The more that we start to investigate the metaverse, the more that we will see the doorways of virtual reality and augmented reality, and the more that we, the Church, will recognize that there is a dark side to this technology.
What happens if we aren’t light in the darkness?
Recently I was speaking on the metaverse church at an Exponential conference, and a girl stuck around in one of the breaks to talk with me. She was visibly uncomfortable with the idea of the Church in the metaverse. In her mind, the metaverse was a place where the Church had no business going. Intrigued, I started by asking some questions about what her experience was in the metaverse, and it didn’t take long until we found the answer to the questions. This girl, before she found Christ, had multiple sexual experiences in a virtual reality platform called VR Chat, and even after finding Christ, she is still laden with guilt through the situation. In her mind, virtual reality is unredeemable. It’s the platform that we the church should avoid entirely. When I asked her if God can be found in virtual reality, she didn’t have an answer.
The girl was right: there are dark sides of the metaverse. But this doesn’t mean the church stops here. I’ve had metaverse experts tell me that an estimated 40-50% of people on the platform VR Chat are in private rooms having virtual sex. This is happening outside of the church. To be honest, it’s probably happening inside the church as well. I’ve had multiple conversations (with women and men) that were eerily similar to the story above. Some struggled in the metaverse before they were saved. Others struggled with the temptation while being a Christian. And while temptation is strong, this does not give us an excuse to abandon this meta mission field. Quite the opposite. It is because of the dark sides of the metaverse that we, the Church, have to go in. We have to be the light in the darkness.
Jesus stood as a beacon in the darkness.
I hear some of you right now: “But that doesn’t mean you can do church in the metaverse! We need to meet in person!” There are lots of ecclesiological, incarnational questions we can have centered around the metaverse church. And the day is coming soon when we will. While the Bible doesn’t talk point blank about virtual reality and metaverse, the Bible and Jesus do talk about the infinite value of a person.
Let’s look at John 8:3-8. I think we’ll see that Jesus had no problem doing things to upset established religion.
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” … But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
If you know scripture, you know this story. The Pharisees brought in someone who was caught in adultery, trying to trick Jesus. What I love about Jesus is that he typically has no problems upsetting the system. Flip over some tables. Draw in the sand. When the situation called, Jesus was ready to handle it in “his” way. And in this situation, he upset a bunch of Pharisees over restoring a woman.
This illustration could convey that I’m comparing the modern church to the Pharisees. I don’t mean that at all. I am drawing that comparison for anyone in the modern church who is preventing someone from reaching into the metaverse mission field. Why am I so bold here? Simply put, Jesus had no problem going to the people that religion rejected.
Let’s look at John 8:9-11:
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
If we look at the life of Christ, we see a God/man who went to those who were hurting. Most of the disciples and early Christians were a rag-tag group of sinners that God used to build his church. Peter? Mary Magdalene? Zacchaeus? Paul? Jesus didn’t choose the easy ones, he chose people from these dark areas. He trained them. He released them.
What if our mission field wasn’t our Sunday morning building?
What if we went to the mission field outside of our building—really, outside of every building? What if we truly looked at the metaverse as a mission field, not to condemn people but to connect people to the restorative grace that only Christ can provide?
Great questions. But, the main thing has always been the harvest.
We’ve established that the metaverse has dark places. That’s the very reason we’re called to shine light there. Does that mean we’re planting churches in the metaverse? Does that mean we should or should not disciple people in the metaverse? Does that mean engaging in the metaverse will hurt our weekend, in-person attendance? These are great questions for another day.
Today? The metaverse harvest is plentiful, and the workers are few.
With about 20 years experience serving the church in the digital/technological realm, Jeff loves working with churches. As passionate about discipleship as he is technology, Jeff uses his passion to help churches develop technology systems to bring people far from God closer to him. Oh, and he loves digital church and church online.