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Jesus Creed

Plagiarizing Sermons

Preaching.jpgA repost on a topic that is always relevant:
The NY Times ran an article about pastors swiping sermons from sermon sources, and then Out of Ur ran a piece which got some comments. I’m wondering what you think. Here are my thoughts:

I once was in a situation when a pastor admitted to using sermons from sermon sources, and he also said he hadn’t thought there was anything wrong with it. What most confused me about the situation was that he was using illustrations from other preachers in the first person — and you really did think these experiences were his. So far as I know, he stopped.


What are the issues? Here’s what I see:

First, it is not honest. Part of the pastoral task is to preach (if
that is part of your “job description”), and that means preparing their
own sermons. I don’t know any search committees that prefer their
pastoral candidates and preachers to use sermon sources in order to
borrow or swipe sermons preached by others on a routine basis or
without acknowledgement.

Second, the temptation is evidently strong, and I’d like to know what
you think drives pastors to plagiarize sermons, but here’s what I see.
Sometimes they don’t have the time to get a sermon ready. Sometimes
they have too many sermons or talks to get ready for the week and
resort to using somebody else’s for one of the talks. Sometimes the
pressure to be a good preacher is so strong the preacher is tempted to
use someone else’s already-shown-to-be-good sermon. Sometimes there are
so many good preachers in the area swiping sermons is the only way a
preacher can “compete.” Sometimes a pastor’s job is on the line for how
he or she preaches and they are able to postpone the inevitable with a
few good sermons swiped from a source.


Third, pastors should not subscribe to such services if they are at all
tempted to swipe sermons. I suppose these services are designed to help
pastors see what good preaching looks like — but that’s another
series. If the temptation is there, it is far wiser to make it

Fourth, sermon services are partly culpable here: I’ve never been part
of this so I’d like to hear how they work. Do they warn of plagiarism?
Do they educate on the proper use? Someone will know more than I about
these services.

Fifth, what is a sermon? Well, it’s a whole life brought to bear on a
text each week for a single 30 minute or so sermon before a specific
congregation. It shames the preacher not to be who he or she is in the
pulpit, and to pretend to be someone else. It de-localizes the sermon
from the local context. It distorts who the preacher is before the
congregation. So, the sermon is highly biblical, highly personal,
highly local, and highly temporal: it is the individual preacher
engaging God and Bible and congregation, in that specific location, for
that time.


Sixth, which brings up the philosophical issue: Is there not nothing
new under the sun? Well said. To be sure, nearly every sermon emerges
from books and sermons and ideas and all sorts of things that were
used. But it is bricolage, it is quilting, it is convergence — it is
precisely those things and not simple usage of others. It brings
together other people’s ideas and says so if it is substantial; but it
is a uniquely personal, local, and temporal bringing of those things
together. Taking someone’s sermon destroys the bricolage and turns it
into a canned, deceitful act of creating a false image in front of
God’s people. Now let’s be honest: sermons don’t have footnotes and
need not. You need not end each separable idea with a “I got this point
from Ortberg and this one from Niebuhr and that one from Bonhoeffer.”
We all use things from others in sermons, and when we use a lot from
someone about some point, we say so. By and large the congregation
doesn’t care about that. But, I think they expect the preacher to be
preaching his or her own sermon and not someone else’s.

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Dave Leigh

posted July 23, 2009 at 4:11 am

They say if you steal from one source it’s called plagiarism; if you steal from many sources it’s called research. One wonders, though, if the practice of drawing heavily from unattributed sources in preaching goes back to the synoptic Evangelists themselves, if not to Moses or the JEDP redactor.
I have even heard of preachers swapping sermons and it is said that when pastors in New England chose to read Jonathan Edwards’ sermons to their congregations they sometimes got better results than he did!
I heard a story once about a young student enrolled in the Spurgeon School of Preaching. Upon turning in a written sermon assignment, his instructor recognized the outline as one of Mr. Spurgeon’s. When Spurgeon returned from a preaching tour, they placed the young man before his mentor. Spurgeon looked the lad over, looked the document over, and agreed: “Yes, it’s one of mine, alright. Where did you get it, boy?”
“From Matthew Henry’s Commentary,” answered the accused.
“Hmmm,” Spurgeon said, “Yes, that’s where I got it too” and the matter was dismissed.
I suspect, however, that when we take shortcuts in our preaching like those described in the blog above, it is a sign of our own spiritual dryness more than anything else–an indication of our own need to experience the Word of God and the Holy Spirit afresh. After all, the best and only truly good preaching is that which we call “anointed.”
Preaching should spring freshly from the Word and from our lives. For it is in our lives that God is at work. By letting others see into our lives we are giving them a window into God’s activity. There is a proviso, however: If we are not letting God into our lives to do his work, or if we are going through life without paying attention to what God is doing, then of course we have nothing to offer in this regard.
So I’m not sure plagiarism is the biggest problem when preachers steal sermons or sermon material. Certainly anything can be borrowed and is best attributed when doing so. But the bigger problem is the dryness in the preacher’s life that this behavior signals. And in this there are few but very specific solutions, all of which involve ways to re-experience God.
Some excellent resources in this regard include reading some of Scot’s books on things like fasting, prayer, and how to interpret Scripture for oneself. A dry preacher may be tempted, upon doing this, to work THAT material into a sermon. (Not a bad idea.) Yet a better approach would be to first put the wisdom found there into practice first. And then, out of such a life of depth we may preach and preach well.

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Ben H

posted July 23, 2009 at 5:54 am

Irony…This was the Ad in my RSS reader:
Free Sermons
Get 30 sermons & 3 worship grounds free –!

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Allan R. Bevere

posted July 23, 2009 at 8:29 am

I would only make two points.
First, I think that pastors are tempted to plagiarize sermons not only because of their time constraints each week, but also because too many of them do not read enough on a continual basis to keep their minds thinking afresh about Scripture and the Christian life. When I see colleagues I regularly ask them what they have read lately. It continues to surprise me how many have not read much of anything. Our UM Conference in East Ohio gives clergy two weeks of study leave each year. I take those two weeks every year. I have yet to meet a colleague in my twenty-five years in ministry who takes theirs.
A sub-point here– sermon preparation is a discipline, and the serious preacher will take time for it. Whenever I have interviewed with a Staff/Parish Relations committee of a church where I am being appointed, I tell them that time for sermon prep. each week is a non-negotiable for me and nothing will get in the way of it. If they want good preaching, they should expect that I will take the necessary time each and every week.
Second, yes, it is true that a sermon should not sound like a research paper and when I take substantially from someone else, I mention it in the sermon, but the one thing I do is footnote my manuscript. If I take a small piece of an idea from someone, I will not say that as I preach, but it is footnoted. Anyone who desires a copy of the sermon manuscript can then see my sources. For me it is a way of giving due credit without making the sermon sound like a lecture.

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posted July 23, 2009 at 8:30 am

I’ve never had the opportunity to preach, but whenever I’ve taught a Bible study, or any class for that matter, I only really learned my subject as I prepared to teach it. Preparation is living with and meditating on your text. How can you preach something you haven’t personally prepared and lived?

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posted July 23, 2009 at 8:51 am

I grew up in church and around speakers and teachers. I developed an early cynicism for preachers saying things like “And this farmer, you know, he looked me in the eye and he said, ‘preacher…'” The story would go on that the local farmer had made some pithy comment, coincidentally using the preachers verbiage, that just happened to make some important point the preacher was presently trying to drive home. It seemed common to me that preachers would tell stories about real incidents but they would twist the facts and put words in people’s mouths.
If a story doesn’t naturally make your point, don’t torture a confession out of it.
A different point that I stumbled into was over-crediting. I found that I could take a seed thought from someone and run with it, creating my own application but then mistakenly attribute the whole idea to the author of the seed thought. This runs the risk of misrepresenting the one being credited and could give someone who looks it up the impression you were reaching to lend authority to your idea. As with so many things in life, balance.
I like Allen’s idea in #3 of footnoting but only in the text.

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Clay Knick

posted July 23, 2009 at 8:55 am

Allan is spot on. I read, take my study leaves (I go to Duke Div. for their convocation every year)and follow the same practice when writing and preaching. It is all about being honest & fair.

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Walton Marsh

posted July 23, 2009 at 9:00 am

I was at the Southern Baptist Convention many years ago when one of the preachers preached the sermon I composed just the month before. How did this happen? I had not published it and my little congregation of less than 50 people didn’t take notes. Actually his sermon was somewhat different than mine. It was better illustrated, it was delivered better and was more powerful. However it was my basic outline. Then it dawned on me that the scripture lends itself to this outline. Psalm 37: Trust, Delight, Commit. . .to the Lord.
There are hundreds if not thousands of Biblical themes that are best preached with a certain organization, a certain construction. It is not plagerism to repeat this organization. If you read a sermon that strikes you as appropriate, powerful and you want to bring that same message to your congregation why shouldn’t you? However, you need to realize that the sermon must be re-written to fit your style, circumstances and the congregations need. The outline is like a human skeleton, it supports the flesh with a structure and frame. But it is the flesh that makes us different. You must re-flesh the borrowed outline if it is to be yours.

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Stephen Barkley

posted July 23, 2009 at 9:12 am

Plagiarized sermons are evidence that the devotional life of the pastor is gone. The well’s dry.
I’ve experienced it. When I’m spending regular time with God, my biggest problem is what not to preach about. When I drift, inspiration gets thin.

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posted July 23, 2009 at 9:21 am

A practical reason not to use other people’s sermons is you will be found out. It doesn’t take long for people to realize that a certain “first person” occurrence couldn’t have happened to their preacher–either he forgets that everyone knows he’s afraid of the water and so wouldn’t have jumped in … or that the cues around the story suggest the Great Depression, which would mean he is 80 … and you know he’s 50 … or that story just circulated on the Web … And even without a dead giveaway, people can simply intuit that something doesn’t seem right. That said, in this particular instance, people liked the pastor and were willing to be generous, understand he didn’t have a lot of time, and give him a good-humored pass.

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posted July 23, 2009 at 9:22 am

Amen to all six points!!
I recall F.F. Bruce’s definition of prophecy (1 Thess., WBC series) that it is “the proclamation of the mind of God in the power of the Spirit.” No less than that is what every preacher is called to do in every sermon. If we start there, we’re likely to maintain our integrity.

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Chuck Warnock

posted July 23, 2009 at 9:33 am

You’re correct that all of us are enriched by one another, but authors still need and deserve credit. When I post my sermons to my blog each week, I either link to the source of a quote or story, or I endnote the source if it’s not online. In the digital world, online material needs proper credit, too, and hyperlinks provide an easy and quick way to give it.
When preaching the sermon, I never tell a first-person story unless it happened to me. It doesn’t disrupt the impact or the flow of the sermon to preface the story by saying, “Scot McKnight shared this story in his latest book…” To do otherwise is intellectually dishonest. I also attribute quotes to the author. It would sound pretty silly for a pastor to use Bonhoeffer’s classic line, “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die” without attribution. Concepts may not need attribution, but when in doubt I attribute.
Finally, sermon-sharing sites can help educate pastors on the proper use of their sermons as resources and idea starters. I recall Sermon Central promoted a pledge to “preach your own sermons” several months ago and thousands of pastors signed on. Obviously, they hit a nerve and pastors responded. Good post on a needed topic for discussion.

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Lucas DeLong

posted July 23, 2009 at 9:44 am

this subject really hits home for me. i have taught on and off for the past three years and there were many times that i took a sermon word for word from someone else and used it as my own. it was jammed full of history, exegetical word studies, and had a way with words that does not come naturally for me. it sounded great too! my heart began to be convicted as i continued to be lazy and stole from other pastors who put in work.
i go back and forth with how to prepare for my teaching. do i put 20 hours a week into studying and how much do i take from books or other “famous” teachers? or like dopderbeck mentioned, do i read and pray over my scripture time and time again so i can speak from experience and not just theory?
i believe an epidemic in the ministry is a lack of creativity, something i struggle with, so it’s easy to run to a book you know not many people in your congregation have read and deliver an outstanding message that they think you genuinely are living.

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posted July 23, 2009 at 9:44 am

My feelings are mixed on this. I agree that a pastor shouldn’t preach someone else’s sermon as his own, without attribution. Actual plagiarism is dishonest, I agree. And in general I agree that the pastor should interact deeply with the text and work to create that bricollage that you describe, Scot. But your comments seem to go beyond that, into a territory of absolutes that I don’t agree with. I don’t have a problem with an occasional properly attributed sermon that borrows heavily or even outright copies the sermon of another that is (as said above) appropriate and powerful and applicable in the local context. I think it is actually the small minority of sermons which would be appropriate for your particular church in the Chicago area but inappropriate for my ears here in Virginia. I think we can overstate the degree to which truth is contextualized.

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posted July 23, 2009 at 9:50 am

My mentor in college (a writer with two national book awards, one Pulitzer nomination) used to say, “Bad writers imitate, good writers steal.”
He wasn’t talking about plagiarism, but I think maybe the point is obvious. Like taking your camera to Yosemite, intent on capturing the beauty in an attempt to evoke the gestalt of Ansel Adams.
On one hand, what pastor doesn’t plagiarize Jesus’ sermons? On the other, what in the world are we saying when we endorse the ethos of the Earl Scheib, “I’ll sell you any sermon for $19.99!” The fact that popular sermon websites are thriving today, after raising their membership prices to $99.95, indicates just how many pastors out there are utilizing their product.
Perhaps if we look for pastors whose background includes more than just High School, College straight to Seminary and then locking themselves away in a back office guarded by a protective secretary, we might provide our congregation with a leader ready to mine a wealthy trove of personal experiences. A minister who doesn’t NEED to fall prey to a “one size fits all” commercial sermon.
I guess it all boils down to whose spirit are we trying to evoke: Jesus’ or some theologian’s?

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Robert Angison

posted July 23, 2009 at 10:53 am

This is probably like jokes and personal stories.
Say I’m talking with you and tell you a story that happened to me, with the unsaid expectation that it actually happened to me.Later you find out that is happened to someone else. Everyone believes this is bearing false testimony…or lying. That’s how we see it.
But if I’m sitting around telling you a joke, or story, about someone else there is an unsaid expectation that I’ve probably heard it from someone else. Thus when you hear it again from another person there isn’t a schism in our relationship.
Its the same with preachers imho. We beg, borrow, and (outright) steal illustrations and stories from other publications. For instance I’ve just lifted two illustrations from a Malcolm Gladwell article in the New Yorker which he lifted from another source. They aren’t first person stories.
What is a personal decision is how much extra literature we allow to influence our messages. Do you use commentaries? How much do they influence your interpretation? Have you listened to other ministers on this passage? How much have they influenced your structure? There are many gray areas here imho.
What is straight out of bounds for me is when a preacher takes a whole sermon and just presents it verbatim, then takes the praise without offering any attribution. That is stealing.
Good thoughts all around.
You are the Church!
Robert Angison

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posted July 23, 2009 at 11:55 am

Back in the Reformation times, because priests were so unable to properly preach or understand Scripture, us Anglicans composed a book of theologically sound sermons for all preachers to use. I see nothing wrong with using other’s sermons, provided it is not all one does.

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Michael W. Kruse

posted July 23, 2009 at 11:59 am

“To be sure, nearly every sermon emerges from books and sermons and ideas and all sorts of things that were used. But it is bricolage, it is quilting, it is convergence — it is precisely those things and not simple usage of others. It brings together other people’s ideas and says so if it is substantial; but it is a uniquely personal, local, and temporal bringing of those things together.”
That captures it for me.

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Tim McCarthy

posted July 23, 2009 at 12:47 pm

As a worship leader who also preaches, I think there are some parallels between preaching and worship leading/music performance. If every community had a songwriter like (insert your favorite famous worship leader here… Brian Doerksen, Paul Baloche, Matt Redman, Robbie Seay, etc.), then we could always sing homegrown songs and/or have songs performed within our community that were birthed within the journey/narrative of our community. For many different reasons, that isn’t always the case. And in the church that spans geography and time, that isn’t necessarily the ideal either. Worship leaders are always using others’ compositions, whether it is Charles Wesley or Matt Redman. In fact, I’m pretty sure even these prolific individuals didn’t/don’t only use their own music when they lead. Assuming that they are acting pastorally as they should, for the sake of the community they lead (or led), they choose, arrange, and perform/lead the songs that best suit the moment which they believe God is leading toward in a particular event. Depending on the kind of resources available, the arrangement may sound very close, or very different from the one that everyone knows from a particular recording. Some leaders/groups deliberately do everything they can to make their arrangement unique; some can’t help but do that; and some choose to get as close as they can to the ‘original’ (though even that original was one moment in time, one which even the original musicians may not capture the same way if they were to do it again). And of course, there are many arrangements that incorporate the ideas (and even mix songs together in medleys) from many different sources, in order to make something new. This is accepted behaviour within the musical world, and is not considered dishonest. Dishonesty has to do with whether the heart, mind and will is expressed through what is sung; I think of the advice that Celine Dion’s coach/mentor (and eventual husband)gave her early in her career… “Never sing a song you don’t believe in.” Whatever you think of her music, I don’t think you can deny that this has made a difference in the way that she sings. However, I think most of us would feel a little weird if our worship teams got up on stage led, airband-style, for a whole song or set, especially if they pretended, like Milli Vanilli, that they were actually performing.
In the same way, I think there is value in preachers using others’ work to inform, influence, and if most pastorally-useful, shape their own understanding and presentation of a text. But a preacher should not assume, without some serious prayer and reflection, that a sermon is equally relevant in one form for all contexts, and thus present it verbatim, without reflection. People are different, their week’s narrative is different, and nothing beats a genuinely personal reflection of how the Scripture text (not the other pastor’s sermon) has impacted the preacher. Like Celine Dion, I don’t think a preacher should preach something that hasn’t begun to saturate his or her own heart and mind, percolating there long enough to kill the old man and bring new life in the Spirit. The risk with using others’ work is that a preacher can skip that step, as if he or she wasn’t just as needy for the truth of God to illuminate and transform the heart as the congregation, as if he or she was not just as accountable to God for bringing the sermon as an act of worship in spirit and truth as the congregation is for bringing their songs as acts of worship in spirit and truth.
So I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think it is a responsible or genuinely pastoral habit for a pastor to use others’ sermons to make up for lost time. This may get them through the presentation, but it won’t contribute to longevity in discipleship or in ministry. I feel the same challenge as a worship leader… I try not to use songs just because they are on the radio or because my congregation requests them. I need to believe in the song myself if I’m going to use it. And I need to teach the song to the musicians that are there, helping them also learn to believe in the song, so that we can perform it in our unique context with our unique gifts, in our unique moment in time, in spirit and in truth. And hopefully, along the way, God births unique songs in my heart, from my unique gifts, from within the narrative of our unique congregation – which he does, from time to time.

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posted July 23, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Why the obsession with originality? Does the “worship pastor” need to come up with original material every week too? The travails and labors faced by those who have jettisoned the burden of “tradition” never cease to amaze me. Not everyone has the gift of originality.

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posted July 23, 2009 at 1:34 pm

quality matters so if that means using someone else’s words, go for it. but sources should be acknowledged.

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Allan R. Bevere

posted July 23, 2009 at 1:47 pm

It is not a matter of originality; and in fact I would argue that most sermons should not be and cannot be original in reference to new ideas. It is simply an issue of giving credit where credit is due. If I glean a particularly insightful comment from Scot in his commentary on Galatians, then I need to let folks know it is his thought, not mine.
In my reading I come across statements made by people that are particularly helpful, and I think to myself, “I wish I had said that.” It would be wrong to let others think I had.
There is no jettisoning of the tradition here; indeed, I have no idea what I would say on Sunday mornings without our rich theological traditions.

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Jim Martin

posted July 23, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Your points are very much on target.
I recall the first time (years ago) that I actually realized that some ministers do plagiarize sermons. I heard two very prominent evangelical leaders each tell a story about traveling on a plane. The plane hit some turbulence and a flight attendant lost her balance and fell in the preacher’s lap. The next line was funny, and everyone in the audience laughed. Yet, each minister told the story as if it had happened to him. I heard these two stories within two weeks of one another.
I don’t understand this. All the preachers had to do was to say, “I heard a story not long ago about…”
I believe that preachers can take so many shortcuts in sermon preparation that the sermon really never becomes their own. Preaching needs to originate from the preacher in the context of community. We then preach to a specific community. (We don’t live and preach in the places where the Internet sermons originated.)
There are probably several reasons why some do this. In some cases, the congregation may have such unrealistic expectations of their preacher that it is the sermon prep. that goes. Still others may be intimidated by the congregation’s expectation that the sermon will be equal to that of a celebrity preacher each week. That is a lot of pressure to live under.
Regardless of the pressures or the stress of ministry, plagiarizism is wrong.

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posted July 23, 2009 at 2:44 pm

George MacDonald’s, The Curate’s Awakening was life changing for many including myself on this very issue. As Scott Peck says, the reasons seem to be overdetermined..laziness, fame, etc.
I once heard the leader of a mission organization preach a message that came in whole from a book I had read that very week (not one reference to his source was given). He flew to a forgotten pocket in Eastern Europe to present a message I knew was not his own…I am still concerned about his authenticity.

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John W Frye

posted July 23, 2009 at 3:34 pm

I don’t even like preaching my own sermons again how much more somebody else’s work. Who knows why preachers plagiarize other people’s work? Laziness, feeling they live a nothing life, to be clever or cute, to catch the wave of the trendy guys (or sisters) who speak…I don’t know. But I think it is pastoral malpractice to regurgitate someone else’s work and/or story as your own. I marvel at the huge market of sermons online. We call that cheating for high school, college and university students.
A pastor is local/particular and he has a specific gathering of people with names and stories that on other pastor on the planet has. To treat them as somehow generic is sick IMO. Thinking that sermon is just transferring information of a biblical or theological sort is the error. As Scot points out in his observations, the sermon is “a whole life” brought to bear on the text for the sake of God’s people and God seekers. We would be shocked if Jesus’ parables were quotes and stories from Socrates and Plato. “That’s not his stuff!” we’d shout.
I don’t know how preachers who plagiarize sleep at night. It’s stealing and it’s fraud.

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posted July 23, 2009 at 3:49 pm

A couple observations:
First, this like others have said is not new. In fact sermons for liturgical churchs were once given to preachers to go with the lectionary. the church endorsed using these sermons to have continuity between the churches. In some more liturgical churches today this is still the case.
Second, one reason that pastors are tempted to plagerize is because they may not be trained or gifted in that area and are expected to preach because our churches demand that pastors wear all the hats that a few gifted individuals could fill. since they do not know how to write a sermon or know how to exegete they use the resources available. Do you blame them?
Thirdly, plagerisim is reletivly a new concept. As another commented the gospels have much plagerisim. It was accepted for a long time as normal practice. Consider the shakespear controversy.
I do not prefer a preacher that uses ready made sermons becuase they lack personal conviction and creativity on the preachers part. Also, if a person does use a ready made sermon they should alter the illustrations to be honest to the congregation letting them know that this story did not happen to them. If they are not honest about that what makes them honest about the gospel. Just a few thoughts.

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posted July 23, 2009 at 4:12 pm

I think that there is a valid distinction between the exegetical truth content of the parts of the sermon relating to the meaning of the text on the one hand, and then the wrapper (Scot’s bric a brac) and application on the other. As far as I am concerned, the preacher could read word for word from an exegetical commentary without attribution and I would not consider it plagiarizing. The truth is God’s truth and it is what it is (with caveat as below).
The wrapper (the stories, the humour, the illustrations, etc.) are another matter as are the applications. The latter cannot be presented as one’s own if it is not. Moreover, the applications have to be relevant and appropriate to the audience before the preacher, and so have to be uniquely tailored. It would be dishonest, and also defrauding of the listeners, to do other than be honest and to take into account their needs (whether recognized by them or not).
In regard to the truth, I would prefer it if the preacher works through it, because it is difficult to own the truth, or even understand it well, unless one works through it. Moreover, it is difficult to make appropriate and relevant connections to the audience and provide appropriate applications if one does not do this. In addition, the truth is not always obvious, for often commentaries present several options, not all of which are compatible or can be presented in a sermon, or different commentaries find different truths in a passage (e.g., charismatic v. non, or Calvinist v. non). Hence in those cases the preacher must do work.
The problem is that too many preachers look at their task as if it were a toastmasters event. I don’t give a fig for their funny illustrations; I want to hear what God said. Even if it is presented poorly, or dryly, it is far better to just stick to what God said. And if that makes the sermon shorter (because of less filler and wrapper), so much the better. I often do without getting an “application” because not every application in every sermon I hear is relevant to me, though it might be for my neighbour. So having no application at all is OK (who knows when that truth of God will be useful to me?).
Where most preachers get caught in the plagiarizing is in the catchy headings, the alliterations, the illustrations, the stories, the application, etc. None of which is strictly necessary to preaching the word of God.
Regards, #John

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posted July 23, 2009 at 4:44 pm

i have a hard time just re-using an old sermon from my own arsenal. I feel like i need to hear the word and the Spirit afresh each time i write. It also wouldn’t feel like i am my own person–that i’ve taken on some other persona.
Gotta be me! Gotta hear from God!
What ever I preach has to come out of my own core for it to be passionate.

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posted July 23, 2009 at 6:57 pm

It sounds like I agree with what most here are saying. As someone who preaches around 45 times a year I certainly understand the “deadline” feeling of Sunday mornings. That said, what oftentimes allows me to hear what the scripture is saying to the people in my congregation is the time spent agonizing over the Word. This is usually when the Spirit will open my eyes and if I decided to take the easy way out by simply plagiarizing a sermon I (and the people in my congregation) would perhaps never understand in a deep manner what the Lord is saying to all of us.
Moreover, as you said Scot, it is the localizing effect that is so important. If part of what we’re doing when we interpret scripture is seeing where God was working back then, then part of what we do in a sermon is show where God is working now. These are the illustrations that we as pastors need to be making. This, in my opinion, is what allows the scriptures to come alive to people today.

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posted July 24, 2009 at 8:45 am

Maybe God intends this task to be shouldered by more than one human being per congregation on an indefinite basis.

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posted July 24, 2009 at 9:08 am

I am not a preacher, but a congregant. I really don’t mind if a preacher shares things that are not original to him/her as long as there is proper acknowledgment of who it came from.
Recently our preacher did a great sermon (that I thought was his work), then about a week later I was listening to an audiobook by a prominent Christian author and all of a sudden it was word for word the sermon I had just heard. I felt somehow tricked. It still bugs me.

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Preacher Teacher

posted July 24, 2009 at 10:15 am

Nathan (#19) said: The travails and labors faced by those who have jettisoned the burden of “tradition” never cease to amaze me. Not everyone has the gift of originality. (Note the attribution!)
I agree that not every has “the gift of originality” and, indeed, that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl). But without attribution, how will our churches know that we are drawing upon and reapplying the tradition? The church will think it comes from us rather than from the church’s teachers, preachers, and thinkers of the past. Thus they are kept from seeing that the tradition continues to speak in important ways today.

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