Want to Up Your Sermon Game? Try Preaching in Virtual Reality

May 31, 2022

Pastor, want to discover why you should be excited about preaching in virtual reality? Let’s go back to 1946.

Born in 1900, Edgar Dale was an American educator. After securing his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, he spent some time working for the Eastman Kodak Company. Dale was a part of some of the earliest documented research on how a film affected people as they watched the projection on the silver screen. Expanding his research, Dale spent most of his life as a professor at OSU, where he created the Cone of Experience in 1946.

Author: Jeffrey Anderson. Source

Sermons and the Cone of Experience

How many people remember your sermons? Enter Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience. Essentially, in the mid-1900s, Edgar Dale discovered that people would remember:

  • 10% of what they read
  • 20% of what they hear
  • 30% of what they see
  • 50% of what they hear and see (like watching a physical demonstration)
  • 70% of what they say and write (like participating in a hand-on-workshop)
  • 90% of what they do (as in simulate, model, or experience a lesson)

What’s interesting to me is that most churches today are operating out of the top half of the triangle. We’re reading books. We’re reading articles. We’re listening to sermons in the room and maybe watching the sermon online.

Pastor, here’s the hard truth. Generally speaking, according to Edgar Dale, only 30% of people will remember your sermon. Don’t believe me? Ask some people in your church what you preached last week? Two weeks ago? Did it stick? In my unscientific research, I have found that people seem to forget the previous week’s sermon by Tuesday afternoon.

Pastor, here’s the hard truth. Generally speaking, according to Edgar Dale, only 30% of people will remember your sermon.

The bottom half of the triangle is where things get interesting. We find that people will forget what they read, hear, or see. These are passive methods of learning. But, the bottom half of the triangle (where we see a much more significant percentage of people remembering) involves activity. Compare these two: only 20% of people will remember what they hear, but 90% will recall what they do. For a lasting impact, we should shift towards a participatory approach to preaching that’s more conversational, relational, or even experiential. 

The audience isn’t just an audience.

They’re participants.

They’re permitted to talk back.

To process.

To write it down.

To do it.

How do we provide all of that in a building? I’ve got some ideas, but that’s for another blog. Let’s talk about how that’s happening in virtual reality. 

Implementing Immersive Church Experiences in VR

Meet Oasis Church VR, a new church plant that exists entirely in VR. VRTiger and his wife, Midnight Ad, are bi-vocational co-pastors of Oasis Church.

I recently stumbled into Oasis Church VR and was blown away at their immersive worldbuilding. Their virtual reality services happen in an open-air theater, unlike anything I’ve ever seen in physical space. VRTiger preached his sermon while flying in front of what appears to be a 90-foot screen. And as immersive as that was, it wasn’t the best part. When the sermon was over, we went into another world where we experienced the hill of Golgotha from multiple perspectives. Here, the sermon became interactive, participatory, and almost conversational.

Oasis Church’s Worldbuilding Team is incredible. VRTiger and HeEnables, along with volunteers from Oasis and other churches, are active in building immersive worlds each week that reinforce the sermon. Again, 30% of people will remember what they see in your sermon, while 90% will remember what they experience. Virtual reality is a fantastic opportunity to create experiences, which is probably why Web3 technology is said to be ushering in the “age of experiences.”

You’re Invited!

Since we want you also to experience what VRTiger and the Oasis Church team are up to in the metaverse, we are doing Metaverse Church NEXT from the AltspaceVR world. I’ll be interviewing VRTiger (and team) in Altspace VRabout a sermon he has coming up from Leviticus, and we’ll explore one of his new worlds, a VR design of the Tabernacle. That’s right; he’s preaching Leviticus in VR. Pastor, when was the last time you preached Leviticus? VR is so powerful for communicators it’s even making Leviticus interesting!


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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