Dear Church, the Age of AI is upon us. In fact, it’s hard to go online right now without facing a barrage of ads, articles, and stories about artificial intelligence (AI). As a church leader, you may be thinking about the topic on a few different fronts. First, your congregants may be asking about AI. ‘Is it ethical?’ ‘How should it be used?’ ‘Could it be helpful?’
Second, you may be wondering about the use of AI with your own ministry tasks—specifically, if artificial intelligence can help with your sermon preparation. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” AI may soon become your new sermon-writing best friend.
Yet reading articles on the topic of AI for sermons writing, you could quickly get the wrong idea. Many of these authors worry that AI is soulless, probably ineffective, likely even a little scary, and certainly incapable of producing something valuable. When reading these articles, however, there are three things that I think church leaders are getting wrong about AI, specifically when it comes to sermons.
Approaching the Use of AI for Sermons with Fear
When discussing anything new, fear is a natural response. Change, in any form, can be scary. Unfortunately, Christians are notoriously slow to embrace any change within the church. For example, some still believe screens should stay out of the sanctuary altogether. Others argue that rock music is wrong. And some leaders continue to suggest that online church is inappropriate. Each article does make valid points in regard to the impact of technology and faith. However, these opinions highlight challenges church leaders face when exploring the use of new technologies within the church. Similar to the inclusion of other new technologies within the church, some church leaders carry fears about the use of AI.
Christians like to wait and see
Christian leaders are infamous for preferring to take a wait-and-see approach before adopting any developing technology. They do this so they can:
- See how the technology is commonly used,
- Determine whether that use is appropriate for the church in general, and then
- Consider whether it could be helpful within their context.
However, this viewpoint doesn’t reflect trusting God and having faith. The Bible explains how followers of Jesus are in a war against an unseen enemy. Our adversary is not sitting back and waiting. Oh no, he’s on the move, aggressively pursuing the next chance to destroy God’s people and thwart His plans to redeem the world.
That’s why, when it comes to AI, the church can’t afford to sit back and wait. This is not a time for shrinking back with fear of the unknown and rejecting this new technology. Instead, we must boldly move forward, using every tool at our disposal to share and shine the light of Jesus with a dark and broken world.
New technologies present more opportunities for the church
Looking back through time, emerging technologies have presented a plethora of new opportunities to share Jesus with the world. The Roman Road made it possible for people to move from city to city more easily, making it possible to share the gospel with neighboring regions. The game-changing printing press helped spread the message of Jesus around the world. Radio broadcasts enabled pastors to speak into every home across the entire country all at once. Television took this idea to a whole new level—and streaming has gone beyond even that. Every advancement in technology presents a unique opportunity to spread the gospel in a new and unprecedented way.
The recent AI explosion is a huge opening for the church to reach more souls for Christ. AI gives pastors the opportunity to save time while accomplishing more. AI can free us up from monotonous, repetitive things, giving us time to focus on what really matters—people. We also have the chance to make our sermons better than ever before. Therefore, the church should view AI as an amazing opportunity rather than something to be feared.
Asking the Wrong Questions about AI
As I share with church leaders about artificial intelligence, the most common question I’m asked is, “How far is too far?” I’ve seen this sentiment in many articles about AI and within the church as well. People’s thoughts immediately move to AI taking the place of a pastor, planning a church service, writing a sermon—maybe even presenting the sermon! The underlying fear seems to be that, by using AI, the Holy Spirit may be pushed out of the service planning process.
Is AI a slippery slope?
There’s a time and place for these questions, and each comes from a place of valid concern. However, questions like ’How far is too far?’ are detrimental because they shut down genuine conversation. If we lead with the negative, we automatically imply the thing we’re investigating is negative as well. It’s like we’re calling the use of AI a slippery slope, meaning some use may be ok, but too much use is bad. If this logic is true, then some Christians may think the morally righteous thing to do is stay away from anything that could be considered a slippery slope altogether.
Technology is here to stay
Like it or not, technology is a huge part of our lives. It’s true that computers, cell phones, TVs, phones, and video games—all of these can be distractions to our faith if we allow them to be. However, many of these technologies have also become so intertwined in our daily lives that it would be almost impossible to communicate, work, travel, and interact without them.
Back when the technology was new, my wife and I refused to pay extra to add texting to our cell phone plans. Now I’m not sure we could go a day without texting each other! My kids are always wondering how we were ever picked up from school as children without text messaging. I text them back, ‘Honestly, I don’t remember.’
Technology is a tool
The truth is, technology is a neutral tool that must be shaped by the person using it. Fire can cook food, give light, or burn down a forest. But just because fire can be used to burn down and destroy our environment, we don’t expect others to avoid it. Instead, we wisely consider the best way to use fire to improve our lives. Similarly, AI has already become one of the most significant technological advances of our lifetime. The church must thoughtfully engage with this new tool, including asking great questions. But instead of automatically assuming the negative, we should anticipate that, with God’s help, it can be used for good—and then figure out how. How can AI be used to share the good news of Jesus with the world? What are the best ways AI can positively impact our personal lives and local churches?
Asking AI the Wrong Questions for Sermons
Many articles about AI and the church immediately jump to discussing the question of whether or not AI should write sermons for pastors. Is that a thing AI could eventually do? Yes. However, can AI write a good sermon now? No. But are there many other things AI can do to support sermon creation besides writing them? Absolutely yes!
Catastrophizing AI for Sermons
It’s like we’re thinking up the worst-case scenario, then attempting to use it as the most common use-case scenario to determine whether the technology itself is good or bad. It would be like being introduced to cars for the first time and then writing an article summarizing how cars can be used to run people over.
Instead, articles on this topic could talk about how fast cars go and how fragile the human body actually is. If you read enough articles about the impending great car massacres coming to a neighborhood near you, you’d begin to think that cars are dangerous and probably bad altogether. In fact, you might think it makes more sense to wait and stick with your horse until cars are safer and less apt to run people over.
While it’s true that cars can run people over, that’s not what they were made to do—not even what they’re best at doing. It’s the same with AI and sermons. There are so many things AI can assist with for sermons right now—great things that are unquestionably helpful for pastors. These are the ways every pastor should be aware of AI and use it.
Great AI Tools for Sermons Are Available Now
Instead of catastrophizing the unfamiliar, church leaders should engage with the new and astounding ways AI can help with sermons today. You can explore some of these tools for free through a platform like SermonSpark, which is free and features options like generating social media posts, creating relevant sermon outlines and manuscripts, conducting applicable research, and more. ChatGPT has a free version that allows pastors to come up with great sermon titles, explore Bible verses on countless topics, or even generate a potential sermon outline. Claude.ai is another resource that allows you to upload a transcript of your sermon, then do all kinds of amazing things, like prepare a summary, write blogs, craft social media posts, find relevant verses or quotes, and create devotionals.
Many people tend to fear what they don’t understand. But it’s also possible Christian leaders are concerned about the use of new technologies, like using AI for sermons, because they need to understand a healthy Biblical foundation for the use of this new technology. Here’s where Missional Marketing can help. Schedule time to discover how your church can employ AI solutions within your context. We’d be happy to answer questions you may have about AI. Together, let’s discuss how to harness this innovative, pioneering new tool for Christ.