Virtual Downs and Ups

Shockingly (not really), virtual attendance is down across the church landscape. The biggest change? No COVID restrictions or recommendations. The numbers are still quite startling. Gallup puts the percentage at around 5%.

However, I suspect a weird twist in the digital realm, where many say they are not attending church, because they (like so many others) are stuck on the building (which is successfully bad discipleship for the traditional church). The other major subset doesn’t consider what it does church, but someone like John Wesley with his classes would likely disagree (and I’m talking about collective arrangement, and not saying that John Wesley would endorse virtual ministry, though I think he would).

The traditionalist camp might look at the 5% and say, “See? We don’t need to do this anymore.” It’s the easy button.

Play Next

The truth is that there is nothing to be gained by arguing about it. I’ve given up arguing about it. Perhaps it was too much Snow Crash, Gibson, ShadowRun, Ready Player One, and so much else. I know that the tech will change everything, and I want the church to get ahead, rather than fall behind. The next domino is about to fall.

Play Apple

We are getting really close to Apple releasing its first VR headset. It looks really nice. It is really expensive. Even the expensive (at the time) HTC Vive Eye Pro was cheaper.

The specs look great. It’s a big change, but we’ll see if Meta’s Quest 3 and HTC’s next sets will be significantly different when it comes to actually being in VR.

The concern for someone like me who (sadly) remembers AOL and its walled garden, is Apple’s tendency to lock-in its consumers. I’m curious to see how it actually plays out.

Pay to Play

The church, theoretically long an advocate for the poor and needy, will find itself in an odd place. The new demographic reality (according to Gallup) is that the gap in church attendence is widening between the high school educated and the advance degree educated, and it’s not what you think.

The more highly educated (and, thus, generally better off) are those that are more likely to be religious service attenders. The thoughts of many intelligentsia over the years that more education means less religion is not accurate, it seems.

This implies that the more educated and wealthier will have more disposable income. They are the ones who will also be buying the Apple VR headsets in a greater proportion (most likely).

It’s the weird and awkward tension of church life. As much as we want to think that the church isn’t nickels and noses, without both, the church cannot fulfill its mission to bring the Gospel to the (meta)world.

Drive to VR

As many of its people begin to adapt to VR as they adopt VR (the whole Apple is the best thing ever culture will drive that), what will the church do? Will it try to relegate VR to the evildom of D&D, Magic the Gathering, video games? Will it abandon its people, again, to the world so that the world disciples them better than the church? Will it say, “don’t do that, that’s not real,” and then discover that perhaps leaving it alone was bad (e.g., movies, dancing, secular mu?

Will VR dominate the church? Probably not for a few years. However, the church is already far behind wondering, processing, and accepting what VR will be bringing us.

Digital church (live streaming, Discord, Facebook conversations, web calls) is inadequate in many ways, in comparison to in person. That actually isn’t the church’s choice. People are there. The church should be there.

It is the rapid change of technology that the church ought to prepare for. Whether it is full immersive VR, tactile suits or rooms, or brain implants, the people will be there. So should the church.

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