In a recent bog article for the Christian Post it is suggested that VR will enable the next major revival in the church:
In the bible we see that when God reveals something major to man he writes it down on people’s character and hearts and sends a person rather than a tool. That being said, we experience God’s use of many technologies such as pens, paper, printing presses, TV, video, music… which all contribute towards the spreading of a message. In this sense I submit my opinion that:
“Yes, VR could be used in revival for the church”
But I don’t believe virtual reality alone will trigger this, God is building people to become closer to him and more Christ like in nature. This change of character is far more important than the technology of virtual reality.
So what role can VR play in this? If it is character formation that were are interested in – the revealing of God’s truth into people so that it may be worked out relationally: what role can a device so introvert in nature play in this?
At this time I am working on a virtual reality Pslams experience and what it provides me is a lonely, quiet space where I can absorb the faith and confidence expressed in the Psalms, worship and draw strength from that such that instead of being panicked by difficult circumstances: I have more faith and can talk openly about waiting on God rather than being distracted and panicking. At this difficult time I am more stable, have better seen my relationship with God, and have had new spiritual experiences that are unfathomable, barely describable and give me hope for future growth. The virtual reality Pslams experience didn’t do all of this; but it was a carrier for it. This is an internal spiritual experience that can be drawn back into a relational environment and be helpful.
Church Leader Bill Hywells talks about the concept of self feeding in relation to catering to different audiences:
Bill sees that it is hard to cater to every audience and that the most advanced members of the audience must be encouraged to find material to ‘self-feed’ on if they are to remain planted in the house. People do this by building themselves up using books or music. Virtual reality provides a new way to absorb the word which is relevant to many in order to build themselves up in the word, in a way that is memorable and presents unique experiences that are a break from our day to day lives. If we presented a new and appealing way to ‘self-feed’ to members of a Church, to take onboard God’s truth into our internal selves then where would we get to? We are presented with another problem, the difference between truth we have internalised and truth that we are gaining through relationships. In fact without our relationships and daily struggles then we would have no motivation to change and grow, and VR will not present these struggles in any way comparable to being within a community of Christian believers.
There is a common saying that goes around Churches which is:
“Don’t bother looking for the perfect church. Because if you ever find it, and you JOIN it, then it won’t be perfect anymore!”
I would phrase that statement differently:
“Don’t bother looking for a church that seems perfect. Because if you find it you will feel unfulfilled because you will no longer have the challenges and struggles that help you become more like Christ”.
Our goal as Christians after salvation is to be transformed into Christ’s image, to become complete or perfect, and even though we do not reach it in this life, we press on towards this goal. In order to move towards this goal then we need the incentive to change that relational struggles provide us. Obviously we don’t always want to be beset by troubles and suffering and want to enjoy the good times; but there is also room for us to take joy in our trials because they are perfecting us to become more like Christ. In the end it is this that fulfils us as Christians and so without it we will slowly lose interest.
Virtual Reality can assist in bringing internal truth into us that can be acted out externally quite easily; but can it facilitate the kind of relational struggles that we encounter by being thrust into a group of people we may or may not like and be told treat them as family. Can it inspire that growth? At the moment I can conceive ways that it can assist; but at the end of the day we can take a virtual reality headset off if we don’t like the experience, we can’t just ditch the family of God if something happens that we don’t like. This is my basis for saying that virtual reality can be used in revival; but it will not be revival.