Recently, we ordained three new deacons. It was a moving service of testimonies, inspiring music, and the blessing of each candidate through whispered words and prayers.

While my message ultimately focused on the kind of hearts God can use, I puzzled for a while on what to say. Should I accentuate the call to serve or the presence of the Holy Spirit? What will help others want to take up the mantle of service?

Just for fun, I decided to do an experiment. I wanted to know what common wisdom would say about what it means to be a deacon. So, I asked the program called ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence computer tool, to do this: write a 300-word sermon for a church deacon ordination.

In less than 5 seconds, a message entitled Called to Serve: The Sacred Journey of a Deacon was produced. (By the way, I asked for 300 words, and in true “preacher” fashion, I got 477 words back!)

Here is an excerpt from what artificial intelligence had to offer:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, 

Today, we gather in this holy sanctuary to witness a momentous occasion—the ordination of our dear brother [Name] as a deacon in the service of God and His church. This day marks the beginning of a sacred journey for him, one filled with immense responsibility and the blessings of divine grace.

The calling of a deacon is rooted in the example set by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who came not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). The office of a deacon is a noble one, characterized by humility, compassion, and a burning desire to meet the needs of the church and the community.

As we witness this ordination, let us reflect upon the qualities that define a faithful deacon. First and foremost, a deacon is called to be a servant-leader, embracing the role of a humble servant in imitation of our Savior. They are to be the hands and feet of Christ, ever-ready to extend love, care, and support to all in need.

Furthermore, a deacon is called to be a bridge between the church and the world, reaching out to the marginalized and the forgotten. They are called to bring comfort to the brokenhearted, hope to the hopeless, and healing to the wounded….

However, dear friends, let us remember that a deacon’s journey is not one to be walked alone. It is a journey undertaken in partnership with the Holy Spirit, who equips and empowers them for their ministry. As we witness this ordination today, let us commit ourselves to support and uplift our newly ordained deacon, encouraging and praying for them as they embark on this journey.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.

God bless you all.

Pretty fascinating, right? Plus, a bit scary.

I really liked the reference to Jesus in Mark 10:45. Servant leadership is indeed the heart of what it means to be a deacon. The part about being a “bridge between the church and the world, reaching out to the marginalized and the forgotten” should cause us to catch our breath when we realize a computer is saying those words (albeit, mimicking what other humans have already said). And the notion that we need one another and the Holy Spirit on the journey rings true.

We might call the one delivering this message Pastor ChatGPT. The words spoken would have been adequate enough — in fact, some may be more eloquent than what I shared recently. Pastor ChatGPT would have said the right things.

But I expect that hearing such a message from a metal box or even a humanoid kind of computer would have left us a bit cold. After all, we are asking these three new deacons to do something that no computer can do: give embodied comfort for those who grieve, look hurting people in the eye, and empathize with the suffering of everyday life.

Pastor ChatGPT could say the right words but then be devoid of empathy. It could not hug or pause to acknowledge someone’s despair. It could not say, “I’m going to pray for you and stay in touch with you.” It can’t have a broken heart to match the brokenness in another.

This, of course, is what we ask our deacons to do. We have called them out, not to give platitudes, but instead to come alongside real humans in need. We are asking them to practice incarnational ministry — in the flesh.

This is what Jesus did. He left the comfort of heaven to come to earth, taking on flesh and blood. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14, NIV). God was willing to take on the humility of human existence, with all of its frailty, disease, and pain, in order to express a divine word of love. This is Jesus saying to us, No matter how bad life gets, I am with you. I am in your blood and bones, your joys and temptations and failures.

I once heard about a little boy who was going to sleep for the night. He was afraid of the dark. So he crept into his mom’s room and whispered, “Momma, I’m afraid.”

She said, “Don’t worry, son. Jesus is with you.”

He thought about it for a minute, then said, “I know He is, Momma, but I want someone with skin on.”

We’re called to be those people. We’re called to be flesh and blood servants of Jesus Christ.He has shown us the way.

So, make that visit, pick up the phone, look someone in the eye, lend a hand, and share His love. Service through real, messy, sacrificial people — this is what changes the world.

That’s all, Humans!

Pastor Brent McDougal