Robotic Evangelists

Written by Carl Greene

September 14, 2022

Should churches use robotic evangelists for outreach? That question brings some really important ideas to the surface, especially if we carefully observe the accompanying photos.

The pictures capture a robotic server at work in a restaurant in Wisconsin. (Thank you to Jeremy Howard of the SDB Center for taking these photos.) The robot comes out from the kitchen with your food, does some cool beeping as it arrives at your table, and invites you to take your plate. Efficiency and novelty all packaged into a single experience.

There is a caption on the robot that really should not be missed, “Please tip the humans or they won’t plug me in.” This statement holds two essential truths when it comes to living out our faith with public witness: 1) Tip the humans, and 2) Plug in. Let’s see where this goes.

 

Tip the Humans                 

What a cool statement to have on the robot—pointing us back to the truth that behind great technology there are still people creatively doing their work. When it comes to gospel witness, how are we at tipping the humans in our churches? We should be “tipping” the humans who are clearly giving evidence of their faith through social media, phones that are smarter than I am, and via that ancient technological technique of in-person communication.

When I say “tipping,” I mean giving public encouragement and appreciation. We give thanks for powerful sermons, well facilitated Bible Studies, and blessed fellowship events. I do not think that we are always as quick and consistent to thank the people who are faithfully sharing their faith throughout the week. Those stories might be harder to know about—but are a critical part of the healthy life of a church. We need to tip the humans.

Plug In

The robot needs someone(s) to plug it in. We just made the case that we should be tipping the humans who are plugging in, or connecting people to Jesus. The other part of this story is that we ourselves should be involved in connecting people to Jesus. We have a part to play in this story, and it is not extra credit.

The cool thing about plugging in is that it is something that we do in every day life. We plug in all sorts of things throughout the day (like that phone that is smarter than me). Our public witness of faith does not require a special place on our calendar. We can simply incorporate connecting people to Jesus with what we are already doing and even love to do. Think of places where you cross paths with people, and be intentional about connections.

In the week ahead, I hope that I am more observant of opportunities to plug in. I also hope that I am a whole lot more observant of humans to tip–even if I come across some cool robotic evangelists.

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