Should Pastors Use Google BARD in Sermon Research
How Can Google BARD Help Sermon Research
BARD is Google’s AI answer to CHATBOT (essentially). It can generate text, translate languages, write different kinds of creative content, and answer questions. This makes it a valuable tool for Pastors who are looking for an effective tool in sermonic research.
Here are three (3) ways that preachers can use BARD (Google’s AI Language Model) in sermon research:
Locating information on a specific sermon theme. If you're looking for information on a specific topic, you can ask BARD to aggregate it. BARD will return a list of relevant results, which you can use in furtherance of teaching objectives. However, BARD is probably the most inaccurate of the new AI tools.
To get different perspectives on theological views. As a Christian Apologists, it is my calling to know what others think about what we believe. BARD can be used to gain different perspectives. For example, if you're preaching on a controversial issue such as what “Catholics” believe versus what the Bible teaches, you can ask BARD to generate a list!
To generate creative research. No one said we are not to be creative in “how we present” the message. This is a far cry from “doctrinal creativity”. There is another word for this: false doctrine. AI can be used to generate creative content, such as parables, musical lyrics, etc. This can be a helpful way to add variety to your sermons and to make them more engaging.
In summary, Google’s AI (BARD) can be a powerful tool to improve sermon research. By using it, you can find information more quickly and easily, gain different perspectives, and generate research. However, and I warn a second time – BARD is light years behind other CHATBOTS, so for those who are not doctrinally sound, use another program.
AI Research is Based on Accurate Prompts
I cannot stress enough that “garbage in – garbage out” is literally true with BARD as well as other AI language models. With Google research, to include “syntax” style, we compare results, their accuracy, and usefulness with results above and below. With AI programs, no such “check” is possible because the software aggregates a piece of all results on the topic, from different sources.
The outcome can be something highly accurate or the reverse. This is much more crucial in sermon research because we are dealing with “eternity”. Again, if you are not “mature” in the faith, you could preach something “false” and damage your credibility.
Here are tips for using Google AI (BARD) in aggregating research results:
Be specific in your questions. The more focused the query, the better the results served. The less specific, the higher the error rate.
Use keywords but avoid “vague” queries. Keywords are still the basis of effective research. AI language models will not change that. However, you must use longer keywords and more complete sentences for better results.
Use synonyms to compare results. If you cannot find the information you're looking for, try using synonyms of the longer-tail keywords.
Be patient (with BARD at least): My testing of the Google AI bot demonstrates it is different. While you can watch as other models type the entire answer to your question, BARD is different. It provides no visuals until the prompt is answered in its entirety, and then it posts results all at once.
Don't be afraid to experiment. One (1) thing Believers seem to struggle with is “change”. Experimentation, being a part of change, is almost inconceivable to most.
In summary, Google BARD, just like Google search, requires accurate prompts to serve usable information. Without a correctly framed question, served results will be inaccurate and if you are not a seasoned enough, you will teach false doctrine! Be wary during your sermon preparation because in our "call", eternity is at stake.
Does Google AI Have Limitations
Yes, Goggle’s AI software does have limitations. If it is created by a “limited human being”, it stands to reason this would be true of it as well.
Here are some immediate limitations which come to mind:
AI, in general, is a piece of unconscious software, not a theologian. AI chatbots are programmed to be both informative and comprehensive. However, it is not a human theologian. BARD doesn’t have the same level of understanding of religious texts and traditions as do we. This results in a much more limited analysis, presentation, and cultural nuance important for effective ministry.
Google BARD is still in its infancy. As was discussed above, BARD still makes massive mistakes. While it is yet under development, I would use another CHATBOT for you research needs until BARD is more developed. Even then, mistakes are still common so “rightly dividing the Word of truth” is relevant. When testing BARD recently, it misspelled its own name (ARDB)!
Google AI is only a research starting point. Don't rely on any one (1) tool (except the Word of God) for research. This is a current issue with theological software, in general. An example of this is “online commentaries”. The answer you receive on any topic depends on the commentary read.
Trust AI but verify results. Many of us have heard this axiom in leadership: “trust but verify”. The same is true for these first generations of AI tools. I have tested many for some months and mistakes are numerous.
In summary, whether Google AI (BARD) or other software language models, there are still limitations to its usefulness. I cannot stress enough, as a Pastors of a church, the need for only mature theologians/preachers to use these tools. Those who are not so versed in the Word will bring themselves to a place of shame.
Should Pastors use Google AI to Write Sermons
Whether Pastors should use BARD to write sermons is a complex question with no easy answer. In transparency, I tested language models with this task. I did not do so because I “needed a sermon” to preach. GOD FORBID! The Holy Spirit has, and continues to provides boundless levels of material to preach.
However, and as with all things, I wanted to speak authoritatively on the matter. I have shared with regular readers my goal in receiving a master’s degree in Christian Apologetics was largely based on this need. Now, I have the experience (and credentials) to affirmatively state higher education is useless in salvation preaching and has no value in developing the anointing only God can give!
Nevertheless, on one hand, AI is a powerful tool that can be used to generate creative research. It can help church leaders/preachers locate information quickly, easily, and provides various perspectives on thematic topics. On the other hand, there are potential risks associated with using it to create entire sermons.
Here are things to consider before “crossing this bridge”:
You have no authority to surrender your anointing to a machine. Either God sent you are he did not. It is totally impossible for the Lord our God to send us into battle not properly armed for a mission. More simply – if you have no sword (of the Word), you have no anointing. AI will not change this!
God’s people need to hear from YOU, not Google AI. It seems a thin line between “research” and “writing” a sermon, but this is untrue. Sermons are, at their core, preached from the gifting and substance of the Preacher. For instance, if you sent me your AI research prompts, and their answers, I would package them in a way totally different from you. This means any sermon I deliver, based on your notes, will not resemble your sermon packaging. While a “pen” has ink to write, the words flow from the holder of the pen. (Let Those Who Have an Ear Hear).
AI can become the most addictive of drugs. With no hyperbole intended, dependence on any AI CHATBOT to write sermons will develop a spiritual slothfulness. I am not speaking about research, because AI is just a much more sophisticated, faster version of Google search. Yet, the Word must be your own and the delivery unique to your substance. Anything less is stealing from the Lord and His people.
In summary, Pastor should not use Google AI (BARD) or any other such software to write their sermons. The reasons were listed above but most importantly, isn’t that a faith issue?
Header Image Courtesy of Gerd Altmann @ Pixabay