HomeFeaturedHow to Use ChatGPT to Make Sermons More Interesting But Not More Biblical
How to Use ChatGPT to Make Sermons More Interesting But Not More Biblical
Everyone’s amazed at the usefulness of ChatGPT while also concerned about it replacing so much in our culture. This includes good sermon preparation. Should pastors and preachers use ChatGPT to prepare their sermons? We will examine how to use ChatGPT to make sermons more interesting but not more Biblical.
Will the artificial intelligence tool make your sermons more interesting? How about more biblical? Can you even trust it?
I started using ChatGPT in my sermon preparation, but not how most people might think.
The Ethical Concerns Over ChatGPT for Sermon Preparation
Ethical preachers do their best to let the hearer know they didn’t come up with the content on their own unless they did it on their own.
I once preached a narrative sermon telling a third-person story about a marathon running in the Corinthian games. It was an in-depth story that made my key points based on a passage from 1 Corinthians. I wrote it. It was original to me. So, I never cited anyone.
After the message, a church member told me she loved that story and couldn’t remember where she first read it, but was glad I told it. I didn’t have the heart to contradict her, so I said, “Thank you!” I left it there. But I wrote it.
At the same time, I heard a preacher quote an entire chapter from a Max Lucado book verbatim while he preached a revival at my church. After that service, I approached him and said, “I enjoyed listening to that. I, too like to read Max Lucado’s books.” I wanted him to know without being too confrontational that I knew he just passed off non-original work as his own.
Do You Always Cite Sources?
That brings us to the question of citing sources. Do you always cite every source you glean information from? Do you say, “The New American Commentary says…” about a passage? I don’t always do that. If the material is unique and especially creative, I will clarify that I found this somewhere else. If it’s ordinary and you can find the same content in five different Lexicons or Bible dictionaries, then it’s not that revolutionary. You don’t need to cite it.
That leads us to ChatGPT. Too much of the content we discover doesn’t come with good citations. You can ask for references, but sometimes the information is wrong. So, ethical preachers should carefully use content from ChatGPT.
I don’t use the tool for learning about language study, historical information, or other content I can find using something like Logos Bible Software. It’s not good for that. Don’t do it!
If you ask ChatGPT to write a full outline, you must cite it. It could be interesting, especially if you can find a way to connect that to the message. You might say, “I used ChatGPT to develop this outline.” Some won’t care, while your “lazy” sermon prep will scandalize others. However, in the end, you could make a point about life that ChatGPT illustrates. I can’t imagine such an illustration, but you might.
I say that because…
ChatGPT Won’t Replace Good Exposition of Scripture
Use your Bible Software or your seminary language study skills to learn what the author of Hebrews means by “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”
You don’t know whether you can trust the sources for studying Greek or Hebrew languages.
You don’t know whether you can trust the sources for church history, hermeneutics, or English-based dictionaries.
Fill in the blanks with any source. ChatGPT doesn’t provide good sources, so you’ll need to cite ChatGPT, and the tool often gets things wrong. A site called Analytics India Magazine posted a list of problems with ChatGPT. This ranged from bias to factually false info to bad math.
Don’t use ChatGPT to study your passage. It’s not good at it. If you have any experience preaching or training in exposition, then you’re better at studying scripture than ChatGPT.
Use ChatGPT to Make Sermons More Interesting by Finding Illustrations
ChatGPT does a decent job of finding good sermon illustrations. Everyone knows a good sermon illustration will help you create interest. So you can use ChatGPT to make sermons more interesting by asking for great sermon illustrations.
Ask for historical or news-based examples of your topic. For example, ask ChatGPT, “What’s a good example of a news story that took place since 2010 that shows what it is like to forgive?”
You’ll notice a clipboard icon right of the answer when you get your answer. Click it to copy the content and then paste it into your sermon. Here’s what the site offered when I wrote the above question.
One notable news story that demonstrates the power of forgiveness is the case of Rachel Denhollander, a former gymnast and lawyer, who in 2018 became the first woman to publicly accuse Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics national team doctor, of sexual abuse. Denhollander’s brave decision to come forward eventually led to Nassar being convicted and sentenced to up to 175 years in prison.
During Nassar’s sentencing hearing, over 150 women shared their stories of abuse, and some even expressed forgiveness towards their abuser. In her victim impact statement, Denhollander said, “I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt, so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me.”
Denhollander’s statement not only showcases her own strength and resilience, but also highlights the power of forgiveness. The courage and empathy displayed by her and the other survivors in offering forgiveness, despite the immense pain and suffering they endured, is a testament to the healing potential of forgiveness. This case gained widespread attention, opening up conversations about the importance of acknowledging and addressing sexual abuse in sports and other institutions.
Other examples could include things like…
What’s a good quote from one of our founding fathers on the value of learning?
Give me a literary example of mercy.
Are there any movies from the last five years that show the value of family?
Remember that when ChatGPT gives you a result, you can narrow the results. When I typed the third prompt, I asked it not to give me any Disney movies. It included the movies Coco and Onward, both Disney films.
Use ChatGPT to Make Sermons More Interesting by Finding Just the Right Words
I don’t make a big deal out of sermon titles. We don’t publish them in our bulletin or post them on the church sign. However, I sometimes state them if they’re interesting and grab attention. If you want to do that, ChatGPT can reword your sermon title or the Big Idea sentence (main idea of the sermon) in a more memorable way.
I asked ChatGPT, “what’s a catchy way to say Approved by Faith” since that’s my subject for an upcoming Bible study on Hebrews 11:4-6. Here’s the response I received:
A catchy way to say “Approved by Faith” could be “Faith-Certified” or “Blessed by Belief.” These phrases maintain the essence of the original statement while adding a touch of flair and memorability.
I like Faith-Certified because it not only sounds interesting but sparked an idea for an opening illustration about getting certified. Some authority says you’re qualified in a particular area when you receive certification. You could pick programming, something from a job some congregation members hold, the certification to do CPR and save lives, or maybe to use a powerful tool safely.
Dr. Kevin Purcell is pastor of High Peak Baptist Church, an author and writer at Church Tech Today (www.churchtechtoday.com). He used to write for a number of other Christian and secular technology and mobile tech sites. Now he's one of the hosts of the Theotek Podcast, which you can find by checking the menu above or over at www.facebook.com/theotekpodcast.