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Pulpit AI creators preach efficiency amid skepticism: Church should ‘slow down’

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A new artificial intelligence platform aimed at helping pastors preach their sermons more effectively is set to launch later this month.

Pulpit AI, created by Michael Whittle and Jake Sweetman, will be released officially on July 22 and will include both free and paid versions, according to both men. 

Whittle is based in Nashville, while Sweetman is senior pastor of Cathedral Church in Los Angeles, which he and Whittle began. The two have been friends for over 10 years, Whittle told Fox News Digital in a Zoom interview. 

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“Pulpit AI is a generative AI app that allows churches and pastors, church leaders, to upload any version of their sermons,” Whittle said. That includes audio, video, a manuscript or an outline, he said.

“Then our app automatically turns [the sermon] into all kinds of associated content that a pastor or a church could need, based on that sermon,” he said. 

A chat log of Pulpit AI

Pulpit AI allows church leaders and pastors to upload a sermon and turn it into any kind of associated content, said co-founder Michael Whittle.  (Pulpit AI)

This includes but is not limited to “devotionals, discussion questions and guides for small groups, newsletters, social media content – really anything that a church would need to communicate with its congregation,” Whittle said. 

The idea for Pulpit AI came from a desire to communicate a sermon to the congregation more effectively, while at the same time creating less work for the church’s staff.

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“I kind of ran into [Sweetman] one day and I said, ‘Hey, what if we could build a tool that lets you just upload your sermon to an app … And what if it could turn it into just a devotional that our congregation could read every day of the week based on the sermon?'” Whittle recounted. 

Michael sitting at laptop

Michael Whittle, pictured here, told Fox News Digital he was inspired to create Pulpit AI after wanting to turn one of co-founder Jake Sweetman’s sermons into a devotional that could be read throughout the week.  (Pulpit AI)

The two then asked a team member at Cathedral Church what she thought of the idea.

“She was like, ‘Yeah, this would save hours of my week if we could do this,'” Whittle said. “So that was kind of the genesis.”

‘Valuable enough to live on’

“The reality is that pastors put lots of hours into the preparation of a sermon,” Sweetman told Fox News Digital in a Zoom interview. 

Sweetman said he spends “anywhere from 10 to 15 hours a week writing a sermon.” 

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Despite all this work, “for most preachers, their sermon doesn’t live on beyond the Sunday,” Sweetman said, “except for maybe getting uploaded to a podcast.” 

Pulpit AI is able to turn a sermon into additional content without “a huge time investment and a big cost investment.” 

Using tools in Pulpit AI, he said, “is very helpful from a discipleship standpoint” and is able to turn a sermon into additional content without “a huge time investment and a big cost investment.” 

Sweetman added, “Pulpit AI just opens a huge door for content to be able to be distributed to our churches. I mean, we’re going to spend 15 hours a week writing a sermon. Obviously, we think it’s valuable, and it’s valuable enough to live on in [the congregation’s] minds just beyond the 90-minute Sunday service.” 

AI split with a bible opened

Pulpit AI, Jake Sweetman said, is a way for pastors to ensure that their sermons are able to live on “beyond the 90-minute Sunday service.”  (iStock)

Unlike other AI programs, which have been accused of inaccuracies and bias, Pulpit AI will not, say, suddenly start spouting heresy without warning, Whittle said.

“The way our app is built, what you put into it is what it creates from,” Whittle said. 

So “you’re uploading something that you have created.” 

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Pulpit AI, he said, does not generate the sermon itself. 

Instead, it creates content “based directly from the sermon and not pulling from a bunch of different sources around the internet.” 

wide angle of pulpit AI

Sweetman said Pulpit AI is a helpful tool without “a huge time investment and a big cost investment.” (Pulpit AI)

“This isn’t something where you’re going in and having, you know, ChatGPT write you a sermon from scratch,” Whittle said. 

“We’re not adding any commentary. We’re not adding any exegesis or anything to the app that would veer off into creating something that wasn’t the original intent of the person who wrote and uploaded the sermon to our app.” 

Skepticism of church’s use of AI

Dr. Charlie Camosy, a professor of medical humanities at the Creighton University School of Medicine and holder of the Msgr. Curran Fellowship in Moral Theology at St. Joseph Seminary in New York, told Fox News Digital that he believes the church should be cautious about the use of AI, although he did not outright dismiss it. 

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“I think we need to go slow on this,” Camosy told Fox News Digital in an email, adding that he thinks the church should “slow down and think and pray and observe.” 

He added, “In principle, I think using AI as a tool at the service of human interactions is fine. Sometimes, even better than fine. Great, even.”

“What would it mean if the craft of taking one’s sermon notes and using them to create other documents goes away? Maybe nothing. But do we know that yet? Hard to predict.”

But he said he worries that AI could have the effect of “undermining human interaction.” 

“What would it mean if the craft of taking one’s sermon notes and using them to create other documents goes away? Maybe nothing. But do we know that yet? Hard to predict,” Camosy said. 

“The church tends to think in terms of centuries, with a primary focus on service and love of others in the imitation of Christ, not primarily in terms of what is the most efficient, time-saving thing.” 

Pulpit AI landing page

Pulpit AI does not create the content of a sermon, its co-founder told Fox News Digital. Instead, he said, it helps pastors more effectively communicate their messages. (Pulpit AI)

“The bottom line is that no one knows what the consequences will be of using these technologies,” he said. “And the church is perhaps uniquely positioned to take a decades or even centuries-long view of whether this is a good idea.” 

One pastor who used Pulpit AI prior to its release told Fox News Digital that he found it easy to use and intuitive, which in turn freed up his team to work on other projects.

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“We have started small groups on our sermons and podcasts since Pulpit AI has created this platform,” Pastor Adam Mesa of Patria Church in Rancho Cucamonga, California, told Fox News Digital in an email.

“Our team has been able to expand our communication emails, small group questions and content due to the massive amount of category summaries the system gives us,” he added. 

a sample of pulpit AI

Pulpit AI’s many tools include one that transcribes and summarizes a sermon using AI — and others that create video clips for sharing on social media accounts.  (Pulpit AI )

Patria Church has about 12,000 members, Mesa said, “and we have even heard from many that they have really enjoyed our updated communication frequencies.” 

He added, “My team heavily relies on Pulpit AI weekly, and for me, it’s a massive benefit because it takes certain tedious things out of their workload.”

After uploading the sermon to the app, “it takes about five minutes to transcribe the full audio, regardless of length,” Mesa told Fox News Digital. 

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Using Pulpit AI, Mesa is able to produce two podcast episodes each week, he said. 

“Once loaded, it only takes a few minutes for each tool to provide us with ,” Mesa said. 

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This content includes a summary of the episode, a full transcription, discussion questions, key points and an e-mail recap, Mesa said. 

Plus, Pulpit AI creates “highlights and quotes” for social media use, he said. “Overall, we have loved the platform.”

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