I’ve been dreaming about Virtual Reality Church for about 5 years now ever since the first time I tried on the Oculus Rift headset. So much so that when the .Church TLD opened up, the first domain that I bought was VirtualReality.Church as I was convinced that Virtual Reality Church was going to be a big part of the future.
Last night I had the privilege of attending my first Virtual Reality Church service led by my friend DJ Soto with VRChurch.com. To be honest, it wasn’t what I envisioned at all. It was much different.
You see, I dreamed of a physical church worship service being streamed out in 360 video so that it could feel like you were there.
What I experienced last night was much different. To be honest, it was so much more than I dreamed. What DJ has created is a church that fully exists in Virtual Reality.
Here’s what my experience was like:
I logged into the AltVR app after first creating an avatar and jumped into the VR Church event. When I arrived I saw about 20-30 people “standing around’ chatting much like you would experience in a church lobby. Except these people were all digital avatars. You could move around and click on people to see their names and then walk up to them and have a conversation. This is hard to describe, something you really have to experience.
Shortly after popping into the Virtual Church a friend named David came and said hello. I asked him where he was from and how he found the church. He said he was from Australia and found it listening to my podcast! What a start to my first visit! Then I connected the dots and realized that David is a friend I know (fairly well) having met multiple times face to face. This personalized the experience much more and then shortly after this interaction, the pastor (DJ Soto) came and greeted me personally.
Next thing I new a countdown clock popped up on the big screen and people began to gather in the virtual auditorium area. They started with a worship song that played with words on the screen and then an announcement time followed by a sermon led by the pastor. The service itself was less than an hour and much like a physical church service, but in Virtual Reality.
After the service the pastor announced that next week the venue will look different as they will be having baptisms and communion (can’t wait to see what that’s like). Then people stayed and fellowshipped together. This is probably what caught my attention the most. This was real, genuine fellowship and very few people left immediately after the worship service like you see in most physical churches. It was so interesting!
As I’ve processed the service comparing my expectations to my experience, I continue to be blown away. It’s my belief that this is fully church and there will be hundreds of Virtual Reality Churches in the next 10 years. And my opinion is also that these will be healthy spiritual communities for many. I believe this is part of the future of the church, but this is not the future of the church. This is an expression of the church in a unique new space that has not previously existed.
I believe that physical churches will launch virtual churches like this with avatars and a preacher preaching through avatars or even a preacher preaching on the video screen like you see in video venue churches. I believe churches will also live stream their services in VR or offer them on-demand so that those that can’t be there physically can experience in this immersive environment.
There are so many possibilities that are opening up and I’m more excited than ever! I would love for you to join me next Sunday at VR Church and experience it for yourself. I believe it will be a historic moment as I’m guessing this will be the first time that people share communion and baptism in Virtual Reality.