Cornerstone Yuba City is a pioneering example of what a church can look like if it multiplies into the Metaverse Mission Field. Pastor Jason Poling leads this relatively small and older church located in Northern California. Within recent years, Jason’s volunteer leadership approached him about launching a church in the metaverse.
After praying, and exploring what the metaverse is, Jason led Cornerstone Yuba City to first launch a metaverse campus in a metaverse world called AltspaceVR (owned by Microsoft). Some months later, this small church in Northern California opened a second church in a different metaverse world called VRChat.
Cornerstone Yuba City, as a church, fully engaged in the metaverse mission field. But what does this mean? What are the tangible results of a church embracing the metaverse mission field?
Here is Jason Poling, Lead Pastor at Cornerstone Yuba City/VR, on the math of a metaverse church:
Friends, let me help you understand the missional power of the Metaverse as a tool.
(Note: it would usually be viewed as inappropriate to share attendance numbers from the physical church world because it tends to display the ego of the pastor. I am breaking with this convention in this post by sharing attendance numbers from our metaverse churches. I hope it is not for ego-sake. I’ll admit though, I am pretty excited about what these numbers appear to say God is doing through Cornerstone. But, I really do want to share these numbers for the purpose of encouraging more churches to at least consider exploring the possibility of doing Christ’s mission in the Metaverse.)
Cornerstone VR, our first campus in Microsoft’s Altspace, which is one of the least-trafficked VR platforms (but easiest to use), began on April 12, 2020, and has had over 16,000 join at least one event over 21 months (that means they at least popped in for a moment in one of our services or life group meetings).
Our second Cornerstone VR campus in VRChat, has about 2 times the attendance of Altspace, as seen in the final photo: about 7,300 have joined over 9 months. We launched in April 2021.
Since both of these metaverse campus launches, we have had over 23,000 “joins” to our church events where the truth of Christ has been proclaimed!
This is the power of the metachurch. Very rarely will even the largest megachurch have this many visitors in a 1- to 2-year timeframe. And they will usually not have this many completely unchurched visitors, certainly not the quantity of atheists, “nones,” Muslims, satanists, and Wiccans, etc., we have seen come to us in the metaverse.
But let me break down the numbers a bit for those of you who are interested. Of those joins over the past 21 months, 11,000 instances have been registered as staying in the Altspace events to more fully participate. [VRChat does not offer this kind of granular data, unfortunately. My best guess based on the 7,000 number above is that about 3,000 instances are from those who have stayed and 4,000 who have just popped in briefly.]
So about 14,000 total instances of what we might call in the physical church, “regular attendance,” have occurred in all events across our campuses, and 9,000 instances of brief “joins.” And this is totally different from livestream numbers because the personal engagement is more enriching and real in VR. Most of these 14,000, and a good number of the 9,000, are not just “watchers,” but are “engagers.” They are greeted, asked about their week, and invited by a regular to sit next to them, etc. And even some of these “brief joiners” will ask sincere questions about religion and God at the end of our services.
When the numbers are annualized, we find that little Cornerstone Church of Yuba City is sharing the truth of Christ with over 8,000 completely NEW people each year. And many of these have absolutely NO connection to Christianity or the Church! (Just look at my second picture that shows the more popular channels in Altspace. It is definitely a mission field and not a museum for the already churched.)
Also, it is important to note that approximately half of the regular attendees were unchurched when they stumbled upon CornerstoneVR. There are few church migrators and rechurched folks. (Even more incredible: this 50% number is just for Altspace. In VRChat, a very different “new tribe,” nearly 80% come in unchurched!)
But again, let me bring you back to the big story: 8,000 new, and very likely unchurched, visitors are hearing the truth of Jesus Christ in our Cornerstone metaverse church campuses each year! And now, we are among a growing group of churches doing the same. The gospel impact is becoming incalculable! (Which is an ironic thing to say, I know.)
So, for the price of an Oculus/MetaVR headset of $300, our little church of 300 people in Yuba City has been able to plant gospel seeds in over 8,000 souls each year among some of the most unreached people on the planet! (Note: we have begun to spend more than the initial $300 as we have increased our efforts to reach the worlds of the metaverse.)
Pastors, Evangelists, Christians… are you ready? It’s go time!
Thanks Jason! We’re going to unpack some of these stats, throw in some stories, and dive into what it’s like to pastor a church in the Metaverse on Metaverse Church NEXT. Catch Jason and me on Episode 2, coming Wednesday 2/23 at 12:30pm Eastern.