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Apr 23, 2007


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Peter Kirk

The fact that the air would immediately go out of the room is a reliable indicator that the tacit agreement of the sermon event has been violated.

I found this an interesting comment because I don't think this is a "fact" in my UK Anglican circles. Our congregation knows that our pastor and the other occasional preachers produce good sermons. The congregation knows that these sermons are not entirely their own, because they often say that they are using material from others. And the congregation would trust that if the preacher took much of his or her sermon from other sources that that is because the preacher knew it was the right thing to do, because he or she had not had time to write a good sermon and a second hand good sermon is better than a new bad one, or else because the preacher knew that the second hand sermon was in fact what God wants to say to the congregation at this moment.

Michael W. Kruse

It is interesting, isn't it? I have been around congregations that could go either way on this.

Todd Bensel

Ever use the Book of Common Prayer nd read one of the prayers in it? Don't be a hypocrite!

Todd Bensel

Have you ever used the Book of Common Prayer and used a prayer in it, read verbatim? Don't be a hypocrite! Intellectual property goes along with Solomon saying, "that there's nothing new under the sun."


I have on occasion used sermon material from other sources. I remember using an outline taken straight from Spurgeon. I told the congregation that I had done this as I believed that it was the best way to organize the material.
Mark Batterson says that when he writes he doesn't like to use direct quotes because he wants to digest the material so it becomes his own.
The real problem here is when we pretend that something someone else wrote is our own, that's deception and it's wrong.

Michael W. Kruse

That seems reasonable to me. There are few new ideas but there are almost endless ways to teach them and illustrate them. What I find interesting is that if I start attributing stuff to too many other people I get I accused of name-dropping or trying to stand on someone else’s authority. The reason I usually quote or use someone else’s stuff is because I think the articulate a truth particularly well.

It is interesting think back to NT times where there was interactive learning and teaching in congregations and people were expected memorize and repeat creeds and teachings of great teachers. Should we even be doing sermons in the traditional sense (prepared remarks read to the congregation as an audience)? (Opps! I think I just wrote a Reformed heresy.)


Geez Todd, hit a bit close to home?

I enjoyed the article and have to say for the most part I agree with it. As a solo pastor I certainly understand the stress of a busy week and the relentless cycle of each Sunday sermon, but it seems to me that really wrestling with the text is what helps to engage the scriptures and the congregation.

Certainly we all should stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and hear how they understand the texts, but that should never be an excuse to not do our own wrestling and creating (not to mention that it certainly increases one's faith to have to rely on the Spirit so strongly each time).


For years (from what I read) Rick Warren has been posting sermons on the web for people to use. He asks $4 or $5 for each one, and there's a set of free ones. His point is that there are many pastors who can't come up with a good sermon every week. He gets quite a few responses from overseas.

Still, there's nothing like the usual politeness of attributing your source. Even though it may have been said many times before - by Augustine or Jerome.

I don't subscribe to Warren's church, but the plan seems like a ggod one.

Michael W. Kruse

I think the critical thing is lettng someone believe that another's work is your own. Factual information need not be attributed but a precisely copied arrangment of those facts (or nearly so) needs to be acknowledged.

Jerry I think you hit on my key concern. My take is that preacher is there to open up the Word to the people, which means wrestling with the Word, and with the issues of the people in your context, all under the guidance of the Spirit. It is not necessarily to be original but it should reflect an effort at discernment for that context.

will spotts

Ben Franklin once defended his Presbyterian pastor (Hemphill) for plagiarism: "I rather approved his giving us good sermons composed by others than bad ones of his own manufacture."

Michael Kruse

A sentiment I think we have all had the ability to relate to at one time or another.



Hmm, open source sermons ... Yeah lets pick a new name. Open source commentaries or lectionary guides perhaps ... but the sermon is still (at its best) as much about proclamation as words or ideas.

Look, every thinker builds on and quotes lots of others. Heck Mike, there are times that this blog is more quotes and citations then original ideas. Everyone wants to see both honesty and the consideration of other voices.

Every pastor I know who spends time in study and preparation makes use of commentaries. So the question is not: totally original vrs. plagiarize it is a question of how much original stuff is required to make a service unique.

I have a question if a pastor after careful study pulled together a sermon that used three different illustrations/stories from three different sources is that troubling to you?


Michael W. Kruse

Say I invite friends over for a meal I will prepare. Then say I have my wife cook the meal instead. When the guests arrive, I place the various things I have prepared on the table telling them how they were prepared and the ingredients used, never directly claiming that I made the dishes but not giving credit either. Is this honest?

Now say it is the same scenario and my wife helped me in the kitchen. She actually prepared one of the dishes for me and made some minor contributions with ingredients to a couple other dishes. I acknowledge the dish she made without further commentary on the other work she did. Did I still prepare the meal?

I think a big piece of this goes back to context and the expectations of the parties involved in a communication. If we send someone of to seminary to learn languages, theology, and other tools so they can open the Word of God to us in our context, then all they do is read someone else's sermons to us, is that legit? Why not just hire an accomplished drama student from high school to deliver the sermon? It is that expectation that the pastor is truly entering into the Word and opening it to people that I think makes it dishonest for a pastor to read another's work (or large portions of a work) as though it were his or her own without acknowledgement that is dishonest.

Kathy Horstman

There once was a preacher named Spurgy
Who wasn't too big on liturgy.
But his sermons are fine--
I preach them as mine!
And so do the rest of the clergy!

And no, I did *not* come up with that. Learned it from a C of E ordinand at my seminary in the UK. And he probably got it from his great-grandpa!

Kathy Horstman

Also learned that in 1562 the C of E published and distributed a book called *Sermons, or Homilies, Appointed to be read in Churches*, as a prophylactic against ignorance and false doctrine. For "all they, which are appointed Ministers, have not the gift of preaching sufficiently to instruct the people." The assumption was that most "Parsons, Vicars, Curates," etc., would be in this sorry state, and the said Homilies were to be read out in order week by week unless Her Majesty's Injunctions dictated a Sermon for the occasion! Sound doctrine trumped originality. But your average parishioner knew exactly what he or she was getting-- a read standard homily. I doubt anyone went away marvelling at the Holy Ghost inspiration of his parson!

I suppose a classic sermon text, openly acknowledged and well-presented, is preferable in an emergency to our own ill-prepared meanderings. A friend of mine once climbed into the pulpit, declared that she'd had a horrible week, and was going to treat the congregation to one of John Calvin's sermons. Might've worked-- if she'd taken ownership of it and preached it instead of just reading it through.

But presented poorly or well, we can't be making a habit of preaching others' sermons. If we really have been called as Ministers of the Word-- that is, if God has really deigned to present Christ in us-- our words about the Word had better be as honest and genuine as the Word Himself. And in this day, that means preaching the words the Spirit has given us, not something we've cribbed at 2:00 AM off the Internet.


I remember our spin at a seeker church...a several year stint. My dear hubby was in leadership so we had to deal with the pastor who was quite obsessed with looking good...realized that he was using a Hybels tape series word for word and called him on it. Was such fun having to do the discipline on that one.

Problem is that the guy is now a signed author and new-hot-emergent dude...of course, I have my doubts that the subjects and people mentioned in their writings are real or just "james-freyed" into existence...yes, I'm a little cynical on that one and probably justifyably so.

Had a friend who worked at the Seeds Bookstore at Willow and he once fielded a call from a frantic pastor who hadn't gotten their sermon tape from the current series and begged/pleaded my friend to recite the tape for them over the phone so they could write it down word for word...

Authenticity shines through. Plagiarism is equally visible, although not nearly as illuminating...

Michael W. Kruse

Kathy, thanks for the poem! I think you hit on my basic concern. It is less about the specific content and more about how it is represented (or misrepresented).

Michael W. Kruse

Nashbabe, this is sort of reminding me of a movie (the name I can't remember) where the network hires this guy who is a real airhead but because he looks good in front of the camera and can sound convincing, he is made the anchor man.

I keep coming back to the role of a pastor as one who opens the Word to the community. That certainly does not mean everything has to be original creation by any stretch. As Nate points out, that is impossible and not even desirable. Each community has a context and I think it is the responsiblity of the teacher and preacher to help bridge the gap between the Word and the context.

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