Artificial intelligence applications such as ChatGPT are growing rapidly. The creators themselves are surprised by the fast-growing interest in this resource. Part of their surprise is that the accuracy rate is still not what they believe it will be soon.
I use ChatGPT as a research and background tool. I asked what it knew about Baptist associations. On Feb. 26, 2023, I asked the following question: What is the importance of Baptist associations to the Southern Baptist Convention?
Here is what ChatGPT said:
“Baptist associations are important to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for several reasons.
“First, they provide a way for local churches to connect with each other and work together in missions and ministry. Associations typically consist of a group of churches in a geographic area that share common beliefs and practices. By joining together in an association, churches can pool their resources and collaborate on projects that would be difficult to undertake alone.”
‘Communication and cooperation’
“Second, associations serve as a conduit for communication and cooperation between local churches and the larger SBC. Associations are usually affiliated with a state convention, which in turn is affiliated with the SBC. Through this structure, churches can participate in the work of the convention and have a voice in its decision-making processes.
“Third, associations provide a means for training and support for pastors and other church leaders. Many associations offer workshops, conferences and other resources to help pastors and leaders develop their skills and deepen their understanding of Baptist theology and practice.
“Overall, Baptist associations play a vital role in the life of the Southern Baptist Convention, connecting local churches, facilitating cooperation and communication and providing support and training for church leaders.”
I posted the response to social media groups for the network of Baptist associations and elsewhere. I asked if ChatGPT got it right. The response was positive — some commented it was almost scary.
Was it complete and accurate? No, but it would point an inquirer in a generally correct direction.
What does this mean?
This means the internet contains enough information that an initial understanding can be acquired about Baptist associations in the Southern Baptist tradition.
Use of the phrase “in the Southern Baptist tradition” is important because many of the three dozen Baptist denominations in North America have associations as part of their denominational structure.
First, artificial intelligence apps such as ChatGPT are helpful in summarizing information about Baptist associations in the Southern Baptist tradition. But they should not be accepted as authoritative. Baptist associations as a family are about a quality of relationships ChatGPT does not know.
Second, AI answers are incomplete.
At times they miss qualitative understandings. Such understandings require subjective experiences. The contextual and doctrinal understandings of associations differ widely throughout North America.
Third, AI may provide characteristics the inquirer has not thought about. This can be informative or at least cause a reader to ponder if they need to think more deeply about associations.
Fourth, the answers to specific questions we ask ChatGPT can change with each new update of the app’s content database.
Fifth, the answer provided by an AI app should never be written or spoken without referring to the source. Attribution is imperative. I placed in quotes the answer AI gave me. I also dated when the information was accessed and indicated the specific app I used.
For churches in association and for individual churches and their leaders, artificial intelligence apps can be a great source of initial research on any topic relevant to church and denominational ministry.
On some religious, spiritual and theological questions, the app includes in its answer a cautionary statement that it is not an expert on the question asked or the subject of the inquiry. This is ethical and responsible.
One phrase I see in response to questions posed to ChatGPT is, “As a language model AI, I don’t have personal opinions or beliefs.”
In our speaking and writing, let’s all be this ethical and responsible.
Use ChatGPT and other similar apps for research and background information and to stimulate your thinking — but always remember that your knowledge of our Kingdom relationships is much richer.