Courtesy Sermon Central
By Spencer D Gear
That is exactly what I have experienced in two churches I have visited in the last six months. Both preachers used sermons from Sermon Central. One of these preachers used the sermon word-for-word. The other used major portions from sermons. But both of them did not give credit for what they did. They stole all or part of the sermon from another preacher.
I became so concerned that I contacted Sermon Central to ask for its policy for using sermons. It is a very busy site and I could find no link to tell me how to use the sermons. I wrote this:
Over the last few months I have attended 2 churches in which I have heard sermons that I later checked on your website to find that they were Sermon Central sermons. No credit was given by both preachers. I regard this as plagiarism. I have checked over your rather crowded website to see if I could find information as to whether a preacher has to give credit for the sermon he preaches from your site. Perhaps you can direct me to your policy on whether it is necessary to acknowledge the source of the sermon. The pastor of the church I currently attend preached sermons from your website over the last 2 Sundays without any credit (I take reasonably extensive notes when he preaches so I was able to pick up the sermons). If a pastor/preacher preaches one of your sermons without giving credit, is that allowed by your policy? Is my regarding the sermon as plagiarism going beyond your policies? I look forward to hearing from you.
I received a very caring response from one of the support people at Sermon Central that stated,
Our intention is that the Bible is the primary tool for sermon preparation and our site should only be used as a tool to help prepare. Here are some links that provide more information.
Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Those links are extremely valuable in stating the nature of pulpit plagiarism and teaching against it. In one of these articles by Ron Forseth , ‘Just What is Pulpit Plagiarism?’, he quoted teacher of preaching, Haddon Robinson, who stated:
“In a world of preaching, a pastor who takes sermons from other preachers – word-for-word – without giving credit is guilty of plagiarism. That is stealing what is not yours.”
May I suggest that you take notes of what your preacher is preaching and do a search on Google (or whichever web browser you use) to see if this is coming from another source. You can check on Sermon Central as well. Then talk to the preacher about what he/she is doing.
Of the two preachers I have mentioned, one has been spoken to about what he is doing and in his next sermon, he apologised for what he had done and gave credit for the sermon he was about to preached. The next sermon revealed that he is not as good at preparing sermons as the the one he plagiarised. I plan to speak to the other preacher as soon as I’m able to arrange an appointment.
My concern is that these preachers are not doing the hard yards of sermon preparation and homiletical construction of a sermon. As a preacher, I know that it is hard work. For preachers who want some help, I highly recommend, learning the principles of homiletics and presentation from Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching (2005, rev edn, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic), available in hard cover or as an e-book.
Courtesy Baker Academic
The main outline of this book is:
Part 1: Principles of Expository Preaching
Part 2: Preparation of Expository Sermons
Part 3: A Theology of Christ-Centered Messages
There is the added problem for me – it causes me to lose trust in that preacher when I know that he is stealing another’s material without giving credit. This is a Christian ethical issue where a fundamental of biblical Christianity, one of the Ten Commandments, is violated, ‘You shall not steal’ (Exodus 20:15 ESV). This is repeated in Leviticus 19:11. This verse also is cited in Matthew 19:18 by Jesus, ‘He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said,“You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness’ (ESV).
This is how the apostle, Paul, included this command against stealing: ‘For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet”, and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”’ (Rom. 13:9 ESV). The New Testament further affirms this teaching in Ephesians 4:28, ‘Let the thief no longer steal, but ratherlet him labour,doing honest work with his own hands, sothat he may have something to share with anyone in need’ (ESV).
Stealing anything, including another preacher’s sermon, is a serious assault on a fundamental of Christianity and living in a society where there is law an order.
What will you do to make sure that your pastor/preacher remains a truthful preacher and does not steal another preacher’s sermon?
This is what I am doing.
- Make an appointment with the pastor to share what you have observed.
- However it is critical that you take with you a copy of the sermon he has plagiarised. This is freely available on the Internet.
- Do this in a caring, Christian way. I say something like this, ‘Pastor, in the sermon you preached on (give the date), I checked the Internet and found that you took this sermon directly from Sermon Central (or another location). Present him with a copy of the original sermon. Then I ask: What are you going to do about this? If he does nothing, I make an appointment to see the church leaders to express my concern that the pastor is stealing another’s sermon.
- The ideal outcome is for the pastor to seek forgiveness publicly in the church for what he has done and he promises never to do it again. He asks the people to keep a check on him to guarantee his honesty.
- The pastor will give credit in sermons for where he gains material, but he will never steal another’s sermon again – without giving credit.
Are these reasonable, biblical requirements?
See my other articles on the need for better sermons:
- Preach the Word: Expository Sermons;
- Can the Sermon Be Redeemed?
- It’s a Sin to Bore God’s people with God’s Word.
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.