categories: Second Life, social networking, technology, working together
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July 18th, 2007

by Bobby Gruenewald

Second Life and Multiverse

Most all of you probably know we have a virtual campus in the 3-D world of Second Life. I won’t revisit all of the reasons why we began this effort (you can read about it here or here). We’ve already had a number of stories about people who have become followers of Christ through this virtual campus. We also have recently had people visiting our physical campuses who first attended LifeChurch.tv in Second Life. In fact, some readers of this blog are only here because I met them in SL.

All of that is exactly what we hoped would happen…BUT, it has not come without challenges. The most significant challenge has been the reliability of the Second Life platform. We have had multiple experiences where our island has crashed under the stress and load of people attending. Unlike all of our other web applications, we have pretty much no control over the actual server that runs our island, nor do we have the ability to seamlessly throw more servers at the problem. We simply have to hope that Second Life improves their infrastructure over time. Because we are seeing changed lives…we will of course press on.

The good news is that Second Life is just one of a growing number of companies building 3-D virtual worlds (aka metaverses). One company that I’ve been following takes a different approach than Second Life and appears to be picking up steam…Multiverse is a platform for developers to build their own “Second Life”-type of virtual world or multi-player game. They give you the client software, and the server software runs on your own servers (I like that). You only pay them money if you decide to charge users (and their cut is only 10%). This means that it’s basically free for most of our uses.

Now…I am not interested in building private 3-D “club houses” for Christians since I am focused on using these tools to reach people who are not followers of Christ. I do, however, think there are ways to use a platform like this to build 3-D environments (even games) that can engage people who would never step foot in a church otherwise.

Our digerati team currently has a very full plate…if some of you are seriously interested in developing in this environment, I would love to hear from you.

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categories: LifeChurch.tv, Second Life
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May 21st, 2007

by Bobby Gruenewald

LifeChurch.tv on NBC Nightly News

Just settling in San Diego….

I don’t intend to post every time we are in the news. It is often redundant anyway since we post the new things we are doing on swerve long before the traditional media gets a hold of it.

That being said…I thought you might enjoy watching this segment from the NBC Nightly New with Brian Williams or reading it on msnbc. It is about our Second Life efforts, though much of the dialog could just as easily have been about our Internet campus.

As with any decent news story, the reporter should find a counter point of view. This time it was a pastor from SMU who does not believe you can/should attend church online. She basically says it is not a “real” church without “flesh and blood interaction”. I’m pretty sure she have never visited our Internet Campus. I’m looking up her email address (hopefully I can find it) and will shoot her an email to invite her to check it out this weekend!

Also…just because the media says we are a “megachurch” doesn’t mean it is true. As I previously posted…we are not.

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categories: LifeChurch.tv, Second Life
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April 20th, 2007

by Bobby Gruenewald

The ups and downs of Second Life

As many of you know, we launched a worship experience on Easter weekend in our virtual campus in Second Life. We had a great turnout, but did not have a glitch-free experience. Terry Storch gave a summary of some of the technical challenges that we experienced that weekend on his blog. However, his team worked hard the next week and were successful this last weekend at resolving those issues. The experience ran smooth.

Even with some early technical challenges…God is already using our island in Second Life!

Here is an example:

Just yesterday I had an email forwarded to me that was from a 41 year old guy named Troy who is a Second Life user that found our island while roaming around the virtual world. In the email, he describes the challenges that he has faced in real life and then on to how he began crying when he watched the mysecret.tv videos in Second Life.
He went on to say…”After watching and praying with craig i raised my hands confessed my sins and gave myself to jesus for the first time in my life…. what a wonderfull feeling to be free of my sins, to find out how to get rid of my bitterness, most of my fears, to understand how i’ve been holding all these dark crazy things inside me for so long and now learning how to follow the path god has for me, to give myself to jesus..”

There couldn’t be any better answer to the “Why Second Life?” question than this guy’s story. We want to use this tool to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ.

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categories: LifeChurch.tv, Second Life
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April 5th, 2007

by Bobby Gruenewald

You are invited to Second Life

We have decided to have a special preview worship experience in Second Life on Experience Island this Saturday night at 5:30 CDT (3:30 SLT) for our staff and the readers of Swerve that are users of Second Life.
We will be testing a few things that evening and could certainly use your help/feedback to make it great for Sunday.

I look forward to seeing those of you that can make it.

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categories: LifeChurch.tv, Second Life
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April 5th, 2007

by Bobby Gruenewald

Easter in Second Life

Our beta test of our Second Life island is going very well.

We will be starting live worship experience in the island this Sunday at 8:00am, 9:30am and 11:00am (Second Life Time…aka PDT)

I have been completely amazed at the response to the island from within Second Life. I have personally interacted with hundreds of visitors from around the world on the island over the last few weeks…many who are not at all familiar with LifeChurch.tv and simply found it by searching from within Second Life. There have already been several stories in just the last few days from staff or volunteers that have been able to share Christ with people who are coming to the island for answers. You can just feel it…God is doing something.

We actually have had quite a bit of traffic without even launching our live experience yet. Second Life has their own unique traffic count that is not a count of people, but instead some special number that reflects the amount of avatars combined with the amount of time they spend on our island. Because of our traffic count…we appear at the top of search results for the terms “church”, “Christ”, “Jesus” and in the top 6 results for “video”, “fun”, “free stuff”, “clothes” oddly.

These are a few companies that have a presence in Second Life:

Dell
MTV
CNet
Reuters
BMG Music

On Tuesday, all of their areas had less traffic in Second Life than Experience Island…in fact, all of them combined had less traffic! That just seems crazy to me…but it’s true. God is doing something big…I’m looking forward to seeing it unfold.

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categories: LifeChurch.tv, Second Life, church, innovation, technology
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March 29th, 2007

by Bobby Gruenewald

Why Second Life? (Part 2)

This is a continuation of my previous post on why we have built and island in Second Life and to also answer some questions about what Second Life is.

Our first purpose was to create a way to share the Gospel with other users of Second Life.

Second Purpose: We want to create an environment where our Internet Campus users and others who are a part of our online community can experience what we do in a more immersive environment than a web page.

Second Life is the first mainstream representation of a user-created metaverse [wikipedia] (fully immersive 3-D spaces). This concept has been predicted for the last few decades, but has not been technically feasible or widely available until the last couple of years. The primary advancements that have made it technically feasible are bandwidth a computing/video processing power. Though Second Life the most well-known metaverse, it is certainly not the only one. Currently several companies including Sony, Google and There.com have metaverses or have been rumored to be developing one. We hope our experience with Second Life will better prepare us for reaching people in whatever platform(s) emerge as the leaders in this space.

I predict that the Internet will look much more like the immersive world of Second Life in the next 5-7 years, but only much better. All of the right pieces are in place to make it possible.

Ten years ago, churches were asking “Why should a church need a presence on the Internet?” That question seems odd to most all of us today, but it was a real question. In seven years it will seem just as odd to ask “Why should a church need a presence in Second Life (or what ever the prevailing metaverses are at that time)?”

What do you think?

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categories: LifeChurch.tv, Second Life, church, innovation
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March 28th, 2007

by Bobby Gruenewald

Why Second Life? (Part 1)

We have been in a beta test of our Second Life campus for the last couple of weeks and we are already getting some great questions and commentary from the media about our purpose in having a “virtual church” in Second Life. Additionally, many people have been asking the question: What is Second Life? Why should I care? Instead of responding everywhere…I figured I would discuss the purposes here:

Note that this is an learning experience for us. We do not know for sure if we will be successful.

First Purpose: We want to use our island as a way to share the Gospel with users of Second Life who do not know Christ.

As of today, there are over 5 million users of Second Life. Users of Second Life create avatars (characters) and interact with other avatars in a 3-D virtual environment. Second Life looks very similar to a video game to most people who experience it. The main difference is that all of the characters in the game are controlled by other people and all of the environments are created by the users. These avatars interact using a text chat (with audio chat coming very soon) as well as by making gestures.
Some have suggested that sharing Christ with users of Second Life is a complete waste of time since many people are using avatars to pretend they are someone else and consequently you cannot be sure if they are real. What I have found so far is that there are definitely people in Second Life who simply want to hide behind their avatar and say/do things they normally would not say/do in real life. However, it is this same lack of inhibition that leads people to ask questions about God they would not normally feel comfortable exploring in real life. Creating an avatar becomes a very non-threating way for people to explore more about God.

Our mission is not to lead avatars to become fully devoted followers of Christ. It is all about the real people who are behind each avatar.

Here is a pic of my avatar “Bobby Simon”..I think he’s already a follower of Christ.
bobbysimon

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categories: LifeChurch.tv, Second Life, church, creativity, innovation, personal
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March 16th, 2007

by Bobby Gruenewald

Come as you are, just put some clothes on!

I had a “first” last night. Someone walked into our lobby completely in the nude. She sat down in a chair in front of several other people in the lobby and did not speak to anyone. I received a phone call from a volunteer explaining all of this. I got there as soon as I could and sure enough…there she was. Completely naked sitting in a LifeChurch.tv lobby!

I politely asked her to put some clothes on and told her that she was welcome here, but that she would need to cover up. She continued to sit quietly with no response. I once again asked for her to cover up, but she simple refused and did not answer. I then told her that she would have to leave and quickly removed her from the property.

Now…all of this happened in our new virtual campus on Second Life which has been getting a lot of interesting guests since we opened the doors earlier this week for a “beta test”. There are people from all over the world who have visited. Some people from our staff and other churches, but several who have found out about it through Second Life and have no affiliation with church.

After ejecting the naked lady from our campus…I began to wonder if I did the right thing or if I should have responded differently. It may seem crazy to some of you, but I realized that we did have a “dress code” even though we often say we do not. I probably would have responded different though if she simply would have said something in response. We have rules on the island and it is clearly listed as a place that does not allow “mature” (adult) content. I took her silence as defiance and an unwillingness to listen. Maybe I was right…maybe I was wrong? What do you think?

FYI, this picture shows a little of how people are interacting and watching video in our Second Life Lobby (sans the naked lady)

SL-Lobby-People watching video

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