The metaverse is a virtual online world where a person can live a virtual life through a custom character called an "avatar." But with the proliferation of online and virtual churches over the last couple of years, the metaverse poses an interesting question for followers of Christ: If an avatar accepts Christ as Savior, does the real person represented by the avatar spend eternity with God?
AFN spoke with Jeff Reed of Leadership Network, who says some real people are "planting" virtual churches in the metaverse – and are leading others to Christ through their avatars.
"We are seeing that happening in real life, where people are excepting Christ, where lives are being changed," Reed shares. "Atheists, agnostics, de-churched people, people who walked away from the building swearing they'd never come back – [those people] are starting to reengage with the bride of Christ through virtual reality headsets."
In fact, he says, "I can tell you names of Satanists who have accepted Jesus in a virtual reality church as a result of relationships that were developed over a 12-to-15-month period."
Reed says his metaverse pastors are empowering different types of leaders to reach different types of people for Christ in different environments, all while respecting the biblical model for church. "… Churches are planting a new expression of church in places like AltspaceVR, Rec Room, and VRChat," he explains.
The metaverse is truly a mission field, he tells AFN – but clearly a unique one.
"I can count on one hand the number of times that I've been yelled at by somebody in the metaverse," Reed shares. "The number of times I've been yelled at on social media? I mean, that's a very large number. So, it's not nearly as aggressive."
Leadership Network recently hosted a "Metaverse Church Summit" addressing the impact of yet-to-be technologies – as well as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AF), artificial intelligence (AI), cryptocurrencies and blockchain – on the Church and its mission. And in late April, the group posted the brief testimonial of the digital pastor of a Wisconsin church who initially objected to the concept of VR church services; but now claims that "a doubter can turn into a believer."
"If I were to sum up my past year doing VR church, I would do so by quoting Jesus: 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few' (Matthew 9:37)," wrote Stuart McPherson. "My advice … would be this: put on a headset, step into virtual reality, and witness the reality of the immense potential of winning Kingdom territory all over the world from your basement."