Natural Language Processing


  • Understanding: what is NLP?
  • Application – who is using it?
  • Missional examples of NLP.
  • Risks and opportunities.


Natural Language Processing, or NLP, is an AI system designed to help computers understand everyday human language via structures of formal logic. Today, NLP is enabling spell check, Google translate, predictive text, and speech transcription. It’s also being used for customer service chatbots, for summarizing long texts, and for analyzing a text’s positive or negative sentiment.

In the Christian world, NLP is already being used significantly for Bible translation. Others are exploring the use of chatbots for evangelism and discipleship. These uses will also present the biggest risks for Christian ministries: draining away translation knowledge, disrupting traditional discipleship, or endangering ministries in restricted countries. Yet opportunities exist as well. Christianity’s Scriptures, writings, and accumulated wisdom have guided the church’s growth and development for millennia, and now NLP could build on this tradition, even unreached people groups and low-resource languages. In light of Scripture, the Bible’s emphasis on language, and stories like Babel and Pentecost can help guide our thinking.

This report includes numerous case studies and links to additional resources for more information, as well as next steps for how organizations can get started with NLP.