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SimChurch: Being the Church in the Virtual World Paperback – September 22, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


Estes offers the most even-handed, informed, and insightful overview to date of what virtual-world ecclesia means not only within its own confines, but also to ecclesia in the physical world. At the risk of over-stating the case, it is increasingly incumbent upon clergy and lay leaders alike to familiarize themselves now...right now...with the information Estes renders so clearly. --Phyllis Tickle


“If your church is even thinking about starting an internet campus (or has one already), this book should be required reading. It brilliantly connects the dots between church history, technology, and current thought about online spiritual community. While it doesn’t answer every question (and no book could, given the newness of the subject matter), it goes a long way toward resolving the query: is church online ‘real’ or not? As an internet campus pastor, I think this book tells it like it is and what it will be. A worthwhile read for anyone interested in real ministry and real connection in the virtual world.” -- Brian Vasil
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310287847
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310287841
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Douglas Estes is DMin Program Director and Assistant Professor of New Testament and Practical Theology at South University. He received his PhD in Theology from the University of Nottingham, UK, and completed a PostDoc at the Dominican Biblical Institute. His books include The Questions of Jesus in John (Brill, 2012), SimChurch (Zondervan, 2009), and The Temporal Mechanics of the Fourth Gospel (Brill, 2008). He has served as an adjunct professor at Phoenix Seminary and Western Seminary, and has sixteen years of pastoral ministry experience.

Customer Reviews

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and was encouraged to think deeper about online church.
David T. Bourgeois
Estes pastoral approach guides those who would attempt virtual ministry to consider what it will take to be a "real" church in the virtual world.
Mark R. Simonds
If you've been already been asking some of these questions then you will love the head start this book will give you towards the discussion.
Chad Estes

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Chad Estes on September 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
When Zondervan sent me a copy of 'SimChurch' by Douglas Estes (no relation) I assumed I was holding a book that encouraged traditional churches to update their decade-old websites and get their weekend services online. Boy was I wrong. Apparently while I wasted time mastering Rock Band in my basement other nerds have been experimenting how to have a virtual expression of the Church.

Viewing church services on the Internet is mostly a passive experience, just like watching an TV evangelist. Virtual churches have made a major leap beyond the one-sided nature of viewing a service. Community happens through the Internet; it just may not be the same definition of community that we grew up with. Each generation learns how it is going to connect with each other and technology is a major factor in that decision. The same can be said for churches. What the printing press, automobiles and air conditioning did to change the way society interacts, and the way churches meet, is happening again with the Internet. Whether or not we like the changes, it is here to stay. If a church wants to stay ahead of the curve, learning how to connect with this generation then they need to get plugged in. If, instead, they jump up and down on their pews, pound their pulpits and tip over the baptismal because they think their way of doing church is `right' they need to remember that most churches through history have had none of the conveniences they just threw their temper tantrum trying to defend.

This book was not written by someone on the inside trying to state a case for their virtual gaming world or new church software. Douglas Estes is the pastor of a real, brick and mortar church in San Jose, California; he has a PhD in Theology and is an Adjunct Professor of the New Testament at Western Seminary.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David T. Bourgeois on February 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Here is my review of this book, which I originally posted on my blog last fall. You can find this review and reviews of other books related to faith and technology at my blog [...].

For those of you unfamiliar with this new movement, the idea of online church is not just putting a recording of your church service online. Instead, it is actually conducting an entire live church service online, complete with worship, teaching, offering, fellowship, and possibly even communion and baptism. This can include both churches with Internet campuses and those who conduct services in virtual worlds, such as Second Life. The author tackles questions surrounding the validity of online church and asks some tough questions. He ends the book by challenging online churches to break the mold and attempt to do things that no physical-world church can.

If you have read my blog before, you know that I have been a critic of online church. However, as a lover of technology and the Internet, I am always open to thinking in new ways about things and want to see how technology can be used to share the message of Christ. But I am also a realist: I know that just because we can do church online does not mean that we should. So I read this book with an open mind and heart - looking for new ways of thinking about online church.

Some highlights of SimChurch for me included:

- a definition of virtual church as "a virtually localized assembly of the people of God dwelling in meaningful community with the task of building the kingdom."
- the author taking on those who would use the church as described in Acts 2 as a way to discredit the virtual church. The early church existed at a special time in history and we will never fully be able to recapture it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John M. Hall on January 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
For many ministry leaders, the subject of virtual reality evangelism is about as relevant as polyester suits and mile-wide ties. Few if any have enough time to spend time checking emails or on Facebook, much less on virtual reality networks such as Second Life. Its just not a realm of which they ever enter or are even aware. In SimChurch, Doug Estes, takes up the daunting task of engaging the virtual world with the gospel and why it should matter to you.

A good portion of SimChurch is dedicated to explaining exactly what is the virtual world. Estes unpacks the verbiage associated with virtual environments. This is both helpful and necessary to building his comparison of the church in the "real world" and the church in the virtual world. What many ministry leaders will appreciate is how Estes demonstrates fidelity to sound ecclesiology while discussing its implications to ministry in the virtual world. Commenting on those who would eschew the validity of virtual world ministry Estes writes,

" is easy to point to examples of all the unorthodox behavior that goes on in virtual churches - avatars in lingerie, questionable prophets with Christian conspiracy theories, and marauding trolls. Come to think of it, it's easy to do the same with real-world churches too. Church in the virtual world sounds just like church in the real world - lots of confused and broken people who "share" their confusion and brokenness with others."

It is excerpts like these that draw attention to the fact that "real world" pastors and churches overlook the parallels to their virtual world counterparts at their own peril.

SimChurch is not all about explanation and awareness.
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