Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to make waves across the world. For those of us in the realm of churches and ministry, it can feel like AI brings more questions than answers. Jason Hamrock, CEO of Missional Marketing, has been helping church leaders navigate technology’s impact for years – and speaks nationally about AI’s impact.

He recently sat down with the AI for Churches podcast team to talk about confusion surrounding AI. To help showcase how AI can be a tool for amplification of the Gospel and bringing more people to Christ, he and host Cassandra Robinson dug into:

  • Embracing and Understanding AI
  • AI as a Tool for Good
  • Incorporating AI in the Sermon Preparation Process
  • The Impact of AI on Jobs within the Church
  • The Revolutionary AI Tool: Sermon Spark

Read on for more from their discussion “God, Gutenberg, and Google: The Evolution of Sermons in the AI Era.

Embracing and Understanding AI

During their conversation, Jason mentioned two ways church leaders can step into the world of AI: Actively engaging with AI tools and seeking guidance from experts.

It is important for pastors and church leaders to embrace AI as a tool for ministry and to use it ethically and responsibly. One of the best ways to stay informed is by actively engaging with the latest AI tools and developments. Jason emphasizes the need to learn, adapt, and experiment with these tools in various areas of life. While this may require stepping out of your comfort zone, by interacting with these tools and gaining hands-on experience, you will better understand their capabilities and potential.

“I think that as a pastor, you want to be aware and you need to be knowledgeable about where AI is going. You’ve got to go to trusted sources that are going to help shape your opinion about what’s going on, because there’s definitely a lot of misinformation about AI.”

Another way to comprehend this tool is by seeking guidance from AI experts and actively engaging with other pastors, church leaders, and professionals who are interested in or already using AI. Trusted sources include David Thorne, leader of the AI for Churches AI Ethics Collective, and Dustin Stout, founder of Magai.

We understand that change is hard. It’s important to remember that embracing and understanding AI is an ongoing process. Surrounding yourself with a community that is navigating it together can be beneficial. Embracing AI requires continuous learning, exploration, and adaptation as the technology evolves.

AI as a Tool for Good

The invention of the Gutenberg press revolutionized mass communication and caused a societal shift that took years to be fully realized. Subsequently, the advent of the internet significantly transformed the way churches functioned, allowing individuals to explore churches virtually, watch sermons from the comfort of their own homes, and initiate their participation digitally – an enhancement considered beneficial by most. Today, AI promises another rapid transformation in church connections and discipleships, fostering a similar anxiety to previous technological breakthroughs, but the belief is that its strategic use would yield more benefits than drawbacks.

“None of this is new to God. We all know that He knows the future. He knows where this is going, so it’s not a surprise to Him. Everything under the sun is His, including AI.”

Jason and Cassandra talked about how God is already ahead in understanding these technologies, and it’s our responsibility to become aware and use them as tools for spreading positivity and empowering church leaders and members.

While there is a lot of darkness on the internet, there is also a significant amount of light. With a focus on using AI technologies to bring glory to God and serve others, we can harness the full potential of these tools to build the Kingdom of God.

Incorporating AI in the Sermon Preparation Process

“It can really help us do things quicker, even better, more efficiently, and not lose sight of our goal.”

Jason has high hopes for how AI can enhance the sermon preparation process, making it both efficient and effective. For instance, AI tools assist pastors with research, letting them gather information and insights expediently. These tools can yield relevant Bible verses, historical context, and theological perspectives on a chosen topic. AI may further aid in crafting sermon outlines or producing sermon illustrations based on specific themes or passages.

You can find 15+ AI tools that specifically support sermon creation and distribution on the AI for Churches Sermon Inspiration page.

Moreover, AI can analyze and interpret data from surveys or feedback forms, providing insights into the congregation’s needs and interests. This information is critical for pastors in tailoring their sermons to resonate more profoundly with their audience. However, it’s crucial for pastors to view AI as a tool, not a replacement, because spiritual discernment and the guidance of the Holy Spirit remain indispensable in sermon preparation.

The Impact of AI on Jobs within the Church

“But when I think about the church, God’s Plan A is us. We’re the ones who hand off the baton of faith. AI can’t hand off the baton of faith. Humans do that because humans have a soul and we are made in the image of God. That’s not going to be replaced.”

During the podcast, Cassandra raised a common question being asked by people across the country: ‘Will AI replace our jobs?’ In certain industries, there will likely be ways that AI eliminates certain positions. This is simply a reality. It will make tasks easier and faster. However, when considering the church, it’s crucial to remember that God’s primary plan involves us. We’re the ones entrusted with passing on the baton of faith. This is a task that AI simply cannot accomplish. Humans do this because we have a soul and are made in the image of God, and that cannot be replaced.

AI fundamentally lacks the ability to supplant the genuine human connection and the soul-driven aspects of ministry. While it may enhance the efficiency and speed of specific tasks, it is improbable to entirely replace positions. AI can serve as a valuable tool for aiding tasks such as graphic design or curriculum creation, but it is not expected to take over the integral roles of humans in the church’s mission. Furthermore, as a pastor, there is a mandate to use AI responsibly and in alignment with your church’s values. Jason was integral in creating an AI ethics board at Missional Marketing, and shares many of the sample documents – AI charter, bylaws, ethical guidelines – openly with others.

The Revolutionary AI Tool: SermonSpark

“We built this specifically just to help pastors get more effective at using AI. We hope It’s a habit-forming tool that you’ll use weekly when you’re prepping your sermon.”

If you’ve listened to previous episodes, you’ve heard about Missional Marketing’s powerful sermon-AI tool, SermonSpark. Cassandra spoke about it with Pastor David Thorne (Episode 1), and developer Jason Collier (Episode 2).

Free to use, SermonSpark assists pastors across the sermon preparation process. SermonSpark enables pastors to research and create outlines, discover relevant stories, and generate engaging sermon content. The tool is designed to serve as a consistent support system for pastors, streamlining their sermon preparation process and enhancing their efficiency.

Since this podcast aired, the SermonSpark team launched Projects. A new feature within SermonSpark, Projects provides advanced organization of research materials within the platform.

Other items on SermonSpark’s roadmap include features that will help pastors share their sermons on social media platforms and other channels.

AI Isn’t Going Anywhere

Jason and Cassandra wrapped up the podcast by exploring how to use digital marketing to move people from awareness to attendance in the local church, a process involving multiple stages and efforts, including the use of advanced technology such as AI. They highlight how ubiquitous technology, specifically phones, can be utilized to engage people and build trust, leading them to attend church physically.

Lastly, they echo the potential of how through leveraging AI responsibly and ethically, pastors can enhance their effectiveness and impact in furthering the Great Commission.

Go deeper into this topic by catching the full discussion here!

About the AI for Churches Podcast

Airing monthly, AI for Churches is a podcast focused on helping church leaders harness the power of artificial intelligence to unlock AI’s potential for ministry. Our hosts investigate the tools, topics, and opinions that live at the intersection of artificial intelligence and Christianity. Catch us on your favorite podcast platform!