The pastor of one of the largest churches in America has announced that they have joined the #Metaverse, digitally recreating their church so that those who wish to attend church services and interact using virtual reality may do so, in a move that has major implications for the future of the church and the use of digital media within the space.
Craig Groeschel of Life.Church, (LC) an 85,000 member, seeker-sensitive, multi-site based in Oklahoma that has nearly 40 locations, made the announcement on Facebook, announcing that they had joined the metaverse and that anyone was free to join their space. Unsurprisingly, their pastor and lead visionary is an awful preacher and habitual scripture- twister, making it par for the course that he’d be on board for something like this. While LC is not the first church to join the metaverse, it is by a factor of 1000 the largest and most prominent.
In a nutshell, the Metaverse is an online virtual world that incorporates augmented reality (AR), persistent virtual worlds which exist in real-time even when you’re not playing them, videos, the use of Virtual Reality headsets and hardware, 3D holographic avatars, and other means of communication. Though still in its infancy, as it expands and develops, it will begin to offer a hyper-real alternative to the world for people to co-exist in. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg changed their parent company name to Meta, and you can see more about their vision for Internet and Social Media 2.0 here.
Can’t attend a concert? Put on your VR headset and you will be transported to the live event, where you can interact in real-time with other people attending. Want to visit a museum? Walk around in a completely replicated structure with other people likewise visiting.
Don’t want to or can’t attend church, perhaps because you’re leery of COVID-19? You and your family can put on your headsets and be taken to LC, where you are meeting a friend who is also attending. You can watch the sermon live, then the both of you can have fellowship while hanging out in the lobby talking about the sermon. You can walk over to the virtual basket and give your tithes- real currency that will be deducted from your online account and put into the church coffers, or you can walk over to the wall and read the pinned bulletin, perhaps about the next membership meeting you can likewise attend remotely.
The metaverse is more than live streaming an event via zoom, but rather it is an alternate reality and universe persistently existing in the background 24/7 where you can be anybody and do anything you want.
Right Now LC is using AltspaceVR, a well-known platform owned by Microsoft that is cartoony in nature but is the stepping stone for something more realistic. Given the superstar status Groeschel enjoys within broader evangelicalism, we fully expect many more churches to make similar announcements within the next year, to the point that in the next decade or two, almost every church will be on board and will have a space in the metaverse.