***This post was written entirely by AI (I asked it to write a blog post on using AI as a pastor). It is posted intentionally without edit or comment***
As a pastor, you may be wondering how you can incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into your work to better serve your congregants and improve your ministry. In this blog post, we will explore some ways that AI can be used as a pastor, as well as some potential benefits and challenges to consider.
One way that AI can be used as a pastor is through the use of chatbots. Chatbots are computer programs that are designed to simulate conversation with human users, often through messaging applications, websites, or mobile apps. As a pastor, you could use a chatbot to provide information and resources to your congregants, answer frequently asked questions, or even provide spiritual guidance and support. For example, you could set up a chatbot on your church’s website that allows people to ask questions or share their struggles, and the chatbot could provide personalized responses based on the information it has been trained on. This could be especially helpful for people who may not feel comfortable reaching out to a pastor in person or may not have access to traditional pastoral care.
Another way that AI can be used as a pastor is through the use of natural language processing (NLP) algorithms. NLP algorithms are designed to understand and analyze human language, and they can be used to analyze texts such as sermons, Bible verses, or other spiritual writings. As a pastor, you could use NLP algorithms to help you understand the themes and patterns in your own writing and teaching, or to find relevant passages from the Bible or other spiritual texts. You could also use NLP algorithms to analyze the language and sentiments of your congregants, which could help you tailor your messages and support to their needs.
AI can also be used as a pastor through the use of virtual assistants. Virtual assistants are computer programs that are designed to perform tasks and answer questions for users. As a pastor, you could use a virtual assistant to help you manage your schedule, organize your tasks, or keep track of important information. For example, you could set up a virtual assistant to send reminders about meetings or deadlines, or to help you find relevant resources or information. This could help you save time and energy, allowing you to focus on the more important aspects of your ministry.
There are many potential benefits to using AI as a pastor. One of the main benefits is that it can help you reach more people and provide support to a larger number of congregants. For example, a chatbot or virtual assistant could be available 24/7, allowing people to access support and resources at any time of day. AI can also help you personalize your support and care to better meet the needs of your congregants. For example, a chatbot or NLP algorithm could analyze the language and sentiments of your congregants to provide more targeted and relevant responses. Finally, AI can help you save time and energy, allowing you to focus on the more important aspects of your ministry.
However, there are also some challenges to consider when using AI as a pastor. One potential challenge is that AI may not be able to fully replicate the human element of pastoral care. While AI can provide information and support, it may not be able to provide the same level of emotional support or deep understanding that a human pastor can. It is important to recognize the limitations of AI and to ensure that it is used in a way that complements, rather than replaces, human pastoral care.
Another potential challenge is that AI may raise ethical concerns or raise questions about the role of technology in ministry. It is important to consider these issues and to have open and honest conversations with your congregants about the use of AI in your ministry.
In conclusion, AI has the potential to revolutionize pastoral care and ministry in many ways.
***This post was written entirely by AI (ChatGPT) – openai.com***
The Digital Plot Thickens: Important lessons COVID-19 is teaching the Church about the use of technology.
The Exposition: Two worlds colliding.
As someone with a keen interest in both media ecology (the study of technology/media and its effects) and ecclesiology (the study of the church), this season in the life of the church fascinates me. This is a season where these two worlds have collided, creating a storyline few writers could have conceived. In many ways, it has become a narrative case study for the impact, role and place of technology, especially in our churches.
The Set Up and Rising Action: A fast pivot online.
Every good story has a narrative arc (see the graphic above) and uses plot devices to create depth, interest and suspense. The story of the church’s embrace of technology in the COVID-19 crisis is marked by many of these. Two months ago, when public gatherings were suspended, the church made a fast pivot and moved online. This pivot had relative success at first but as anyone who has experienced this knows, that initial embrace soon transitioned to “Zoom gloom” and digital skepticism (as people responded to being thrown into the digital deep end and, consequently, wondering if digital ministry is truly effective long-term) with a side of nostalgia (as people began to crave going back to the way things were).
Everyone has experienced this differently, of course, but it is important to note that this experience isn’t unique to the church. A similar experience is paralleled in education (moving to exclusive online learning) and business (many professions working remotely) with lessons, learnings, successes and failures that will be explored and examined for years.
Plot Twist One: Not only can the church change but the church is quite good at it.
As the fast pivot online occurred, there was a plot twist for churches: the local church discovered it can change when it needs to. In fact, it turns out that the church is quite good at it. Nothing creates change like a crisis and this crisis created change in abundance. Churches re-evaluated priorities, redeployed staff, revised budgets, reworked strategies, etc. This hidden ability (and even gift) for change tells me that the challenge for the church going forward isn’t its ability to change, but rather the motivation for that change to happen. Thus, the church’s lack of change in response to decline, lack of disciple-making, ageing leadership, etc. isn’t because the church is incapable of change, it is because it doesn’t see it as a crisis. Ouch!
Plot Twist Two: Technology will not solve our problems.
Within weeks of making the transition to exclusive online ministry, a second plot twist emerged: the church discovered that the initial promise of online ministry (increased engagement beyond traditional boundaries) was short-lived as online engagement began to drop (personally, I believe there are a number of reasons for this and I don’t believe that it is indicative for the long-term). Just as the church has discovered in recent years that its discipleship crisis wasn’t a content one (we have more content than ever before and yet the disciple-making needle hasn’t budged), it has now discovered it also isn’t a delivery one (moving online wasn’t the magic solution that some had argued).
Don’t get me wrong, your church needs an online ministry! If your church doesn’t have a digital dimension to its ministry, this pandemic has exposed that desperate need. With the mobility of people, the ease of online access, the increasing embrace of digital learning, community and work, the church faces the unprecedented opportunity to missionally enter the arena people are increasingly living in.
That being said, before the pandemic I was in many meetings where people were pitching how the church’s disciple-making problem was its lack of technology. In other words, if the church had better social media, an app or livestream options, its ministry would explode with effectiveness and expanded reach. In many ways, this pandemic has exposed and laid bare the depth of our discipleship and spiritual formation problem, and it is much deeper than we thought. Technology has its place (one we need to expand) but it will not solve our disciple-making problem – that problem is much deeper than a digital content delivery platform can solve.
Climax: Things can’t stay the same.
All of these factors have led the church to a crisis/climax. What is the place of technology in the life of the church and how will we reach more people and disciple them as followers of Jesus in our new post-COVID-19 world? The church needs a plan to build disciples (this isn’t the place for this, but my hypothesis is that it involves/includes a re-embrace of spiritual disciplines within Christian community) and an integrated and fully realized digital plan and strategy to support that plan.
In many ways, this season of life has exposed the depth of our disciple-making deficiency and, sadly, our complacency in it. If we end this season in the same place we entered, still believing the same misdiagnosed realities we once embraced, we will have missed a great opportunity for change. We must re-ignite our passion for disciple-making and see it as the crisis that it is. As a result, we must make the pivots needed to address it (pivots we discovered we are quite good at) and creating the digital infrastructure to support it (seeing digital platforms as a means to support disciple-making rather than save it).
Falling Action and Resolution: A new digital normal emerging.
One of our lessons is that technology is not the solution to our greatest problems, but it can help build our capacity to discover it. Our world is increasingly digital, and people will become acclimatized to a digital environment. Working from home, learning from home and worshipping from home will not fully replace personal physical interaction (this season has proven that), but it has its place and will be key to helping the church connect and fulfil its mission in our emerging world. Thus, your church needs to utilize technology in greater ways for the right reason. Technology won’t make disciples, that is our job (empowered by the Holy Spirit), but it can, like our physical buildings, create the environments for this to happen.
Cliff-hanger: What will we do as a result?
All good serial television shows end its episodes with a narrative cliff-hanger. This is no different. The cliff-hanger for the church is, what will we do now?
We can’t go back! We need to embrace our digital world for the environment it is while embracing our difficult calling to “go make disciples” (not conflating these in an ecclesiastical misdiagnosis).
As we move into the coming days, it is time to create an online strategy for your church or ministry. As we continue in the “COVID-19 Dance,” this may be needed as we move in and out of physical gathering restrictions, but it is also needed for the future, as we enter the digital landscape in the ever-expanding mission of God.
If you are not sure what this can look like or how to do this, I want to invite you to some workshops I am teaching for Ambrose University and Seminary in August. Join me for one, two or all three days as we do this together (it is also available for university or seminary credit). Learn about how technology affects us, how to leverage different digital technologies for your church or ministry and design a fully implementable digital strategy. It will be informative, practical and interactive. Come alone or bring your team.
Effective Online Ministry: Understanding, Creating and Launching Ministry Online (Presented by Ambrose University)
Instructor: Rev. Bryce Ashlin-Mayo, DMin
Description: A theological and methodological exploration of online ministry with particular attention to creating an online ministry strategy. It will examine how the internet and social media is profoundly changing culture and explore how the Church can effectively engage this new medium for the advancement of God’s kingdom and mission.
Details: Join us online for these three exciting professional development opportunities. Classes will run 9am-3pm with a break from 12-1pm each day.
August 12, 2020 – Understanding the Digital World: Bringing Theology and Media Ecology Together
August 19, 2020 – Understanding the Nuts and Bolts (Bits and Bytes) of Online Ministry
August 26, 2020 – Designing an Online Ministry Strategy
Cost: For all 3 workshops is $150. Single registration is available if you only wish to participate in one or two workshops at a cost of $59/workshop.
The Greek myth of Narcissus is an interesting and poignant tale for our times. The simplified version of the myth finds Narcissus abruptly leaving the infatuated Echo with a broken heart in the forest. Upon hearing this, Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, decides to punish Narcissus for his treatment of Echo. Luring him to a brook, Nemesis shows Narcissus his image and he falls in love with his reflection, eventually drowning to death in his self-obsession. This simplified mythical story gives us several of the words commonly used in our vocabulary: nemesis as our archenemy and narcissism as the obsession of self. These two words, stemming from this story, pair well in the appetite of our culture.
In our social media world, we have increasingly become susceptible to the temptation of our cultural nemesis – narcissism. Much like Narcissus in the story, we have been lured to the water’s edge and have been transfixed by our reflection. Inspired by the work of Marshall McLuhan, the late Canadian media theorist, I would like to suggest that Narcissist didn’t fall in love with himself, but with a distorted reflection of himself. As with all reflections on water’s surface, water reflects an image slightly distorted from the original.
In our social media world, we have fallen in love with ourselves; but not just any version of ourselves – a distorted version. Love is blind and our love has made us blind to who we truly are, drowning in a pool of our collected distorted reflections, unable to recognize ourselves and blind to those, in ignorant solidarity, drowning around us.
In our social media world, our nemesis has tempted us to the waters edge with fame and self-promotion. Social media has provided equal opportunity to climb the platform of popularity. This is so much the case that it has consumed us and we have lost ourselves in our own distorted reflections, drowning as a result.
“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:16, NIV)
As we strive to faithfully walk the path along the coast of our social media world, the goal for us is to do so in a way that seeks to fulfill the Great Commandment:
“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’ And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:27-29, NIV)
As we seek to faithfully follow Jesus in our social media world, I want to suggest three practices to avoid the temptation of our nemesis – our distorted reflection:
Look up, love others and pray for them. Use social media as a window rather than just a megaphone. As much has it allows us to project our voice, it also amplifies the voice of others. Use it love, pray and care for others in need.
Be thankful. Regularly thank God for all you have and who God has uniquely created you to be. This will help you follow the teaching of Jesus and rejoice with others as they celebrate and mourn with others as they grieve. In addition, being thankful will help you to stay free of the snares of worry and envy in your life.
Be humble, truthful and authentic with yourself and others. Try your best to present a true version of yourself and celebrate that version. Do not be tempted by the image of your distorted reflection.
In our social media world, let’s learn to live in it faithfully and embrace the Great Commandment together – loving God and loving others. As we do, we can rescue ourselves, others and society from drowning at the water’s edge, transfixed by our distorted reflections and, instead, faithfully walk in the way of Jesus with authenticity and humility.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4, NIV)
Social media has impacted our world and our individual lives with wide sweeping effects. For the most part, we have enthusiastically and blindly entered this new reality, embracing the new abilities it offers. For the first time in history, social media has allowed us to see what is happening with our friends, family and acquaintances as well as to gather their thoughts and opinions in real-time. In addition, we can share our photos, ideas, thoughts and opinions with the world in real-time. Social media has provided equal access to a public platform that would have been, previously, only available to a privileged few.
This has led to a cultural critique of social media that people spend way too much time keeping up on what is going on with others through the large window that social media gives access to. Social media now allows everyone to be a celebrity in some sense, with our phones as paparazzi and us as the magazine editor taking clips from our lives and sharing them for the world to see. This reality also reverses itself and allows us to constantly look into other people’s lives with what seems to be an unquenchable appetite.
Personally, as an avid user of social media, I enjoy that I can see what is happening with my friends, family, and acquaintances, knowing about important life events (birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, deaths, etc.) but also discovering how people are doing, feeling, and what is happening in their lives. Social media has provided a large window into my relational world, allowing me access into the lives of my friends, family, and acquaintances that would never have been possible before.
This phenomenon has created large metaphorical windows into our relational lives. We can gaze through them and observe what is happening with others as well as, through a self-edited lens, allow people to selectively peer into ours. This relational window has also caused a temptation to voyeuristically view the lives of others as passive consumers of relationship rather than as active participants.
In our stubborn stare into the lives of others, we are often oblivious to the fact that the large window of social media also has hinges – that the window we are gazing through is actually a door. The hinge of social media makes the window a door, opening up the possibility to actively love others. The invitation for us is to walk through the threshold of relational possibility with a cadence of love. Social media, like all technology, extends our reach. It can extend our reach to peer with interest and it can extend our reach to walk with purpose.
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” Proverbs 10:12, NIV
What if social media extended your reach not just to know things about others but extended your reach to actively love others by genuinely being happy for them, mourning with them, encouraging them, sharing hope with them and building them up. Let’s use social media more as a door than just a window and extend love beyond us. Our world needs more love, hope, and faith (the things the Bible says will remain – 1 Corinthians 13:13); therefore, use social media to walk through the threshold of relational possibility with a cadence of love and change our world.
Step into almost all evangelical churches and a growing percentage of mainline and Catholic churches and you will see the use of the big screen(s). Video projection has become increasingly ubiquitous in worship services in ever expanding ways: utilized for words in worship songs, responsive readings, sermon graphics, multimedia clips, etc. Consider that in a few decades the church has moved from hymns to overhead projector to video projection.
The Church has embraced the First Screen (main video screen) as a key content delivery device and atmosphere creation tool. Since then, and over about the last five years, the second screen has emerged in society and the church has begun to take notice and adapt to it in worship. Through live tweeting, YouVersion and other tools, the second screen experience is growing and will continue to grow. As it does, new tools and apps will emerge to integrate this into the worship service.
In a conversation with friends, we stumbled upon what I think will be an inevitable shift in technology usage in church over the next several years. This shift is a screen reversal. Although I think that we will still have both first and second screens, the priority of these will reverse. The handheld screens (mobile devices) that are increasingly ubiquitous will become the primary screen in the worship service, holding the place Scripture is read, responsive readings are read, participation is engaged through social network features, and words for worship are projected. The new second screen will be the large projection screen(s) that will, where needed, show the video feed, video clip, and/or create atmosphere for the room.
The initial reaction to my hypothesis will probably be disbelief and/or a fear of increased individualism as people use their individual devices. However, consider how this is less like moving forward and more like moving backwards. Just as people would use paper notebooks to take notes, printed Bibles to read, and printed hymn books to sing, the individual devices will have similar functions but would also allow for social interaction and discussion through advanced social network platforms.
In the coming years, new apps (if I could design one I would because I can see huge future potential for it) will emerge that allows for LBMDs (Locally Broadcasted Mobile Displays – A phrase I just invented) to show song lyrics, images, Bible passages, take notes, and facilitate live interaction for those in attendance physically, and in some situations, virtually online.
There are always pros and cons to every technological change. The medium is the message and all media works us over completely (combining two quotes from Marshall McLuhan ~the great Canadian media theorist). I am not arguing for or against this screen reversal or, even, discussing the impact on the worship experience (positive or negative); I am simply highlighting the shift that is on the horizon as the first and second screen switch prevalence.
Connecting the dots of culture, technology, faith, ministry, mission and life.