A pastor in Kentucky said that lazy pastors might be tempted to use AI for preaching but not "the great shepherds" who love their people.
If you are only keeping up with the Kardashians and not the recent trends in technology, then there's news for you. Chatbots (software that simulates human-like conversations with users through chat) are here to help make human life easier but may steal some jobs as well. ChatGPT (a chatbot system driven by AI technology) is growing in use at a fast-enough pace to stir unease within the community of sermon writers.
For the time being, the evolving consensus among clergy is that these bots can write a passably competent sermon. But they can't match the passion of live preaching, reports New York Post. Sermons are intended to be the focal point of a worship service and are frequently faith leaders' best weekly shot at capturing their congregation's attention in order to impart theological and moral guidance.
"It lacks a soul – I don’t know how else to say it," said Hershael York, a pastor in Kentucky who also is dean of the school of theology and a professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Lazy pastors might be tempted to use AI for this purpose, York said, "but not the great shepherds, the ones who love preaching, who love their people."
Joshua Franklin, a rabbi in New York, recently informed his congregation at the Jewish Center of the Hamptons that he was going to deliver a plagiarised sermon about trust, vulnerability, and forgiveness. He finished by asking the worshippers to guess who wrote it. When they appeared perplexed, he revealed that the writer was ChatGPT, in response to his request for a 1,000-word sermon on that week's Torah lesson.
"Now, you're clapping — I’m deathly afraid," Franklin said when several congregants applauded. "I thought truck drivers were going to go long before the rabbi, in terms of losing our positions to artificial intelligence. ChatGPT might be really great at sounding intelligent, but the question is, can it be empathetic? And that, not yet at least, it can't." He added that AI has yet to develop compassion and love and is unable to build community and relationships. "Those are the things that bring us together," the rabbi concluded.
Rachael Keefe, the pastor of Minneapolis' Living Table United Church of Christ, conducted an experiment similar to Franklin's. In January, she published a brief essay in her online Pastoral Notes on how to care for one's mental health during the holiday season. It was pleasant but a little bland and Keefe revealed at the end that it was written by ChatGPT, not herself. "While the facts are correct, there's something deeper missing," she wrote. "AI cannot understand community and inclusivity and how important these things are in creating church."
"It's not terrible, but yes, I agree. Rather generic and a little bit eerie," responded congregation member Douglas Federhart. "I like what you write a lot more. It comes from an actual living being, with a great brain and a compassionate, beating heart."
Mike Glenn, senior pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church for 32 years, wrote a blog post in January after a computer-savvy assistant joked that Glenn could be replaced by an AI machine. "I'm not buying it," Glenn wrote. "AI will never be able to preach a decent sermon. Why? Because the gospel is more than words. It's the evidence of a changed life."
Well, it seems that no human pastor will qualify chatbots to become "the great shepherds."