I was having a conversation the other day with a friend (at a Starbucks, not in the Metaverse) and we ended up talking about books that really impacted us throughout our lives. As a former Christian bookstore owner, I could rattle off a ton of influential books throughout my lifetime. However, the books that are still impacting me today make a very short list.
Experiencing God, by Henry Blackaby, is one of those books. When I read it as a teenager it really shattered my worldview and opened up my eyes to a better understanding of God, really the Holy Spirit and His role in my life. Truthfully, before I read Experiencing God, I don’t think I understood the Holy Spirit’s purpose in the Trinity, and I definitely didn’t understand what my purpose was in the Kingdom. Earth-shattering is a word I don’t use lightly here. Thirty years later, I’ve gone back through the book several times either by myself or with a group, and even today the book still carries weight. When I need a reminder of the power of God, and a better understanding of who I am, I either go to the book of James, or I read Blackaby’s Experiencing God.
Which is why, when I started talking about Experiencing God with my friend and found out he had not read the book, my head and my heart exploded. Hurriedly I started hurling quotes at my friend. Quotes like, “The truth is that God can do anything He pleases through an ordinary person who is fully dedicated to Him.” Another favorite says, “Look and see where God is moving, and join him in His work.” And this mic-drop quote, “There are far too many people who settle for practicing a sterile religion rather than enjoying a growing, vibrant, personal relationship with the living God.”
The contrast of a sterile religion versus a growing, vibrant, and personal relationship with God stuck with me. Much of the criticisms of the Metaverse Church are surrounded by perceptions of a lack of a growing, vibrant, and personal relationship. The truth is that people on the frontlines of Metaverse tell testimonies that demonstrate this perception is not reality.
God is moving in the Metaverse, and I would encourage anyone to heed Blackaby’s wisdom and look and see where God is moving, and pray about joining him in His work.
“What would Henry Blackaby think of the Metaverse?” I asked my friend over coffee. I started to once again dive into Experiencing God’s “Seven Realities” and started wrestling with that question. Now, I wanted to compare that ideology to these new meta-realities.
So here are my observations on Experiencing God, Metaverse Edition:
Reality #1. God is always at work around you.
Okay, it’s easy to draw comparisons here to the Metaverse. I would suggest God is always at work in the Metaverse. Blackaby wrote this book back in the 70s, and I think the term Metachurch wasn’t a thing until 1991, but are we, as Christians, really ready to put a qualifier on this? Is God prevented from working in a virtual world or a digital community? Is God put in a box there? I know that change is daunting and the idea of a virtual experience is a BIG change, but I don’t believe the Metaverse surprised God. Will we deny the call on brothers’ and sisters’ lives who are willing to become all things to all people so that they may by all means save some?
Reality #2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
Can God’s love go into the Metaverse? I could see people disagreeing or even arguing that Metaverse relationships are not capable of a real and personal love. For some, they don’t see the authenticity of the Metaverse, or any digital space for that matter. Here’s what I would suggest: this is a contextual concern. Can God send His love in real and personal ways, even into the Metaverse? The contextualization is with us. Are we capable of receiving love from God in a virtual environment? Many of us have gone through personal challenges with health, mental health, loved ones, and more. We shared those things in a social/digital environment and many friends loved us with their words, their continual check-ins, and prayers, and we received God’s love through them while they lived across the country or in different parts of the world. Is the Metaverse so different?
Reality #3. God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.
There are really two challenges to this reality: Can God/Holy Spirit speak into the Metaverse? Is God working in the Metaverse? I’m going to be overly practical here: does the Holy Spirit convict us when we surf to a website we shouldn’t, or remind us to be forgiving of that troll on social media? If God can speak in those circumstances, then what’s different when we wear a headset? Then, can’t God work through us within the Metaverse?
Reality #4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the Church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.
Let’s break down how God speaks to us: Bible. Prayer. Circumstances. The Church.
- Can scripture transcend into the Metaverse? Well, 500 million of us have downloaded the YouVersion Bible App on our phones. Scripture already exists in the Metaverse.
- Can God hear prayers from the Metaverse? We’ve all seen God work through written word prayer, phone calls, and now Zoom or Skype… Why would prayer not cut across the Metaverse? People in the Metaverse occupy physical space, too.
- Can God interact with the Metaverse? If you believe that God cannot interact with the Metaverse because He doesn’t have an Oculus Quest 2, my response would be I believe that God can use us in Metaverse spaces to create circumstances (see Reality #3). This can lead us to engage with people in the Metaverse mission field, and can lead people to be receptive to God, even in the Metaverse.
- Can God speak through the Metaverse Church? Believe it or not, there are pioneering churches right now in the Metaverse. When you talk with them, they’ll tell you stories about how God is using their ministry to do incredible things. Over on THECHURCH.DIGITAL we have plenty of stories and interviews with Metaverse Churches, and how God is changing lives through Metaverse ministry. The takeaway here is that the mission field is ripe in the Metaverse. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
Reality #5. God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
“Crisis of belief” resonates with me, having experienced these several times recently as God led to some career moves. Moving aside from that, I can say publicly here I get more than 10 times the negative comments on Metaverse Church than any other religious/technological topic I speak on. In 2022 there are lots of church leaders that question the legitimacy of Metaverse Church. Let’s not even make this about Metaverse.
When was the last time God led you to a crisis of belief that required faith and action? This crisis is meant to challenge us. Faith and action drive us to change, allowing God to move through us into this new place that He is leading us to.
Reality #6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
I already hear the naysayers: Jeff, Blackaby says “major adjustments.” What you’re asking people to do is to stay at home and talk on a headset in a video game. That’s not a “major adjustment.” That’s just lazy!
You’re right, it can be lazy. But if we hung out in these communities and talked with these people, and prayer walked these worlds, weeping for the souls in these communities, I believe we would feel the Holy Spirit leading us to make major adjustments in our lives. This would be especially true in the area of real, personal relationships in the Metaverse. This begs the question: What adjustments need to be made in our lives for us to embrace the Metaverse mission field?
Reality #7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.
Can the Metaverse bring you closer to God? The Metaverse by itself? Surely no. Yet, true faith can bring us to a crisis of belief by challenging our worldview about the Metaverse and the people in it. Understanding God’s heart toward those who are searching for something to fill their emptiness could empassion the best of us! Right? That may challenge the tradition and heritage we were given. That is not dissimilar to the process that thousands of missionaries through the years experienced when they left their homes because their worldviews were changed through conviction. Couldn’t this find some of us heading into the Meta mission field with a heart of action to represent God’s love to real people in personal ways, walking alongside others in the Metaverse who are doing the same thing? And if we did this, then, through our obedience, could it not bring us closer to God as He accomplishes His work within us?
Not sure if Henry Blackaby ever experienced the Metaverse, but I believe his words would ring true of it: “Look and see what God is doing, and join him in His work. If Christians around the world were to suddenly renounce their personal agendas, their life goals and their aspirations, and begin responding in radical obedience to everything God showed them. the world would be turned upside down.”
What does the Metaverse mission field look like? Let’s meet someone who’s made major adjustments in his life to truly reach and engage the Metaverse mission field. Check out some of the learnings and resources we're doing over at Leadership Network's Metaverse Church NEXT.