The List: Pokemon (Part 4)

At the moment, I’m currently working my way through Pokemon FireRed, a remake of the original Red and Green released in Japan. You might say this was an article written in transit, quite honestly, as I rekindle my memories while trying to understand the continual success of Pokemon. What was a seemingly short-lived phenomenon became a bona fide success story, even smashing sales records years and years on end.

Not that it didn’t have its own share of tough moments. The initial craze, in that sense, dried up the pool of potential trading partners. When Pokemon Gold and Silver came out, nobody I knew much cared for the tiny creatures any longer. Of course, the game found minor improvements in every sense, not only fixing balancing problems by introducing a weakness to psychic types (I mean other than psychic; hence, dark types came into the fore), but adding a whole new region, one hundred new Pokemon (some of my favorites to this day), real-time based Pokemon catching (it ran on an internal clock; very cool) and Pokemon breeding. Honestly, the game hasn’t changed that much since the second iteration; not a single new type has been added to the seventeen type merry-go-round, nor has breeding or time or any other characteristics of the game. In fact, if not for Nintendo’s reticence to encourages tournament play and a tournament community (I can’t imagine why), the game would probably find itself on a stage of competitive battling never seen. It’s really, really well balanced overall (with legendaries being in their own category, natch).

In the end, both in real life and in the game, success comes down to teamwork. Strategy comes from using multiple sources of strength in order to fulfill a common goal. What’s fascinating about this idea comes from its similarity to the Church. Well, I’m not going to compare people in churches to a tiny rodent with the ability to shower electricity onto its foes, but everyone in the Christian community has a spiritual gift of a sort.

In Romans 12, we find Paul listing one set:

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

As well, in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul gives us yet another list:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all personsBut to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to anothergifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

The Holy Spirit/Ghost remains a mysterious thing in the Church; due to a variety of definitions in its working and its affects, some church leaders simply gloss over the controversy. That, I find, becomes a grave mistake. If people do not understand their gift, they cannot possibly hope to comprehend how God made them and designed them. How does God want me to serve? In what respect? Why do people act in certain ways within a Church environment, and how can I meet their needs as well as my own? Why do I conflict with certain people? If we don’t know these things, how can the body of Christ possibly be effective in its mission and task?

So it was that, in finding this general ignorance on the subject, I resolved myself to doing something about it; that is, teach a class! And that was no easy task, for at the same time as I was teaching it, I also discovered my own: prophecy. Thanks to Charles Stanley’s sermon series on the Power of the Holy Spirit, I believe I perceive rightly what gift I have. I had thought, originally, that teaching was my forte, but a gift isn’t restricted to what you do but who you are. In other words, the spiritual gift (of which you get one – a common misconception) motivates a Christian in a particular way upon the moment of their salvation. It must find development, crafted with a cognizance and awareness of that gift to function effectively.

For example, a person with the gift of prophecy has some characteristics that, in my life, rub people the wrong way. But that’s OK! I understand why now! A person with prophecy has a strong need to express himself verbally – or, in my case, through the written or typed word. These thoughts cannot be contained! Furthermore, I have always found myself with a strong ability to discern the character and motives of other people. Surely, to give the benefit of the doubt in most situations still stays as a general rule, it doesn’t mean that I cannot see sincerity (or, at least, read it when my internet peeps are concerned).

Given the nature of this project called “Theology Gaming” with its seemingly narrow audience and demography, you might think me a bit crazy, but a person with prophecy always has a wholehearted involvement in what they do. I do not perform tasks half-way, if it all possible; such projects, wherever they come, literally reflect the inner workings of my mind and soul. It may also account for why I do not like the editing process very much; certainly, something could appear cleaner, more easily readable, but much of my writing perfectly conveys my thoughts. To attack my writing (as an editor would do) almost attacks me. This is something I have learned recently, that such comments aren’t personal attacks but constructive criticism. In that sense, a person with prophecy needs to be open to correction to ensure his message remains fit, proper, and, most importantly, true. Objectively so.

As well, I am apparently supposed to exhibit extreme loyalty – I imagine this comes through in my dedication to Christianity, but also many of the long-standing friendships I have had over the years. Although the willingness to suffer for what’s right and what is wrong does rub people the wrong way, I’m sure. If I have been persuasive in defining truth versus falsehood…well, that’s yet another aspect of the whole gift of prophecy.

So, imagine not understanding one’s spiritual gift, and you can understand how such a personality profile creates heaps and loads of conflict with other persons who don’t understand me – and vice versa. It’s entirely certain that I seem intolerant in my proclamations, or that I’m not interested in people so much as ideas (true, probably, in writing!), or that I am impatient and frank with other people for simply “not getting it”. Perhaps they think I don’t like dealing with individuals rather than Christianity as a whole, or that my attempts to gain results for my various projects appear as gimmicks. Do I neglect spiritual growth? Well, only in that my focus concerns that of others in this sense. I imagine the whole “truth proclaiming” thing does turn people off; I can be a bit bold and have strict standards of morals and ethics.

But that’s what makes a spiritual gift such a unique and fascinating concept: it gives everyone unique motivations in their pursuit of any particular task for the Kingdom of God. Understanding it means understanding how you come off to other people, and helps you tread lightly in situations requiring a deft touch. Church activities and missions function a lot better when we understand each other, don’t you think?

And that’s why I like Pokemon: it’s like hanging out with a bunch of people who all have different spiritual gifts, yet in their difference still contribute as much to the whole experience than anyone else. Pokemon’s almost like the Church in video game form – that through Christ, we can all work together for the betterment of everyone, the world and ourselves. You might need to swap a Pokemon out permanently, yet you may bring him/her back on the roster eventually. Sometimes, you need a new ability, and so you teach that Pokemon a new ability through a TM or HM. Yeah, the Pokemon trainer is the leader, but that’s why we have the gift of administration: somebody has to coordinate the efforts into a defined whole, preparing for the task ahead.

Pokemon’s challenges, in the single-player, remain clearly defined, though. The Church does not have that same luxury, as the world’s intellectual, cultural, and social environment continually change as the years pass. Although it must be said, if the Church can survive for two millennium without simply disappearing, it does speak volumes that the Holy Spirit continues to grant the believers gifts and abilities fitting to the shifting tides. Modern culture will disappear, change, and mold itself into new challenges and shapes, but the Church remains even in the face of wars, schism, the collapse of empires and the collapse of morality. Friendship remains, in the spiritual sense of philios.

That’s what a bunch of imaginary, tiny fighting creatures can teach you: that people need each other, especially in the Church, and that was the way it was designed. Without one another, we crumble. As a unified front, we are strong. Years of evidence prove that, and it doesn’t take a theologian to make that clear.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.
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  • DJ U

    This was an awesome article! I really enjoyed reading it, and I learned a thing or two about Pokemon as well as spiritual gifts. I liked the connection at the end too, gave me something to think about.