Understanding The Metaverse
Before diving into the topic of “metaverse church” we must first examine what exactly the metaverse is in the first place. The metaverse is essentially an online “world” that seeks to incorporate virtual reality, augmented reality, and multiple other technological advancements to allow users to interact in a virtual world. Here is a piece of article from USA Today explaining this new phenomenon:
“It’s a combination of multiple elements of technology, including virtual reality, augmented reality and video where users “live” within a digital universe. Supporters of the metaverse envision its users working, playing and staying connected with friends through everything from concerts and conferences to virtual trips around to the world.”1
The idea is that you will have an animated character that enables you to interact in this world through technology in a wide variety of ways. As with every technological advancement, there will most likely be abuses and potential benefits if harnessed in the right way. Big tech companies such as Facebook (now Meta) are taking the lead in this effort which is a cause for concern given their past tendencies for censorship and technological abuses. Part of the way that USA Today discusses the metaverse illustrates my concern:
“As the metaverse expands, it will offer a hyper-real alternative world for you to coexist in.”
Seemingly, the metaverse very well could be viewed as a way to “escape reality” by plunging into a virtual world. Undoubtedly, this will be something that we must guard against as Christians. Technological advancements can be used for much good, but we must steward them well to ensure they are not utilized for evil at all. A virtual world can never replace the real one nor should there ever be an attempt to substitute the digital world for the actual one God has created. Which brings me to the primary point of my post today . . . the “metaverse church.”
A Purely Online Campus
Life.Church, frequently touted as one of the largest in America, is led by Craig Groeschel recently released a Metaverse campus. Now, I have multiple theological issues with Life.Church and Groeschel, I would never recommend anyone follow their teaching or his sermons. However, for clarity’s sake, I am going to lay those aside for the purpose of this article focusing specifically on this concept of metaverse church. What happens in this metaverse experience is that individuals strap on their virtual reality device and go to the online campus. There they are able to interact with other individuals also attending digitally and watch the in-person gathering on a large virtual screen.2 Basically, this is an online church with fancier technology and more elaborate experiences.
However, the entire foundation for this event seems to stem from Life.Church’s motto which is “we will do anything short of sin to reach people who don’t know Christ.”3 Undoubtedly, Christians should have a strong desire to reach the lost, but we must do so in the way Christ has commanded us not according to the opinions of our own minds. However, I agree with Carl Trueman’s sentiment in that I think this statement by Life.church is foolishly worded.4 To illustrate, when trying to determine how to interact in marriage, a husband and wife should not merely see what they can do short of sin, but rather seek to pursue the commandments of God in the Scripture together. Our objective as believers is to judge all things by the standard of Scripture seeking to live up to the commands of God and the calling we have been given in Christ. Therefore, the fundamental question we must ask when taking an action is to ascertain whether or not it is wise in accordance with the teaching of the Word of God. Has it been prescribed by Christ for His church? This brings us to the pivotal question for this post, is it biblical for a church to have a metaverse campus?
Theologically Examining The Metaverse Church
Fundamentally, the concept undergirding the foundation of metaverse church, or online church of any variety is that we have the ability as individuals to choose what the church should or should not be. There is no biblical basis for an online church, rather, those promoting this position ultimately appeal to the reality that we should do what we can to reach lost souls. However, this is Christ’s church and as such, He alone has the authority to dictate commands to it. Ephesians 5:23 states:
“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” -Ephesians 5:23
Therefore, the Lordship of Christ over everything and specifically His headship over the church is the foundational principle from which we can begin to examine the concept of digital church. Christ has commanded for us not to neglect meeting together in Hebrews 10:24-25. Obviously, there was not even a remote concept of an online church in the ancient world, so this text is discussing a physical meeting. Additionally, Christians are called to greet one another with physical friendliness and warmth in pure brotherly love as evidenced by Paul’s command to “Greet one another with a holy kiss (2 Corinthians 13:12).” We do not kiss today as a close greeting, but the point is that it is going to be impossible to demonstrate familial affection to one another unless we are physically together. Believers would also not be able to come to the Lord’s table together as commanded in texts like 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. All of these texts clearly demonstrate Christ has directed His church with clear commands to gather physically with one another. You cannot disciple one another, share each other’s burdens, break bread together, and love on one another via an “online church.” The metaverse church dangerously leads people to escape the real world and the living fellowship of the local church commanded by God.
The concept of meeting together online as a church stems from theologically inaccurate understandings as to the nature of the church and her mission. If humans are the authority for the church, then sure we would thus be free to do as we please. However, because we are servants of Christ who has perfect wisdom, then we must submit to Him who died for His bride because He is the authority, not us! He has commanded us to meet physically together to worship Him and encourage one another to grow in Him. Therefore, metaverse church is not a biblical concept, in fact, it is impossible to have a metaverse church. You may gather via this platform, but it is not church as defined by Christ. Undoubtedly, a sick individual who is physically unable to attend church may undertake means such as studying Scripture or watching a faithful pastor. Without a doubt, the Apostle Paul was prevented from attending the gathering of the saints while bound in chains during stints in prison for preaching the truth. Such situations are extenuating, but no biblical argument can be made for metaverse church or online church. We must gather together physically as commanded by our Lord for the glory of His name living with joy in obedience to His commands!
2 Here is the link to Life.Chuch’s page describing how this works:
3 Note that this quote comes from the link above.