Reading the recent article in The Banner called “I Think the Pastor Stole that Sermon” got me thinking about sermon stealing. Over the years I’ve read a lot of articles on the topic of plagiarism, but I don’t recall that any of them provided concrete suggestions on how to prevent and/or stop this stealing sin. It’s been my experience that if we want either to stop a certain sin or avoid temptation, we need to prepare in advance. Let me offer some suggestions I’ve used for many years in the busy routine of pastoring to keep myself from the ever-present temptation of plagiarism:
- Determine from the start that you will not use another's work without giving credit for it. You just won’t go in that direction!
- Don't wait till the middle or the end of the week to start preparing your sermon! Procrastination is the mother of plagiarism, and the cure for both is long-term sermon planning and execution. Always be working ahead on sermon preparation.
- When speaking from the pulpit, don't be fearful or hesitant about quoting another by name. I recall an elder in one of my congregations who came up to me one of the first Sundays I preached and said: “So you really do study for these sermons, it's not just off the top of your head?”
- The temptation to borrow a sermon won’t happen if you prepare by setting aside several fairly complete outlines in your preaching Bible. This will carry you through times when you have several deaths in the congregation near the end of the week, back-to-back hospital emergencies, or you’re just worn out. Be humble enough to tell your people what the situation is so they can pray for you while you preach the Word of Life to them in your weakness. (You don't need to be their hero; you just need to be their messenger!)
- Although you may be tempted to try to be like someone else by using one of their sermons, (because they have such a large following or they speak so eloquently), remember that the congregation in front of you has called you, and you’re the person they’ve come to hear tell them what God wants them to know.
Is sermon stealing really more frequent today, or is it just easier to track down with Internet checks? Could this problem be fueled by pastors having too many responsibilities and/or trying too hard to live up to what they think others expect of them? What do you think?