The Controversial Metachurch: Fighting the Wrong Battle

February 15, 2022

I’ve said a lot of controversial statements in my life surrounding church and technology. Comes with the territory. Truthfully, I’ve seen probably 10x negative feedback on the idea of a metachurch compared to anything I’ve said before. That being said:

“The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.” – Hellen Keller

To be honest, there are some decent arguments against metachurch, primarily being: we don’t know the mental health impact of living virtual lives. (Whether or not the church is in the metaverse space, this is still a problem by the way. I’d rather work to solve the problem than ignore the problem, but that’s just my opinion.) But for the few valid arguments I’ve heard, the majority of arguments are grounded in bad theology and misunderstanding of the technology.
  • “Jeff, you know that all new technology comes from fallen angels. It’s in the Bible!” – No actually, I didn’t know that. So, the Gutenberg Press was from fallen angels too? The Radio and Television that Billy Graham used so well? The Roman Roads were from Satan?
  • “Jeff, the metaverse will be the birthplace of the antichrist” – Sounds like a great movie for HBO Max, but I would love to understand the biblical context here.
  • “Jeff, everyone knows the metaverse is of Satan because God didn’t make it. Man made it. It’s authentically not God.” – Interesting. So let’s talk about the Biblical Temple (made by man), and all these man-made church buildings open on Sunday mornings.
I shouldn’t make fun. Forgive me. If nothing else, people are passionate on this topic. I would argue, that in 2022, their passions are misaimed. For a hot second here let’s stop and take the church in the metaverse off the table. Maybe in 2022, the majority of our churches should not focus on launching churches in the metaverse.

A New Way to Engage the Metaverse

Just recently I had a conversation with Tommy Prater, Digital Pastor at Church on the Rock in St. Louis. COTR has been streaming their church services online for years, even streaming their services with 360* cameras, so online audiences can engage in the service like they’re actually in the building. This Christmas, though, Tommy found a new way to engage the Metaverse. He got an Oculus 2 headset for Christmas, set up an account in a world called Alt VR, and found himself casually walking around the Metaverse. He started meeting people in the Metaverse, which led to casual conversation with people in the Metaverse. On Christmas Day, 2021, Tommy casually found himself talking about Jesus with someone he didn’t know in the Metaverse.
The world didn’t come to an end. The person was not a Christian, and did not cuss at Tommy for talking about Jesus. In fact, others came around Tommy, and asked questions. Tommy, on his first day in the Metaverse, shared Jesus in real ways with people who needed to hear.
This life-altering event for Tommy revolutionized his view of ministry in the Metaverse. Tommy had his first experience on the Meta Mission Field.

How Today’s Church CAN Wield the Metaverse

We’ve talked about this before. Just like buildings are a tool, and digital is a tool… the metaverse is also a tool. Your church needs to decide how it is going to utilize the metaverse tool. Questions you should be asking yourself:
  1. META DISCIPLESHIP: Can I disciple someone in the metaverse? What does discipleship look like in the metaverse? Does the metaverse allow for the healthy disciple-making relationships?
  2. META MISSION FIELD: What does evangelism look like in the metaverse? Is viewing the metaverse as a mission field a valid approach? What are effective ways to share Christ in the metaverse?
  3. META CHURCH: Can an ecclesiologically stable, Biblically solid church exist in the metaverse?

How Today’s Church SHOULD Wield the Metaverse

As controversial as #3 exists, I’m not sure the ecclesiology of the meta church, or even digital-only churches, can really be resolved in 2022. I’ve actually had pastors and scholars tell me that the ecclesiology of a metachurch may take 30 years to develop. We may not even get a solid answer on this until 2050! Why? Because while God is the same yesterday, today and forever… culture changes. As culture changes, so does our strategy. Church, historically, has been adverse to cultural change. Just look at how quickly churches are pushing for butts in seats again, post-COVID. This is actually why the Helen Keller quote rings true: The heretical struggles of today will be orthodoxy tomorrow. (Churches will struggle to be on the bleeding edge. Ecclesiological conversations are almost always reactionary instead of assuming the best and being proactive.)
So passionate metachurch supporters out there wanting to die on the battlefield of metachurch ecclesiology… trust me, don’t die on that hill. That is not today’s battle. As fun and frustrating as the meta ecclesiology conversation is, the meta as a mission field is far more beneficial for today. Tell the stories of the life change from the meta mission field. Celebrate the disciple-making and releasing that’s happening utilizing meta tools and resources. Because while people can argue ecclesiology all day long, they will never be able to argue what God is doing through you personally and those you’re reaching in the metaverse.
Naysayers of the Church in the Metaverse: take a moment. Breathe. Redirect your passions against the Church in the Metaverse and focus that intensity on reaching people in the Meta Mission Field. Maybe the time in the Meta Mission Field will give you a better understanding of the meta ecclesiology. As an aside, Church, maybe give some grace and understanding to those people, those missionaries, those churches that are experimenting in the metaverse. Lets pray that they are successful in better understanding the metaverse today, so we can effectively reach the people that our buildings are not reaching.
Jeff Reed

Jeff Reed

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.
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