Exploring the Intersection of AI and Church Leadership: Part One

Exploring the Intersection of AI and Church Leadership: Part One

If you have checked your news feed, consumed any amount of online video on YouTube, Reels or Tik-Tok or watched cable news you no doubt have heard of ChatGPT, a chatbot much in the news. ChatGPT, or a Generative Pre-trained Transformer, is an advanced artificial intelligence program written by Open.AI and hosted by, and financially backed by Microsoft. ChatGPT has been designed to generate human-like text responses to questions entered on the ChatGPT page. It's trained by scraping huge amounts of data from the Internet and can perform different language tasks, like answering questions, generating sentences, and translating text. In simple terms, it's a virtual AI language assistant that can understand and respond to your questions and requests.

ChatGPT has taken the world by storm after being released in public beta three months ago. According to Forbes Magazine, ChatGPT has an estimated 100 million monthly active users as of January 2023, making it the fastest growing consumer internet application in history according to analytics firm UBS.

There are some limited use cases in which ChatGPT could be useful for the church. But before getting into those, let’s define what ChatGPT is not. Dale Chamberlin writes, “ChatGPT is not a human being, it is a tool. It does not have a soul, a relationship with God, or is morally responsible for its output. ChatGPT is not a substitute for the Holy Spirit, who guides, convicts, and empowers the church. Neither is ChatGPT a pastor or other church leader who has the wisdom, compassion, or authority of a human being. While ChatGPT can be classified as a conversationalist, it does not have the empathy, sensitivity, or confidentiality of a human counselor. While ChatGPT is a good generator, it does not have the originality, creativity, drive, or the God-given purpose of a human being.”1

With that being said, let’s explore how ChatGPT can be a benefit to those who serve the church. ChatGPT can be used to:
  • Synthesize written ideas into a more succinct form. While this can aid a broad spectrum of people, it is a useful tool for the time-deprived church leader.
  • The folks at Missional Marketing suggest that ChatGPT can help create social media content, such as posts, captions, and hashtags, that can attract and engage more people.2 AI has the potential to disrupt our patterns of writing, posting, or tagging which can have the benefit of providing information in new ways. Through the use of these new tools, we may reach more people by providing relatable suggestions. 
  • Create newsletters, bulletins, and other materials that keep members informed and engaged. By leveraging the power of AI, pastors and church leaders can free up time that can be used to strengthen their church communities in other ways.
  • Create drafts of prayers that speak to the current context of the community.   
  • Damocles from Metaroids suggests that ChatGPT can analyze and interpret data gathered from outreach activities, helping ministries become more efficient by gleaning data that may not be obvious at first glance. 3
  • Generate sermon outlines, devotionals, Bible studies, and other content for pastors and church leaders.
  • Generate sermons that are theologically tailored to a specific faith tradition if the chatbot is instructed to do so. For example, one could ask to generate a sermon for Ash Wednesday drawn from Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 infused by the perspective of the United Church of Christ. Click here for the result.
I encourage you to investigate and use ChatGPT on your own. As you do, you will notice some limitations. It is not always accurate or reliable in the information it cobbles together. For example, the sermon generated in the above example was flat and lacked the intersectionality of the Holy Spirit, the preacher, and the context of the community that the preacher serves.

For some, ChatGPT may be a bit dystopian, while others see the benefit and have already used the platform. I can say with some certainty that elements of ChatGPT, or AI in general, will be baked into tools that will be marketed to the church and will aid in the church’s mission. To that end, Microsoft has already incorporated the AI engine that powers ChatGPT into its search engine Bing, and ChatGPT and was used by this author to assist with the composition of this article. The sources used in this article, provided by Bing, are shown below.

Next week, I will publish part two, in which we discuss the ways web searching will change and how your church can be better prepared for the next iteration of this shift in technology.

  1. Chamberlain, Dale. (2023, February 13). ChatGPT and Christian Ethics: An Interview With Bioethicist John Wyatt. Retrieved from https://churchleaders.com/news/444751-chatgpt-and-christian-ethics-an-interview-with-bioethicist-john-wyatt.html/2
  2. Missional Marketing. (2023, February 09). 10 ways Your Church Can Use ChatGPT in Ministry. Retrieved from https://missionalmarketing.com/10-ways-your-church-can-use-chatgpt-in-ministry/
  3. Damocles. (2023, January 27). ChatGPT: How AI Can Potentially Impact the World’s Religions. Retrieved from https://metaroids.com/feature/chatgpt-and-the-church-how-ai-can-potentially-impact-the-worlds-religions


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Eric M. Elley

Eric Elley provides consultant services to Conference churches that need assistance defining and creating a digital presence. Eric can: Recommend hardware and software solutions for digital ministry that fit within your church's budget and technical...

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