2 things to know about AI and the church
We must navigate this age of AI with grace, wisdom, and a deep confidence in God as the creator of all thing, including us as his image bearers.
Probably one of the biggest questions I get when I talk about technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), is how to equip people in our churches to begin to think wisely about these innovations.
Often when topics like AI, facial recognition, or privacy come up in conversation, many people react with glazed over eyes because these topics seem so far off and disconnected from our daily lives. They don’t believe these are pressing issues and haven’t given much thought to them at all. If people are aware, they often tell horror stories or fearful dystopian tales about how technology is ruining our children or will take over human civilization in due time.
But as many of these topics continue to become more and more mainstream, the people in our churches will naturally begin wondering how their faith informs how they use and interact with these tools each day. Gone are the days where we just needed to worry about access to pornography or certain forms of social media on our devices. We are ushering in a new age,
The Age of AI, where everything we touch or interact with is infused with smart technology of some form that is able to take on tasks that were once reserved for humanity. With new innovations and tools debuting each day, it can be hard to keep up with much less equip people in your church to navigate these tools with wisdom grounded in the Scriptures. Here are two simple ways that you can begin to equip your people to think deeply about these tools and the way they influence our lives.
1. Educate yourself
Leading in the local church can be incredibly taxing as our attention is being diverted every moment of the day. From hospital visits to impromptu counseling sessions, you are being pulled in many different directions, so it can be nearly impossible to stay up to date on big cultural trends and issues.
So when I talk about equipping your people to navigate technology well, it can seem like just an addition to your never-ending to-do list. But as a pastor or ministry leader, our calling is to equip the saints for ministry wherever they may be called to engage in a lost and hurting world. As our culture is beginning to ask tough questions about technology and its impact on our lives, our people need to be ready to engage these issues with gospel truth rooted in God’s word.
With countless resources coming out each day, social media fires, and never-ending cable news headlines, simply grabbing a book or two outside of what is required for Sunday morning may sound daunting. This is why I recommend for busy pastors and ministry leaders to have one or two helpful overview books on most given subjects in order to get acquainted.
You can establish a pattern of reading each week as you take a small chunk of time to dedicate to personal growth and development. These overview books can give you an introduction to these issues, and you can always go deeper at a time when you have a break in your schedule.
Even saving 15-30 minutes once a week to read from books on culture or issues like technology will bless you and your people immensely. This habit can allow you to focus on one issue at a time, rather than feeling like you are drowning in a sea of cultural issues without a life raft.
This is the exact reason that I wrote my new book called The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity. It is written as an overview of AI and many of the most pressing issues that we are facing in our society. Covering issues from how AI is shifting the way we view ourselves, our families, and our neighbors to issues such as work, privacy, and medicine, the goal of the book is to give a solid foundation for engaging these emerging technologies with a framework based in the Word of God.
As we seek to equip ourselves, we will naturally see connections to our everyday roles which will lead us to equip others through our teaching and preaching each week. You will be amazed at how quickly you will begin making these connections with just a little outside reading each week.
2. Preach and teach about human dignity
The concept of human dignity may seem foreign to you or like something that only really concerns issues like abortion or euthanasia. When we talk about human dignity, we often revert to some of the most tangible dignity violations in our society. These horrors reveal how much we really value every human life as many in our society trample upon people made in God’s image in the name of progress or utilitarianism.
Often in conversations and writings about the effects of technology in our lives, there is an assumption made that there is nothing really unique about human beings. Many in our society buy into a purely materialistic worldview that believes there is nothing more to you than your body made up of matter. Everything reduces down to matter and the spiritual is just a fairy tale we taught ourselves to cope with the difficulties of our lives. This devaluation of ourselves and other image bearers is rampant throughout many of the conversations around AI and other emerging technologies. We dream of robots taking our jobs or fighting our wars but forget the human element and cost of these decisions.
This is where the church has the opportunity to speak clearly and forcefully about what it means to be human. Through our weekly teaching and discipleship, we can counteract this prevailing view of humanity by preaching and teaching about the uniqueness of humans in our technological age.
From the rise of smart assistants that we can communicate with to many people proclaiming that sex robots may be the future of sex, teaching a full orbed view of human uniqueness and dignity can help equip our people to embody an ethic that is winsome and life changing as they encounter many in our society who are concerned about major social issues tied to these technologies.
While you may not have an entire sermon or lecture series on artificial intelligence, you can mention a connection to something you read as you preach through passages like Genesis 1 or Psalm 139. These little real-world connections will encourage your people to think biblically about the issues they encounter daily and will help build a foundation for future discipleship in regard to technology in their lives.
Even though our schedules fill up quickly, and we often feel like we are pulled in every direction, these two simple steps can lay the groundwork for rich engagement in our churches and families. These steps can teach us how to navigate this age of AI with grace, wisdom, and a deep confidence in God as the creator of all thing, including us as his image bearers.