May 30, 2024

How AI Can Improve Sermon Content Without Removing Pastor Input

In this guide, we'll look at how AI tools can help you more effectively prepare your sermons without removing your input and insights.


Sermon preparation can be both a delightful and daunting task. On the one hand, you have the privilege of studying the Bible and helping those in your church grow in their faith. On the other hand, it can be overwhelming to come up with fresh and impactful sermon content week after week. Not to mention the challenge of preparing a sermon amidst all your other pastoral responsibilities.

This is where artificial intelligence (AI) can assist you and enhance your sermon preparation process.

In this guide, we'll look at how AI tools can help you more effectively prepare your sermons without removing your input and insights.

Understanding How AI Works

Before we discuss how to use AI to improve your sermon content, let's quickly discuss how AI works at a high level. AI models, such as ChatGPT and Gemini, are fed billions of pages of data. This data includes everything from website content to books to dictionaries, and more.

With this data, AI models can learn patterns and language structures, allowing them to generate human-like text. AI models are also able to see how different points of data relate to one another and draw connections between them.

So, for example, if you tell an AI tool like Sermonly to provide you with additional scriptures related to John 3:16, it can do that because it understands how different ideas and words relate to one another.

Another example. Say that you start a sentence but aren't sure how to finish it. An AI tool can look at what you've already written and guess where you were headed based on what words you were using, the ideas you were discussing, etc. It can help you finish your thoughts and ideas.

AI is not a replacement for human intelligence or diligence. Rather, it's a tool that can be used to make processes, like sermon preparation, more efficient.

And when it comes to sermon prep and content, human input is always needed. If you are a pastor, you are called to shepherd the people in your church. You know what they need and are struggling with. You've walked with them through highs and lows and have a deep understanding of their needs. Your sermons need your input and thoughts and insights in order to be effective.

AI can aid in the process, but ultimately it's up to you as the pastor to determine what content is best for your congregation. It's important to always keep this in mind when using AI for sermon preparation – it should never replace or override your own discernment and input.

Okay, with that said, let's talk about how you can use AI to strengthen your sermons. 

Using AI to Enhance Sermons

There are a number of specific ways that AI can be used to aid you in the sermon creation process.

Making Connections

As we mentioned above, AI tools tend to be very good at making connections between seemingly unrelated data. This can be especially helpful when you're preparing a sermon.

For example, say that you're working on a sermon about the life of David. You know that there are many different aspects of his life and character that you want to touch on, but you're struggling to find a cohesive theme or structure for your message. This is where AI can come in and help.

By analyzing different sources such as Bible passages, commentaries, and historical information, an AI tool can help you make connections between different elements and guide you toward a central theme or message. This can save you time and effort, allowing you to focus on delivering a well-crafted sermon rather than spending hours trying to piece together different ideas.

Finding Relevant Illustrations

Another area where AI can be helpful in sermon preparation is finding relevant illustrations or examples. It can be really tough to come up with good illustrations for your sermon. You can mine your own life and experiences for illustrations, but that can only take you so far. An AI tool can help you come up with examples that you may not have thought of otherwise.

For example, say you're talking about God's love and how expansive and all-encompassing it is. An AI tool can search through a huge amount of data and suggest different illustrations or stories from various sources that highlight this concept. This not only helps you come up with unique examples to use in your sermon, but it also provides a fresh perspective to keep your message engaging for your audience.

One note on using examples and illustrations suggested by AI tools. It's always a good idea to double-check them to make sure they're accurate. While AI tools are getting much better, they can still produce inaccurate information from time to time. So make sure you check your sources.

Structuring Sermon Content

Finding the right structure for your sermon can also be challenging, especially if the Bible verses you're using don't break down neatly into discreet topics. It can be difficult to determine where to put various points, subpoints, and illustrations.

AI can help in this situation as well. It can analyze your sermon outline and suggest ways to organize your content in a clear and logical manner. It can also identify potential gaps or redundancies in your message, helping you refine and strengthen it.

For example, here's a part of a sermon outline produced by ChatGPT on Psalm 23:

Title: The Shepherd's Care: Finding Comfort and Guidance in Psalm 23

I. Introduction

A. Opening Scripture: Psalm 23:1-6
B. Setting the Scene: The imagery of a shepherd and his flock
C. The significance of Psalm 23: A timeless source of comfort and guidance

II. The Shepherd's Provision (Verse 1-3)

A. "The Lord is my shepherd": Acknowledging God's role as our caretaker
B. "I shall not want": Trusting in God's provision and sufficiency
C. "He makes me lie down in green pastures": Rest and nourishment in God's presence
D. "He leads me beside still waters": Finding peace and tranquility in God's guidance
E. "He restores my soul": God's healing and renewal in times of distress

III. The Shepherd's Guidance (Verses 3-4)

A. "He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake": Following God's guidance in righteous living
B. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death": Trusting God in times of darkness and uncertainty
C. "I will fear no evil, for you are with me": Finding courage and comfort in God's presence and protection
D. "Your rod and your staff, they comfort me": God's discipline and correction as expressions of love and care

Obviously, you don't have to use an outline produced by an AI tool. You might want to use some of it and discard other parts. And again, this shouldn't replace the hard work of studying and wrestling with your sermon. Remember, your church needs a sermon from you, not AI.

That said, if you're struggling to come up with an outline for your message, AI tools can be tremendously helpful.

Understanding Original Context

AI can also be useful when it comes to understanding the original historical context of a Bible passage. By analyzing linguistic and cultural data, AI can provide insights into the meanings of words and phrases in their original context. This can help you better understand the intended message of a passage and apply it more accurately to modern times.

For example, with Psalm 23, an AI tool could provide information about the types of sheep and shepherding practices in ancient Israel, as well as the significance of certain words or phrases used in the Psalm. This can give you a better understanding of the imagery and symbolism being used and help you convey the message more effectively to your audience.

Finding Relevant Cross-References

Another benefit of using AI tools in sermon preparation is the ability to quickly find relevant cross-references. By analyzing biblical texts and identifying similar themes and ideas, AI can suggest passages that may be useful for further study or as support for your main points.

For example, if you're preaching on Psalm 23, an AI tool might suggest looking at other Psalms that also mention God as a shepherd or passages in the New Testament that expand on the concept of God as our shepherd through Jesus Christ.

Suggesting Practical Applications

Sometimes it can be difficult to think of practical applications for a Bible passage. This can especially be the case with some passages from the Old Testament about the Levitical law. These passages can seem far removed from modern life and not as "relevant" as other Bible verses.

AI can be of assistance in this situation as well. It can suggest practical applications for passages, connections to other verses, or provide cultural and historical context to help preachers better understand how the passage can be applied to modern life.

So, let's say you're preaching on the sacrifices required in the temple. An AI tool might help you draw connections between the temple sacrifices and the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Clarity On Original Languages

The Bible was mostly written in ancient Hebrew and Greek, languages that are not familiar to most of us. Even with the help of translations, it can be challenging to fully understand the original meaning of certain verses.

AI tools can assist in this area by providing insights into the original languages. Some tools have the capability to analyze the word usage and structure of biblical texts, helping you gain a deeper understanding of the passage.

This not only helps in accurately interpreting and communicating the meaning of a verse or passage, but it also adds depth and richness to your preaching.

Using AI As A Tool Not A Crutch

From deepening our understanding of Scripture to providing historical context, AI can enrich the way we approach and interpret biblical texts. However, it's critical to remember that AI serves as a tool, not a replacement for the personal study, prayer, and reflection that form the backbone of sermon prep.

While AI can assist in making connections or clarifying language complexities, the heart of sermon preparation lies in the preacher's personal engagement with the Word and their relationship with God. Incorporating AI into sermon preparation should enhance, not dilute, the spiritual discipline of sermon crafting.

Share this Article:
read more

Related Articles