We are now living in an age and society where we may legitimately need to ask the question: “Did that man just preach a sermon written by ChatGPT?”
I know this to be the case because – out of sheer curiosity – I myself asked ChatGPT to write me a sermon on a passage of scripture.
And, being honest, it possibly did a better job than I could have.
So as Christians, how do we deal with this new possibility? Should we be concerned? Does it matter if a Sunday sermon has been written by AI?
I’m going to argue that it absolutely does. But possibly not for the reasons you might expect.
The real question is not one of “can”, but “should”.
Out of further curiosity, I asked ChatGPT whether preachers should use it to write their sermons. Its answer was for the most part reasonable – but utterly unspiritual. And there, me and AI differ.
And this is the heart of my point in this post. I am not going to argue for one moment that AI cannot produce a better sermon than me. After all, it has instantaneous access to practically every sermon, commentary, and academic article ever written by any Christian since the advent of written language.
We must not underestimate what AI can do. Clearly, ChatGPT (as one example) has some degree of ability to correctly handle both context and knowledge. It doesn’t merely regurgitate what it’s seen… it can take existing content and produce something uniquely new. And it can correctly handle its existing knowledge in doing so. You can ask it to outline a sermon for a given passage, ask it about specific points that it makes therein, ask it to expand particular points and reword others, supply context for application by your particular congregation. I’m not going to say this is a demonstration of intelligence – but it certainly able to emulate it.
This is the galactic leap in technology which has caused even ChatGPT’s creators to ask the question: “just because we can, should we?“. I think we entirely miss the point if all we ask is “Can it write a good sermon?”. That’s asking the wrong question. The question isn’t one of academic essay quality. It isn’t one of mere “words on paper”. Not even “words preached by a preacher”.
Throughout redemptive history, God has used faithful men (and some faithful women) for His work on earth. That’s God’s divine and sovereign choice. Whether it be Old Testament prophets, New Testament apostles, kings, missionaries, or preachers.
All these people were gifted by Holy Spirit for specific tasks. Most notably, the proclamation of God’s word (Acts 2). Occasionally even for healing the sick and (1 Kings 17:17-24) and super strength (Judges 16:25-30) and the alike.
What happened in those situations? Could God have used nature or AI to achieve those tasks? Clearly the answer is “yes”, He could have (1 Kings 17:2-16, Numbers 22:21-39, Job 38). But – at the risk of being a broken record – the question isn’t about could or can, but should and did? God chose (and continues to choose) faithful people. Not AI. Nor parrots, or even writing in the sky.
We see this underlined in the New Testament. Paul writes on several occasions regarding the specific giftings God imparts on specific human beings within the church (Ephesians 4:10-13, 1 Corinthians 12:20-35). These giftings are rightly augmented by resources from other such gifted individuals in the form of Bible commentaries and Bible college degrees – but ultimately, the gifting is directly in the individual through Holy Spirit who indwells them. When AI tries to emulate that gifting, although the results may come out word-for-word the same (by statistical probability if nothing else), the fact is it hasn’t been born of the mechanism God intended.
And that matters.
In Deuteronomy 28:47-48, Yahweh declares that disasters will befall Israel not because they didn’t serve Him, but because of their attitude in serving Him. There was a spiritual problem at hand – they didn’t serve Yahweh with joy.
I know I’m bordering twisting the exegesis of that passage, but I think it is valid to draw this point out of it. The practical acts of service didn’t please God one bit. What God demanded was the right heart attitude – expressed in practical ways. Sermon preparation is hard. It’s tiring. And the temptation is certainly now there to “just use AI to save some time”. Afterall, it’s somehow reached Friday afternoon and we’re preaching on Sunday morning. Have we really got time to do otherwise?
Do we honour God by cutting that corner in using AI rather than leaning hard on Holy Spirit’s help and the renewal of our own minds to painstakingly follow the exegetical process and prayerfully considering the appropriate means of proposed application?
This is my prediction if we do: we’ll have twice as many people coming up to us saying “What a wonderful sermon! Thank-you so much! It was so clear and well worded, it really touched my heart! Such challenging words!”
And Holy Spirit will choose not to act in their lives. We won’t see sinners saved. We won’t see our churches grow and blessed.
We’ll find on that Great Day our Lord say to our faces – “You didn’t serve me in the way I required.”
Stay faithful brothers. Prepare the word, and preach the word. And feel free to play with ChatGPT after your service for the week is done.