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Will AI Replace Ministers?

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AI

AI is a huge topic of conversation these days. It’s dominating conversation in all areas of life including work, home and school. Is it right to use it? What value does it add to the world? Will it replace human interaction. And, will AI take over the world? It seems like some of these questions seem silly, but they have been questions people have wondered about.

One big question people have asked is will AI ultimately replace me and my job. This is even a question being asked in the ministry world. There have been lots of ministers and Church leaders wondering if and when they will be replaced. While it is likely that AI will replace certain job aspects. and maybe some jobs, it seems highly unlikely that AI will replace a minister. But, to best answer this question, we have to first understand AI and what AI does.

What is AI?

You may hear names like Jasper, Bing, and ChatGPT. They are a few of the dominate players in AI right now, but what is it? According to Google, AI is “a set of technologies that enable computers to perform a variety of advanced functions, including the ability to see, understand and translate spoken and written language, analyze data, make recommendations, and more.”

AI is a wonderful tool to have and use to help aid and assist what you are doing. It has been great for helping brainstorm blog post ideas and articles, helping with research for sermons, lessons and social media posts, create images, and help you with creative brainstorming and ideas from anything from meal prep to workouts. It is a great tool to use and help you plan, research and perform some functions.

Will AI replace Minister?

As a minster, the fear of being replaced will always be there. If it is not by AI, it is by a younger, more abled human to do the job of a minister. While AI has proven to be a really good tool for ministers to use, there is a physical connection that AI cannot replace a minister with. For instance, a Lutheran Church in Germany recently tried to do an in-person service generated solely by AI. It was much talked about and highlighted in this AP news article. The service reflected much of an actual Church service. It included a sermon, prayers and music and ran for about 40 minutes. Three hundred people attended this service in person as they watched and avatar on the screen perform these functions. 

While the service ran smoothly, there was one problem. There lacked a human element. Here is what the AP said..

"However, the experimental church service also showed the limits to implementing artificial AI in church, or in religion. There was no real interaction between the believers and the chatbot, which wasn’t able to respond to the laughter or any other reactions by the churchgoers as a human pastor would have been able to do."

The article goes on to say that one of the reasons why this experiment failed, in their eyes, was the lack of an in-person, physically present minister. 

“The pastor is in the congregation, she lives with them, she buries the people, she knows them from the beginning,” Simmerlein said. “Artificial intelligence cannot do that. It does not know the congregation.”

The lack of a physically present minister on site is a very big deal. AI is programmed to respond logically to things. It is not programmed to be empathetic, caring or nurturing. People need that, in counseling sessions, Church services and in the sermons they preach and worship they lead. AI cannot replace in person ministers in this way. 

Conclusion:

While AI can do a lot of things, connecting with people in a personal way, is not what they are designed to do. And, while ministry leaders do a lot of tasks that could be aided by AI, actually ministering to real people by artificial intelligence does not seem like one of those tasked that AI can replace ministers with. Real ministers best know how to minster to real people. AI cannot replace ministers in that way. Not now, not in the foreseeable future. 

What do you think?  What has been your experience with AI? Do you think it will replace ministers?  Share your ideas below or on social media.

Through the Digital Church Network we are helping physical and digital churches better understand the discipleship process, and helping churches and church planters understand this and other decentralized mindset shifts. Joining the DCN is free and be encouraged! 

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About Author

Tom Pounder
Tom Pounder

Tom Pounder was born and raised just outside of Washington, DC. He is the father of 4 daughters and loves being a girl dad. He has a background in Student Ministry working over 22 years with teenagers and currently serves as the Online Campus Pastor at New Life Christian Church in Chantilly, VA. He blogs and podcasts weekly at http://thechurch.digital.

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