Ripping Off Sermons

I have gone back and forth over the years about using other preacher’s sermons.  Obviously every pastor that gets in the pulpit has borrowed ideas, points and Scriptural insights.  What I have struggled with is just wholesale ripping off someone else’s sermon…illustrations and personal life stories…preaching it as if it’s your own.  It has always seemed to me that when one gets into the pulpit to preach God’s Word…it should be something that they have personally struggled with…a sermon that they went through the “discovery process” to prepare.

I recently heard a podcast of sermon that a pastor blatantly ripped off from a very popular preacher.  I wasn’t bothered by the fact that he used the same text, points and insights.  I was disturbed that he also used the preacher’s personal stories as if they were his own.  To top it off…he just sucked in his delivery…like he was just going through the motions.  The truth is…he was just going through the motions.  It was “Saturday night special” sermon he lifted from an online resource that he “phoned in” on Sunday.  There was no “discovery process”…no attempt to make the sermon his own…just a blatant substandard thief.

Last week I was re-reading John MacArthurs book “Preaching: How To Preach Biblically“.  At the end of the book he has a FAQs section.  One of the questions he answered is about whether he minds other preachers using his sermons.  His answer sums up what I have been struggling to put into words:

Pastors sometimes ask me if they can use my material. I have given blanket permission for anyone to use my sermons and preach them in whole or in part if they wish, and I do not want any credit as the source. If what I say has value to someone, I am honored for him to use it for God’s glory. The truth is all His.

Yet if someone re-preaches one of my sermons without enriching it by going through the discovery process, that sermon will inevitably be flat and lifeless. The great Scottish preacher Alexander Maclaren once went to hear another man preach, a young man with a reputation for being a gifted preacher. Much to Maclaren’s surprise, the young man said at the outset of his message, “I’ve had such a busy week that I had no time to prepare a sermon of my own, so I’m going to preach one of Maclaren’s.” He did not know Maclaren was in the audience until Maclaren greeted him afterward. He was very embarrassed and became even more so when Maclaren looked him in the eye and said, “Young man, I don’t mind if you are going to preach my sermons, but if you are going to preach them like that, please don’t say they are mine.”

To rely too heavily on the sermons of others robs one of the joy of discovering biblical truth for himself. Such sermons will lack conviction and enthusiasm. Sermons by other preachers should be another study tool, like commentaries or illustration books.

I would like to hear others’ thoughts on this subject.  For that reason I have made the rare exception and left comments open on this post.  Feel free to weigh in on this subject below.

Ripping Off Sermons

4 thoughts on “Ripping Off Sermons

  1. Hey Brother,

    I’ve seen the same. Pastors using others life stories as if they were there own. It’s silly and empty, I’ve never gotten that. There is one other thing that occurred to me, I hope it adds to the conversation.

    We, I believe have a Biblical mandate to consider a message in some serious personal reflective time before giving it, so we are not just coming over the top! To give a message on a topic without considering how we are practicing it in our own lives I think brings us under judgement. Pretty serious judgement for leaders. We create after our own kind and the last last thing we need are any more “Do as I say, not as I do Christians”!

    Last Sunday I preached from Eph. 4:1-3. Paul reminds us of key virtues of true followers of Christ… Humility, Gentleness, Patience and Love for others. This takes Diligence!

    The disciples got other men involved so they could dedicate themselves to study and prepare to teach the word faithfully and properly. This is a sacred trust. One that we should give our lives to, examine our lives with and remember to honor the sacred nature of the spoken word,

    To be flippant or complacent regarding something precious is degrading to it. Taking shortcuts and not properly examining ourselves is shortsighted at best. Long-term judgement will catch-up with us. We stand on the backs of all who have preached before us and we lend our shoulders to those to come. We should probably take that pretty seriously! I try to just shut-up when I don’t have a message ready these days (for me that’s hard!).

    I’m not saying I’m perfect. I’ve given some half-baked messages in my day and felt pretty horrible at how the Holy Spirit convicted me for riding people or beating them with a message that I should have given with more compassion. (Not changing God’s truth mind you, just tempering it with an understanding of His Grace, Patience and Love for us!).

    Great post, good thoughts. I don’t know where I’d be without all the sermon outlines I’ve gathered in my Bibles over the years, it never would have occurred to me to write down the stories and illustrations too 🙂

    God’s Word holds the power, let’s encourage each other preach deeply from the book as guided by the power of His Spirit, knowing the character of His Son.

    Hope that is a helpful ramble….

    Journeyme.org

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  2. Hey Chris,

    I agree with the need to borrow from others, we all do. I knew one Pastor who was appalled at using others sermons, but of course had no problem lifting huge passages from his favorite commentaries and using that! Same thing if you ask me.

    But to use other people’s experiences as you own? There’s a word for that and it’s – LYING! I’ve heard guys do that too, and I really lose respect for guys who do that. If you think you need that story, then just say it’s someone else’s story!

    Rick Warren once said he knew a guy who went into the ministry determined to be completely original or nothing, and he ended up being both! That’s true, and points out the balance we have to have in all this. Of course I build on the wisdom of those who’ve gone before me, but I also have to pray and struggle with the Scriptures until whatever message I’m going to preach is my own.

    It’s not easy, but then whoever said the ministry was supposed to be easy?

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  3. Jeff says:

    Hey Chris..totally agree! Having very few Sunday’s off a year I decided to visit one of the churches that gets much attention in my area. I went and all I heard was the rehashing of tweets that had occurred over the past month. I guess the pastor speaking and I follow the same people. Well anyway if thats what it takes…I’m not sure I am willing to go there!

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