.

All of this is simply discipleship. It’s helping us learn not just what we are to do but why we believe we do what we do. Do we do good just to do good? Is Christianity just about being a good person?

We live in an age where and more of our youth are going to college and falling away and more and more people are encountering objections they can’t answer. The church meanwhile is just becoming a social club. You go on Sundays because, well, that’s just what you do. It’s more of a tradition than an actual commitment to Christ.

Yet what if what Clinton said is true. What if we could end abortion if all the churches in America got serious? Is it worth it? Is it worth you getting serious? It’s great to have goals you want your church to accomplish, but what do you want to do yourself even if the church doesn’t go along?

Maybe you should do that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Our Failure To Give

Are we not giving enough in ministry? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve said before that I’m a game show junkie. If I’m reaching for the remote, my wife knows that usually I want to turn on GSN. Sunday, I’m watching one of my favorites, Idiotest. There’s a pair of ladies on there who are playing because they want to have enough money to go on a mission trip.

Okay. Let’s be clear right at the start. That’s awesome. People wanting to go on a show and win money not for themselves, but so that they can do something special in ministry. It’s the kind of thing that we should all aspire to. However, despite how great that is, it also indicates something.

The church is failing.

Can any of us imagine in the 1st century Paul going to Caesar and trying to earn more funds so he could do ministry work? Hardly. The church had to give and take care of its own. It was a fledgling movement, but still growing rapidly, and people had to look out for one another. There were people who were wealthy and there were people who were poor.

Whenever we as a church go outside of ourselves in order to raise up the funds, we make a silent confession before the world. That confession is that the church is not giving enough of itself. It must rely on those on the outside.

Back in January, I had Ty Benbow on my show to talk about abortion. One thing he said was that if every church in America adopted just one child every season of the year, we could end any abortion debate. Just one. Of course, not every family can do that. There are plenty of poor families. There are some who can give more than they are.

This also includes not just money, but time and services. Do you realize that if you give of your time that you are freeing up money that could go to greater causes that we can’t directly intervene in? If you volunteer to do something at your church, that means there’s more that can go somewhere else.

I recently wrote a blog where I mentioned the giving of 10%. I’m not saying the New Testament teaches the tithe. I think it instead teaches that the Lord loves a cheerful giver. Just that should be something to make us think. God loves a cheerful giver. Don’t we all want to be the kind of person that God loves? Then we should consider being cheerful givers.

Yet as someone said who commented, most pastors would be thrilled if their churches would give 10%. Many of them don’t. The poor of course I’m not really speaking about. Those who don’t have any money to give are not obligated to give, although the poor can give service in other ways. What I am contending for is that we can do something more.

Many of us will be tempted to think that a little bit can’t make much of a difference. By itself, one is absolutely right. Yet if everyone gives a little bit, a little bit can become a lot. If your local blood bank has a blood drive, it would be ridiculous and medically dangerous to think that you have to supply blood for everyone in need. It’s not ridiculous when you realize that when many people do that, then many can benefit.

It’s important to note that there are many pastors who have greed. It’s a sin that anyone can fall into. That’s also why I encourage churches to have upfront financial statements so everyone can see where the money is going to. Be aware pastors that you need to encourage giving, but if you overdo it, you will come across as greedy. Be aware also person in the pew that the church has to say it sometime and just because it’s said doesn’t mean greed is involved.

It’s great to see women going on a show wanting to win money for a mission trip. It will be even better when they don’t need to because the church does give enough as it is. Hopefully we can reach a day where the church is better known for generosity than they are for hypocrisy.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Church Does Not Exist For You

Why is it that you go to church? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I talked with someone from Ratio Christi about how we can reach our generation for Christ more. What was brought out was that we have more information than ever before, but the problem is the information isn’t being distributed. Most teachers and workers don’t really get to go out into the trenches as much and just do regular evangelism. Why is that?

My thinking on this is that we have too many people in Christianity today who think that the church exists for them. The church is where they go and get their regular spiritual fill-up. They get to hear a good concert, which is more often about getting their emotions to a high, and then get to hear a talk about how they can have better lives by being a Christian and how God loves them and all of it is about them.

How does this work with evangelism? Simple. You are supposed to bring your friend to church and the pastor is supposed to say the magic words to get them to come down the aisle and accept Christ. Never a thought of “We need to equip you so you can do evangelism on your own.” Instead, you just bring them to the pastor and the pastor does your work for you.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t invite people to church. Of course you should. I am saying your work is not just to bring people to church and then keep a seat in the sanctuary warm. You are also not meant to come to church just so you can feel good about yourself. Church is about coming to worship and give of yourself. We come to church more often to receive than to give.

As someone in ministry also, this is something that I know is a problem for many ministries. Since the church knows little about apologetics, apologetics ministries are hard to start. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t support other worthwhile ministries as the church needs more than apologetics, but it is to say that the church doesn’t know about this vital area of Christianity and sadly, their pastors aren’t introducing them to it.

Picture your average service. You go in and when the sermon starts, you hear a passage of Scripture read. You might get a little bit of the background story but then, it jumps straight to application. There is nothing about the historical setting from a greater perspective or about what the passage would have meant to the original audience. It’s all about “What does this mean to me?”

There are rarely questions about “What does this say about the nature of God?” aside from that He loves you. “What does this say about Jesus?” aside from of course, that He loves you. “What did this mean to the children of Israel?” (Why is that part even in the Bible? It’s not about us.) “How do we know that this really happened?”

Why do people not give then? Well they give their regular 10% and then that’s it. Nothing in their minds often about being a part of the greater church as a whole and the Kingdom of God. Nothing about that they might actually need to answer a question one day from someone. Nothing about they might need to do independent Bible study. It’s all about what’s in it for them.

Want a demonstration? Just picture what will happen if you have a movie night at the church where a movie can be shown for free. How many people will show up? Now picture a night where you have a great apologetics speaker coming into town and giving a free talk on the resurrection of Jesus. I can assure you turnout will be much less for that one. (With the exception of apologetics fans in the area who actually do come.)

I wish I knew more of what to do to help this. Sometimes, I do think it will take some persecution to get us to realize what we are here for. I also suspect many Christians will fall away at that point because, I mean, why should they be expected to sacrifice anything? That’s too uncomfortable.

Perhaps it will depend on the pastors since they are put in the position of having to do everything. The pastor can lay out the responsibility of the layman. He can encourage them to be able to be more self-sufficient in their Christian faith in that they can research themselves and ask the questions themselves. (Perhaps that would be a better investment of their time more often than binge watching Netflix.)

If a pastor is worried that he might lose some people, maybe he should. The people who really care the most are the ones who will stay behind and be willing to do the work. It would be better to have a small number who are faithful and ready to do the work than have a large number who are not. I believe the founder of Christianity had the same philosophy.

It is my hopes that we can be a church that teaches, gives, answers, and everything else we need to be doing. Once we understand the role of Christianity overall, we will be better equipped to fulfill our Christian mission. It will require that we move past the idea that the church is for us. We don’t come to church for us. We come for God.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 1/7/2017: Ty Benbow

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

January is here. This is a month that many of us will think about the abortion industry. After all, Roe V. Wade was decided this month in 1973 and here we are years ago and the silent holocaust is still going on in America. In January, I tend to devote all of my shows to the topic of abortion. I haven’t always done perfect, but it is the hope.

This month, I also asked around for friends in the area of apologetics specializing in abortion. I found three who were willing to come on. I hope then to introduce you to some new names in this field and new resources that you can use. One guest this month will be someone already well known in the field but for the others, I want to give my friends a chance to shine.

So who’s up first?

Meet Ty Benbow.

image1

According to his bio:

Ty Benbow is a professor and emerging author originally from Muncie, Indiana.

He graduated with a BA in Psychology from Wabash College in 2008, and later received his M.Div. from Anderson University School of Theology in 2011.

He currently serves in the Church Ministry Department at Warner University in Lake Wales, Florida where he teaches courses on Understanding the Old Testament and Life of Christ.

His debut novel “I’m Not Real” was published by Charisma Media in Lake Mary, Florida. INR was released on January 22nd, 2016, the 43rd anniversary of Roe v Wade.

Ty, his wife Riley, and daughter Berkeley currently reside in Winter Haven, Florida.

Ty has an approach where he seeks to get inside the head of a woman who is seeking an abortion. What is going on? We might be too quick to write someone off like this for negative reasons. Sure. We can all agree that the action is sinful, but we all do things that are wrong and we all think we have good reasons to do those things that are wrong. Ty will help us try to understand what is going on.

And what is the church to do? Ty has a hope that the church will become more proactive in this field. One complaint often given is that the church doesn’t really care about the child so long as the child isn’t aborted. Are we looking for signs of women in our community even who could be considering abortion and how to help them? There are a number of women who go to get abortions who identify as Christians after all.

This will be a serious month no doubt as abortion is a serious issue and since I’m not a specialist in the topic, I’m honored to be joined by people who do focus on that topic. It is my hope that you will be equipped better to talk with the people in your life who are considering abortion or have had one. We can be like Christ for those people who are struggling with the help of these people.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Redeeming Halloween

What do I think of Kim Wier and Pam McCune’s book published by Tyndale House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Halloween can be an odd time of year. A lot of Christians actually really look forward to it. A lot of other ones dread when this event comes around. You can find many houses with decorations all around meant to spook and delight. Others with the lights turned off and wanting to hide more than a nuclear launch site.

For my family, it was never an issue. I went out every year that I could. In fact, I shocked my wife earlier this week by saying I never even went through all of my candy. I’ve never been much of a candy guy. It was more fun just going around in costume. (Either Link from the Legend of Zelda or a ninja were my favorites.) My wife, on the other hand, had it different. Her family for awhile was afraid of pagan connotations. This was a concept that I would not have understood then, but growing up I have seen more and more that Christians can be afraid of anything if you just say “This has pagan origins.”

In Redeeming Halloween, Wier and McCune look at Halloween and how it can be observed by Christians without having to sell out as it were. The book has both history and application. The history was the part I was looking forward to the most and I wish that there had been a little bit more there. Some parts though I am questionable on. It is false indeed that Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. That was actually done in 380 by Theodosius. I also question the idea that Christmas was a date taken from the pagans and that December 25th was the day they celebrated the winter solstice.

Still, there were some interesting things in the history. I find the tale of the origin of the Jack-o-Lantern to be interesting and I have found some independent confirmation that turnips were originally used before pumpkins. I certainly think that was a step in the right direction.

Some of the events for kids could be interesting. I like that many of them centered around history in that Halloween originates around a day to remember the saints who have died before. Many of the activities invite us to think about what it would have been like to have been a Christian when the Roman Empire was opposed to Christianity or to be a Christian in areas today where Christianity is still opposed, such as heavily secular or Muslim countries. This will also get young people interested in history and Christian history as well and get them out of the “me-centered” thinking that we have today. By all means enjoy the candy and such, but also realize there is much to learn about from the world around you and that many Christians care a lot more about other things than “feeling good about themselves.”

As someone who is not a parent, I could not relate to a lot of the parental advice yet, but that doesn’t mean that parents will not. Thus, I’m not the best one to speak on that point. I do think that most parents will certainly find something that their children can enjoy in this book.

The book will be an interesting read if you’re looking for ideas on how to spend the Halloween season. Like I said, I would have liked to have seen more on history, but I’m glad to see it wasn’t entirely ignored. I also appreciate that history came rightly before application. (If only some pastors would learn that lesson!) If you want to know how to spend Halloween, this could be a good book to consider.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Pokemon Go and Evangelism

How will you handle kids coming to church? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I happen to be an apologist as readers know, but I also enjoy playing Pokemon. My wife and I are eagerly looking forward to Sun and Moon coming out in November. Not only that, we’ve found some of our neighbors are also devout Christians and play the game. Unfortunately, they’re also moving away soon, but we’ve enjoyed their company for now.

Recently, a new version came out for smart phones called Pokemon Go. This would have been every child’s dream when Pokemon came out years ago. It’s going out into the world and catching Pokemon on an electronic device. What on Earth does this have to do with evangelism?

It has a number of things to do with it. First off, in order to get supplies and a few extra experience points, players have to stop at places called Pokestops. These are well-known locations like libraries and post offices and other landmarks in a town. Oh! Practically every church you come across will also be a Pokestop and you have to get right up next to it in order to get the bonus. Not only that, if you wait just a few minutes, you can get that bonus again.

Second, there are also gyms you can battle at. These are also located at landmarks including, yep, some of the churches. Not every church has a gym, but some do, and players from each of the three teams in the game seek to come and take control of the gyms and that will mean that they are indeed coming to the churches.

To see how this all works, my neighbor and I decided we would go out into town. My wife came along as his wife was working and we went all over town stopping at Pokestops and battling gyms. On the way, we had a number of good conversations and fun times together.

In fact, this Saturday before the podcast, my wife and I are thinking of going out to a park nearby for a Pokemon Go event. Yes. You’re going to have players coming from the Atlanta area all to a park where we will meet each other and interact playing a game. We will be out around noon in warm weather at a park as will many others.

You know parents how you’ve been wanting a reason for your children to get outside? It has come. In fact, your younger children who can’t drive will need you. Take this chance to spend time with your children!

Still, I mainly want to write about churches. What I recommend you do is have someone from your church download the game and look and see. Is your church a Pokestop? If it is, take advantage of this situation. I would like to emphasize some thought over at The Wardrobe Door and some I’ve thought of on my own.

First off, if you have someone at your church who knows Pokemon well, put them to use! Get them out there and have them meeting people that come by. If you want to, set up something outside your church during the week that will indicate your church is a Pokestop and welcome kids to your church.

This could include having bottles of water or small snacks that you can give out to the children. Let them know what kind of church your place is and that will make an impression on the parents. Let them come in and enjoy wi-fi and air conditioning and this can be a good chance to talk to the parents.

Second, allow people to have their events at your church. Host a Pokemon Go event at your church on the weekdays and have kids from all over come by. If you do this, don’t make it a trap by having a sermon preached. Instead, let them come and just enjoy themselves. Try to focus on the parents as well if they stay. If not, let the kids from your church be there who are playing and have them form the friendships that can get the children in the door.

Third, host other kinds of events. Have a tournament around the card games. Have a tournament around the regular games. Be the church that when Sun and Moon comes out, you will be ready.

Fourth, try having some giveaways. Some churches are doing this and you could let people fill out an entry form once a day when they come by for a Pokestop and let them have a chance to win a prize. It doesn’t have to be a big one, but feeling like they won something for going by the church can be an incentive.

In fact, if you want to know if people are coming to the church, just look at some of the material already put out.

 

Not all of these I shared due to language on some, but pay attention. You have people who even can’t stand religion going to a church to collect Pokeballs. If you have an apologist at your church, now is a time to use them when they show up. This will especially also help show your church that Christians don’t cut themselves off from everything. The Gospel is not opposed to fun after all.

I can already anticipate some objections. Some of you will be saying that we don’t need this to do evangelism. That’s true. We don’t, but you know what? We have it. Why not take advantage of it? Why not use it? If this is a way that we can get to spread the Gospel to people who are coming to our church, why not go ahead and do that?

I also hear it being said that the message should be enough to draw people to the church. Yeah. Keep that up. How’s that been working for you? It will be a draw if you’re dealing with people who are Christians who already love the message. You’re not. What you’re dealing with are people who are lost many times and now have a reason to go to church.

Consider raising children. Parents want to raise their children to eat well and study in school. It should be that being healthy and having a successful career is enough of a draw, but it isn’t. Usually, we’ll give incentives and punishments to help children do these tasks until they come to appreciate them on their own. Wait until your children value health or a successful career on their own and you’ll be waiting awhile. Give them incentive and they’ll start doing it.

Some have also complained about dangers of Pokemon Go, such as there are some people hijacking it to rob victims. Yes. Believe it or not, technology can be misused. By that standard, that Bible you have at your church is misused by the cults, so you’d better not use it. Some people are misusing Pokemon Go. You can be the church that uses it well.

Some people are concerned that you will draw them in and then use bait and switch with the Gospel. I have a problem when it comes to many Christian movies in that they think they have to shove the Gospel explicitly down your throats. They don’t. Those of you who care about friendship evangelism should like this idea. Get to know the people as people who come by and give them time. Do encourage them and if you see an opportunity, you can talk about it, but I wouldn’t be confrontational in this case. Just be there and if they have questions, answer them. Let your church be the church that everyone in town is talking about.

Speaking of talking about it, what makes me think this will happen. Look at the above tweets. When was the last time you had people tweeting so much about going to church who likely are not Christians? You want to pass up this opportunity?

Also along those lines, please don’t come up with cheesy catch phrase about Pokemon and turn it into Jesus and please don’t try to come up with a Christian version of the game that you can play. Just use the game as it is because when Christians try to copy things like this, they end up for the most part just looking ridiculous. That turns people away.

Some people think that Pokemon Go is being used as a lure in this case. The point is that Pokemon Go is already a lure. The people are already coming and they can’t just drive by at 45 MPH and get the bonuses. They have to make a deliberate stop. If they’re there, talk to them. Take advantage of it.

There are many people talking about so many events in the world that are important. We are talking about the Dallas shooting and we are talking about the Presidential election, but many of us are talking about Pokemon Go. That last one can greatly be used by evangelism. Take advantage of the opportunity. We finally have people we want to reach coming to church. I can only imagine what the Apostle Paul would do if he found a way to get people to come to church of their own accord. What would he do once they got there?

Also, your young people who don’t think they contribute to the church sometimes? They can have a sense of contribution just by playing a game and just by hanging out with others playing a game. Give them an idea that they are significant. Let them help out. You can have it that the kids talk to the kids while the parents talk to the parents. Use this opportunity to tell them about your church and then when in the church, tell them about Jesus.

As for me and my wife, we’re going to be enjoying our game, but I certainly hope churches use this opportunity. You have children coming to your door. Are you going to drive them away, or are you going to be there waiting for them in preparation for getting them there on Sunday morning to give them the Gospel?

In Christ,
Nick Peters