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Archive for January, 2023

Two Updates to the AI Sermon Outline Generator

Sunday, January 29th, 2023

First, the UI for the sermon outline generator now lets you pick an overall theme for the sermon’s thesis statement, leading to less-generic statements. It’ll now give you some decently high-quality thesis statements, helping you brainstorm quickly. You can choose from about 160 themes (such as anxiety, discernment, healing, and forgiveness) drawn from popular topics on this site.

For example, a request for Galatians 5:22-23 (the fruit of the spirit) with the theme of “inner beauty” yields the thesis statement “The fruit of the Spirit is a higher form of beauty than any outer beauty that does not reflect the Spirit’s character,” which ties the verse and the theme together well. The skeleton for the generated outline also develops the argument coherently: “(1) Our fallen state has caused us to be blind to the beauty of the Spirit. (2) We can rediscover the beauty of the Spirit by embracing his fruit. (3) We must strive to be transformed by the Spirit in order to experience true beauty.”

Second, you can now choose a denominational focus for your outline (Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Orthodox, Pentecostal, or Presbyterian). Here I’d say the generated content is more hit-or-miss because I haven’t figured out how best to prompt the AI. Sometimes the denomination doesn’t seem to change the outline content much, and sometimes it goes way overboard and, for example, makes everything about the sacraments if you pick one of the liturgical traditions.

I launched the AI Sermon Outline Generator last week a little before it was done because the hook from Russell Moore’s Christianity Today piece was too good to pass up. It now has all the UI features I planned for launch. A future post will go into the technology behind it.

A screenshot of Galatians 5:22-23 and inner beauty, as described above.

Introducing an AI Sermon Outline Generator

Thursday, January 26th, 2023

Christianity Today published a piece today by Russell Moore titled “AI Might Teach, But It Can’t Preach,” in which he asks: “What if everywhere-accessible AI could write completely orthodox, biblically anchored, and compellingly argued sermons for pastors every week?”

Challenge accepted. Try the AI Sermon Outline Generator. Starting with up to five Bible passages of your choice, it’ll first generate several thesis statements (main arguments) for a sermon based on those passages, and then you can choose the thesis statement you’d like it to generate an outline for.

The outlines themselves are… OK. I’d say they’re around the 50th percentile of the approximately 2,000 sermons I’ve heard in my life. They mostly stick to the obvious points in the text, but that’s no different from many pastors’ sermons. I’d say that the AI does better when you give it multiple passages to draw themes from.

Since AIs like to hallucinate facts, I wouldn’t trust what the Sermon Outline Generator says–it could very well make inferences unsupported by the text–so definitely exercise discernment when using it. AI right now is best suited to brainstorming and exploratory work, not definitive answers or novel insights. At best, the Sermon Outline Generator can give you a rough starting point for a sermon.

Each outline costs me about $0.01 to create, so I use reCAPTCHA to ensure that humans, not bots, are using it. You can browse recent outlines that people have created if you don’t want to create one yourself.

(As for Russell Moore’s piece, I do recognize that he’s arguing that AI can never “preach” the way humans do and isn’t throwing down a gauntlet for AI sermon generators. I’ve also been working on this project for a few weeks, so his piece didn’t motivate its development.)

Try the AI Sermon Outline Generator now.

Previously, from 2012: Rise of the Robosermon.