On Thursday, March 16, we held our latest Learning Community event for the almost 280 senior ministers/pastors in the Renew.org Network. The Learning Community event takes place every two months, and this time, the topic was “Artificial Intelligence and the Senior Minister.”
Artificial intelligence has advanced to where AI programs are now adept at content creation—and all it takes is typing a few words into your computer. Thanks to AI programs such as ChatGPT and Midjourney, it’s possible for the user to enter a simple direction and have AI crank out brand new essays and images in seconds. Because this is a matter of generating new content, this new horizon of AI is called “generative AI.”
To help our senior ministers/pastors think through this game-changing development, we brought together three speakers: Dr. Fuz Rana (president and CEO of Reasons to Believe), Dr. Chad Ragsdale (Academic Dean at Ozark Christian College), and myself.
Can I take a moment and share 6 takeaways from this important Learning Community event?
1. It’s reassuring when churches are led by people who want to stay current on the latest cultural developments.
It’s encouraging for us to see so many church leaders within the Renew.org Network taking steps to be the best thought leaders they can be for their churches.
2. There’s a better posture than immediately rejecting—or embracing—the latest technology.
As Andy Crouch explained in Culture Making, our job as Christians goes beyond just critiquing and analyzing culture. We need to cultivate it and create the best culture we can. How can churches utilize technology in ways that sharpen us and don’t numb us? That’s a worthy question to wrestle with.
3. With any technological advance, it’s important to remember that there’s a big difference between can and should.
As Chad Ragsdale pointed out in the Learning Community event, based on an observation by philosopher Marshall McLuhan, new technology is an extension of some part of us (e.g., binoculars extending our eyes, hammers extending our arms). In the same way, technologies such as ChatGPT are meant to extend our minds, and we must ensure that, in our use of such technologies, we remain the creative agents. We must not let our minds atrophy through laziness.
4. In an age of runaway technology, it’s crucial that we keep thinking ethically.
People will continue to have more information at their fingertips than they could possibly digest, but that in itself won’t give them the wisdom to use the information; more knowledgeable doesn’t automatically translate into more ethical. Church leaders need to think hard about the ethical issues we face in the contemporary world. People will be hungry for good answers.
5. The shocking advancements of AI’s capabilities have made a lot of people question the uniqueness and importance of humans.
Yet there is a strong case—combining biblical and scientific truths—that humans continue to remain uniquely valuable and important in our world. Put another way, there’s a robust scientific case to be made for humans being made in the image of God. (One of the speakers, biochemist Fuz Rana, has researched this extensively and made this case during his presentation.)
6. In an era of technological revolution, identity confusion, and moral chaos, the gospel remains more relevant than ever.
People will be wrestling all the more with the core questions that even a customized stream of instant information won’t be able to answer.
If you would like to watch this Learning Community event (around 2 hours of video), you can watch the recordings today on our digital locker. How? Those that commit to recurring donations of $25 or more per month are considered regular supporting RENEW.org network members. Regular supporting members receive free access to our digital locker with dozens of hours of substantive video presentations (including last Thursday’s Learning Community event), plus occasional free books, discounts, and more!
Also, if you are a senior minister/pastor and are interested in joining a Renew.org Learning Community near you, contact Mike Rosser at Mike@renew.org.