Best Practices Using AI in Sermon Preparation
Should I Write Sermons Using AI
No, you shouldn't use AI to write sermons but research is another conversation. If you are not truly “called by Jesus” to preach the gospel, then perhaps you should not use AI in sermon preparation. I do not offer this with any form of malice, at all. Here is what 99% of you reading this will think: “I am glad he is speaking of someone else”. No, not really! I am speaking to you, sir, or mam.
The reality is the Lord does not send someone and then fail to equip them with a message to preach. It is literally a faucet that, when turned on, never seems to run dry. However, there are some who are simply experiencing a “dry season”. That is the genesis of our business model here at Sermon Download(s). Occasionally, I, too, experience a dry time and re-preach a sermon.
Using AI in sermon preparation is one (1) thing while allowing it to write an entire message is an entirely different matter. Here are best practices when using AI (Artificial Intelligence) to prepare your message:
1. Set boundaries by developing appropriate prompts. AI uses “prompts” to answer any question you ask. This means you must state your question correctly to produce desired results. There is a huge difference between: “provide the contextual background on Ephesians 4” vs. “provide sermon points on Ephesians 4”.
2. Realize AI’s limitations theologically. While AI can provide sound theology, it must be checked against the Word of Truth. While it provides context, a little anyway, the “applicability” must come from those God has sent to preach. AI is programmed by Atheists who do not follow Jesus Christ. This means it often serves unbiblical content which must be discarded. I have seen this content personally.
3. Although it is much faster than sorting through Google results, it may not be as valuable. Unless you ask AI for a scholarly citation, it is almost impossible to know “where” it sourced results. With Google, it is clear because we read search results and choose what is most appropriate. If you are a novice theologically, stick with Google for research until your skills are sharper.
4. Never ask for “scripture references” without asking for an “explanation” as well. This boils down to using perfect “prompts” to aggregate the best results. In preaching, context is connected to “applicability”. If the former is unsound, the latter will be as well.
5. AI is smarter than you but not better equipped. Using AI in sermon prep can be a beautiful experience, but “intelligence” is not the key to Holy Ghost preaching: obedience is. There was a reason Jesus purposefully chose those the Bible describes as “ignorant and unlearned”. God’s people are not “stirred” by “smart”; they are “moved” by power. AI is the former while God’s people are the latter. Guide AI and never allow it to guide YOU.
6. Humans should “walk the dog” and not “allow the dog to walk us”. Overall, each step of the sermon prep process is totally controlled by your gifting, viewpoint, and direction.
In summary, using AI in sermon prep can take your content to a new level. However, the foundation of preaching is the Holy Spirit and that must come from you. If you rely on AI to write your sermon(s), something is wrong. There is a difference between a “dry season” and living in a place “the rain never falls”.
7 Best AI Sermon Research Strategies
One (1) of the main benefits of using AI is its ability to quickly provide vast amounts of information Preachers can access. This saves time on those occasions where there seems not enough!
Another benefit is AI’s ability to identify patterns that may not be immediately apparent to Pastors and Preachers of the Word. As an example, Artificial Intelligence identifies common themes relevant to your sermon topic. Additionally, it also assists in identifying historical and cultural contexts important for communicating its relevance to modern Believers.
Here are seven (7) additional best research practices:
1. Identify your sermonic need. prior to beginning, you must identify the need and never allow AI to dictate it. AI doesn’t mean to take over, at this point anyway, but may do so subtly. For instance, if you ask the wrong question, you receive the wrong resource. If you mistakenly use such resources, AI is controlling direction and not you.
2. Identify the appropriate tools. AI software tools are expanding at an exponential rate. There are chatbots, virtual assistants, data analysis software, text-to-image generators, and the list is endless!
3. Only use reliable resources. As of this writing, I would avoid Google’s Chatbot resource named “BARD”. I was among the initial people invited to test the software and it was a total disaster. It served bad information, did not understand questions, and the list is endless. Based on my testing, BARD is more than a year away from usability. By then, other chatbots will be light years ahead. As unbelievable as it may sound – Google has already lost the AI race! Put more simply, Google’s 25 year reign as the premier informational resource has a credible challenger.
4. Accurate sermon means accurate results. AI sometimes serves results that are not accurate. That is a polite way of saying “these results are terrible!” It is crucial to verify any served results against other software.
5. Maximize all AI tools. I do not want to serve as a “spoiler”, but there are tools far beyond chatbots that will blow your mind! Right now, an AI eco-system is emerging which provides limitless opportunities for advancing the cause of the gospel.
6. Use multiple chatbots and measure results. Using multiple software programs will assist in developing a more comprehensive understanding of both the topics you choose, and the AI required to develop content.
7. Document the research process. Documenting research helps track progress, identify issues, and replicate successful results. For instance, it took some time for me to understand the difference between: “provide three (3) scriptures from Mark describing Jesus’s miracles” and “provide three scriptures on miracles”.
In summary, using AI in the research process can be edifying and even provide a deeper insight into biblical knowledge. However, it must not replace solid sermon research strategies resulting in sound doctrine.
3 Things to Avoid Asking AI During Sermon Prep
There are certain things you should avoid asking AI during the sermon preparation process. Like any human you interact with, the wrong questions produce the wrong answers. AI may not know it is intentionally deceiving someone either: “garbage in, garbage out” is relative.
Here are three (3) things to avoid asking AI during the sermon prep process:
1. “What sermon topics are popular right now”? There are many things wrong with this question, but I will share three (3). First, “popular” is never the measure for what should be preached. If you do not know what the measure is, again, I question your “call”. Second, whatever AI serves, it most likely isn’t what the Lord desires. Third, popular sermon topics rarely, if ever, properly challenge God’s people. Remember that AI is written by the “woke” among us. It will never serve topics that are controversial yet that bless people. I mean, why hurt anyone’s feelings, right?
2. “How accurate are your results”? This question is fruitless because AI serves the best results it is programmed to. In effect, you are asking it to be critical of itself and even with humans, how effective could that be? Your “calling” is to: “rightly divide the Word of truth”. In the area of “accuracy”, you must be more theologically sound than AI. This requires a mature Believer.
3. “Write a sermon for me”. I know this sounds hypocritical coming from a company built on providing sermon content! However, AI cannot provide something we can - Holy Ghost inspiration, 100% accuracy, and guaranteed to inspire God’s people.
In summary, the accuracy of your questions will determine the quality of results. For example, if you ask AI: “should churches be more inclusive”, it will provide a “carnal” definition of “inclusive” and not the Bible’s. Be extra careful with chat prompts and always inspect results.
Header Image Courtesy of Gerd Altmann @ Pixabay