The Church building is closed today due to weather. Please email us at if you need help with anything.


A blank page…
For a preacher, a blank page is either an opportunity or a nightmare. I come to the blank page each week after time in prayer and hours of study, ready for God to shape a message that will teach and inspire, challenge and comfort. When I come to Holy Week, I know that there will be five blank pages… five messages that will need to be written (Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter SonRise and Easter Celebration)… five moments when I will once again have to face my greatest fear- a blank page that stays blank. Over the years, I have marveled at how God has rescued me from that possibility time and time again.
But this year, Palm Sunday stumped me. I sat all day the Wednesday of that week, staring at a blank page. What more could be said about the Parade? I tried to take a running start at the message several times, only to land on my face. I finally gave up, hoping that Thursday would offer a fresh start. But on that Thursday, no inspiration came. By Friday, I was pacing, eating M&Ms and talking to myself. Finally, Greg intervened with what he thought would be helpful. He offered to have ChatGPT write me a sermon. If you have not heard about this new AI (artificial intelligence), ChatGPT can answer questions with concise, quick, direct answers. It can solve complex mathematical equations and write a poem or a book. So, we asked the computer program to write a sermon based on John 12:12-19- the Palm Sunday story. Without one prayer, or a pause for study, the computer wrote a sermon in less than five minutes.
How depressing to see a computer do in a matter of minutes what I had failed to do after hours of intense work. I was shown up by a heartless computer! But then I realized the essential difference between me and my computer- heart. The sermon that ChatGPT wrote was grammatically correct and theologically acceptable, but it had no heart. AI may think faster than we do and may be able to draw on a vast array of sources beyond any that we could ever know, but AI cannot replicate the way that God touches the heart. AI cannot contemplate its own existence or yearn for a sense of purpose. AI is not capable of holding beliefs- a set of values that give order and direction to its existence. AI has no moral compulsion to tell the truth, and no sense of conviction that there is any consequence to telling a lie. While AI can be programed to replicate human features, it cannot feel and dream as we do. Ultimately, the Imago Dei (the image of God in which we are created) that makes us uniquely human, cannot be programmed.
Yet, while AI will never be uniquely human, forms of AI already impact our lives in significant ways. For instance, have you noticed the ads that pop up while you are doing a Google search? I have been looking for a mother-of-the-bride dress for our daughter’s wedding in September. Now everyday I see ads for expensive gowns in my internet feed. At Christmas time, I clicked on an ad for a travel jacket called NS40. Now, ads for adventure wear show up in my internet feed. I feel haunted and stalked on the internet, as if they know my every curious interest. AI algorithms know who we are, what we like and are incredibly good at surmising what we think. If you want to hide from AI’s prying eyes, use incognito software- a good suggestion that I routinely fail to heed.
AI can also watch your movements when you are not online. An ever-increasing network of cameras dot our landscape. Add to that AI facial recognition software and the result is the possibility to watch people move throughout the day. In China, the government has mastered this technology, creating a surveillance system that watches 1.4 billion people as they go to work, meet with friends for lunch, jaywalk, and play video games. China’s system threated to expose the work of missionaries we support, so they had to return to the U.S. to keep their family safe. That same system has been used to trap Uyghur people in northwestern China, sending millions into ‘re-education’ camps. China uses their system to create a ‘social credit system’ that rates a person’s behavior against the government’s standards. In China, AI is an authoritarian government’s best tool.
AI has given us many of our modern conveniences like self-serve check-outs and Alexa, search engines and spam filters, robotic surgery, and self-driving cars. Automation has been occurring for decades and is accelerating. For many tasks, AI systems outperform humans. They are cheaper, more efficient, and more accurate than humans. A Brookings Institute study in 2019 concluded that 36 million jobs could be at high risk of automation in the coming years. Many commentators offer much higher estimates of job losses. How will we develop new employment opportunities for those left behind? But perhaps one of the most pressing concerns about AI today is the way it is used to move and shape the thought of our community. Much has already been said about those who use AI to create a string of misinformation that leads us down dangerous rabbit holes, leaving us wondering what is true. Leaders from every corner of society have begun to raise concern, from Tesla’s Elon Musk and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, to the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention and Pope Francis. But the truth is: we can’t put this genie back in the bottle.
Where does that leave us today? Are we merely reduced to consumers… or have we become victims? Do we begin to wonder if the sermon we hear on Sunday was written by ChatGPT? Do these developments leave us fearful, even paranoid? NO! We are Easter people! We know the One who has conquered death and His name is Jesus the Christ! He is greater than any evil this world can create. May we be prayerfully aware… seeking Godly wisdom as we navigate in these new realities… ready to be His people of grace.

Walking with Jesus, even in an emerging AI world-
Posted in

No Comments