Pokémon 'lure party' draws gamers to Southwestern Seminary

by Alex Sibley, |
Members of the community around Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth play the popular Pokémon Go app on their phones July 19. The seminary set off 'lures' as an opportunity to draw gamers to the campus. | SWBTS Photo/Neil Williams

FORT WORTH (SWBTS) — When viewed through the augmented reality lens of "Pokémon Go," Southwestern Seminary is home to three "gyms" and nearly three-dozen "Pokéstops." In addition, numerous desirable Pokémon are known to frequent the campus. As such, since this smart phone app launched just a few weeks ago, numerous visitors who would not otherwise step foot on campus have made their way to Southwestern in order to play the game.

Realizing the unique opportunity to reach out to the community, seminary students and faculty hosted an on-campus "lure party," July 19. Calling to mind Jesus' words to his followers to be "fishers of men," Southwestern set off 80 "lures" over a two-hour period, drawing roughly 200 people from the community—many of them non-Christians—to the campus. Southwesterners utilized the people's voluntary attendance by engaging the lost with the gospel, and as a result, six Pokémon players professed faith in Christ.

Southwestern Seminary created special gospel tracts to use when evangelizing those who came to campus for a Pokémon Go event July 19. SWBTS Photo/Neil Williams | SWBTS Photo/Neil Williams

"Unlike any other time that we have done outreach in either the community or any type of mission trip, this was the rare opportunity where we didn't have to go find people, but they were coming to us," said Master of Divinity student Joshua Clayton, who organized the event. "So we just simply offered the opportunity to seize the moment and strategically utilize the game for evangelism."

Housing coordinator Jonathan Baldwin was among the evangelists, and he personally saw two people—both high school students—believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

"The conversation started about the game, then transitioned into school and future college plans," Baldwin recalled. "I took this time to share how God had saved me during my senior year of college, and I boasted in the Lord at how amazing this new life with Him is."

In light of the two students' decision to receive God's free gift of salvation, Baldwin said, "It is always exciting to see God save people and always refreshing to retell his story."

Water stations were placed at key locations around campus, and the servers at these stations offered passersby not just physical water, but "living water." M.Div. student Joy Arulogun manned one of these stations, and she had a fruitful discussion with a group of young students that resulted in two salvations and one rededication.

Southwesterners' tag-team efforts at a water station on the opposite side of campus also led to a salvation. Master's students Heather Mentz and Mark Becker and Ph.D. student Jessica Wan spoke with three young men—Angel, Fransisco and Kevin. Upon hearing the gospel message, Angel prayed to receive the Lord. Though Fransisco did not respond to the invitation extended to him, he nevertheless heard the gospel, and Kevin, who is already a professing Christian, was encouraged by the evangelists to continue in his faith and find a church home.

Beyond these specific examples, numerous other conversations were had, and many people heard the gospel. Though they came to campus to catch Pokémon, they left with the message of Christ firmly planted within their minds.

"When there are so many people involved with something like this, you can't miss the opportunity to use it for God's good in some way," said evangelism instructor Brandon Kiesling, who coordinated the evangelism teams.

"Personally, I think Christians at-large have missed too many of these opportunities in the past, and so I would hate to miss another opportunity like this, especially when the people come to us. Why wouldn't you [seize that opportunity]?"

This article published by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.