TWR’s 2023 National Partner Conference: ‘AI is already here’
Many of Trans World Radio’s national partners met in Central Europe to consider the benefits of using Artificial Intelligence in Christian media ministry.
05 OCTOBER 2023 · 16:50 CET
In late September, TWR’s ministry partners gathered from across TWR Europe and CAMENA (Central Asia, Middle East, North Africa) to discuss a pertinent if controversial topic: artificial intelligence (AI).
The occasion was our 2023 National Partner Conference which takes place in Central Europe each year. It’s a time of reflection, prayer and mutual encouragement. A time to celebrate what God has done through us as we seek his will for the future.
To start things off, we heard from Dr. Jörg Dechert, CEO of ERF Germany. He briefed us on the history of AI, examined terminator scenarios, and showed us “inside the black box.”
So what does this mean for media ministry? Dechert spoke candidly about our current reality: “AI is already here.” Think of digital assistants, facial recognition and spam filters. As a Christian media organization, AI can assist with tasks like audio editing, video repurposing or creating avatars to protect the identity of those serving in sensitive regions.
Toward the end of his presentation, Dechert offered a kingdom perspective: The Church will (eventually) use AI for kingdom purposes, authentic Christian community will become more appealing, and Christians contribute a unique perspective on what it means to be human. We can “trust a known God for an unknown future,” Dechert said.
Each morning after worship, we brought our requests to the Lord in prayer. “When you unite around Jesus and the Scriptures, real unity can happen,” said TWR President and CEO Lauren Libby. / Photo: TWR
Foundations of partnership
The following day, President and CEO Lauren Libby gave a global update, reinforcing the meaning of TWR’s partnerships. “When you unite around Jesus and the Scriptures, real unity can happen,” he said. “I had tears in my eyes as I watched the Russian team director and the Ukraine team director praying for each other.”
We also heard from Philipp Rüsch, director of human resources for TWR’s Europe and CAMENA regions, in a workshop titled, Dealing with Conflict. He emphasized the importance of staying in dialogue, even during times of anger, fear or hurt. “If we don’t experience conflicts at all, we may want to ask ourselves if we’re on the right path,” Rüsch said.
In both presentations, the speakers made it clear that disagreements are inevitable in partnerships. Yet learning to identify and confront conflicts immediately is how we achieve mutual goals.
In an AI panel discussion, Steve Shantz, VP of digital initiatives, spoke about how AI will be disruptive in terms of content creation. / Photo: TWR.
Throughout our time together, God’s presence was evident. Although many of the TWR regions represented have dealt with natural disasters, wars and persecution over the past year, we raised our voices to worship together.
In an AI panel discussion led by Vice President of Digital Initiatives Steve Shantz, we witnessed interactions between Jack Esselink (Studio Pulpit, Netherlands), Jesper Noer (Norea Denmark), David Castor (Norea Sweden) and Pavel Shifman (Russia team leader). “We’re looking, in our society, for a new balance,” said Esselink. “You won’t lose your job because of AI, but you will be replaced by someone who uses AI.”
On the final day, we heard from Susie Pek, the global director of TWR Women of Hope. She spoke about a crisis of invisibility that has impacted women since sin entered the world.
During meals and breaks, national partners shared ideas on how to stay at the forefront of a rapidly changing media landscape
“Women went from being seen and cherished to being invisible,” Pek said. “This week we talked about how AI mirrors us, reflecting what we put into it. Have you thought about how God has put something into us that mirrors himself? He wants women to know that they are special, and he sees them no matter what they are going through.”
During meals and breaks, national partners shared ideas on how to stay at the forefront of a rapidly changing media landscape. Even in the difficult conversations, there was a profound sense of God’s leading.
Yes, AI will be disruptive. It will change the way we work. But what if it allows us to reach the whole world for Christ?
Jade Alger, writer and communication specialist for TWR Europe and CAMENA.