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DJ Soto: Why Virtual Reality Church Is Just As Legitimate As Gathering in Person

DJ Soto

DJ Soto began preaching in the world of virtual reality (VR) in 2016. He is the founder and bishop of Virtual Reality Church, a church that is intended to be radically inclusive and consistent with Christianity’s long history of adapting to new forms of media. DJ has helped plant multiple expressions of church online in digital communities, including Final Fantasy 14, Black Desert Online, and Rust. Before VR Church, DJ received a BA in Theology in 2000, gained experience as a high school computer and music teacher, worked as a photojournalist in broadcast television, and launched a multi-site campus for a mega-church in Pennsylvania. In 2016, DJ and his wife, Kari, created a new apostolic ministry to pioneer new churches across America in unusual places. Originally thinking they would plant physical churches, they soon realized a new vision to plant churches in virtual reality. 

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Key Questions for DJ Soto

-How is what you’re doing similar to physical church and how is it different?

-Where has God brought you as far as expressing the essentials of church, such as baptism and communion, in virtual reality?

-How has the church adapted through its history and how does that set a precedent for VR Church?

-Can you speak to the concern that many pastors have that people might not return to in-person church after the pandemic?

Key Quotes From DJ Soto

“We’re not a pandemic pivot. We launched Virtual Reality Church in 2016.”

“If you’re watching technological trends, why would a software company [Facebook] spend billions of dollars to get hardware?…They view virtual reality as the next iteration of social interaction.”

“It was just an experiment at first. My first church service I think five people showed up…I was so excited because there was a lot of potential there. And none of the people that came would probably identify with any type of faith system. Many atheists came, and for the longest time, my church services were full of atheists and agnostics.”

“It was like an accidental church plant.” 

“It’s not a ministry, it’s not a little side thing that we’re doing—this is the body of Christ in the metaverse.”

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Jason serves as the Chief Strategy Officer at PastorServe, a ministry committed to strengthening the Church by serving pastors through personal coaching and church consulting. He also hosts FrontStage BackStage, a podcast and YouTube show, that helps pastors embrace healthy, well-balanced leadership as they develop a sustainable rhythm for life and ministry. Prior to joining the PastorServe team, Jason served as Vice President of Ministry Mobilization at Outreach, Inc., and as the Executive Director of the National Back to Church Sunday movement. Additionally, Jason served for nearly two decades in pastoral leadership, primarily as a lead pastor, in several contexts, including church plant re-launch, multisite church, multiethnic urban church, and an established suburban church. His experience as a lead pastor has provided numerous opportunities to coach and mentor pastors across the country. Jason and his beautiful wife, Monica, are the proud parents of six children and live on Anastasia Island, Florida. @jasondaye