Pulpit Plagiarism

December 03, 2007

The Associated Baptist Press has a good piece urging pastors to avoid plagiarizing their sermons. One would not expect that such a point would need to be made, but it does happen quite often (and sometimes gets exposed and causes a lot of embarrassment for the preaching plagiarizer). Here are a few highlights:

If preachers pass off other people's work as their own, they automatically limit themselves to preaching about only eight commandments. "Thou shalt not steal" and "thou shalt not bear false witness" become off-limits.

But preachers can avoid plagiarism by beginning at the right place -- giving time and attention to the biblical text before reading or listening to other people's sermons about the text, said Joel Gregory, professor of preaching at Baylor University's Truett Theological Seminary.

... Authentic preaching remains true to the text and true to the experience of the preacher, he added.

Years ago, Gregory asked Ray Summers, a longtime seminary professor and religion department chair at Baylor University, how he listened to sermons. Summers told him the first thing he wanted to hear was the element of testimony.

"I believe that is a hallmark of effective preaching," Gregory said, noting the importance of "truth as testimony" in preaching. "I want to know what the preacher has experienced of the truth being preached."

Naturally, that means it is "always out of bounds" for a preacher to use another speaker's first-person stories, he said.
Amen! We are to be people of the Truth and plagiarism should have no part in our sermons. It is quite unfortunate when preachers do not practice what they preach in what they preach.

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