Will AI Such as ChatGPT Write Sermons and Other Church Things?

overlay of AI and writing
Overlay of graphs and charts on top of a human hand writing on a hand-held tablet; image licensed from Envato.

This week we tested ChatGPT to see how replaceable our human resources may be.


As we begin the Epiphany season, I want to take a moment to reflect on the importance of caring for our mental health during this time. For many of us, the shorter days and longer nights can be a difficult time, leading to feelings of isolation and depression.

It’s important to remember that we are not alone in these struggles. Many people experience similar challenges and find ways to persevere. We can look to real-world examples of individuals who have faced adversity and come out stronger for it. For example, a trans person who has fought for their rights and now advocates for others, a person living with a disability who breaks barriers and achieves their dreams, or a person who has survived domestic violence and now works to support others in similar situations.

As progressive Christians, we believe that the message of love and compassion at the heart of our faith can provide a source of strength and comfort during difficult times. We believe that God is with us always, and that through prayer, meditation, and community, we can find the strength to overcome any obstacle.

I urge you to take care of yourself during this Epiphany season. Reach out to friends and loved ones, seek the help of a professional if you need it, and make time for self-care activities that nourish your mind and body. Remember that you are not alone, and that you are loved and valued by God and by this community.

Let us also continue to lift up and support one another in prayer. Let us also be more compassionate and understanding towards those who may be struggling during this time. Let us strive to be a light of hope and love for them, just as the star was for the Wise Men.

May the light and love of the Epiphany continue to guide us on our journey, and may we find peace and comfort in the knowledge that we are never alone.

I hope you are still reading.

Everything above this line came from ChatGPT which is an artificial intelligence (AI) bot. Could you tell? I hope so. There’s a limit to what AI can do. While the facts are correct, there’s something deeper missing.

AI cannot understand community and inclusivity, and how important these things are in creating church. When I read it, it felt very generic; it lacked humanity, relatability. It can’t make itself have the human quality we have as church when we interact with one another.

It could spit out the words reminding us that we are never alone, while not being able to come up with illustrations of why and how this is essential; it does not know the kinds of things in our Gratitude Jar in the sanctuary. It does not know us and our experiences. We are the Bodymind of Christ that is unique in this time and place.

It’s true that through the Epiphany season many of us struggle. It is also true that we need one another to make it through difficult seasons. We create community. We embody Christ together. None of us is in danger of being replaced by AI. We are a precious commodity that no data points will ever replace.

May we continue on the journey, following the Light of Love, and carrying the Light of Love and Hope for one another.

About Rachael Keefe

Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ. She was called to Living Table in 2015 after serving in many varied ministry settings since her ordination in 1992. She holds graduate degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Seminary at Yale (formerly Andover Newton Theological School). Her ministry and leadership often center around advocacy and accessibility. Her writing has been published by Chalice Press, The Christian Century, Red Letter Christians, Working Preacher, RevGalBlogPals, and others. She is grateful to be in ministry with Living Table today.

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18 thoughts on “Will AI Such as ChatGPT Write Sermons and Other Church Things?”

  1. So a machine wrote all that first section, and speaks in first person singular? I mean, it’s not terrible, but yes, I agree, rather generic, and a little bit eerie. I like what you write a lot more–it comes from an actually living being, with a great brain and a compassionate, beating heart!

    • Rachael can answer for herself, of course, and these are my own thoughts.

      It is all very interesting. ChatGPT, which runs on something called OpenAI, recently acquired by Microsoft, will try to generate whatever you ask it to. Kids are asking it to do their homework, with mixed results. I know that some pastors are asking ChatGPT to write their sermons now. People have applied for jobs and used AI to write their resume, and then later to produce the work products they are supposed to be writing as a part of their newly acquired jobs. Bloggers are using AI to write content for their websites, and Google is innovating ways to differentiate AI- from human-generated content, and promising to prioritize human-generated content in search results.

      It’s all very interesting. I agree with Rachael and with you, Doug, that it cannot come up with a pastoral note like a real, human pastor can. (I believe she asked it to write a pastoral note for the first part, so that she could make this week’s post, hence the first person narrative.)

  2. When I was reading the first part I was thinking you (Rachael) must be having a really difficult week but you can’t be on your game all the time. It reminded of stuff I got from some churches in my past.

    I was relieved with the second part!

    Glad you are our living, breathing, compassionate pastor.

    • It’s going to sound like what some people will receive from some churches in the near future, from what I hear abuzz.

      I got a kick out of how she wrote this week’s pastoral note, so readers experience the first part and then the explanation of it. Hopefully they read until the explanation, as you did. 🙂

  3. While reading the AI portion I noticed it felt “different “ and I couldn’t quite figure it out. It was missing the unique writing from Rachael that we have all become accustomed to reading each week. It was like a Hallmark mini-book. By all measures, it was just “fine.”
    I am certain many will choose to utilize this in many ways and think it sounds just fine.
    I’m glad Living Table has an excellent pastor who also happens to be a very good writer!

  4. I actually lost interest ND my mind wandered as I read the first part. It lacked authenticity. So glad I hung in there for the second part.

  5. Microsoft also created an AI engine based on the same tech to write code. We put it to the test this past week. Like the intro for this post, simple code fragments generated so-so code. More complex items failed to create code that would even compile. We had a discussion about how this tech could be misused in the writing of safety-critical code and other human-safety-related items.

    • In my Wordpress development circle, I know some folks who have developed AI-based code generators. For example, wpcodey.com (made by a really smart guy named Ovidiu) is one I’ve done testing for.

      What’s interesting to me is seeing what they can and cannot do. Like, it can spit out a code snippet that seems to do what you want, but it won’t sanitize, escape, or validate data unless you explicitly ask it to. So, what we tell people is to never use a code generator unless you could do it on your own anyway, because you really need to 100% understand what it produces, to make sure you’re not introducing a vulnerability. The AI isn’t going to know…

      I find it helpful for simple-yet-tedious tasks, like generating some CSS to format headers, rows and columns in a table in a certain way, for example.


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