Many committing lives to Jesus at ‘metaverse’ church

In December US multisite megachurch Life.Church announced that it had brought church to the “metaverse” — an online, 3-D, virtual reality world where people can interact through avatars — virtual representations of themselves. 

Nearly 100 people from various parts of the world attended the first service and two of them gave their lives to Jesus. Since then attendances have more than doubled and people are continuing to commit to following Jesus and are making personal connections.

A forerunner in pioneering innovations for the global Church, Life.Church’s YouVersionBible app has been downloaded more than 100 million times from Google’s Play Store.

Reflecting this forerunner approach, Life.Church online leader Greg Gackle recently commented: “At Life.Church, we’ll do anything short of sin to reach people for Christ. We do things that no one is doing to reach people no one is reaching.”

 He has more to say in an interview published on the website of YouVersion For Churches — including guidelines on how churches can set up their own services in the metaverse.

“We’re also consistently keeping an eye on technology because we’re eager to innovate and adapt where we see mission opportunity. We believe technology can be leveraged in powerful ways to help people engage with God.

“We’ve explored VR in the past and launched a campus in Second Life back in 2007. But what piqued our interest recently was tech companies’ virtual reality investment combined with the increased affordability of VR headsets. This seemed to give VR momentum, and it was something our team wanted to explore.

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“Plus, we were burdened that there wasn’t a huge church presence in the VR space yet, and we saw that as an opportunity to be the church for a new audience,” says Gackle.

Commenting on the uniqueness of the medium, he says: “The whole idea of these virtual realities is to create and immerse yourself in different worlds. Because of the experiential nature, people are really open to exploring church. 

“They’re more likely to go check out a church service and see what it’s like. This creates a great opportunity to meet new people and engage in faith conversations. These conversations tend to be more transparent and vulnerable than what we experience when meeting someone new at a physical location because an online environment creates a sense of anonymity.

“VR is also an exciting blend of in-person and online services because of the interactive elements.” 

On the metaverse page of its website, Life.Church has this to say about what it is like to attend church in the metaverse: “All the people you see are present with you at the same time in the service. You talk to them avatar-to-avatar and hear their real voices. You can even see their facial expressions and body language. One-on-one digital conversations take on a whole new meaning in virtual reality.”

Ryan Sharp a pastor of Next Steps at Online provides some feedback on the metaverse church journey so far, through posts on Instagram.

Posting on the inaugural service he said: “97 people came from all over the world today to our metaverse service! This kind of person to person connection in a digital space is unlike any other online gathering you’ve experienced. The best part of today is that 2 people gave their lives to Jesus and you can see it happen on the video! Thank you Jesus! I even got to connect with one of them as they were leaving and pray for his family who is going through a tough time right now. God is present in digital spaces because His church is there spreading the hope and grace that only Jesus brings!”

“This community is growing and many are devoting their lives to Jesus. We are just getting started!” he says in a January 10 post.

And posting about their most recent service, he said: “Today at Metaverse we had to open up a second room because it got too full of people ?. Here’s a few quick stories from today:

“The first person that gave their life to Christ at Life.Church Metaverse came back this week and said God has answered his prayers! After he made that decision just a few weeks ago, he wanted prayer for his brother’s job and his father’s health. Both situations are full of God’s miracles over the last few weeks. He was so excited to be back and loves being a part of this community.

“Larry, a LifeGroup Leader in Indonesia, came today and met 4 others who were there from Indonesia ??. Here’s the crazy thing: None of them knew each other before today! Now they are all joining Larry’s Indonesian LifeGroup.

“During the service, members of our team went to other common space worlds to invite people to come. Multiple people followed them back and attended for the first time!

“Most of all, we are celebrating the 6 people who made a decision today at Life.Church Metaverse to follow Jesus!”

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