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Putting Jesus in Times Square? Christian Company Uses AI to Increase Kingdom-Impact for Ministries

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Some tech experts at the forefront of artificial intelligence have sounded the alarm over the potential dangers it poses, however, a growing number of Christians see it as an important tool for sharing the good news of Jesus.

There's no question the future holds artificial intelligence that's even more powerful, capable, and intelligent, leading many top tech experts to openly voice concerns about the possibility of unintended consequences.

Tech magnate Elon Musk recently joined Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and some of AI's most distinguished creators in signing an open letter calling on companies to "immediately pause the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4." They warn, "AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity..."

There's no question it's making an impact in the workplace as one study suggests artificial intelligence could impact some 80 percent of the U.S. workforce in the coming years.

Concerns over AI, among other things, led Hollywood actors and writers to go on strike this summer.

"It's an existential threat. We need protections, guardrails," says actor Jack Black.

"It's, you know, it's scary what's happening with AI and creating content," says Jim Strouse, writer and director of "Love Again."
Even the man considered the godfather of AI, Dr. Geoffrey Hinton, recently stepped down as vice president at Google to speak out about his grave concerns.

"Things like Chat GPT know thousands of times more than any human," he told PBS.

The endless possibilities for artificial intelligence and the devastation it could cause in the wrong hands has many feeling uneasy about the unknown, but AI is already being used to share the good news that never changes in churches across the country.
16:Fifteen Church Media and Communications has been using chat GPT and other AI programs for about a year now, so CBN News paid them a visit to learn more.

The company helps churches across the country communicate to their communities, offering services that range from custom posters to push notifications.
"There's like a lot of times pastors will ask for something where they want to see the modern and the ancient come together - right?" explains Kyle Scheren, co-founder of 16:Fifteen. "They want to see modern construction workers working on the ark or something like that. Or they want to see Jesus with a modern-day family in Times Square or something like that as part of a sermon series idea that they have. And before, that would be something like, 'We really can't pull that off with excellence where the lighting is right and everybody is in the same perspective and they're all looking at the same thing and it just looks natural,' but now with AI that's something that we can do."

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16:Fifteen uses a program called Midjourney to make the far-fetched look flawless. But Ryan Cook, who co-founded the company with Scheren, explains AI only gets them to about the 30-yard line.

"The one thing I think the GPT really struggles with is anything like, that's kind of spiritually nuanced. It doesn't really understand because it's not human and there's a very human element to the Gospel," Cook says.

A pastor's recent request for a graphic showing Joseph's coat of many colors discarded on a desert floor demonstrates how today's AI still requires a human eye.

"And it didn't do a great job to start out with. It kind of gave me, like it kind of looks more like a dirty inflatable than like a coat. It kind of just looks like some trash that your kids left in the backyard," Scheren shows us.

So, he asked the program to view the coat from a lower perspective.

"Then it kind of gave me something that looked like 'hey maybe this could be Joseph's coat laying on the ground,'" he says.

A few more tweaks, "and this is kind of the graphic that we were able to create," he says showing a colorful coat lying on a desert floor in the foreground of a beautiful night sky.

AI was pivotal in creating media for a recent sermon series where the pastor asked to show families taking selfies in front of disasters.
"So, we were able to make this picture of a family taking a selfie while their house is on fire. You know which like lighting would be very difficult utilizing fire to get the perspective right and we're not just gonna find a picture of that because nobody takes a selfie while their house is on fire," Scheren points out.

Neither Scheren nor Cook see graphic designers losing their jobs to AI, rather they predict they'll lose them to the people who know how to use it, and like anything else, they say virtue still applies.

"It's not like all of a sudden AI is here and then we just go, 'oh as Christians let's set our morality aside.' We're not to go use AI inauthentically. If you're a kid who your teachers told you not to use AI for your homework, then it's still wrong to do that and that doesn't change right?" Scheren says.

16:Fifteen isn't alone in their approach. Popular recently launched Pray Studio, a new artificial intelligence platform designed to offload time-consuming processes for digital ministries.

"I'm really excited to see what God has in store for us in serving churches for the next 20 years and it's gonna get exciting and I think that's the one thing is the landscape of communications changes all the time but the Gospel never does. And so to get to come into work every day and get fired up about figuring some things out and streamline their communications - it's awesome and we love it," says Cook.

"Yeah, for sure," agrees Scheren.


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About The Author


As Senior Washington Correspondent for CBN News, Jennifer covers the intersection of faith and politics - often producing longer format stories that dive deep into the most pressing issues facing Americans today. A 20-year veteran journalist, Jennifer has spent most of her career covering politics, most recently at the White House as CBN's chief White House Correspondent covering the Obama and Trump administrations. She's also covered Capitol Hill along with a slew of major national stories from the 2008 financial crisis to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and every election in between. Jennifer