Navigating the intersection of AI and sermon preparation
As the world becomes increasingly digital, the integration of technology into various aspects of life is inevitable. This includes the realms of religion and spirituality, where artificial intelligence (AI) is making its presence known. In the age of information overload, pastors and preachers are faced with the challenge of delivering sermons that resonate with their congregations and address the pressing issues of the modern world.1
In the digital age, where algorithms whisper in our ears and screens flicker with the promise of instant knowledge, the pulpit too has felt the touch of technological transformation. AI, once confined to science fiction, now peeks into sermon preparation, offering its vast databases and linguistic prowess as tools for crafting the Word. But can silicon truly serve the soul? Can AI-enhanced sermons resonate with the divine spark within us, or do they risk reducing the pulpit to a platform of cold, calculated pronouncements?
Scripture, the Bedrock of Faith
The bedrock of any sermon, AI-assisted or not, remains the immutable Word of God. As Ellen White reminds us, ”The Bible is the voice of God, talking to men in human language” (The Great Controversy, p 591).2 It is the wellspring of truth, the compass guiding us through life’s storms, and the mirror reflecting our souls (Psalm 119:105; 2 Timothy 3:16).
AI, with its vast capacity for research and analysis, can become a valuable assistant in navigating this sacred text. It can unearth hidden connections, illuminate historical contexts and offer fresh perspectives on familiar passages. Yet, AI is but a tool, and the power of Scripture lies not in algorithms but in its timeless wisdom and the Holy Spirit’s illumination within the human heart (2 Peter 1:21).
The Human Element: Authenticity and Connection
The essence of a sermon, however, transcends the mere presentation of information. It is a living tapestry woven from personal experience, theological reflection and the preacher’s unique voice. As Ellen White cautions, ”The preaching of the gospel is not a mere recitation of Scripture. It is the presentation of truth that brings conviction to the mind and touches the heart” (Evangelism, p 206).3 Michael J Gorman, a Lutheran theologian, aptly states, ”The preacher’s own wrestling with Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s guidance is the heart of authentic preaching. AI can’t replicate that.”4
Brian D McLaren, a progressive Christian author, echoes this sentiment, cautioning against losing sight of the human element. He encourages using technology to engage younger generations with faith, but emphasises that ”effective preaching requires authenticity, vulnerability and a genuine connection with the congregation”.5
A sermon devoid of the preacher’s lived experience, their vulnerabilities and triumphs, and their personal journey with the Divine, risks becoming a hollow echo in the vast digital void.
The Peril of the Algorithm: Discernment and Dependence
While AI can be a useful tool, we must approach it with discernment and a critical eye. As the pen of inspiration warns, ”The human mind, unguided by the Divine Spirit, is liable to err” (The Great Controversy, p 591). Walter Brueggemann, a prominent Old Testament scholar, suggests, ”We must resist the commodification and instrumentalisation of faith in the digital age.” 6
Over reliance on AI can lead to a shallow understanding of Scripture, a dependence on algorithmic interpretations rather than a deep, personal connection with the Word. The preacher who surrenders to the siren song of convenience, and substitutes AI-generated content for the wrestling of their own soul with Scripture and the Holy Spirit, risks losing the very essence of the pulpit: the human conduit of Divine truth.
Finding Harmony: A Symphony of Faith and Technology
The potential of AI in sermon preparation lies not in replacing the human element but in enriching it. AI can be the orchestra conductor, harmonising research, insights and historical context, allowing the preacher’s voice to rise above the noise to resonate with authenticity and grace. As Mrs White encourages, ”Let the preacher present the truth in its simplicity, appealing to the reason and the conscience” (Evangelism, p 206). Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, encourages, ”True spiritual growth requires personal silence and contemplation. AI can’t replace that.”7
In this symphony of faith and technology, AI can become a powerful instrument, amplifying the message, not drowning it out.
Ultimately, the question of AI in the pulpit is not a binary choice between technology and faith. It is a call for discernment, for harnessing the tools of the digital age while safeguarding the sacred space of the human soul. By approaching AI with intentionality, humility and a deep reverence for Scripture, we can ensure that sermons in the age of silicon continue to resonate with the timeless good news harmony needed for the dying soul.
- Toomas Meema, “Religion and Artificial Intelligence”, (2018).
- Ellen White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1911), p 591.
- Ellen White, Evangelism (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1901), pp 206,207.
- Michael Gorman, Preaching: Communicating the Word in a World of Words. Baker Academic, 2004.
- Brian McLaren, Faith in the Digital Age: How Technology is Shaping Christianity. HarperOne, 2014.
- Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination. Fortress Press, 2001.
- Richard Rohr, Silence: The Language of God. Fortress Press, 2011.
Toma Naivalu is the Chaplain at Fulton Adventist University College, Sabeto, Fiji.