the shape of leadership

AI, Faith, and the Next Generation

Three ways to steward technology

Kent Ingle on January 15, 2024

Ask anyone what comes to mind when you say artificial intelligence (AI), and you will probably get a wide range of responses.

For some, AI sparks thoughts of movies where robots take over the world — like how tech CEOs have warned of its threat to civilization. Others think of how AI has revolutionized their lives for the better, making daily routines more convenient, entertaining and comfortable.

No matter who you ask, it often feels there are two sides to AI: those fearing it and those wholeheartedly embracing it.

When it comes to AI in the Church, most leaders (54%) are somewhat to very uncomfortable with the emergence of the technology, while 32% are somewhat to very positive or excited about it. This is according to a study by Gloo, a technology platform connecting the faith ecosystem.

Yet, 54% of church leaders are quite or extremely concerned about ethical or moral issues related to using AI.

Wherever you stand on AI, it’s important to realize that the technology has already become an integral part of the next generation’s lives. One study found that 70% of Gen Z respondents use generative AI (such as ChatGPT or Bard), and 52% trust generative AI to help them make informed decisions.

So how do you help the next generation steward AI in a way that edifies their God-given dreams without it hindering their faith journey (even if you have limited experience with it)? Start by viewing AI as any other technology you have used and apply those principles to it.

Below are three ways to help young adults navigate AI.


View AI as a Resource

Artificial intelligence has disrupted the workplace. A majority of employers (61%) say that employees will need to develop or strengthen their digital skills due to AI, according to a Cengage Group report. Many young adults will enter the workplace with employers looking to them for input on how to use or leverage AI.

How do you help the next generation steward AI in a way that edifies their God-given dreams without it hindering their faith journey?

Remind young adults to see AI as a resource for growth so they can continually develop, learn, and prepare to step into what God has designed for their lives. Young adults can lose their relevance and squander opportunities God has placed right in front of them if they aren’t intentional about lifelong learning.

One approach we have taken at Southeastern University is encouraging students to view AI as a tool to better equip themselves for academic success and the workforce.

As you work with or mentor young adults, encourage them to utilize AI to enhance what they are doing rather than to use it as a substitute for their work. AI shouldn’t replace critical thinking, work ethic or relationships.

Just like everything else entrusted to them or they have access to, young adults must learn to faithfully steward AI and use it for God’s glory rather than for their gain (1 Corinthians 4:2).


Keep Christ as the Source for Truth

In the world of AI, truth is relative. Because AI makes decisions based on learned data, it is susceptible to biases and is not necessarily neutral or prejudice-free. The rise of Deepfakes (media content such as images or voices generated by AI that are false) and AI hallucinations (AI making up information to fit the answer it thinks you want) should be alarming.

Although AI can be a tool for growth, it can’t be one’s source of truth. This goes with all resources young adults use in their personal or professional growth, whether it's technology, books, podcasts or thought experts. Everything must be viewed through a biblical lens and vetted through Scripture.

Remind young adults to critically analyze every output they get and to not trust it as absolute truth. In every instance (not just when they are in doubt), encourage young adults to turn to the source of all truth — Christ. Urge them to read Scripture, spend time in prayer, and meet with fellow believers or mentors to discuss any questions they may have.

Proverbs 3:21-22 says, “Do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you.”


Learn to Detach for Faith Development

Out of curiosity, I asked ChatGPT what a Christian’s daily life would demonstrate. It gave me a range of key aspects from prayer, Bible study, and worship to moral and ethical living (most were accurate).

The last paragraph gave a response that is an important reminder for every Christian. It said, “Ultimately, a Christian’s daily life should reflect their personal relationship with God.”

Even AI knows that faith is an intimate relationship. ChatGPT was right that faith should include prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship, and evangelism, and it should influence our ethical decisions and how we raise our children.

To exemplify Christ, we must remain (John 15:4-5) and be rooted in Him (Colossians 2:7). And that requires us to spend time with Him and to act upon our faith (James 2:17).

Where church members need to be wary of AI in one’s faith journey is when it starts to diminish their experiences with God. When AI starts to minimize young adults’, or any Christian’s, time in the Bible because it makes things more efficient for them, then it’s a problem.

The discovery process of reading God’s Word, being still in His presence, and participating in fellowship with other believers are critical for one’s spiritual growth because God works within and through them. AI can’t be a supplement for the faith journey. Young adults must learn to detach their faith from virtual reality.

AI technology used today will only get better. It will make the lives of young adults easier and more efficient, and AI will help them better maximize their time. There are many companies using AI for good, providing ways to further ministries, assisting people in studying the Bible in-depth, advancing the gospel around the world, and connecting people to discipleship programs.

As you mentor young adults, encourage them to use AI as a resource for growth and as a tool benefiting the Church. Ask them how they are using AI in a way that elevates Christ. And remind them to set healthy boundaries that will enhance, rather than diminish, their experiences with Christ.
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