AI or “artificial intelligence” is all the rage now. Duh.
Should you be using AI? You’ll have to answer that for yourself, but here’s a great way to see both its promise and limitations QUICKLY and develop the necessary MISTRUST you will need to use it effectively. Yes, you read that correctly as I’ll explain shortly.
First, here’s the Chrome extension we’ll be using to get you going…
Before we do that, let’s talk about the bigger picture with Pastors, Churches, and AI.
You may have heard there was even a German church service conducted by AI… The “preachers” were avatars delivering deadpan text mashed together as some sort of “spiritual talk”.
Interestingly the article concluded with this:
If, in the future, pastors begin to rely on LLMs for guidance while writing sermons, parishioners might end up hearing unintentionally novel interpretations of religious doctrine due to how this technology can easily make things up.
Note: “LLM” in the quote above means “Large Language Model”. AI operates by watching humans talk back and forth to mimic human conversation.
Why is this important?
We already have a plethora of pastors falling from grace once they’re exposed as plagiarizing sermons… It’s such a widespread problem that a national conference had to even tell pastors when they were actually plagiarizing! (They don’t know?)
So if the pastor’s ripping of some other preacher’s sermon, I guess it’s no great leap to suspect some pastors will just have an AI chatbot write a sermon for them.
Naturally, responsible pastors are wary. They didn’t spend hours learning Greek and Hebrew and Biblical Interpretation to let some danged chatbot pretend to make a sermon for them.
(From the excerpts I’ve read that chatbot is just an outright moralistic nag not a Gospel preacher anyway!)
Hopefully most preachers have more respect for God and the congregation than to do that!
But, likely, there may be some uses for AI tools… for example taking your sermon text and summarizing it, extracting highlights or quotes, or suggesting outlines.
But you don’t want to WASTE time messing around with something you ultimately find disappointing… or as the article I quoted suggested DOWNRIGHT WRONG! (Don’t be like the New York Lawyer who had an AI Chatbot write a legal bried only to submit it and find out the dang machine completely fabricated legal citations!)
So what’s a preacher (or anyone exploring AI) to do?
Here’s what I suggest…
If you’re using Chrome, try one of the AI Extensions and see how it works.
Here’s one to check out: Sider
It’s one a friend suggested to me, and I’m not connected with it at all except as a user who is at times amazed and at times befuddled by what it returns.
The app uses Chap GPT 3.5 so while that’s FREE it’s not the latest version so maybe something else might be more accurate.
Anyway, you can watch the video and see what it does, but it’s illustrative just to watch it work as you use your browser…
For example, every time I type a keyword into my browser, Sider adds it’s “two cents” telling me what it thinks I want to know. What’s hilarious is when it returns links for me to check out. Sometimes they’re even right… at other times they’re insanely wrong.
The other day I searched “how to download a Facebook video”… here’s what happened:
Sider returned a pretty detailed step by step list …
- Find the link of the video.
- Replace “www” with “m”
- Right click and download the video.
Did you see the error above? What you really do is change “www” to “mbasic”!
The “m” subdomain is for a mobile device link which on your regular browser defaults back to “www”! You’ll be in an endless loop of insantiy if you keep trying to follow those instructions and expect an actual downloadable video!
So close, but yet so far Sider app.
Here’s another strange twist… today, when I was writing this article and typing in the same search term (I know because the one from yesterday popped up!)… I couldn’t get the the same answer twice!
I bet you thought I’d say Sider was going to be the greatest thing since the iPhone… Nope.
It has some great uses you really should explore that I’ll explain later.
Up front though it’s main use in our experiment is to let you see it work daily so you can learn how many times “Artificial Intelligence” screws up so you develop the automatic instinct to double check whatever it tells you!
That’s a counterintuitive you weren’t expecting I guess, but it will keep you from being like the lawyer who filed fake legal citations. Your judge won’t like hearing the fakes you spout either!
If you don’t develop this instinct and act on the impulse to double check when using AI, soon your chat bot will be quoting the “Book of Opinions”… you’ll not only make a fool of yourself, you’ll do a great disservice to both God and your congregation!
Actually Sider can do some great things like summarize text, explain complex problems in simplified language (I wouldn’t trust it with explaining the Trinity any time soon, but maybe it’s good for explaining a suzerainty treaty…just check.)
I just tried it…it DOES work pretty well explaining suzerainty treaty. I’m just not typing the word Trinity in there no way, no how!
Here’s the thing to know up front… if you’re a preacher, writer or other content creator, you’re producing material because you have something important to say and the way you say it is your trademark. AI won’t be able to replace that… it’s why your audience is YOUR AUDIENCE.
I don’t know ANY content creator of any sort who is going to let AI crank out material and then use it “as is”. Just expect the initial time savings that would accrue to people who are not writers, to diminish for you because YOU’RE GOING TO END UP TWEAKING THINGS — maybe endlessly.
But at least NOW, you have a way to experiment and “dip your toe” in the AI swimming pool. When you’re done you’ll have trained yourself well in knowing AI’s promise and limits… and hopefully you won’t be so foolish as to trust it implicitly with the work you’ve given your life to!
Subscribe to my posts and you’ll be alerted when I do my follow up articles on Church Tech, social media, and AI. I’m going to specifically do a deep dive into PulpitAI.com as one of their early beta testers! That AI platform is specifically for ministry and is something a pastor will want to investigate!