The Leadership Journal blog recently featured a posting about
plagiarism in the pulpit. To be honest,
I have thought about addressing this issue on my own blog for quite some
time. It seems like every church planter’s
conference, retreat or seminar I speak at, I get asked about using someone else’s
sermons. My answer is always “don’t!”
Okay, I’ll admit, when church planters are just starting out
there are a ton of things to take up your time. Things like meetings, planning sessions, meetings, visits, meetings, outreach
events, meetings, staff interviews and . . . meetings. The last thing you have time for is to come
up with a complete sermon series.
It is in those times when Sermon Central, Wired Churches and
Creative Pastors is great for helping to obtain illustrations, find outlines
and discover multiple Scripture passages on a subject. Those sites are NOT there to rehash word for
word some other pastor’s sermon. That is
called . . . well . . . stealing. It is
actually against federal law if a pastor is rehashing someone else’s sermon word
for word and then podcasting it or selling compact discs of it. Not to mention, there is also an issue of
integrity when using someone else’s God-given message as if it were your
own. I don’t care if you paid $8.98 for
I am a firm believer that God has called every pastor to
preach for – and to – their own flock. While
I certainly appreciate the inspiration of messages by Erwin McManus, John Piper
and Mark Driscoll, they are not the shepherd of the Compass Point flock. It is my sole responsibility – and my staff’s
responsibility – to seek out God’s message for this flock. It is not my job to seek out a cool message
that Ed Young preached at Fellowship Church in Texas and plagiarize it. Ed’s notes might spark a different idea for
an illustration for me. His mind-map may
cause me to realign my outline. His
choice of Scripture might lead me into adding another part to the series. The last thing Ed’s message should do is to
cause me to ignore God’s message for this flock and preach what God desired for
Fellowship Church to hear.
I think part of my frustration with this subject is the
amount of established pastors that are guilty of doing this. A new pastor or church planter with very
little pulpit experience might be excused, but a pastor . . . with a staff . .
. should be bleeding over what God is telling them to say to their flock. A church planter a year or more past their
launch date should be spending several hours – or more – of every week in
sermon preparation. That doesn’t mean
brainstorming cool video clips with the staff. It means actually spending personal time in the Word of God!
I realize that the demands of pastoring a church have become
great. However, I have found nowhere in
the Bible where we are called to be CEOs, motivational gurus or
the “pied piper” of people. We have been called to share the Word of God! I find that far too many of us . . . myself
included . . . spend too much time each week coming up with “wow-factor” lighting
cues and cool rock songs for Sunday morning’s worship “production”. Thus, sermon preparation falls needlessly to the
background and copping someone else’s
message becomes a necessity, then a habit and then . . . a way of life!
As someone that suffers from ADD, I find it difficult to sit
and study the Bible for several hours each week. Yet, I know that God always speaks to me
there and provides a constant flow of fresh sermon ideas. Yes, I’m inspired by other sermons I hear
though podcasts. Yes, I care about the
professionalism of our Sunday morning services. Yes, I believe it is important to give your best and all for
Christ. However, I find it hard to justify
my all and best for Christ in other areas of pastoring if I cannot do it in the sermons I
preach at Compass Point.
I guess the biggest problem I have with ripping off another
pastor’s sermon is . . . fear. Fear that
Compass Point won’t hear what God wanted them to discover about His Word, because I
was preaching from McManus or Bell.
So to once again, answer that question I get at church plant conferences
. . . don’t preach someone else’s sermon word for word. Be inspired by it. Gather information from it. Don’t plagiarize it!!!