Virtual Reality Church

My Experience at Virtual Reality Church

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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.

The Future of Live Streaming

I started live streaming about 7 years with about the lowest possible quality through a platform called Mogulus, which is now known at Livestream.com. It was one of the defining moments for me as the lightbulbs really began to go off about the possibilities of ministry online. We were broadcasting our college service and the college students who were off at college were able to stay somewhat engaged not just with the teaching, but also with each other through the live chat. It was so much fun! 

That hobby of a ministry initiative quickly turned into so much more. Now we live stream 6 of our weekly services to thousands of people each week all over the world. Our streaming mediums have also recently changed as we not only stream in HD through our Online Church platforms, but we also stream shorter segments of our worship services through Periscope as well as all kinds of other things like baptisms and Q & A with our pastors. 

As we look to the future of live streaming, I think as much as it has changed in the past 7 years, it will change even more in the coming 7 years. I think we will see customized experiences like choosing your camera shots live as well as virtual reality streamed experiences.  I think the mobile streams will also continue more and more and the content that we stream will go far beyond our services into small groups, leadership meetings, choir practices and everything in between. 

I think the reality of all of these streaming platforms is that we will be able to live stream what is going on seemingly anywhere and everywhere, anytime and all the time. This might freak you out a little bit.  Maybe it should.  Rather than focus on the negative possibilities, let’s focus on the incredible ministry possibilities! 

The Great Commission tells us to go into all the world and make disciples. It’s hard for me to imagine a technology more effective in fulfilling the great commission than live streaming. Can you? 

Virtual Reality is Moving Fast

Mark Zuckerberg recently said that “the future is virtual reality.” It is sure starting to seem that VR (Virtual Reality) is less about the future and more about the present. You can watch VR content easily and affordable at a pricetag of about $5 with Virtual Reality Cardboard from Google and Samsung’s $99 VR Goggles will likely be one of the hottest Christmas gifts this year. 

I first experienced VR with the Oculus Rift goggles about a year ago and have been fascinated ever since. It is an immersive experience unlike any other media I’ve ever engaged with in the past. You really have to experience it to understand. 

I will be blogging more about VR in the coming weeks, but I encourage you to go an experience VR for yourself whether buying the $5 cardboard or visiting a friend with Oculus Rift goggles and begin to dream about the possibilities around this technology for the church. 

Do you think there really could be a Virtual Reality Church? I do, and I think it will be here before you would expect.