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.

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