Leadership, Church Web & Tech, Mission Alignment

Second Life Virtual World – Will there be a Virtual Church?

second-life.jpgFor those who are unaware, the online virtual world industry is booming.  As America recently hit the 300 million mark, Second Life, launched in 2003 reached it's 1 millionth resident.  By the tens-of-thousands users are creating an alter-ego of their real self, they can choose to be ripped, lean and beautiful in another world.  According to one article:

The population and economy of Second Life have grown so massive that major corporations are paying attention. Companies such as Sony/BMG Music, Nissan and Toyota have converted marketing dollars to Linden Bucks to buy virtual real estate. Nissan built a Second Life campaign around its Sentra car, hiring programmers to create a gigantic driving course and digital cars that players can drive, as well as billboards and other promotional spots throughout the virtual world. Retailers including Reebok, Nike, Amazon.com and American Apparel have set up shops to sell digital as well as real-world versions of their products.  A few recording artists have used Second Life as a performing venue.  (Source: San Diego Union-Tribune Second Life)

You laugh at the absurdity of this?  Just last week Reuters news service announced that it would have a full-time “embedded” reporter covering the virtual news on a new Web site, www.secondlife.reuters.com. The economy of Second life recently reached $500,000 exchanged a day, and it's growing by as much as 15 percent a month.

How should the church respond?  Most would agree that Christians living missionally inside this community should be a witness as they build relationships online.  I imagine it won't be long until a church broadcasts a virtual service inside the game.  This wll most likely create more controversy than the use of video venues.  As the world embraces more and more virtual worlds, the church is going to be faced with many difficult challenges as how to respond.  Being the church requires that we be in community, but could it be a virtual community? 

20 Comments

  1. Greetings….

    I’ve got news for you…Church of Fools launched a few years ago with a virtual worship service that you could attend from anywhere in the world. Their site is still up thought the church as it was known closed and has reformed in a new location as “St. Pixels Church” An all-new virtual worship experience is being outlined and the church is expected to launch within the coming months.

    You can still go to Church of Fools to pray and listen to the music in their 3-D chapel but it’s no longer open for large scale visits with numerous people.

  2. Wow, this if very interesting. I have heard some small talk about virtual churches and communities. Reading this article it immediately made me think about a conference I went to yesterday. Ron Luce was speaking about the state of the youth generation and how advertisers and media conglomerates were pulling teeth to find new ways to reach kids. Not that this was not already common knowledge, but the statistics he had were what was shocking. Currently, statistics show there are only 4% bible believing Christians in this youth generation. In the next 5 years, if the church does not do something it is possible we could become an offical post Christian nation. You can get all the details by going to http://www.battlecry.com , which is Ron Luce’s main page for this campaign.

    -Brandon

  3. Hi,

    Funny, I was just talking with my wife about the whole concept of a church in Second Life two nights ago. I’ll discuss it with another lay preacher from the British Methodist Church and a Baptist preacher from Australia whom I know, all of use being people who earn our livings online anyway, and see if they are interested in forming a nucleus to look into it. Could be a way to reach people, to meet their needs, who are more open in the virtual world than in the real world. But one thing is clear: the “ram it down your throat evangelism” is the last thing we need. How long will it be before the followers of Joseph Smith, CT Russell, L.Ron.Hubbard et. al. get in there?

    Paul

  4. With Second Life hitting one million residents, this seems like a great place to build a virtual church with live services…..I found the following interesting:

    http://www.syndic8.com/~jeff/blog/?p=584

    Mark

  5. I wonder if this will be used as an excuse to play second life, or if this will be reaching out into the highways and byways to call them that go that way into the light. So often those who are known to be of the faith actually desire to be of the world and use such an opportunity to venture out into the world. Then they claim the world needs to relate to them to come to Christ. (Which is funny, since the picture Christ gave in the third chapter of John is that they come to the light that their deeds can be brought into the light, so they can change their ways. In other words… they who seek truth are looking to change their ways, not looking for someone they relate to.)

    Now, if someone is seeking to present Jesus Christ and present him in truth rather than making him presentable, this is something God could lead in doing. It would be interesting to see if the people doing this are pure in motive. Not seeking to make disciples like the ones Jesus said are blind leading the blind. Rather they would be people teaching other men to get established on Jesus Christ as their foundation. It would not be seeking to establish someone in a denomination either. Religions are the work of men. And we believers benefit through fellowship in great ways. God says he sets the members in the church as he will. There are some who teach you need to get established in a local new testament church, but scripture teaches us that no other foundation can any man lay than that which is Christ Jesus. It is the job of the Church to establish men on Jesus Christ, not to become the foundation. (Sorta like a wrench is to tighten a bolt… not to hold it in place.)

    We will see if the Lord is put first, and we will see for sure there will be times where he is not. Yet, like Paul said, if the Gospel is preached… in that I will still rejoice.

  6. Indeed there are already a number of churches in Second Life already. Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, and more. For one notable example check out the ALM Cyberchurch at Vine 164,192,114 or http://livingsounds.org, which conducts Sunday services and where one often finds impromptu discussion groups forming and peer counseling going on.

    In just one session, I found 17 other churches in Second Life, although only a few appear to be functioning communities of Christians.

  7. I’ve wondered this exact thing. I have not actually entered SL. But I have read quite abit about it now, and it seems like a medium ripe for bringing the Kingdom of God to bear in. It would seem like a challenge though, with all the temptations therein and the general resistance that missionaries might be met with. But these things have been braved by countless RL missionaries in the past.

    Btw, Chris mentioned “..Orthodox” churches, well a fellow named Scott has built and Orthodox style chapel somewhere: http://michael.doxos.com/index.php?id=0

    Interestingly, there is a gathering of church called the Church of Elvis that has gathered people to together for “worship” on atleast one Sunday. Sure, it’s farcical and poking fun at RL churches. But it is a reflection of some degree of the spiritual leanings/inclinations of SL citizens.

    Btw, I have a post on my blog on this topic that you might be interested in. Iow, I would value your input.

  8. Though I am not a member of Second Life, I have been pondering over the same question for a while. So far I have come to think that it is no longer a question of rejecting Second Life or embracing it, but accepting the fact that it is a “place” where people somehow hang out, some of them a considerable amount of their time. As Christians we are called to be witnesses, in every area of our lives, including I think, the “virtual” area of our lives.

    Apart from the above, I believe that Second Life could become a great place to be witnesses of Jesus our Lord. After all, he is also Lord of Second Life. Questions people have in real life, will have some reflection in Second Life, and they do take these along when they are there. Their search in the real world will probably continue in the virtual world. Therefore I think we should create a place in Second Life to meet this people, to be able to talk to them “face to face”. Maybe in a the form of a “house” or place (or whatever) where people can come to meet people who follow Christ, and just fire their questions at us. Maybe it will be easier for many people to open up their hearts with their search in virtual reality than in real life.

    I don’t believe that a virtual church can replace a real world church, and therefore that people should eventually be led to a real life church somehow. But even if there are differences in thinking about this, it does remain our call to witness about the Great News in 2ndLife.
    I have some more practical ideas about this, so maybe we can set up a discussion about this somewhere.

  9. I’m fairly new in Second Life but can report from there that there are in fact some serious churches already. One of them is called “Christian Church of Second Life”. It has presently 128 members, but the number is increasing very rapidly (since yesterday with 10 members). There is also a special church building in Second Life connected with this group, a fantastic place with a beautiful garden, I truly recommend you going there! The coordinates are (42, 251, 97). This is how the church is presented:

    “The Church of Second Life is a community church, classical in our beliefs, but contemporary in style. We base all things on the Bible. We believe that human beings have lost their way and can only find it again with God’s help. Our greatest joy is the discovery that God loves us and has provided us with the Way, the Truth, and the Life – Jesus Christ. God revealed the true path for human beings in His life, teachings, death, and resurrection.”

    I have also found several other Christian groups as well as places to get to know more about the Christian faith.

    So you don’t need to discuss how and when, it’s alrady there. :-)

  10. I would actually like to add one thing. I realized today that there is another Christian group in Second Life, called Second Life Christians, that has as much as 537 (!) members. It belongs to the ALM CyberChurch, located at (111, 126, 26), a huge church building on an island named Truth. They have just recently had meetings discussing evangelism in Second Life…

    See you there! :-)

  11. As a Christian who happens to be a 3D artist, I have been prayfully considering using second life as a tool to spread the gospel. We are called to be “wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves”, how is it that the world always beats us to these opportunities?
    We are in this world, not of it. That’s how I’m approaching SL.

  12. LifeChurch.tv has a great church on 2nd life. Check them out at their website.

  13. The dokimos cafe is at the region of Truth where the ALM CyberChruch is. We have friendly open discussions about faith at the cafe. This is definitely about reaching out to others love in building relationships through this virtual media.

    Those who are accustomed to evangelizing with less interpersonal cybermethods will learn about this in time. If reaching large numbers is what is desired, the ease of use of Second Life makes this more simple within the suited abilities to advertise and post events.

  14. Good discussions. In one “virtual” sense church is wherever two or more are gathered — albeit “gathered” in context of the passage is interesting. However, yes, the online communities, message boards, chats, and rich media experiences (i.e. SL, SoF, WoW, XBox online gaming, etc.) are a form of fellowship but not near as impacting as the life-on-life, face-2-face fellowship that we were created for. Virtual is a step, but toward what? Real life? Hmmm…

    Things to ponder,
    -ebrown
    (a.k.a. WeirdGuy)

    Nice blog. Keep it up!

  15. We’ve done a page on this at Internet Evangelism Day:

    Second Life

    It is a fascinating issue.

    blessings

    Tony

  16. I’m very dismayed at my Christian friends’ attitudes about SL. They see it as a waste of time at the very least, and at worst, a sinful way to spend your time. I don’t understand why talking to someone in SL is less legitimate, than, say, having a penpal or talking to someone on the phone. Anything can become obsessive. Television isn’t bad, but some things on TV are; the internet isn’t bad, but some things on the internet are, etc. They frown at evangelizing on SL- I repeat: they FROWN AT EVANGELIZING!!!!! Would they not be a missionary in a country that has bad stuff going on?? Would Jesus talk to people on SL?? Would Jesus use the internet, watch TV sometimes or use a telephone? Technology isn’t bad, but it can be used for evil intent.

  17. I found this after setting up an idea of using second life to bring live church services to everyone:
    http://www.knology.net/~rsanders

  18. I’m with you sonja. My husband has been building a Christian Fellowship & Retreat Center on 2nd Life for two years now… the ministry took off from the beginning. Christians on SL jumped aboard, donating everything from wood to furniture, windows and more. My husband met a pastor from Scotland in the process who streams his sermons from his RL Calvary Chapel Church to his Calvary Chapel: Second Life site. The Retreat is called The Fellowship of the Unashamed and it is quite incredible. People visit, get saved, others fellowship and minister… resources are available. There is a movie theater, art gallery… it is a very Christian atmosphere. Several times we’ve been contacted by members reporting “griefing” (vandalism), by those known on SL as “griefers”, not vandals. Two weeks ago my husband put up a website and it has also become a blessing to both the saved and the lost. We don’t much worry about sharing with our Christian friends, they either get it, want to know or shake their heads…. we know in our hearts the ministry that goes on, the outreach it truly is. “The Kingdom of God is advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” visit us at http://www.thefellowship-sl.org!

  19. The Christian community in Second Life®, though small compared to the 16.5 million residents SL now touts, is strong and ever growing.

    Importantly, behind each of those 16.5 million avatars is a very real person–with real needs, real desires, real fears and real problems. Because there is a certain level of anonymity (each person has a name–not their own), people can be whatever they want, look as they want and behave as they want–often in ways they may not in real life, As you might guess–just as in the real world–with so many people and such diversity comes much that is good… and unfortunately, much that is… well… not so good… and some are just plain bad! But, there is one thing that everyone in SL‚Ñ¢ has in common–they all need Christ! And that makes Second Life¬Æ one of the largest mission fields anywhere in the world! It is for this reason that the Fellowship of the Unashamed Christian Ministry was established–A calling from God to labor in His harvest.

    When I first joined about 2 years ago there was very little in the way of Christian venues and–as most familiar with SL know–very much of the not-so-good and even nasty venues for others. The Fellowship now has ~275 active members; Calvary Chapel: SL has ~665 and places like ALM add hundreds more. Calvary is a REAL Church, run by REAL pastors. Calvary holds two services each Sunday and each brings in close to 40 people–often more who can’t get in, as mainland SIMs only support 40 avatars at once.

    The Fellowship of the Unashamed Christian Retreat is an entire mainland SIM in Second Life® devoted to providing a clean, wholesome, safe environment for fellowship, recreation and the edification of residents while gently spreading the Gospel of Christ. The Fellowship offers prayer ministries, bible studies, praise ministries and through our ministry partner, Calvary Chapel: Second Life®, Sunday services, Lady’s Fellowship and Christian counseling.

    The Fellowship offers much to see and do–alone, or in the fellowship of friends–showcasing some of the best that Second Life¬Æ has to offer. Here you‚Äôll find a prayer lodge; a chapel; a meditation park; a drive-in movie theater with over 45 movies to choose from; a game park with board games and laser tag; a resource center with tons of free stuff; an amusement pier with cool rides; a coffee house to meet friends, or watch KMTV Christian television; an event pavilion with regular, live Praise and Worship; a sandbox for building and messing around; and much more…

    All that said, it’s also important to note that the SL Christian community is not without its problems. Ministry here is as difficult as anywhere else and many who start with good intentions later find they can’t stick to it and wind up giving it up. Because of the diversity I mentioned earlier, there is a small amount of division among some in the community, though not as much as I have witnessed in the real world. And most unfortunate, there are even a few “churches” that are run buy people who aren’t, in fact, pastors at all, but claim to be in SL. One must be very careful to discern what is what here–just like in the real world!

    If you want to find out more, please take a look at the Fellowship or Calvary Chapel: SL websites – http://www.thefellowship-sl.org and http://www.calvarychapelsl.com – or feel free to contact me directly at jedheckroth@gmail.com

  20. I have been an active member of Second Life since Jan of 07 and immediately began to reach out to others with the Gospel message. As a real life Christian counselor I have brought that experience and heart into this virtual world which is in effect real hearts and souls behind those pretty faces and odd names. To date the Lord has blessed my ministry immensely, having used me to lead seven new believers to Himself and to help countless others. I highly recommend Calvary Chapel church and LifechurchTV as the two most active and real churches there.
    They may be pixel feet but they are still just as beautiful bringing the gospel message to those who would never hear it otherwise…
    God bless
    Beacon BeCloud ( in game)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. Soul's Code » Catholic Missionaries Go to Second Life - [...] “church planters” have advocated the same approach for some time and some churches have already staked out digital territory, …

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