There’s a misconception that virtual churches compete with physical churches. The fear is that people will stop attending church if there is a virtual option. However, are we seeing this happen today?
A Different Audience
The people reached by metaverse churches generally don’t go to physical churches. They can be atheists, agnostics, and de-churched people who are not ready or willing to cross a church’s doorstep. Virtual reality churches have seen people getting saved who have not been in a physical church building in 10 years.
The fear is that people will stop attending church if there is a virtual option.
The virtual church is not in competition with the physical church, nor is it a distraction from the physical church. If you let it, virtual reality can be an extension of your physical church’s mission and vision. Sometimes we have to do different things to reach different people.
Microchurch networks across America and churches worldwide are adopting this mindset. Tens of thousands of people are meeting together in Korean churches, while less than five are gathering together in mud huts throughout India. To say that one mode of church is better than the other is not our call.
Different, but Familiar
Many virtual reality services feel like a multisite expression of a church. Participants are watching the video of the live service with an active community. For example, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale has been streaming video from their weekend services through a VR Platform called BigScreens. Similarly, Lakeland Church in Wisconsin streams its church service into virtual reality with AltSpaceVR. The church expression and results at Lakeland and Calvary Fort Lauderdale are very similar to their physical campus experience. Calvary VR is reporting over 200 salvations from their VR expression of church over the past 18 months.
Doing Different Things to Reach Different People
We’ve talked a lot about Cornerstone VR, which has been doing church in virtual reality for a few years. Very little of their church service is video-based. Instead, it’s live teaching in virtual reality. The lead pastor, Jason Poling, wears a VR headset and preaches the service live in VR. Cornerstone also has a VR Chat campus for those who are not receptive to live teaching. They use sermon video clips with a more conversational approach. Participants in VR Chat don’t want to listen; they want to talk. Cornerstone understands that, even in virtual reality, they need to do different things in different worlds to reach different people.
Virtual reality can be an extension of your physical church’s mission and vision.
Ultimately, to expand our reach and impact, churches today need to experiment. We need church leaders who are passionate and with missional imagination to come up with new ideas. None of this—including the virtual reality, microchurch, or digital church—is competing with the physical church.
In June 2000, Jeff led his first online Bible study, taking 75 people from around the world through the book of James using a text-based system called Ultimate BB. He was doing digital ministry way before it was cool. Founding THECHURCH.DIGITAL in 2018, Jeff’s passions have evolved into helping churches (and individuals too!) find their calling through digital discipleship, releasing people on digital mission, and planting multiplying digital churches. This pursuit will expand as Jeff (and others) create the DigitalChurch.Network, an organic, decentralized network for digital expressions of church, globally. Jeff also serves as the director of Metaverse Church NEXT for Leadership Network, and works closely with Exponential and other globally facing, multiplication-friendly, gospel-centric organizations. Jeff married his high school sweetheart, Amy, and has two kids and a dog. They live in Miami, Florida.