Someone with a ubiquitous AI pastor in their pocket never learns to chew any food; he remains spoon-fed on the milk of the word…AI will repeat biblical fact, but lack insight into the person’s life. AI will summarise biblical teachings well, but fail to give appropriate application. AI will be intelligent, but not wise.
AI will transform how many jobs are done, and will completely replace many others. Tools like ChatGPT will reduce the task of writing to command-line prompts for professions ranging from medicine to law to office administration. The heavy lifting of writing will be done by an increasingly smart machine. How will this affect ministry: those who write, teach and preach the Bible? I suggest a few possibilities.
AI will tempt some to laziness and “cheating.”
For those tempted to skip the labour of study and original writing, AI will offer such men decently written sermons or Bible studies. This is just the next generation of copying and pasting from the web, except that now the material will be “original”: created from scratch by a machine. Or, if you like, it is the next generation of ghost writing: employing another to write on your behalf, and then taking the credit for the product. Strictly speaking, it is not cheating to have a computer write your sermon for you, for the work is original and ‘commissioned’ by the preacher. But it is cheating in the same way that it was cheating for jocks to pay nerds to write their term papers for them.
AI will tempt the marketers to deepen the phenomenon of fake church.
During Covid, we found out that many churches had a quasi-Gnostic view of the human body, and a passive-entertainment view of worship. That is, it made no difference to them if humans were actually present with each other in worship, because to them, live images on a screen are as much the reality of worship as in-person worship. With those views already in place, we are ready for the next level of worship simulations. AI will be able to produce Deep Fake versions of a church’s preacher or pastor preaching either sermons he has written or sermons produced by AI. These can be streamed or played on the big screens on Sunday—for those who want to show up. If worship can be a screen, who can object?