Southeastern District Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
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Blog: AI : Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for Heartfelt Ministry

Harnessing AI for Heartfelt Ministry


Presentation led by Bill Johnson from Concordia Fort Wayne

Meeting Summary 

Mar 14, 2024 10 AM Eastern Time 

The meeting revolved around the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) and its implications for the church, ministry, and education. William, the Chief Information Officer at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, led the discussion. He shared his experiences and insights on the current state of AI, its limitations, and future potential. The conversation covered a wide range of AI applications, including chatbots, large language models, and plugins. The group also discussed the ethical considerations and potential impacts of AI on society, such as its impact on data privacy, theological questions, and the potential for simulating deceased loved ones. The conversation ended with a discussion on the role of technology in the church and the importance of balancing the adoption of new technologies with human creativity and critical thinking.


AI Evolution and Future Advancements

William discussed the evolution and current state of artificial intelligence (AI). He highlighted the limitations of AI, emphasizing that while it can process vast amounts of data, it doesn’t understand it in the way humans do. He also explained that AI models are generally specialized to handle a narrow set of tasks. However, he suggested that future developments might lead to artificial general intelligence, which could mimic human thought processes. William also noted the rapid advancement of AI, predicting significant progress in the coming decade.

Chatbot AI Image Generator Updates and Limitations

William presented a chatbot AI, Mid Journey, that generates images based on large data inputs. He noted its strength in generating generic images but identified its weakness in handling very specific subjects. William also discussed the development of a new version of Mid Journey with increased processing power and data assimilation capabilities. He highlighted the inherent bias in the models, as they are trained on specific data selected by the creators. Hannah agreed on the need for updates to the model. William also demonstrated the technology’s ability to upscale images and make slight adjustments. He discussed the potential consequences of using real people’s images and the model’s inability to understand the context and cultural significance of the images it generates. Finally, William introduced Chat Gpt, a large language model that has been widely discussed in the news.

Seminary Tech: Paid Subscriptions, AI, and Personalization

William discussed the advantages of a paid subscription at the seminary, emphasizing its usefulness for generating initial drafts and adding scripture references. He also mentioned its potential for generating more personal responses through chat conversations. However, he noted the importance of revising and personalizing the content. William also discussed the capabilities and limitations of a theology-aware system, highlighting its ability to generate content but lacking depth in explaining complex theological concepts. He shared his personal experiences using it for sermon ideas and outlining adult Bible studies. William also addressed the use of AI, specifically Chat Gpt, for research, emphasizing the need to verify the information it provides due to its potential for inaccuracies and misinterpretations. He also discussed the potential of AI technologies, particularly ChatGpt, and their implications for education and seminary.

Large Language Models for Travel and Meal Planning

William presented the Kayak Plugin and chat GPT Plugin, emphasizing their ability to assist users in finding accommodations and meal planning based on specific preferences. He highlighted the time and effort these plugins can save, especially for tasks such as trip booking or grocery shopping. William also clarified that these plugins are referred to as large language models or LLMs. However, he cautioned about the quality of some plugins available in the market. William also discussed the potential of combining AI agents to create more powerful tools and demonstrated the use of a large language model to generate a prompt for an image generation tool, Mid Journey. He concluded by predicting future improvements in these AI tools.

Technology’s Impact on Ministry and Education

William discussed the potential implications of new technology on ministry, expressing concerns about its impact on accuracy, data privacy, and theological questions. He emphasized the need to teach anthropology seriously to address upcoming social questions. He also warned about the possibility of technology simulating deceased loved ones, which could alter the way society deals with death and resurrection. In another part of the meeting, William discussed the potential and challenges of using AI in the classroom. He suggested that AI could be used for various educational purposes, but also highlighted the threat of AI to traditional assessment methods like essay writing. Lastly, he emphasized the importance of human interaction and the dangers of AI fakery.

AI Tools and Ethics: A Seminary Perspective

William presented Chat Gbt, an AI tool that could be beneficial for programmers, and noted the growing interest among seminary students in AI. He emphasized the role of seminaries in serving the church and offered his help in answering any questions related to AI. The discussion also highlighted the rapid pace of change and development in the AI field, with Tom mentioning an upcoming executive conference on the topic. William also shared his experiment with AI-generated voice and the ethical considerations and data limitations associated with AI. Hannah confirmed that Zoom’s automatic meeting summaries feature, which uses AI, can be set to always on in the settings. William also speculated that the first generalist AI might not come from completely new development but from connecting current AI systems.

Technology and AI in Church: Balancing Innovation and Creativity

Martin and William had a discussion about the role of technology in the church, focusing on the adoption of new technologies and the use of AI. William highlighted the church’s history of embracing new technology and advocated for a balanced approach to adopting new technologies. The two discussed the possibility of uploading Luther’s works to create a virtual version, with William noting it would require a paid subscription. He also mentioned the potential for open-source versions to emerge. William then shared his experience with using AI to plan worship services, specifically a tool called Gpt for generating hymns and songs. The discussion concluded with William emphasizing the importance of human creativity and critical thinking in the use of AI. Hannah then noted that she would post the shared links and the recording of the meeting on their website.