I've heard people on both sides of the fence about AI and ChatGPT. It's a great tool or it's the beginning of the end of writers. Personally, I believe AI and ChatGPT are tools that pastors can utilize for more efficient ministry. They don't replace the pastor or what pastors do, rather I like to view these tools as other tools like Microsoft Word or Grammarly–tools that help the pastor with a task.
As technology continues to advance, pastors are presented with a variety of tools that can help them connect with their congregations in new and innovative ways. For example, many churches these days have their own church app or website that helps them connect with their congregations.
Is it wrong to have a church app or website? Of course not! They are tools to help pastors and churches connect with people, reach new people, and do certain tasks.
One such tool is artificial intelligence (AI), which can assist pastors in a number of ways, from sermon preparation to answering congregants’ questions.
One specific application of AI that has been gaining popularity in recent years is ChatGPT, a language model developed by OpenAI. ChatGPT is capable of understanding and generating human-like text and can be trained on specific topics to provide information and answer questions.
Pretty wild, right? But the truth is ChatGPT isn't the first AI tool to ever be developed. But it's gaining a lot of traction these days. It's a great tool and can really be a great asset to ministry workers.
Here are a few ways that pastors can utilize ChatGPT to enhance their ministry:
ChatGPT can help with sermon writing and preparation
I will be upfront about this: No tool will ever replace a pastor spending time alone with God and prayer for preparing a message. That's a non-negotiable. If a pastor isn't doing that, something's wrong.
But when a pastor does have a word or message they feel strongly about and that the Lord is pressing on their heart about, ChatGPT can become a very useful tool.
For example, a pastor could input a prompt like, “What does the Bible say about forgiveness?” into ChatGPT, and the model could generate a list of relevant Bible verses and commentary excerpts. It's a great starting point to help find passages of Scripture that might fit well with the their sermon. But it should never replace writing the entire sermon!
Russell Moore writes on Christianity Today, "Since ChatGPT can replicate the writing of Ernest Hemingway or William Shakespeare on command, there’s no reason why it couldn’t follow the instruction to write a sermon in the style of, say, Charles Spurgeon, John Piper, or Joel Osteen." ChatGPT can certainly help with sermon writing and preparation but it will never replace the heart of a pastor who spent time with God and bathed his sermon in prayer.
The truth is preparing a sermon can be a time-consuming and challenging process. It's not something you just want to throw together last minute! Pastors must spend a lot of time in prayer and get alone with God, research and study the Bible, and consult commentaries and other resources to help craft their message. It's not something that should be "thrown" together last minute.
ChatGPT can help streamline this process by providing pastors with a starting point for their research. It can provide a list of relevant Bible passages or even possible bullet points that might help illustrate the message's bottom line. Like I said, it doesn't replace time spent with God but it can be a useful tool to help put to paper what's in the heart!
Question: Have you used ChatGPT with your sermon writing? What did you think about it?
ChatGPT can help with questions
Pastors can't escape this. They will oftentimes be bombarded with various types of questions from their congregants. This is especially true during Q&A sessions, meet and greet times after services, etc.
No matter how much you prepare for a Q&A session or try and prep for the questions you'll get after a sermon, ChatGPT can be a very useful tool to help come up with possible questions to be able to prepare adequate answers when needed.
The truth is pastors don't have ALL the answers. If a pastor says he does he's lying. They might have a good understanding of the topics they’re discussing, teaching, or preaching, but they simply don't know everything. But that's where AI and ChatGPT come in–ChatGPT can help pastors quickly and accurately respond to congregants’ questions.
For example, to prep for possible questions a pastor could input a question like, “What does the Bible say about the end times?” into ChatGPT. The result? ChatGPT could then generate a list of relevant Bible verses and commentary excerpts that address the prompt the pastor inputted. This can help locate relevant passages so the pastor can find Bible verses that can help answer the question being asked.
It's really no different than a pastor entering that same question into a Google or Bing search engine on the internet. A series of inputs trigger the search engine to list all relevant websites with the keywords you inputted into the search engine. ChatGPT can, in many ways, be viewed as a search engine.
Just as Google or any other website can be a tool to prep for Q&A sessions or meet and greets after a sermon, etc...ChatGPT is yet another tool that a pastor can utilize for more efficient ministry.
We live in a world full of many different language barriers. But AI and ChatGPT can be very useful for pastors to help overcome these barriers and better connect with and relate to their congregations. ChatGPT can be used to help bridge the gap between the pastor and those in the congregation that speak different languages. By using ChatGPT to translate sermons and other materials, pastors can provide a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of their congregation.
For example, let's say a pastor writes a sermon and preaches it but wants to make sure those in his congregation who have friends and family who only speak Spanish can hear the same message. The pastor could input the sermon in English into ChatGPT, and the model could generate a translated version in Spanish.
If you really think about it using ChatGPT is no different than using Google Translate to translate English text to Spanish or any other language. AI and ChatGPT are just other tools to do the same task.
Utilizing AI and ChatGPT can help pastors connect with people who may not speak the same language. This would help the pastor give out more resources to different people, thus having another way to make disciples without language being a barrier. AI and ChatGPT help bridge a language barrier that could otherwise hinder sharing the Good News of Jesus with more people.
AI and ChatGPT can be valuable tools for pastors
I'm sure there are more reasons why AI and ChatGPT can be valuable tools for pastors looking to have a more efficient ministry and connect with their people in new and innovative ways.
By taking hold of the power of AI and tools like ChatGPT, pastors can save time and energy on different tasks and focus more on spending time with the Lord and connecting with people in their congregations to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of their congregation.
I can't say this enough: AI and ChatGPT are not replacements for human interaction and personal relationships and are especially not replacements for hearing a word from God in sermon preparation.
AI and ChatGPT, like Google, Bing, or even Logos Bible Software are tools that should be used to supplement, not replace, the important work that pastors do in building relationships and providing pastoral care to the people in their community.
It's also important to note that pastors who utilize AI and ChatGPT be mindful of potential ethical concerns related to the use of AI, such as bias and privacy issues, and take steps to mitigate these risks. The same can be said of other tools we all use every day like Google or even social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. With any technology comes possible vulnerabilities we must always be aware of.
All in all, AI and ChatGPT can be highly effective in helping pastors have a more efficient ministry. In fact, I used AI and ChatGPT to help write this very article. They can be great tools that help us do all sorts of tasks. By using these tools with much wisdom and caution and in conjunction with their own experiences, understanding, and personal relationships, pastors can most certainly use these new tools and technology to be far more productive, and more efficient in spreading the message of the Gospel to a wider audience in their communities and beyond.