Special Edition: AI and Its Impact on Global Missions

Hi, friends! You’ve got feelings and opinions about ChatGPT and its many cousins, don’t you? When it comes to world missions, AI offers both challenges and opportunities.

As the Chief Innovation Officer for SIL International, Jon Hirst has been following developments in the world of artificial intelligence more than most—and also considering how it may impact us as followers of Jesus.

In the coming months, Jon will also be part of several (mostly virtual) events to help us stay current and think critically about these things; see more info below.

— Marti

Obedience in This AI Moment

By Jon Hirst, Innovation in Mission

During college, I interned in the marketing department of the magazine Christianity Today. Each day that summer, I rode with a friend of mine at the university who was working in the relatively new interactive office of CT. It was in a different building than I worked in and I remember walking over there after work in awe as I watched the beginnings of the Internet take off in the form of AOL chat rooms and simple hyperlinked pages. I was too young to really think through the fact that, as with any new technology, some might be mourning the loss of in-person interaction or the beginnings of 24-7 connectivity.

Today, I feel a similar sense of awe as I sit in demos with our Artificial Intelligence (AI) teams in SIL International (where I serve as the Chief Innovation Officer); but unlike in those early days, I better understand the concern that naturally comes with a technological breakthrough of this magnitude.

The innovations coming out of this round of tech breakthroughs will not only create new opportunities but will also have significant impacts on the work that many of our staff do each day. One recent study expects 80% of employees to have 10% of their work impacted and almost 20% of employees to have at least 50% of their work impacted. AI will also likely affect certain industries and jobs more directly than others; some of which overlap with activities that are core to nonprofit activities. We should expect significant impacts to the way work is done even though our overall vision and mission statements will remain unchanged.

So how can we live out this trust in God in a time of change? Here are four postures to consider:

  • Humility: None of us know where an AI-driven world will take us or what it will look like to be fully human in a time when many of the efforts that have defined us get taken up by machines. We need to submit our will and our ways to God daily and ask Him for patience and grace. As we turn to God for comfort in navigating the unknown, we can recognize that there is both joy and excitement along with fear and loss.
  • Learning Together: God embedded in us a curiosity that breeds empathy and human connection. We are made for learning in community! We want to learn from each other and grow as God’s children. As machines chip away at some of what we have labeled “our identity,” we, who know how God made us, are in the best position to learn how to function in a world transformed. Our task becomes to discover our true selves and what it means to be humans made in God’s image.
  • Grace: This level of transformation will be intrusive and confusing. As we seek to pursue opportunities and safeguard against risks, we will naturally misunderstand each other, step on toes, and struggle to anticipate how our actions will affect others. It is our job to assume the very best from our colleagues and partners as we extend grace. When the changes create disequilibrium and uncertainty, we can choose to respond through discussion, listening, and open-minded engagement.
  • Obedience: God’s Word maps out what it means to be God’s children and followers of Jesus in a time when the new Kingdom is not yet fully seen or honored. The coming years will require hard choices from us as we seek to know when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to the new opportunities that will present themselves. What will it mean to stay faithful to God’s direction?

So as you start each day, expect the unexpected, be ready to show an extra measure of love and kindness, look for the little lessons, and ask God for the strength to be courageous in the face of the unknown. Together we can learn to navigate a dramatically different world, encourage those around us and honor God in our obedience.

Read the full article and related resources.

I’d also encourage you to explore innovationinmission.com and sign up for Jon’s Innovation in Mission monthly newsletter.

Upcoming Events Related to AI and Ministry

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

May 31, AI and Its Impact on Global Mission (webinar). Join Ted Esler, Jon Hirst, and Mark Tabladillo in this Missio Nexus discussion about ways artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT affect the global Great Commission.

July 11, Thriving as a Publisher and Author in an AI-Assisted World (webinar). This event, provided by Media Associates International, will be geared towards helping Christian authors and publishers around the world think through the impacts of AI. Anyone can come.

September 27-29, Mission Leaders Conference (Orlando, Florida; virtual passes also available). Missio Nexus has conferences like this every year. The 2023 theme is “Shift: Rapid Social Transformation and the Gospel.” It will address many topics, but will certainly include AI.

October 24-26, DigitalMediaCon 4.0 (virtual event). This three-day conference for Christian communicators, held by the Evangelical Press Association and the National Association of Evangelicals, is an annual event. Anyone can come. While covering many topics related to media and ministry, this year the event will have a particular focus on AI and how it is changing the landscape of media ministry.

View the Missions Catalyst Calendar.

Question: What (Else) Should Missionaries and Other Globetrotters Know Before They Go?

A huge thanks to all who read and responded to our article about pre-field practical training. Want to see your tips or stories make the sequel? Skim the first article, then respond to this email or shoot me a line. Thanks!

Training: Coordinators Workshops and a Taste of Perspectives

Source: Perspectives Study Program

Coordinator Training

You know about Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, right? Most subscribers to this list have probably taken it. If you paid attention in class, you may also have a sense of how much was going on behind the scenes to make sure it all went smoothly.

If you are ready to bring the class to your church or community, sign up now for a Perspectives Coordinators Workshop. Bring a friend (especially one with a knack for event planning, education, or project management). Looks like 15 workshops are on the calendar for the coming months in cities across the US. There may be one near you.

Taste of Perspectives

Perspectives fans should also be aware of another bite-sized Perspectives-related event that happens in various locations throughout the year. “Taste of Perspectives” provides a free sample of what you’d find in the 15-week course, complete with short presentations looking at God’s perspective on the world through biblical, historical, cultural, and strategic lenses. Bring your pastor, a fellow leader, or family and friends.

Unfortunately, there’s no place to find a list of these online. Live in the Pacific Northwest? A Taste of Perspectives will happen in Beaverton, Oregon on Saturday, April 22. I’ll be there and would be happy to send you the info.

Contact a Perspectives leader in your region about events near you.

Looking for a simpler training tool? You have options. Consider The Missions Course, for example.

Events: Six New Things on the Missions Catalyst Calendar

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

After we sent out the March events, we found more. Interested, but can’t make it on such short notice? Follow links to find future events from the same groups.

March 10, Interrogation Management Workshop (Albuquerque, NM, USA). Followed by a Security Orientation Workshop March 11 in the same location. Both are provided by Crisis Consulting International.

March 14-16, Support Raising Bootcamp (Curitiba, Parana, Brazil). Provided by Support Raising Solutions. Bootcamps are held in many locations throughout the year. A conference for support-raising leaders is planned for April in Colorado. SRS will also have a new name in April; stay tuned.

March 16 to April 6, How to Prepare Your STM Teams (online). Training for trainers from Touch the World; part of their Mission Academy. This looks like a great course, and TTW has other resources you may want to use.

March 22, Coast to Coast: Covering Ramadan in Prayer (online). Kick off your focus on the Muslim world in this key time by joining Frontiers mobilizers in prayer.

March 23-26, Gather (online). Gather is a four-day, web-based live event specifically for women ministering overseas. Provided by Thrive.

March 28, Women in World Christianity: Facts, Figures, Challenges, and Opportunities (Hamilton, MA, USA and streaming online). From the Center for Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell and featuring Gina Zurlo. Looks like it’s free, too.

View the whole calendar, updated regularly. Submissions welcome.

Special Edition: A Roundup of Resources on Afghanistan

The Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif. Photo by Steve Evans/Flikr.

Greetings, friends!

Our next regular edition of Missions Catalyst is not due out until October 6, but a few things came up that might interest you. All of them connect to the situation in Afghanistan.

1. Hear Bob Blincoe speak from the heart.

On a recent edition of The Mission Matters podcast, Bob Blincoe of Frontiers joins Ted Esler and Matthew Ellison to talk about what’s happening and what might be next in Afghanistan. One big question: Should we stop going there, or is now the time to call forth a new generation willing to move toward danger and not away from it for the sake of the gospel’s advance?

Listen to (or watch) the episode, Afghanistan: What’s Happening and What’s Next? (28 minutes).

2. Think again about playing it safe.

Similarly, on the All Things podcast, Jen Oshman asks, have those of us in the American Church have given ourselves over to the idols of safety and security? Have we justified our wealth, health, and comfort, abandoning our call to heart things for the glory of God and the joy of all people?

Listen to the episode, Missions and Ministry and Our Idols of Safety and Security (22 minutes) and read The American Staying in Afghanistan (The Gospel Coalition).

3. Reflect and pray with One Way Ministries.

You might also be interested in a recent segment reflecting on the crisis from the Brand New Day podcast. This one could be easily be included in a worship service or prayer gathering.

Listen to the episode, Afghanistan: A Living Parable (6 minutes).

4. Consider Shane’s tips on welcoming refugees.

We haven’t seen anything like this since the end of the Vietnam War. While government agencies work around the clock and refugee care organizations rapidly retool, many American Christians may be asking “What in the world?!” and “How can we help?”

Read Shane Bennett’s article for Denison Forum, 95,000 Afghan refugees may come to the US: How will Christians help?


PS: Did you catch last week’s events calendar in our Resource Reviews? It includes a long list of things to do in October, some free and online.

Missions Catalyst News Feature

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeIn This Issue: Move of God in the Middle East

Dear readers,

As our recent edition of news stories with happy endings was quite well received, we thought we would also pass on this encouraging feature just out from God Reports.

This special edition also includes an infographic from GMI calling us to prayer for the Middle East. Very timely in light of the upcoming International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church to be observed November 2 and 9. If you’re interested, check out a November 1 and 2 live webcast from Open Doors featuring special guests David Platt and Nik Ripkin and a November 2 radio broadcast from Mission Network News featuring Voice of the Martyr’s Todd Nettleton.

Thanks for reading and for praying. May God be glorified in the Middle East… and, indeed, among all the nations!

Marti Wade
Managing Editor

The Extraordinary Move of God in the Middle East

By Mark Ellis, God Reports, October 28, 2014

The nightly news may present disturbing images and a bleak outlook for the Middle East. Yet behind the horror of war, God is touching hearts in powerful ways, unleashing his Spirit among refugees, their families, and into surrounding communities and nations.

“There is something happening right now that is unprecedented,” says Brother Thomas (pseudonym), a Middle East coordinator for All Nations. “The spiritual openness is incredible.”

On a recent trip into a refugee camp he met with a Muslim family inside their tent. The father—the patriarch of the family—started to tell him about his son Yusuf, who sat next to him. (Yusuf is the Arabic equivalent of the biblical name Joseph)

“Do you know about the prophet Joseph?” Thomas inquired.

“Yes, he’s one of my favorites; he’s the dreamer,” the man replied.

“Have you had any dreams of significance?” Thomas asked the son.

“No, but my mother has…”

His mother excitedly broke in: “Ever since he was a child I’ve had dreams of a man in glowing white hugging my son. In the last dream he was crying, and his tears were coming down his beard and on to my son’s head.

“I have such a warmth for this prophet,” she continued. “I know he is a prophet.”

“I know who that person is in your dream,” Thomas said with assurance.

The woman’s eyes widened with intense interest. “Who is it?”

“It is Jesus.”

Then Brother Thomas told them the story of Jesus’ love for children, when He said, “Let the little children come to me.”

The woman began to cry. “It was so moving for her to hear someone loves her family so much he would give her dreams demonstrating his love.”

As he toured the ramshackle refugee camp with structures composed of cardboard, wood slats, and plastic tarps, he found many who had similar encounters with God. “Almost every family we visited had some kind of experience, either through dreams or someone had given them a New Testament in the medical clinic or prayed for them,” he noted.

Brother Thomas observed a feeling of desperation that pervaded the camps. “There was a lot of fear and uncertainty about the future,” he discovered. “Every family has lost people through warfare or has a story of pain. Because the war is Muslim against Muslim they have a feeling there has to be something better. They are looking for answers.”

“Over and over we saw people who have questions, who want to know more about Jesus.”

Brother Thomas knows other Christian workers equally amazed. “I have friends who have been here 17-20 years and it’s mind boggling for them,” he says. “Previously they shared with someone for seven or eight years before they came to know Jesus. Now it happens in two or three months and they bring others with them.”

While this move of God seems to have originated in the refugee camps, it is not contained there. “It’s happening everywhere, but mostly around the refugees,” Thomas notes. “There is something happening in the spiritual atmosphere because these refugees are so open and so hungry.

“As they respond, the neighboring countries are responding in the same way. Something is being stirred up. People are coming into the kingdom practically without us—we get to be the midwives.”

Brother Thomas is struck by the contrast between the grim news portrayed on television and the reality of God’s work behind the scenes. “When I watch the news, it seems like things are getting worse,” he observes. “But when I talk to my friends in the area I see the Kingdom is coming—people are coming to the Lord. Whole families are coming to Christ, communities are changing, I can see the Kingdom expanding.”

» Full story with pictures.

Middle East Call to Prayer

Middle East Missiographic 2Source: GMI Missiographics, October 28, 2014

How did the area of the world known as the birthplace of civilization and later Christianity become a place so hostile to the followers of Jesus? Explore some of the history of Christianity in the Middle East, the current decline in Christian population and the glimmers of hope that are visible if you know where to look.

» View or download infographic and commentary.

Missions Catalyst 10.30.13 – Special Edition

This week’s special edition comes from a long-time friend of Missions Catalyst who now works with the Center for Mission Mobilization, home to a variety of mobilization ministries. Check ’em out at www.mobilization.org.

Missions Catalyst is a free, weekly electronic digest of mission news and resources designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry. Use it to fuel your prayers, find tips and opportunities, and stay in touch with how God is building his kingdom all over the world. Please forward it freely!

A Purpose Bigger than Ourselves: Thinking Big about Kids and the Kingdom         

By Karen Hardin

We all know some pint-sized members of God’s family – kids. They have the simple faith God requires, eagerly crave involvement, and long to be committed to a cause. By God’s spirit, believing children are full members of Christ’s body. Yet we as adults often minimize the contribution they can make, putting kids on hold until they’re older or more grounded in their faith.

It’s time to think big. What if we teach children that God loves not only them, but also all the peoples of the world, and is at work making his name great among the nations? What if we affirm that our kids’ lives have meaning because God has uniquely designed them to partner with him in a work that impacts eternity? What if we give children opportunities to commit to the greatest purpose of all – advancing the kingdom of God?

Two sets of adults are uniquely positioned to turn these “what ifs” into reality – parents and children’s ministry leaders. Here are some resources to inspire and equip the boys and girls sitting around your dinner table or in your church class.

Free Resources from Weave

Weave, a new children and family ministry of the Center for Mission Mobilization, has created the following tools to help families to embrace both the person and purposes of Christ in their home discipleship.

Family Handouts

The Journey family handouts reflect the same themes as the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course. This set of 15, one-page lessons was crafted to help parents shape their family into World Christians.

Each handout includes a Bible passage, thought-provoking discussion points, suggested family activities, and prayer points. Free to download.

Web-based Activities

The Weave website provides monthly activities that connect families to the global story of God. Free subscription.

Content includes:


If you register with the site, you will receive a free copy of Living Your Legacy, an eBook that helps families develop a vision statement that reflects their unique makeup and aligns with God’s purposes.

Three Ministries Focused on Kids

Kidz at Heart

Kids at Heart offers families a way to learn about other cultures and cultivate a heart for the world through their Kidz Kan program. Monthly content focuses on different countries like Uganda, India, and Latvia. Activities include crafts, games, recipes, stories, memory verses, and giving opportunities. US$22 annual subscription; discounts available for bulk orders.

Window International Network

Window International Network has developed Window Kids, a mission website that helps children explore countries and peoples in the 10/40 Window. Kids can visit the 10/40 Window Wardrobe to create their own character, learn geography, play online games, and explore cultures through photos, music, and recipes. This website also includes a monthly online magazine and offers opportunities for children to pray for their peers in unreached cultures. Free subscription.

Woman’s Missionary Union 

The WorldCrafts division of WMU has four sets of felt finger puppets you can use introduce preschoolers to people from other cultures around the world: South America, West Africa, World Set A, and World Set B. Each five-puppet set is US$19.99.

Fall Observances

Churches worldwide participate in the following observances in November. Here are related activities and lessons for children and families.

Orphan Sunday

Orphan Sunday is November 3. My Life As An Orphan is a 45-minute simulation that helps children compare their daily life with that of boys and girls living in orphanages. Rotating through five stations, participants read short stories and look at photos from several different countries. The simulation culminates with scripture on God’s heart for orphans as well as prayer. This is a great large-group activity for parents and children to participate in together. A related activity for youth groups is a Pizza and Porridge Movie Night. Both lessons are free downloads.

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is November 10. Here are two lessons for children that explore forms of persecution around the world, address reasons why God allows persecution, and explain how God uses the suffering of his children to expand his kingdom. Both lessons introduce our God-given responsibility towards believers who suffer as well as towards those who persecute them. Persecution: What Can I Do?  is a 45-minute lesson for children in grades 1-3. Persecution: What and Why? is a 60-minute lesson for grades 5-8. Both include hand-on activities, scripture, and prayer. Download each for US$5.

Karen Hardin serves with Weave, a children and family ministry of the Center for Mission Mobilization.