This article originally appeared on Stuart's blog.
This is going to be a crazy statement, but I have been a Virtual Reality Pastor for over two years now.
When I was asked to spearhead the launch of a church campus in Virtual Realty two years ago, I never would have expected that I would be here today talking about how our 6 month trial has turned into a two year adventure. And I would have never guessed how much I would be loving it. But, here I am, and here you are reading this blog.
There are many things I have learned in the past couple of years about doing virtual reality ministry and, to be honest with you, there are still many more things I need to and will be learning about it. It is kind of the nature of this world. Things change constantly. Pivots are made instantaneously. Platforms are here today and gone tomorrow, and learning how to manage the trolls, don’t even get me started! But through all the chaos that comes with doing ministry in virtual reality, there is a great need for the church to find herself in the virtual spaces.
Now, I’m going to make two assumptions right off the top: I’m assuing if you are reading this, you are involved in the church in some way, whether that is as the lead pastor, an associate pastor on staff, or a volunteer; my second assumption is you are reading this either to see what heresy I may be putting out into the world for everyone to see, or you have a genuine interest in figuring out how and if your church should get into the VR spaces. So here are three reasons your church needs to get into Virtual Reality.
The user base calls for it
The anonymity demands it
Businesses are validating it
1. The User Base Calls For It
According to theacademyofanimatedart.com, the VR user base grew to 171 million users in 2022. In the U.S. alone, the VR user base was near 64 million users. Now I grew up in a city that had a population of 400,000+ people and, at that time, the city had many local churches in the area, yet I grew up in a church plant. Why did someone plant a church in a city where churches already existed? Not only were they called to it, but at the time 90% of the city was still lost. Even one more person coming to know Jesus was worth the effort to start a new church. Let’s be honest, doesn’t that accurately reflect the herbiest of God?
Currently, there are roughly 20 active churches in Virtual Reality, the majority of them running their services in platforms like VR Chat, Bigscreen, RecRoom, Spatial.io and Horizon Worlds. That’s 20 churches trying to plunder hell and populate heaven by reaching the 171 million people. Let’s call it for what it is, that’s a horrible ratio, not to mention that the platforms listed are a mere fraction of that 171 million user base, which means there are many people yet to be reached across the metaverse.
If a city of 400,000 plus people called for another church to be planted, then the virtual world with 171 million users definitely calls for another church to be planted.
2. The Anonymity demands it
One of the greatest criticism I hear about church in VR is that it “isn’t real”, these are just cartoon video game like figures, and the people don’t think any of this is real or take it seriously.
I strongly beg to differ. Two years into this and I would say that the anonymity that comes along with VR ministry actually allows for more authenticity and transparency the likes of which we don’t see in the physical manifestation of the church.
This anonymity has allowed me to have deeper conversations with people instantly that would normally take months (if not years) to get to face to face. It allows the minister to address the root of many of the issues people are facing because the individual can more openly express what they are gong through without the fear of judgement or rejection because their face isn’t being seen.
What many of us in VR ministry have seen because of the anonymity of VR, is people bringing their questions about faith, God, and the Bible to the table. Many people who had been plagued with questions for years but felt uncomfortable walking through the doors of a physical church are finding their way into VR churches and bringing their questions with them. Confusion is turning into clarity and misconceptions are being replaced with truth.
The anonymity of the VR platform doesn’t deny the need for the church, it demands the need for the church.
For more on the benefits of the anonymity nature of VR and the church, check out episode 008 of the Metaverse Church Podcast
3. Businesses Are validating the need for it
In the same article from theacademyofart.com, they project that 23 million businesses will rely on Virtual Reality in 2023. If this is true, then the more that businesses get into virtual reality, the more it will validate the church’s need to exist there.
Now you may be wondering how I got to that conclusion. Well, simply grab your cell phone (if you’re not already using it to read this blog), and with that you just proved my point. The fact that you have this powerful little device that was originally designated to the business world, is now mass produced for the common everyday person and goes to show how quickly things can blow up thanks to the business world.
In the early 2000’s, businesses began providing their employees cell phones in order to enhance productivity and remain connected with their employees after work hours. Now of days, the cell phone is a common tool that many of us have at least one of, and many of us are willing to spend $1000+ for it. As Virtual Reality becomes more common and businesses buy into it, I expect the 171 million person user base to sky rocket in the coming years. And, if I’m right, then the business that are blazing the trail bringing people into the virtual reality spaces will only validate the need for the church in those spaces as we go into the virtual reality world to make disciples of all nations.
What do you think? What are some other reasons why Churches should be in Virtual Reality? Share your ideas below or on social media.
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