While critics might question if real connections can be made in the metaverse, Life.Church has seen countless lives changed through relationships in digital spaces over the years. With 15 years of online ministry experience (including services in Second Life in 2007), Life.Church has found that people are often more willing to let their guard down and have deep, meaningful conversations more quickly from the safety of anonymity than they are face-to-face.
As new opportunities like the metaverse emerge, Life.Church continues to be passionate about leveraging technology to bring hope to people where they are, especially those who might not otherwise set foot in a physical church.
Is Virtual Church Actually Church?
Doing ministry in virtual reality is a hot topic among believers and church leaders. Just this week, a Twitter debate ensued over whether virtual church is truly “church.” Earlier this year, ChurchLeaders ran a brief podcast series on the digital church, interviewing several ministry leaders on the topic. One of them was DJ Soto, the founder and bishop of VR Church, which launched in 2016 on AltSpaceVR, the same platform that Groeschel mentioned in this post. “It’s not a ministry, it’s not a little side thing that we’re doing,” Soto told ChurchLeaders. “This is the body of Christ in the metaverse.”
He pointed out that churches tend to be slow to adopt new technologies, which he believes is “unfortunate,” and he encouraged churches to be more open to these developments. “I think that the future is digital, virtual or augmented,” he said.
Not everyone agrees, of course. Pastor and “Analog Church” author Jay Kim believes there are benefits to technology, but does not think true discipleship can take place without being in person. “Discipleship is about proximity and practice,” he said, “that we live closely with Jesus and that we practice the way of Jesus and that way is by its very nature communal.” According to Kim, “If everything is online and you believe the church to be a peddler of Christian content, then church becomes nothing more than Netflix.”
Regardless of what you think about whether an exclusively online church can be biblical, there seems little doubt that the metaverse is a ripe mission field. When VR Church first began, attendees were primarily unchurched people, said Soto. “Many atheists came, and for the longest time, my church services were full of atheists and agnostics.”
With the number of American adults who identify as Christian declining and more people identifying as atheists, agnostics, or “nones,” this news is certainly worth church leaders giving it their attention. In an article titled, “Ministry in the Metaverse,” Outreach Magazine’s Jonathan Sprowl observes, “As the church looks to reach more people, particularly in younger generations, we’d be hard-pressed to find a higher concentration of unchurched or dechurched people from the 18 to 35 demographic than we can find in the metaverse.”
The article has been updated with a statement from Life.Church.