There is a show on Amazon Prime that has as its premise the idea that people would upload their minds into this virtual world where they could live on. Their loved ones and people who worked for this company could enter into this virtual world by way of putting on virtual reality glasses. This idea isn’t totally new to the world of Hollywood. Movies have been portraying this idea of how the future would look for quite a while now. But that’s what movies do. That’s what Hollywood does. They want to make good, fun, and entertaining movies that cause us to get lost in the what if’s and possibilities, all while suspending our judgment of reality.
Now, however, life is starting to look too close to what we see in the movies. I say that in a small joking way, but also with seriousness. I remember watching Back To The Future 2 and seeing what the future was supposed to look like. I believe that movie was made in 1990 and was attempting to show what 2015 was supposed to look like: flying cars was the norm, hoverboards (that actually hovered), and pizza hydrating machines (I don’t know why I still remember this one, but it seems necessary!). It’s always funny to look back and see what we thought the present was going to be like. You could see the styles of the 80’s and 90’s flowing through their vision. The one part that we did seem to get right was the growing reliance and shift to technology.
So what am I getting at? I’m sure you all know that Facebook is now officially named Meta. Mark Zuckerberg is going all in on this new idea of what he believes is the future of social media and really just the way our culture today will interact with each other. In the simplest of ways to understand what the vision is of Meta, the social media giant is attempting to shift towards a virtual reality universe. Virtual reality is not something new that Facebook created, but the lengths to which they want to go are. Maybe you’ve tried virtual reality where you put on the glasses and you have been immersed in the world of the game. I believe Meta wants to take that concept and expand on it. So not only are we seeing the world we’ve been implanted in, but now the next steps are going to be to make it more and more real. Think empirically. So the goal is to be life-like with all the senses being a part of the experience. And if you can get everyone in on the idea from work, to play, to even church, then there’s no stopping it.
You’ll be able to go to meetings, but stay at home. You’ll be able to have the whole family together (even the ones who live on the other side of the world). Global pandemics will be less of an issue with our daily lives. At least, that’s the goal–to help enhance our lives.
What does that mean for the church? The life of a Christian? I can see some positives. We all lived through the Zoom year when Covid hit. So we saw a positive with technology in that we could still meet together (sort of). But for most, that got old really fast. That’s why, I believe, they are trying to tweak the virtual world and social media. The goal is to do everything possible so that no one will want to leave. Now, someone could make the argument that that is what the church does too (try to change things to keep people in the door).
So, once again, what does this mean for the future of the church? I believe there are greater possibilities now to be able to spread the gospel and get the gospel out. But as for the model and the core elements of what the church should look like and function–that can’t change. What I mean is, fellowship and believers doing life together, seems to be at the center of it all. Exceptions can be made for those who physically can’t make it to church for health, or other reasons outside of their control. The norm, however, should be people coming together. Take Acts 2:42-47 as a snippet of the first church. Every verse seems to hint at the necessity of people being together in person. It’s more than important. I would argue it’s essential. We were made to fellowship. We are created by God who (as some theologians like to say) is a community with Himself (referring to His Triune nature). Then who can forget the verse most often used to refer to presently being in church–Hebrews 10:25. The call is to, “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
I don’t fully know what I believe about where we are headed with technology. As I said, I definitely see some positives and tools that we can utilize to spread the gospel with ease and speed that is unmatched from previous times. But if we aren’t intentional to make sure the core of what we do is not front and center with everything, then we are in danger of becoming less connected and personal. Both essential aspects of what being in the body of Christ should be about. After all, the illustration of the church, given in 1 Corinthians 12, is of a physical body. Scripture is clear and intentional about the comparisons and illustrations it makes. A body works together, feels together, hurts and rejoices together, is physically connected together, and draws life from the same place. If we lose that, the various parts of the body begin to lose nourishment, the ability to sustain life, and eventually die. Presently we’re witnessing one of the biggest (if not the biggest) falling away, turning away, and exit from the church in history–the deconstruction of Christianity movement. I can’t help but think how so much of this–the importance of meeting together, the health of the church, living biblically consistent and loving–is directly related to our time. Something to think about.