“Hey, Mike, what happened to your arms? You’re arms disappeared!” This is something that can be heard on a regular basis at the first VR church. Sure, you will also hear prayers and blessings. But you will also hear the preacher express concerns about a member being stuck in the grass. That’s because there can be technical glitches that are hard to ignore. These are the kinds of glitches that VR early adopters have come to expect.
CNN did a report on the latest trend in going to church. It seems one of the most inviting features of church 2.0 is that you don’t actually have to go at all. There have been traditional churches that have offered video services online for some time. You can even give offers via the online collection plate. But this is something entirely different.
One of these newer churches gives megachurch a whole new meaning. It has over 100,000 members and exists entirely in the gaming service called Twitch. Another gamer-based church has 15,000 members. The members pick avatars and remain anonymous. According to the epastors of these churches, the anonymity actually serves to bring people closer.
It should come as no surprise that the demographics of these churches skews to the young. One of the epastors founded his church at age 11. He came from a long line of churchmen. His ancestors were founders of churches and he followed in their footsteps. It is just that his church is combined with his passion for gaming.
There was little said about theology. In the entire video interview of the three leaders, there was a single mention of the non-denominational sector. Another said their church was studying the book of Luke. But there was nothing to indicate what doctrines or beliefs were important.
Young churchgoers tend to be less interested in doctrinal distinctives, debates, and orthodox adherence. It is more about community, acceptance, and a more generalized version of faith.
While membership numbers were mentioned, there was no hint of finances. The epastor of the Oculus-powered church used to have a position in a typical megachurch with salary and benefits.
The leaders of these churches still attended a traditional church in addition to their efforts online. But the new type of online church is clearly attracting many who would otherwise not go to any other church.
There are always concerns associated with mixing church and technology. In the case of VR church, it cannot be entirely inclusive as the only people able to attend are early adopters of expensive niche gadgets. Twitch church is only attractive to those in the gamer culture. So while going online has the potential for radical integration, it also has the potential for radical niches.