The big question is how can we use it for ministry, and to what extent should we use it? Here’s some meaningful ways you could use it right now:
1. Ministry Event Planning
Go to ChatGPT and type in this:
My church has a "bring your friend" trivia night planned for September 17. Make a table of all the things I need to plan. Each row should have a title, a description, a date due by, and some suggestions about how to do it
When I do this, I get a basic table of actions that need to be done. Does it include all the actions? No. Does it come up with more actions than I could have thought of in 20 seconds? Heck yes. Does it come up with things I would have not thought of (or forgotten until the last minute)? Actually yes! Does it have ideas that I wouldn’t use? Certainly. One idea it gave me in the “promote” task was “Consider offering incentives for attendees who bring guests”. My initial reaction was “no thank you”, but I decided to give it a chance…
What are some ways I could offer incentives for attendees who bring guests?
It actually came up with a good idea. It suggested a lucky-door prize for people to share with the friends they invited along. That could work.
But the really helpful about this list is that it’s done the first bit of the ‘planning’ for me; it’s helped me plan what to plan.
2. Bible Study / Personal Devotions
Again, have a crack at this in ChatGPT:
With 1Thessalonians 1:2-10, write a set of questions I could ask a group of people to a) help them understand the passage better, and b) reflect on how it affects them.
Or this one:
Break up the letter of 1thessalonians into a 2 week bible reading plan, with 2 questions to help understand and reflect on each passage.
Again, what ChatGPT does is a pretty good job of understanding the text and a basic set of questions that could work. In fact, I’d say that it wouldn’t take much effort to get ChatGPT to write a fairly simple bible study that you could use in a pinch. But that’s not the goal. Rather, just like the event planner, and just like a commentary or bible dictionary, this is a tool that’s able to help us get started in our preparation.
3. Sermon Ideas
I think the same can be true of preparing sermons. We already have tools that help us unpack the meaning and the themes and the ideas. And of course we have to be discerning with those. But what ChatGPT is designed to help with is word-smithing. It’s like a living thesaurus for ideas, rather than just words.
Here’s a prompt you could try…
Walk through 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10. In a table give me a short intense shocking title for each verse, the question that the verse is answering, a metaphor explaining the idea, and two possible defeater beliefs.
Again, what it does is kick-start the process. It makes suggestions about language and ideas that might help you as you’re thinking about how to communicate those ideas.
I’m hoping to write another post related to this, but I think there’s a good reason to start using tools like ChatGPT; because they’re just tools. They’re not intelligent agents, but they can help us do things better. It’s just a matter of learning how to best use the tool, and being wise and discerning in it’s use. At the end of the day, Jesus will not judge ChatGPT for what it suggested you include in your sermon, Jesus will hold you accountable.
But Luke 19:23 suggests that part of that accountability will be to ask us how we made the most of the situation and tools at our disposal. Look at what the master says to his servant:
“His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
If we know that Jesus is a great king who calls us to use everything at our disposal for him and his glory, we should be careful not to put our heads in the sand or simply ignore tools because they could be misused.