AI and the Church: Possibilities and Concerns

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform many aspects of the Church.However, there are also concerns about the ethical implications of AI and its impact on human interactions and decision-making. Here are five responsibilities for church leaders to keep in mind while navigating AI.

Susanna Fleming

Digital giving apps and tools

This blog was written entirely by artificial intelligence (AI). 

(Just kidding.)

With the way artificial intelligence is progressing, however, it is likely that many of the articles we read, the videos we watch, and the graphics we use on websites and social media will be supported by the use of artificial intelligence platforms.

The rapid development of AI has created an interesting crossroads for pastors and church leaders. As church leaders, how can we navigate the implications of this ever-evolving technology with wisdom and appropriate stewardship? 

The Ongoing Debate Surrounding AI 

In recent months, artificial intelligence has sparked intense discussions and contrasting viewpoints across popular culture. Some embrace it with entrepreneurial zeal, envisioning a future in which advanced technology enhances and revolutionizes every facet of our daily lives (Siri and Alexa are helpful, early examples of this). Others approach AI with skepticism and fear, concerned we may be crossing technological boundaries that should not be trespassed. 

Conversations within the Church surrounding artificial intelligence have been equally polarized. On the one hand, some church leaders actively embrace AI. They recognize that using artificial intelligence platforms can help them get a lot done with minimal resources. Particularly in small churches where a worship pastor often has to double as a videographer or a church administrator has to learn graphic design, AI can be a game-changing technology that lightens workloads. 

On the other hand, some church leaders worry that AI is a tool that can and will be used for manipulation and domination. What are the ethical concerns surrounding this technology? What if people start going to AI – instead of the Church – for answers to their deepest existential questions? What if AI advances so far that the line between human and machine becomes almost indistinct? At what point will people start to seek out AI for more than just information – even for intimacy – and how does that threaten the Christian worldview?

These are all good questions, and I do not suggest we take any of them lightly. It is important that Christians enter into any conversation about AI with wisdom, appropriate caution, and biblical responses. It is imperative that we maintain a grounded, biblical understanding of what it means to be humans, created in the image of God.

Even so, wisdom is not the same thing as fear. And AI is not the first technology to hold the potential for both immense opportunity and significant risk. Electricity revolutionized society, for example, but it also introduced the dangers of electrical accidents and misuse. The internet transformed communication and access to information, but concerns arose regarding cybercrime and misinformation. Social media connected people globally, but it also gave rise to privacy concerns and social media addictions. 

No matter how beneficial a new form of technology is, it can and likely will be corrupted when humans are involved. This does not mean, however, that the Church should reject new technology outright. On the contrary, church leaders should do their best to understand and faithfully wrestle with new technology. If we don’t, we are going to have a difficult time leading during this cultural moment.

As pastors and church leaders seek to understand and even adopt certain aspects of AI, here are a few vital responsibilities that require our attention and action.

#1 Keep up on the Conversation.

As cultural leaders, it is essential that pastors have a basic understanding of what is going on in the world around them. As the renowned theologian Karl Barth once communicated, we must “preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other” so that we can adequately address the concerns, hopes, and challenges of the people in our care. AI is a huge topic right now, and it is important that we do what we can to understand the topic so we can better prepare our congregants for pending cultural shifts. 

#2 Evaluate Ethical Concerns.

Rather than dismissing ethical concerns, pastors should be aware that there are ways that AI can and will be misused. Developing a healthy ethical framework for the positive uses of AI will help us pastor our people through a new cultural moment marked by new technology. It is our responsibility as spiritual leaders to help our congregations navigate the complexities of AI. By addressing these concerns, pastors can help shape the future of AI rather than avoiding the conversation. 

#3 Maintain a Biblical Perspective.

I wholeheartedly believe that the Bible has relevant cultural application in every single cultural moment! As we navigate the ever-circling conversations surrounding AI, we should always ground our discussions in a solid theological framework. We can turn to the Bible to remind us that humans are uniquely created in the image of God and are distinct from machines. A biblical perspective can provide guidance when we grapple with the potential challenges associated with AI and the blurry lines between human and AI-generated content. 

#4 Embrace Responsible Uses of AI.

If you come to believe that AI may be useful in helping your church staff enhance ministry effectiveness, encourage your team to use AI responsibility while being mindful of potential pitfalls. AI may be an amazing tool to aid your marketing team as they create sermon series graphics, for example, but it probably isn’t a good idea to preach an AI sermon. Ultimately, all ministry should be Holy Spirit-led, and AI should never replace ministry that is actively dependent on God. Rather, AI can be likened to the internet, which accelerates certain administrative and creative tasks but should never substitute for a ministry that is reliant on God's guidance. Embracing AI responsibly can help streamline certain aspects of church work while remaining rooted in the dependence on the Holy Spirit for true ministry impact.

#5 Engage in Digital Discipleship.

As technology becomes increasingly intertwined with everyday life, pastors should focus on nurturing digital discipleship. Teach and encourage individuals to use technology in a way that aligns with their faith, fostering spiritual growth, authentic community, and the pursuit of God's truth. Additionally, encourage your congregation to engage critically with AI-generated content and use discernment when evaluating the reliability and accuracy of AI-generated information. By nurturing a discerning mindset, we can equip our congregations to seek God's truth amidst the vast array of AI-driven content and avoid the pitfalls of misinformation and distorted narratives.

#5 Lead with Wisdom Rather than Fear.

While the appropriate uses of AI may still be up for debate among some Christian leaders, one thing is certain: we have to pastor this cultural moment. We must engage in thoughtful dialogue, maintain ethical considerations, and consider the potential redemptive uses of this technology. Rather than hiding from potential threats, we have to lead with wisdom. 

Technology That Can Help Your Church Thrive 

In this age of advancing technology, tools like Breeze’s web-based church management software can help churches thrive. If you are looking for ways to streamline systems, manage events, and track donations at your church, check out all of the features that Breeze offers here!

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