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Virtual Reality: The Great Equalizer

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Virtual Reality Church

For over a year now, I have been leading a church in Virtual Reality as a campus pastor for our IRL (in real life) church, and I know that, for many people, the idea of virtual reality church is still a hard pill to swallow. One of the most common questions I get asked when people hear that I pastor a church in VR is, “but, is it really church?” I will at some point address that question from a theological perspective, but for now that will have to wait. What I do want to talk about is one of the things that excites me the most about doing ministry in virtual reality, and it’s the fact that virtual reality is, in my opinion, the great equalizer of humanity today.

Usually when I ask people what comes to mind when they think of virtual reality, they respond back by saying “video games, cartoons, next generation, fake” etc. While some of those are accurate (VR can be used for playing video games), and the environment we do church in is very cartoonish, there are some things VR is not. It is not only for the next generation and, while it is safe to assume some “fake-ness” in VR, I would strongly argue that there is more authenticity in VR than in real life.

In 1 Samuel 16:7 God says to His prophet Samuel when anointing the next king of Israel, “The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks a the heart.”

There is a classic saying, “birds of a feather flock together.” Meaning, we tend to gravitate towards those who are like us. We choose our people based on similar age, season of life, interests, style, etc. It’s because of this that we have a tendency to avoid those who are not like us. We also have a tendency to have shallow relationships because we want to be liked and accepted. Many of us will even change aspects of who we are in order to fit in with those by whom we wish to be accepted. But what happens when the person standing before you, in avatar form, is green from head to toe? I mean, their clothes, their hair, their skin color? In real life, if someone made their appearance to look like that, I’m sure many of us would be taken aback by that and maybe even choose to avoid them. But in Virtual Reality, not only is that appearance accepted, it’s expected! It’s because of this kind of culture that I say VR is the great equalizer. When we are no longer taken aback by the appearance of a person, or judge them from a superficial, surface-y, level, we are rewarded with the opportunity to get to actually know the person and not just build an opinion of them based on what they look like.

In virtual reality, we are awarded the opportunity to see people the way God sees them, getting to know them at the heart level and not just the surface outward appearance level. When we get to this level of knowing and being known, the fake-ness is stripped away because there is no longer a need for it. An authenticity at a level which is rarely seen in real life is achieved, and true relationships can be established. True care can take place, and ministering to people can be more effective.

I love that VR has evened the playing field on humanity. Hesitation and skepticism to church in VR will, I’m sure, be around for a while. This is a new thing, and all new things, as mentioned earlier, are a hard pill to swallow at times. But what can’t be ignored is the real opportunity to love others the way God has called us to love others, not because they are like us, but because we are truly being known and seeing each other at the heart level, the level in which God sees us and knows us.

Digital Tools and Apps that Help Us
EP213: The EPIC Church Experiment

About Author

Stuart McPherson
Stuart McPherson

Stuart McPherson is the Digital & Altspace VR Campus Pastor at Lakeland Community Church in Lake Geneva, WI. He has been in ministry pastoring for 10 years. Additionally, Stuart also is the host of the “Stu on This” Podcast and Co-host of the “Life in Rhythm” podcast.

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