Meeting God in the metaverse

By Jeff Reed |
Julien Tromeur | Unsplash

Billions of people. Mission fields larger than India and China combined. Massive percentages of atheists, agnostics, and de-churched. Yet the church is hesitant to go? Anyone else confused? 

Hold on. Let me back up a little bit.

“Jeff, your view of digital is so small.” I was not prepared to hear those words. 

In 2021, I was championing digital discipleship through (TCD). Through TCD we helped thousands of churches learn to thrive, grow, and multiply in the new COVID world. The first Bible study I ever taught online was way back in the year 2000. 

Since then, I dedicated decades of my life to the idea of being a church in digital space. So, when a missiologist from a globally recognized organization called me out for my limited view of digital, I picked my ego up off the ground and listened to what he had to say.

He was right, by the way. I did have a small view of what God could do digitally. 

God has been preparing the digital and the metaverse mission fields. But we are missing the opportunity that God has clearly laid before us, because of antagonism toward digital ministry. Matthew 9:37 which says, “The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few,” becomes sadly ironic. 

In a mission field where billions of people interact, the Church is reluctant to go. But it’s in these digital environments where we can reach the world. And a handful of innovative church planters with little to no support are advancing on the digital mission field.

The Digital Church Framework

TCD, and NewThing Network partnered together to launch the Digital Church Network ( to help pastors, planters, and practitioners understand ministry in the digital community, and see the ways digital ministry is different from traditional models in physical spaces. A healthy digital church utilizes content to drive people to community where there is an emphasis on disciple-making that intentionally helps people discover their missional calling in digital, virtual, and even physical spaces.


A common misconception is that digital churches are against physical contact. However, the expectation of physicality does play a part in reaching the digital mission field. What sets digital churches apart here is that they are not limited to physicality. The goal is not necessarily a physical meeting. Instead, it is to see the Holy Spirit move in people’s physical (as well as digital) lives. 

There’s a simple principle here: online to offline. The gospel that we hear in our online world must influence our offline relationships. Otherwise, the church creates consumers rather than disciples. We want to see people showing the fruits of the Spirit digitally and physically.

As a result of online to offline, some digital churches are growing into a digital/micro-church strategy. This looks like multiple digital small groups that interconnect in one digital church community. The digital church itself, then, is not a place to gather. Instead, it serves as a digital distribution network for the gospel. Essentially, the Internet is used like the modern network of Roman roads, and digital church planters are the new Paul.


At its core, a digital church operates best with simplicity. Through the Digital Church Network, we promote a micro church network strategy for digital churches that starts as a disciple-making movement (DMM) that grows into a church-planting movement (CPM). 

I’ve asked virtually every planter we work with this question: Is it better to have a million-person church, or 100,000 churches of 10? While there are pros and cons to both, digital churches have unique opportunities to contextualize their message through intentional disciple-making with small groups. 

Barna’s Digital Evangelism report (December 2020) tells us that when people have spiritual questions, they either go to Google/YouTube to find the answers to those questions or they go to their friends. A digital church with a solid digital strategy as well as a solid disciple-making strategy can tackle this digital mission field. Relationships are the key. 


In 2023, organizational and institutional mistrust is rife. This is magnified at the religious institutional level. Engaging in existing digital or metaverse communities can be a safe space for people to build relationships with digital churches, or more importantly, the Christian leaders within the church.

Today’s churches should be looking at planting churches in existing digital communities with the same enthusiasm that we plant physical churches! When was the last time you prayer walked a Facebook group, or openly shared Jesus in virtual reality? Maybe you should.

Discipling in the digital community can also be highly effective. Jim Wilder and Michel Hendrick detail the brain science behind discipleship in their book entitled, The Other Half of Church. Not surprisingly, they discovered that discipleship is more thoroughly formed in communities.

By creating digital communities, churches could strengthen genuine relationships for the purpose of disciple-making. Disciple-making, grounded in the digital community can be a credible and crucial part of seeing the church maximize its reach, as well as multiply its impact and opportunities. 


I once asked an executive pastor at a successful megachurch in America how they measured their online attendance. His response? “We don’t measure online at all. We only count people who are capable of putting their pants on.” I’ve heard others say, “Digital church is only consumerism.” 

These attitudes are common, even post-COVID, but they are faulty. Consuming content online at home is perceived as lazy, while doing the same in person is not. Content consumption is not only a digital phenomenon. It can happen online and in person. And furthermore, this misses how content in digital churches can actually help connect people with authentic digital community in the digital mission field. 

Now, what should the content be? That’s a fascinating question. Digital churches have unique opportunities to contextualize, which greatly impacts missional opportunities. Content is a necessary front door to feed into the digital community. But, if content does not feed into the digital community, then the nay-sayers are right. Digitally we’re just a bunch of lazy people, consuming content while we walk around looking for our pants.

Contextualization: Discipling the Digital and Virtual Mission Field

In today’s world, no one seems to agree on anything. It often seems like we cannot help but disagree! This is also true in the digital mission field, although contextualization can be used here to our advantage. 

Digital communities can be huge! There are more active Facebook users than people who live in China and India combined. Active gamers number in the billions. Even virtual reality is reaching massive amounts of people in 2023, with up to 171 million active users globally.

This is where we come back to 100,000 churches of 10. Instead of reaching everyone, we aim at reaching someone. Targeted ads and personas are commonly used in digital marketing, and are becoming effective in digital ministry helping to reach people in some of the driest areas of the gospels. 

An interesting anomaly we often see in digital marketing is that when we try to reach everyone, more often than not we reach no one. It’s the Seth Godin principle. You’ll never get a billion people to agree. But if we aim at less people, we actually hit more people.

Successful digital churches are simply contextualizing this approach. Rather than focusing on spending money on advertising campaigns, digital churches are focusing on relationally connecting in smaller, more nuanced areas of the mission field. The organic approach of relationships has proven successful. 

Churches develop a marketing persona, a target audience they’re looking for, or an affinity grouping to digitally connect more deeply with a smaller group of people. Different church planters put different spins on their persona. Some aim for a de-churched audience. Others home in on more personal characteristics like gamers, truckers, or people who like barbecue. I’ve even met a planter who is starting a digital church aimed at reaching displaced Nigerian refugees scattered around the globe.

It’s worth noting that most of the innovation in this space is not coming from established churches, but from pioneering individuals with a vision. As the tip of the spear, these pioneers get the chance to carve out the path for tomorrow’s church. 

The vast majority of digital church planters and missionaries I know of are underfunded and struggle to find support. They are venturing into new mission fields, and creating new opportunities to learn how to do something different to reach someone different.

Joining God in His Work

In his book, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby wrote, “Watch to see where God is working and join Him in His work. If Christians around the world were to suddenly renounce their personal agendas, their life goals and their aspirations, and begin responding in radical obedience to everything God showed them, the world would be turned upside down.”

God’s fingerprints are all over the digital and metaverse mission field. He is moving in these spaces. The mission field is ripe. The workers are few. Are you ready to go? What’s stopping you?

I invite you to join us. 

Jeff Reed ( led his first Online Bible Study in 2000, taking 75 people through the book of James using a text-based bulletin board system. Founding (TCD) in 2018, Jeff’s passions evolved into discipling people to find their calling, releasing people missionally and digitally, and planting multiplying digital churches. This pursuit is realized through, a network for digital and virtual expressions of the church.

© 2024 Evangelical Missions Quarterly, The longer original version of this article was published in July 2023 in EMQ, Volume 59, Issue 3. Republished with permission.

The views expressed in this or any other opinion article do not necessarily reflect the views of Christian Daily International.