Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World


Written by: on September 4, 2023

In 2002, Steven Spielberg directed a movie staring Tom Cruise called “The Minority Report.”  I remember watching it and seeing aspects of technology that was so mind-blowing to me at the time. Tom Cruise, for crying out loud, would use this hands to move files around on a large touch screen computer. Absolutely Insane.

And now we’re doing all of this and so much more with our devices.

Fast forward to June 29, 2007, which is the day that Apple Computers (Steve Jobs) released the 1st Gen. iPhone. Game changer. A few years prior, in 2004, Pastor Jack Hayford became the fourth president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, serving a four year term that concluded in 2008. Nearing the end of this presidency, Pastor Jack issued a lengthy “missive” to all credentialed ministers regarding the dangers of the iPhone and other such digital devices. He warned of the prevalent accessibility of pornography within each device, especially for that of minors. Myself, and a number of my peers, jokingly shrugged off Pastor Jack’s letter as the meanderings of a slightly out-of-touch elder leader.

But, oh, how right he was. Just a few weeks ago, I gave a message at my local church regarding sexual immorality and referenced the immediate accessibility of “porn in our pockets.” I may also have made a passing joke that our young people today have “no idea how hard previous generations had to work to get their porn! We used to have to go convenience stores and have the attendant hand us a magazine from behind the counter…and now you “young people” just type a few key words into your phone.”

A few people awkwardly giggled, while the majority stared intently at the sanctuary carpet.

Ah, the majority. What used to be the minority, is now becoming the majority. Whereas previously, a minority had a personal computer, a fancy smartphone, or access to the internet (thank you Al Gore!), now the majority is moving files around with our hands or eyes (in the case of VR).

And now we have OpenAI. Midway through the COVID-19 pandemic my kids informed me of a thing called “ChatGPT.”  I am pretty culturally aware, but I literally had no idea of its existence. Hello 52 years old. The revelation came when our entire family (spread out across the US) came together on a ZOOM call. One of our sons mentioned ChatGPT, and to illustrate its power, we “wrote” a worship song in less than 4 seconds. He then grabbed his guitar and we proceeded to sing it together over ZOOM. Ah, technology. The worship song was entirely generated by ChatGPT (except for our given key word prompts), and, I will say, it just might rival anything put out by Chris Tomlin or Brandon Lake. Look out KLOVE.

I recently received an email from The Barna research group asking a series of questions of pastoral leaders: Could delegating certain processes to new technologies such as AI free up time for more hands-on forms of ministry? What are the moral and ethical implications of incorporating more AI tech into church leadership? As more congregants personally turn to AI, particularly young Christians, what guidance can I give to support their holistic flourishing?

This is the kind of stuff I did NOT learn in Bible College.

Yet, here we are. We’re no longer in 2002, or 2004, or 2007.  Or, to go back even further, and quote the landmark Apple Computer commercial from 1984…”On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.” This is a subtle (not-so-subtle to many) reference to George Orwell’s 1949 novel, 1984, which describes a dystopian future – one that we are clearly living in and rapidly “zooming” through! Time is moving forward, and technology will stop for no thing or no one. OpenAI, which is still in its “minority” phase, will soon move into majority status, and make way for other technology iterations. This has profound implications, good and bad, for ministry and education, to name a few fields of learning. What are dangers, limitations and possibilities? I don’t know. I really don’t. The dangers, limitations and possibilities are changing moment by moment. The articles and videos provided for this week’s learning are most likely now out-of-date and approaching irrelevancy. Information is increasing as I type. And type I did…I asked ChatGPT only 5 minutes ago to define the acronym “GPT” for me. Here is the answer:

“GPT stands for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer.” It’s a type of artificial intelligence model that belongs to the transformer architecture and is designed for various natural language processing tasks, such as text generation, translation, summarization, and more. GPT models are pre-trained on massive amounts of text data and can then be fine-tuned for specific tasks or used as-is for generating human-like text.”

That’s not bad. That seems like a really comprehensive response, worthy of being included in this blog post. So I did. Just now.

But that brings up so many questions, especially within the context of ministry and upper education. Can I (should I) write my blogs with ChatGPT? What about the eight weekly blog interactions with peers? As a pastor should I let ChatGPT write my sermons? As a doctoral student, can OpenAI assist me with research? And if AI research is not properly acknowledged and/or cited is it breach of academic integrity?

So. Many. Questions. If only there were a place that I could post these questions in order to gather possible answers in a casual voice, with proper citation and varied paragraph length.

If only.




About the Author


John Fehlen

John Fehlen is currently the Lead Pastor of West Salem Foursquare Church. Prior to that he served at churches in Washington and California. A graduate of Life Pacific University in San Dimas, CA in Pastoral Ministry, and Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, CA with a Masters in Leadership and Spirituality. He and his wife Denise have four grown children and four grandchildren. John is the author of “Intentional Impressions," a book for fathers and their sons, "Don't Give Up: Encouragement for Weary Souls in Challenging Times," a book for pastoral leaders, and "The Way I See You," a children's book. You can connect with John on Instagram (@johnfehlen) as well as on his blog (johnfehlen.com).

11 responses to “The MAJORITY Report”

  1. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi John,

    Zoom, Microsoft Team, Obsidian, Zotero and the list gets longer with ChatGPT.

    Sigh…new tricks…OLD DOG (me). Born in the Territory of Hawaii (so it says on my birth certificate), change continues to ROCK my world. The transformation of Hawaii into a TOURIST Haven, to the world at large. Living overseas for over 30 years, I observed in my young military days that the only constant was “change.”

    Watching the fall of the Berlin wall from a high tech German bunker, I watched the disintegration of the Soviet Empire and stood in AWE of God and his ability to keep us from WWIII.

    Change…in the class room with AI is our point of discussion at this point – CHEATING is a substantial fear. Rounding out our AI fears (see The Creator or The Terminator). See the new AI driven US drone called the Valkyrie. See AI monitoring the tech wall between the US and Mexico. See AI in the English as Second Language classroom at Pikes Peak State College (essays submitted in class).

    Technology has been that continual double edged sword. It is NOT going anywhere.

    You are so right about porn. In my teen group I asked the access to porn question. I left an empty jar out and told the boys that they could leave a quarter if they looked at porn that week. There was always a coin (delivered in secret) that appeared in the jar.

    Sigh…we wrestle with the INTERNET and we will wrestle with AI. I think awareness of the dangers are important, Verify before you Publish is becoming my mantra.


    • mm John Fehlen says:

      Russell, I was struck by your comment on “the only constant was change.” I am familiar with that concept, in that I lead an organization that I am continually trying to “change” (hopefully for the better), and yet working within the confines of a people and culture that craves what is “known and understood.” Just today (actually a few minutes ago) I led a discussion with key leaders about changes to be made in our organization and the default posture was primarily to “keep it as is.” That’s not always bad mind you.

      Yet we are living in a time in history in which change is happening at a rapid rate – we are grappling with technologies that we simply don’t know nor understand. The only constant IS CHANGE.

  2. Esther Edwards says:

    Hello, John,
    Kudos to you for speaking on tough subjects in your church. The role of pastor is not an easy one in this day and age where so much blatantly vies for the human soul. Over the summer I endeavored to read (ever so slowly) Tim Keller’s Renovation of the Heart. He states “The hidden dimension of each human life is not visible to others, nor is it fully graspable even by ourselves. We usually know very little about the things that move in our own souls, the deepest level of our lives, or what is driving us. Our “within” is astonishingly comlex and subtle – even devious. It takes on a life of its own. Only God knows our depths, who we are, and what we would do” (p. 9). I have continued to quote this throughout the summer. No matter how far we have come technologically, the human soul continues to need a Savior on so many levels.

    So keep on keeping on. You make such a difference. Week after week, sermon after sermon…

    • mm John Fehlen says:

      Esther, I appreciate the encouragement, as well as the edification of my own personal soul through your reading and quote from Willard (you attributed it to Keller, and yet I believe you meant Dallas Willard…both incredible voices that are dearly missed).

      A question that I’ve been disciplining myself to ask of others, as well as of myself, from time to time: “How is your soul?”

      I have made a correlation that I believe is not accidental….I find that when my focus is upon social media, posting, scrolling, etc. then my soul is correspondingly shrinking. I don’t think I am alone in this, and yet, I don’t think many people give it appropriate thought and action to remedy. I’m no beacon of perfection in this, yet I have consistently reduced my dependency and time investment towards technology and socials…and have found a growing sense of health in my soul. How about you? Any failures or successes in this regard?

      • Esther Edwards says:

        Thanks for catching that. I have read much of both Dallas Willard and Tim Keller this summer. Both iconic for sure.
        Oh yes…social media is so very addictive. Not only does my soul shrink, but my mental and relational capacity shrinks as well. It has been an intentional effort to use social media less and less as I go about my day. I have also gone back to praying and reading Scripture when I cannot sleep at night instead of grabbing my phone or computer. I realized that when I used wake up in the middle of the night, I would wonder what the Lord wanted to speak to me about. Sad to say, that intentional awareness had become almost non-existent for a while.
        I’m so glad God continues to draw us back in alignment.

  3. Travis Vaughn says:

    John, I am and will be curious how pastors like you will incorporate AI into their routine, especially since you juggle a great many things (preaching, pastoring, AND you do a great deal of writing / blogging, AND on top of that you and your wife have a side job as operators of a local franchise…I think?). And regarding the Barna research, asking pastors: “Could delegating certain processes to new technologies such as AI free up time for more hands-on forms of ministry?”….I thought about companies like Belay. Belay is one of the more successful companies — a multi-sided tech platform (their business model) company — in the U.S. that provides virtual assistants. We use Belay for my administrative assistant. This has worked out marvelously for our organization! It’s not the same as using AI, but it is not the same as having an employee. I’m guessing Belay, as successful as they are, is thinking how they will integrate AI to continue enhancing the already great service they provide.

    • mm John Fehlen says:

      Couple response to your post Travis…

      1. I have recently been more and more aware of Belay, and am giving it consideration for my admin needs (I’ve been without an executive assistant for 5+ years now). I will be chatting with you in Oxford about it.

      2. Yesterday, I had coffee with an entrepreneurial leader in our congregation, and we talked at length about AI. He utilizes it often in his work for making outlines, research, summaries, etc. He said to me, “John, with you being as busy as you are with various responsibilities, I can’t believe you don’t use AI more often.” Hmmm.

      3. When I got back to the office after that coffee meeting, I did something I’ve never done before (speak the truth and shame the devil!)…I asked ChatGPT to write a casual, post-summer letter to my church recapping last weekends teaching (and then inserted my preaching notes). With a few minor changes I submitted it to our Communications Director to put out as our weekly pastoral blog. Five minutes. Boom. Done. Onto other things.

      4. Admittedly, I feel weird, having done that, and now having confessed it to the World Wide Web. Kinda like the first time I told a small group of guys about a struggle with lust. There’s just something dark and seedy about the whole ChatGPT deal. I wonder if we’ll get past it at some point…not the lust thing, the AI thing! Ha!

    • Kally Elliott says:

      Okay, you both have me hooked on how I can ethically and efficiently use AI and/or a service like Belay in ministry. I do wonder what we will become “majority” use of AI in the pastoral profession before I retire – I still have a lot of years before that!

      Thinking about your sermon about porn – Having kids who have devices my husband and I have done our best to talk to them and to try to trust them with their phones and computers. There is no way we can really prevent them accessing anything – they can and will find a way around any block we put on their devices so we’ve gone the route of talking talking talking. I’m not saying it is the right route or that it has even worked but it’s our attempt at helping our kids learn to use technology…

  4. mm Tim Clark says:

    Man I love this conversation about AI.

    I’m learning a lot from everyone’s post. I think you articulated the larger concern well when you point to the advent of the iPhone and Pastor Jack’s prescient but ignored warnings.

    We just don’t know where this technology is taking us or what it’s doing to us.

    I’m not suggesting we don’t use it… but I do think we should use it with extreme caution and assess along the way not what it’s doing for our effectiveness, but what it’s doing to our souls.

    • mm John Fehlen says:

      I agree with “extreme caution.” We simply don’t know enough about it, how it is made, generated, where the query information goes, etc. etc. etc.

      A few days ago, on NPR, a AI expert clearly stated that he believes AI needs to immediately be “nationalized” by the US government and regulated before it gets out of hand and destroys us (Hello Terminator!). At first blush, his comments seemed reactionary, and yet I had to remember that HE is the expert, I am not. If experts are telling us to proceed with caution, then ought we listen? Reminds me of expert voices from big technology (ie: Apple, Facebook, Microsoft) that historically have gone public saying things such as “be careful with our technology” or “I will not let my young child have a smart phone” or “I and our team DESIGNED our technology to make you addicted to IT!”

      Maybe we ought to listen better to the experts!

  5. Jenny Dooley says:

    John, Thank you for bringing up hard topics, “Porn in your pocket” is a mental health epidemic and one very dangerous misuse of technological advances, as you mentioned. I’m sure AI plays a role in all of this. One of the other issues we are seeing in mental health is compulsive use of electronic devices. I have a love/hate relationship with my weekly notification that informs me of my screen time on my phone. Add that to my computer time and it gets rather discouraging. It is mostly work and studies related. I have no desire to play games or overuse social media. Never-the-less, time in front of any screen is time away from face-to-face meaningful relationships. This is a little off topic for our discussion on AI. But… I am curious to know how or if you address the use of electronic devices and screen time in your church.

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