A Continuing Concern
Curiously, I discovered the most widely read post on this blog is an article I penned at the beginning of this year diving into the subject of metaverse church (check it out here). I do not believe the popularity of that post was due to my having exceptionally profound depths of analysis. Rather, it seems much more logical to view it as indicative of how intriguing many find the concept of metaverse church. But, that leads me to the question of why? What is it about metaverse church that makes individuals want to strap a pair of goggles onto their head instead of going to meet with fellow believers in-person at a local congregation?
I suppose there are many different aspects involved as to the “why” of many individuals as it pertains to this issue. However, I want to try to highlight some of the most prominent. Bad fruit like metaverse church stems from faulty theological roots. Therefore, if we want to see what is going on with the fruit of our metaphorical tree, then we must seek to dig down to the core root of the issue. So, let’s dive into one of the first major reasons people walk into a virtual church building with a digital avatar instead of driving to a faithful local church.
One of the leaders at Life.Church, Bobby Gruenewald made this comment about individuals attending metaverse church:
“’Maybe they have health limitations, so they can’t leave their home, or they live in a part of the world that makes it difficult to meet in person,’ he continued. ‘Others may be too intimidated to walk into a church building, but they’re comfortable exploring church in an online environment.’”1
Now, I am not going to address the issue of someone who is sick or has some kind of health issue using a digital device temporarily. Obviously, if you have the flu or whatever health issue going on where you cannot physically go to church, then you should find a faithful pastor to listen to via a digital platform if you are able until you are healthy again. That being said, notice how he discussed the ideas of intimidation and comfortability. Clearly, he lists the thought of an individual finding the comfortability of a metaverse service as one of the appeals of this platform. This concern brings us to the fundamental nature of the church. More so, it brings us to the foundational nature of the Christian life. What we must assert without hesitation is that Christianity is most certainly not about our personal comfort or our convenience. Christ calls us to take up our cross which, to say the least, is not a statement of an easy journey (Matthew 16:24).
More than that, we gather together as the body of Christ to worship God. Bowing before the Holy God in worship and adoration is not meant to be a comfortable experience. Certainly, a joyful one as we exalt Him, but not a comfortable one. Ezekiel fell on his face when he encountered God (Ezekiel 1:28). Isaiah realized his sin and cried out “woe is me” as he realized he was unclean (Isaiah 6:5). The prophet Habakkuk trembled at the plan God revealed (Habakkuk 3:16). What no one in Scripture ever did when they encountered the living God was sit back in their pajamas plopping down in their recliner out of comfort.
Another primary reason metaverse church, and digital church in general, advances in popularity is because individuals believe they have the right to determine what the church should and should not be. They believe the church can simply morph along between physical and digital structures or whatever changes should be adapted over time to fit the cultural norms. If society is creating a “new space” or “trending idea” then these individuals believe it is up to the church to capitalize upon it.
Ultimately, however, the issue that comes to play on this point is that the church is not our own, but belongs to Christ. He is the Lord who died for His church and has risen triumphantly from the grave. As the ascended Lord, it is His prerogative to determine what He does and does not want His church to do and be. He has commanded us to take physical actions like partaking of the Lord’s Supper, showing pure familial love towards one another, and praying for each other. It is His Word which has declared we are to sing praises to Him and sit under biblical preaching by gifted men. These things require the presence of the local church. You cannot have a digital baptism or Lord’s Supper. Furthermore, the church is not called to simply parrot the newest trends of the world. If the world wants to have meetings via the metaverse, that does not mean the local church should start buying up virtual reality goggles to jump on the bandwagon. We follow Christ, not the world. Pragmatic churches that hold the world, not Scripture as their ultimate authority, are not true churches. The true church is the pillar and buttress of the truth seeking the glory of the Lord (1 Timothy 3:15).
We can pinpoint many reasons why individuals choose to attend metaverse church, but I think many if not most of those would fall somewhere under the two categories of personal comfortability and pragmatism. As Christians, we can sincerely learn from this pitfall. How many actions do we take in our own lives where we seek comfort instead of faithfulness? In what ways do we believe certain ideas or take various actions merely because the world does even though we have no biblical grounds for doing so? The metaverse church should not merely cause us concern, but also reflection. It should prompt each one of us to go to Scripture to see how the church and each individual Christian are called to live. Then, we should strive to go out in obedience to that pattern for God’s glory. May we do away with new and passing fads like the metaverse church, and strive to be faithful to what Christ has commanded of us as His people!