Church should use artificial intelligence to spread gospel

Catholic Faithful during a procession in Nakuru City on April 2, 2023 as they celebrated the Palm Sunday. [Daniel Chege, Standard]

The advent of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) age presents a remarkable opportunity for the Church to redefine its mission and engagement. The rapid strides in technology offer a chance to utilise AI for enriching outreach, discipleship, and pastoral care in profound and innovative ways.

The potential of AI is immense, enabling the Church to extend its influence and connect with previously unreached individuals. Through AI-powered chatbots, personalised spiritual guidance can be provided, addressing inquiries and offering immediate support to those seeking solace and direction.

Furthermore, AI can play a pivotal role in analysing vast datasets, unveiling deeper insights into the congregants' needs and preferences. This understanding can shape ministries and sermons to resonate with specific requirements, fostering engagement and growth.

Automation can streamline administrative tasks, allowing clergy and staff to dedicate more time to ministerial responsibilities. By optimising resource allocation and organising events, AI-driven systems enhance the efficiency of community service.

However, as the Church embraces AI, it must retain its foundational values. Technology should serve the mission, rather than replacing the essential human connection at the core of its ministry. Striking a balance between technological progress and genuine interpersonal relationships remains imperative.

Ethical considerations are paramount in AI adoption. Upholding privacy and data protection is crucial to ensure the trust and confidentiality of the congregants served. Addressing algorithmic biases and promoting inclusive AI implementations is essential.

A notable example of AI integration occurred on June 9, 2023, when an AI chatbot delivered a sermon at a Protestant church service in Germany. This event sparked discussions about the future of religion, underscoring the Church's potential to embrace AI for global ministry.

To successfully navigate the AI era, the Church must undergo paradigm shifts in various aspects of ministry, including theological reflections and hermeneutics. Embracing such shifts will enable the Church to harness AI's potential while remaining faithful to its theological foundations.

Ethical considerations will become central as AI advances. The Church must engage in theological reflections to address AI's implications for human dignity, privacy, justice, and equality. This will guide the development of ethical frameworks in alignment with Christ's teachings.

To integrate AI into worship services will call for the reevaluation of liturgical elements. Theological principles should determine AI's role in worship, ensuring it amplifies communal and sacramental aspects rather than replacing them.

AI's impact on pastoral care and discipleship demands theological reflection. The Church must explore how AI supports spiritual formation while preserving human presence and relational dynamics.

AI's influence on communication and community-building requires redefining the Church's understanding of community. Deep theological reflections will guide the balance between virtual and physical presence, emphasising embodied relationships in a technologically mediated world.

AI offers opportunities for missional engagement, such as digital evangelism. The Church should develop theological frameworks for digital spaces, ensuring the Gospel's proclamation remains faithful while reaching diverse audiences.

Practical implementation involves integrating technology with traditional approaches. Live streaming worship services with interactive elements encourage engagement. Adaptations for virtual participation in sacraments can be made while repurposing Church buildings for community outreach.

Multimedia presentations and digital liturgical texts enhance worship experiences. Incorporating the church calendar into digital platforms offers reminders and resources for liturgical seasons.

AI facilitates virtual counselling, prayer support, and online resources for spiritual guidance. Online Christian education and ministry can utilise webinars, videoconferencing, and digital resources.

The Church should embark on educating its clergy and helpers on using social media for service activities and support missions. This is mainly because the AI era in which we live demands embracing technology to impact wider audiences, foster engagement, and create new connections. By leveraging technology for ministry, the Church stands to benefit from adapting to the digital age and utilising AI to enhance its mission, facilitate meaningful connections and transformative experiences.

Rev Nyama is an ordained Anglican Church Priest based in Nairobi. [email protected]