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Caught in the Act

2007 January 4
by Mike

I’ve heard a couple more stories recently of preachers “caught in the act.”

No — not THAT act. Not adultery, but plagiarism.

Just recently I heard the sad story of a beloved minister who, perhaps in his exhaustion, began lifting sermons in whole from a great Christian Church preacher. Word-for-word. He even told the man’s personal stories as if they were his own personal stories. Even more sadly, once he was confronted about it, he continued to do it.

There is no excuse for that. It’s wrong.

We all borrow from others. I’ve been impacted by the books of Wright, Brueggemann, Crabb, Willard, and Peterson — books that have seeped into my bones. I’m sure there are times that their words come out — not verbatim, but in essence — without my even knowing it. We’ve heard good stories and illustrations that we’ve retold. We’ve retold humorous quips. We’ve gotten sermon thoughts that proved fruitful later in our own planning.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Who, after all, has a truly original thought?

But that must not be an excuse for the stealing involved in lifting sermons. When you cut-and-paste someone else’s message while pretending it’s yours, that’s wrong. When you tell another’s story as if it happened to you, that’s wrong.

I remember as a young man hearing about an older minister in the South who was confronted because he was just buying Swindoll books and preaching his sermons — without even bothering to disguise it. His sermon series carried the title of the book and the individual sermons had the titles of the chapters. When challenged about it, he simply replied: “I bought the book. It’s my material.”

That is grounds for dismissal.

Here’s the thing: a story doesn’t lose any power by giving the source. It doesn’t have to be YOUR story. It never diminishes the impact to say that you were deeply impacted by a book you read or a sermon you heard.

When we were first married, I went through my Jim McGuiggan stage. (I’m still sort of in that stage — I just don’t get to hear him often enough.) I listened to his tapes . . . until Diane cut me off. She said I was developing an Irish accent.

Some need to be cut off from sermons. They need to quit listening to the tapes, quit downloading the MP3s, and unsubscribe to the podcasts. They’re not wrong in themselves; but if they become your shortcut that takes the place of arduous, prayerful preparation, then drop them!

Perhaps part of the blame lies with the pressure that some churches put on their ministers. They expect them to be pastoral, to be witty, to be insightful, to be humorous, and to be deep. Part David Letterman, part N. T. Wright.

If you’re a church leader, affirm the leadership and teaching of your ministers that is solid, biblical, and congregationally pastoral. Make sure the ones preaching and teaching are given time to prepare. Consider giving them an allowance so they have resources to buy good books and journals. Think about offering them sabbatical time each year just for study and prayer–time that is added to their regular vacation time. These resources and this time are not only for the benefit of the minister; they’re also for the good of the church! (By the way, these are things I’m generously offered at Highland. I’d just like to see others follow that practice.)

But, having said that, the blame can’t be placed primarily at the feet of the church. What I’m talking about is unethical. It is a red flag — just as an affair is — that something is deeply wrong.

If I hear you preach, I don’t want to hear a Bob Russell sermon. I’m sure it would be solid and biblical. But if I want to hear a BR sermon, I’ll listen to BR. If I hear you preach, I want to hear YOU. Maybe it’ll include a point or an illustration you first heard from Bob Russell. But the sermon — the heart of what you’re saying — is what you’ve agonized over. It’s what the good news of Christ has said to you on behalf of the church that week. It is passionate, prayerful, and gospel-formed. That’s what I want — and need! — to hear. For me it doesn’t have to be funny; it doesn’t have to be a home run.

In reality, it may include a LOT of things you’ve heard and read from others. But it is YOUR message. It bears your sweat; it is birthed from your confrontation with text and gospel; it is geared toward your community of faith. It is God pouring through you the gift of preaching.

98 Responses leave one →
  1. Jordan Hubbard permalink
    January 4, 2007

    If it is the Holy Ghost, I am all for it.

  2. John permalink
    January 5, 2007

    I admit that I use internet sources a lot for my sermons. I have no formal preacher training. Creativity is not my strongest suit. And time demands of other ministerial duties prevent me from really developing my sermon writing skills. But I do try to preach sermons that are pertinent to the needs of the congregation. I am in tune enough to know there are certain things they need to hear. I take that need…and go hunting for the material. I pray about it. I internalize it. I try to use personal illustrations whenever I can and never use someone else’s story as my own. It’s not like I just find someone’s sermon manuscript and think, “Oh, that sounds good…I’ll preach that one tomorrow.” It’s just that what I want to say I often find said better by someone else. At what point should I give credit to others? And how do I know that they haven’t lifted it from someone else and didn’t give THEM the credit? (I have found that.) And what do you do with sermon sites where the author says, and I quote, “All sermons may be redelivered orally without reference to the source.”?

  3. TomChapin permalink
    January 5, 2007

    A good friend of mine was an associate minister who had to inform his preaching minister that he was hearing the same sermon twice each Sunday morning . . . one from the preaching minister and one from a radio program of a well-known preacher in a neighboring town. It happened 2 weeks in a row before my friend decided that he’d better inform his preacher.

    But there wasn’t just one thief in this case. It turns out that both preachers had gotten hold of a book of Herald of Truth sermons and happened to start with sermon 1 the very same week.

  4. January 5, 2007

    I would love to see a preacher get on stage and pray for the spirit to lead him in what he should preach that day…and then wait. Rely on the Father to provide what is needed. NO PREP.

    Maybe that is a little too scary, but this seems to be a sure-fire way to know you are being a mouthpiece of God. We’ve all been in situations where we spoke to someone and it wasn’t our words, we were truly a vessel of God.

  5. January 5, 2007

    A staff member at our church heard his preacher (years before I came here) deliver a sermon on morning and then as he drove to another city to visit his mother, heard the same sermon, word for word, on the radio: Insight for Living!

    I had Annie Mae (sp? … it’s been many years ago) Lewis at Harding Graduate School for a class on how to use a theological library. To this day, I quake at the thought of using anyone’s material without giving credit! She instilled a healthy fear in us.

  6. Roland permalink
    January 5, 2007

    Are made up stories the same? I know some Ministers who tell funny stories and you know it never happened to them.

  7. missionary-type permalink
    January 5, 2007

    I understand the overall point–cite your sources–but I think some people take it too far. In the modern church, preaching has become a full-time job. I know preachers that spend almost their entire work week locked in their offices writing their sermons. The pressure for them to be fresh and original outweighed any other need of the congregation. Prayerfully using a “canned sermon”, carefully editing it to meet the needs of the congregation and being open about the source when asked seems acceptable to me if it means that paid staff spend more time with the congregation or the unsaved. Rick Warren encourages people to use his (and other people’s) sermons, saying that the wealth of sermons available online today is the same as the commentaries of yesterday. A preacher is important but at the end of the day, he is just a vessel for the truth–GOD’S truth. Asking men who may not even have a gift for message crafting to generate a hundred original messages in a year when there are many many quality messages out there seems like a waste of resources. In my church there is not one fixed preacher and when someone preaches, they may be delivering a sermon written by themself, another staff member (or members) or that is a careful rewrite of a message originally given by someone else. No one tells stories as if they happened to them, and when asked, speakers would be open to share the original source. It has freed the staff up for more outreach and ministry. I don’t know if that would work in every congregation, but in our little church on the other side of the world, it does.

  8. January 5, 2007

    I like Gailyn Van Rheenen’s suggestion for preachers — put in appropriate study time for lessons, but spend at least 50% of your “office time” out with people. Take a dance lesson. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Chat it up with locals in a coffee shop. Basically, get out there with people. Spur the congregation on to mission by example.

    What kind of sermons might the Holy Spirit give that guy (or girl)?

  9. January 5, 2007

    Steve Jr.,
    I think you hit the point my brother. If ministers are stilling sermons and plagiarizing then where is the Holy Spirit in their life? I know when I am working on a sermon the Holy Spirit is at work in powerful way. Leading me to this thought, this point, this illistration, this verse. The Holy Spirit must be involved. We must not leave it out. Exclude it. The Holy Spirit must be involved in our ministry, prayer life, sermon prep, preaching, teaching, family life. Every part of our lives. I am just starting to undestand that and I’ve been a Christian over 20 years. The Holy Spirit plays a powerful part in how we live the Christian live and do ministry.

    I really do think that sites like sermon central, and other free sermons sites make lazy preachers who don’t use the Holy Spirit and the gifts that they have been given. I also think Osteen, Hybels, Warren and others selling transcripts givees preachers that don’t have the tallent for preaching or just plan lazyness the temptation do what we are talking about.

    The next question I have do churches put too their ministers to give great sermons every week. Do they expect their ministers to delievers sermons every week like Joel Osteen, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Mike Cope, Wade Hodges, Terry Rush, Max Lucado, and others. So instead of using their tallents and the Holy Spirit to guide them in their gift they are copying? Are churches to blame?

  10. Bonnie Anderson permalink
    January 5, 2007

    There are many books of sermon outlines out there for preachers or teachers or anyone to use. But they are and should be outlines. It is up to the preacher to develop that information into a sermon. My dad was of the “old school”. He preached from a sermon outline that was usually on one 6″x9″ paper…and it was usually covered with scripture references that he could quote from memory. It was always amazing to me that he could preach on any chapter of the entire Bible and tie it all in with God’s redeeming love through the grace of Christ for mankind. He and other gospel preachers shared good Bible points with each other at monthly preacher’s luncheons…but the lessons they presented were from the Word, not somebody’s book. Those books might be in their personal library, but their sermons came from God’s book.
    He spent at least one hour every morning in personal meditation and a couple of hours a day studying/preparing his sermons for the week…never had a secretary and made the church bulletin himself, visited the sick and shut-ins, counseled those who came to him for help, participated in the civic activities of the town, always had a friendly dispostion, alert for those who needed to come to know Jesus as Saviour and made time for his family (and his gardening on Thursdays…his day “off”) He was disciplined in his personal Bible study. He did a wonderful job, but they don’t make many like that anymore and the needs of many congregations have changed since his days as minister.
    I think missionary-type has a good point in that not all of the men who preach today have the “gift for message”. Those who don’t and know that they don’t ,have many materials to use to prepare their sermons and if they are honest with their listeners and don’t claim it as their own, these materials can be a tremendous help to them.

  11. Chris permalink
    January 5, 2007

    It was sad to watch our preacher get “relieved of his duties” due to lack of preparation. He got sermons off of Sermon Central. Our elders offered to pay for, and allow the time to complete a masters of divinity program at a nearby Christian College. HE WOULD NOT DO IT!! After watching this otherwise great guy read sermons for several years, it was just too much. Preacher/Pastors do have a lot on thier plate. So do all of us in whatever our positions are. If you are taking a salary it is dishonorable to not do the work it takes to do the job well.

  12. January 5, 2007

    preacher man – I have no doubt that churches are partly to blame here. It’s largely because the function of the preacher has been grossly mis-appropriated in American churches, though. Our modern American preacher model is more like the post-Revolution rural revival ministers than the preaching of the New Testament. I think some deep theological, historical, and exegetical work is necessary to get at what “being a preacher” means in a post-Christian, 21st century context. I have a feeling it doesn’t mean what it did 50 years ago … or even 20 years ago.

    But, of course, at the root of any difficulty today’s church might have is a general misconception of “church.” Who are the people of God in our world? What is their function? What is the work of God in the world, and how does He use us? Do our forms match our function/mission? etc…

    We’ll never solve the preacher problem until we think deeply and prayerfully about what it means to “be church.” I’m a broken record on this issue, but it begs repeating.

  13. January 5, 2007

    janjanmom,

    I hear what you’re saying, but I’m also quite confident that the Holy Spirit is more than happy to give guidance during the preparation process as well as “on the spot.”

  14. JRM permalink
    January 5, 2007

    G. K. Wallace is reputed to have said when asked by a young preacher if it was all right to preach one of his sermons, “If you bought the book, then it is your sermon.” I suspect that may be the source of the Alabama preacher’s explanation for his use of another’s material. Another adage on this matter is “Stealing from one source is plagiarism, but stealing from three or more sources is research.” Sharing sermon ideas and even sermon outlines (main points and even supporting ideas) is a longstanding tradition. I remember reading advice regarding the use of Alexander Maclaren’s sermons that suggested that one read Maclaren only after having written one’s own sermon on the text at hand, otherwise one would simply preach Maclaren’s sermon. The same advice is true, I think regarding Chuck Swindoll’s sermons today.

    There are sermons on classic texts and on classic themes that tend to transend local situations and are timeless in there relevance, so the idea that a sermon should be preached once and then discarded seems over dramatic to me. (Especially given the number of different settings in which I have heard some well-known preachers/teachers present the same sermons/lectures).

    I have used other preachers’s sermons and I have had my sermons used by others to great benefit. The problem, as I see it, has to do with the intention to deceive: to imply that I have created something that I did not create or that I experienced something that I did not experience. That is clearly wrong and unethical. There was a time in churches of Christ that preachers relied much more on the sermons of others. There was a plethora of sermon outline books, and the same basice sermons were being preached Sunday in and Sunday out across the country. Preachers were almost expected to preach sermons that had been preached before (but not word for word). Using someone else’s sermon was considered a compliment. As a student at Freed-Hardeman many years ago, I spoke on a Wednesday Night at the Henderson Church of Christ (or as we referred to it, the “Parking in Rear Church of Christ,” due to the lighted “Parking in Rear” sign that had been placed atop the brick “Church of Christ” sign in the front of the building. Afterwards, one of my favorite teachers, a chemistry professor who preached on Sundays for a small rural church, congratulated me for the message and said that he intended to use it the next Sunday. The fact that he took the text and even the main points of my message and preached them, doesn’t mean that he didn’t prepare his own sermon or do his own study. I was complimented by his intention to preach “my sermon.’

    That same Alabama preacher who has taken a hit today once observed that he would never let the truth get in the way of a good illustration. That kind of attitude, in my mind, is more sinister than using the main ideas/key phrases of someone else’s sermon. When the term “preacher story” is a synonym for “lie,” whether joking or not, serious issues are at stake.

  15. January 5, 2007

    To Be Or Not TO Be..wow..I just made that up…

  16. Jordan Hubbard permalink
    January 5, 2007

    I was preaching at a black congregation one easter…”It’s Friday! But Sunday’s comin’!”

    I have heard that one told as personally true at least 3 times.

  17. January 5, 2007

    Why is it so hard for preachers, teachers, or anyone really, to say that they used another sermon or they even got the idea from somewhere else?

    I do my best to cite the source, person and even the congregation where they are at, if I can remember. I do not think it diminishes the message.

    Anyway, we need to pray for people “borrowing stuff.”

    Self-Plug: By the way, you can borrow anything found at the Preacher’s pen (http://www.preacherspen.org) I happen to know those guys personally!

  18. January 5, 2007

    Bonnie, God bless your dear Dad for his fidelity, faithfulness, and fruitfulness in ministry!

  19. January 5, 2007

    One of the differences – to me – between really inspiring ministers of the gospel and just preachers (in addition to their willingness to let the Spirit lead them) is that the inspiring ones seem to understand that their lives, too, are part of the ongoing story of Christ.

    So the stories they tell from their own lives, and (with permission) the lives of others touched by Christ are a part of an ever-expanding gospel that has power from the Source. Borrowed stories can’t always serve as a conduit of that power, because in the retelling of them the life of the story … the genuineness of it … its essence … is always at least partially lost.

    Plagiarism in the pulpit isn’t just dishonesty; it’s robbing the gospel of its innate power to move and break hearts.

  20. January 5, 2007

    Steve Jr.,
    Thanks for excellent points brother.

  21. January 5, 2007

    I suggest that every preacher should have at a minimum, 4 weeks a year, when he is locked away in a room with only his Bible, pen, and paper for sermon prep.

    The results might be very refreshing and inspiring.

    Grace and Peace,
    Royce Ogle

  22. January 5, 2007

    “I would love to see a preacher get on stage and pray for the spirit to lead him in what he should preach that day…and then wait. Rely on the Father to provide what is needed. NO PREP.

    “Maybe that is a little too scary, but this seems to be a sure-fire way to know you are being a mouthpiece of God.”

    A couple of years ago, as I was walking up to the pulpit I had a strong sense that what I had prepared–while well-thought out and true to the gospel–wasn’t the right message for that day. At the last minute I switched to another text and preached an older sermon of mine from memory, one that fit better and that this congregation hadn’t heard before.

    I must’ve had twenty people thank me for following the Spirit’s leading–a sentiment that I appreciate but don’t really understand. The other 51 weeks that year when the study and preparation that happened Monday through Friday led to an appropriate and useful message on Sunday–was the Spirit absent then? Why do some many people think that the Spirit is most clearly manifest through spontaneous acts?

    If it’s right that going on stage with nothing prepared and waiting for the Spirit is a sure-fire way to know you are being the mouthpiece of God, then I suppose all preachers should do that, each Sunday. And Bible-study groups should start showing up without their Bibles, and letting the Spirit give each of them a message for that day. I imagine the same would apply to Bible class teachers. I don’t doubt that there are times when the Spirit graciously gives words to people in all of those situations. Most of us have had the experience of feeling that God was giving us that right words at the right time. But it seems that God more frequently blesses with wisdom and insight those who prayerfully study the scriptures. Counting on the Spirit to do me the favor of a miraculous message on Sunday morning seems to come close to putting God to a test. If he’s already graciously given me flour and oil, is it a sign of faithfulness to ask for baked bread as well?

  23. Nash permalink
    January 5, 2007

    Try living in the upper Midwest. I just moved to a city of 450,000 people where there are a handful of C of C’s – the largest is 120 members and each church is very conservative. After visiting each congregation, it is safe to say that these ministers need some help and a little plagiarism might do them some good! The strength of a congregation shouldn’t entirely reside with the quality of preaching, but having a solid ministery certainly helps. There are many areas in the U.S., like where I live, that don’t have the luxury of quality preaching. Folks in Nashville, Searcy, Abilene, Dallas, etc. should count their blessings!

  24. January 6, 2007

    “Folks in Nashville, Searcy, Abilene, Dallas, etc. should count their blessings!”

    Believe me, I do!! Having lived in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Mexico Cityet al, being in Abilene is truly a blessing. I’m so thankful for Mike, Jerry, Randy and all the other very talented preachers/teachers we are priveleged to have here to teach and encourage us!!

  25. Keith Davis permalink
    January 6, 2007

    Mike, I have to admit being guilty of preaching all kinds of illustrations, points, and even borrowing verbatim from other’s sermons. At one point in my minstry, it became a habit–even to the point of rehashing all of “my” old stuff for the next year of preaching. When that started happening, I made a decision.

    I didn’t want to throw all of those sermons away because I am really nutty about keeping records and wanting to go back and see where I’ve been. I shared this with my mom and she had an interesting idea. She took all of my old sermons away from me and said she would not let me have them fo a year. (this was before my computer) It really helped me have to dig for myself.

    Today, I am overwhelmed with great “stuff.” I go to Zoe and get my plate full. I receive mailings, emailings, and read a lot on the internet. I was told by an older preacher once that I didn’t have to “re-invent the wheel.” By that he meant use all you can find and help others with it.

    I guess I have been guilty of “using” other preacher’s stuff, but I never tell a story as though it happened to me and always give credit for quotes or sermon series that have inspired me. How many times my church gets to hear, “You should have heard what Mike said at Zoe” or “Jeff Walling told about….” or “I was talking with Greg England and he said….” (Sorry if I hurt anyone for not mentioning them here)

    I have two perceptions to share. 1. Inspiration is a new thing with me. I used to believe that only the Apostles were inspired of God. I no longer believe that. I look back and, though nothing is original with me, there are times I have said or wrote something that could only be attributed to the Holy Spirit. Having said that, I also believe that inspiration can be given through other gifted people. I wonder if using their inspired thoughts (while giving credit) is all a bad thing. I have even told my shepherds that when they receive a “word from God” about something they want me to share, let me know. That’s inspiration for them through meto the hearts of the hearers.

    2. I also try and ask the minister, author, etc., when possible, if I can use “their stuff.” I think this is OK as long as credit is given.

    3. If we are to be more missional, incarnational, and community oriented should we look at the way we “do preaching.” I think that many people believe that “church” is all about the message on Sunday. I have a hard time believing that Jesus would put that much importance on the whole “church” thing as we know it. Many times I would rather hear how the Holy Spirit has inspired others throughout the week. I wonder how many “pulpit preachers” were like us in the first church. They were just ordinary people fellowshiping, praying, and spreading the message of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spitit. Man would that kind of church not be awesome in our context!!

    Thanks so much for all that you do to inspire us all. There are many on this blog that I have never heard of, yet they have inspired me to dig deeper, and as Steve said, go out and get amongst people and see what it is that God is doing in their life and mine. I just pray that I can do that more and more.

  26. January 6, 2007

    Kirk C. wrote”A couple of years ago, as I was walking up to the pulpit I had a strong sense that what I had prepared–while well-thought out and true to the gospel–wasn’t the right message for that day. At the last minute I switched to another text and preached an older sermon of mine from memory, one that fit better and that this congregation hadn’t heard before.”

    This is and was my point. That strong sense was the spirit-what if you had ignored it because you already had something? There is no way that a preacher cannot preach “off the cuff”. You have prayed, studied, and been led by the spirit for so long. The scriptures will come, the words will be there, and the message will be relevant. Sometimes, there is too much prep. Too much thought about exactly the right word.

    Take this blog for instance, Mike probably does not spend as much prep time on his blog as a sermon. Does this mean this blog doesn’t provoke thought and foster self examining? I think the sheer volume of comments proves otherwise.

    My point is that 3 days of locked away prep time won’t let you know what your congregation needs to hear as much as 3 days of interactive fellowship/counseling with the body. We are blessed in our church to have a preacher who both spends many hours in study and also many hours with the people he helps to lead. While I don’t think he would ever preach without prep, I know he could and it would be moving. He has a transparent life and heart for God. He would share a weakness and admit faults just as readily as he quotes a scripture. Many would not.

    BTW, I have forgot my Bible at Bible study, not gotten my lesson done, and still had very moving awesome times of study with fellow Christians. God directed growth.

  27. January 6, 2007

    Kirk C wrote: “Why do some many people think that the Spirit is most clearly manifest through spontaneous acts?”

    Because we have to put aside ourselves and fully rely on God. He can’t use us if we are not in relationship, study, and devotion to him. He also can’t use us if we put to much of our own study, merit, opinion and thought into it. We must surrender our will to his even if our “will” seems right. By less prep, I certainly don’t/didn’t mean less prayer, scripture reading or relationship with God. I meant less writing word for word, searching for just the right phrase, double-checking to make sure no one would take anyting personal or be offended.

    Here (IMHO) is the test:

    “Wow, God led me in a direction I didn’t see with this sermon. I even feel a little convicted!”

    “Wow, I preached a great sermon today, I hope God used my words to convict the church of their wrongs.”

    *****Enormous disclaimer, I am not a preacher, can’t imagine the workload involved with preaching every service. It sure would be easy to become a legalistic perfectionist in sermon prep. *****

  28. January 6, 2007

    God bless all preachers when they feel uninspired. REvive them, Lord!
    Maria in the UK
    http://www.inhishands.co.uk

  29. Doug permalink
    January 6, 2007

    Mike, you are overreacting. A congregation listens to the words, to the message. It really doesn’t matter whose words they are. I do agree, however, that lifting a personal story and using it as yours is a little outside the lines.

  30. January 6, 2007

    “My point is that 3 days of locked away prep time won’t let you know what your congregation needs to hear as much as 3 days of interactive fellowship/counseling with the body.”

    Amen to this. I don’t think anyone envisions an effective long-term teaching ministry that is not fully engaged in the life of the church. And there is no reason that all prep-time should be solo and locked away. Most of my sermons are written in consultation with other members of the body, and are greatly enriched for it. What the congregation receives is the product of community discernment (albeit a small community of 2-4). I think most of us are moving out of the Enlightenment-driven belief that one well-trained solo interpreter was adequate to the task.

  31. January 6, 2007

    “By less prep, I certainly don’t/didn’t mean less prayer, scripture reading or relationship with God. I meant less writing word for word, searching for just the right phrase, double-checking to make sure no one would take anyting personal or be offended.”

    janjanmom: I’m glad for this clarification. If that’s what you meant all along, I certainly misunderstood. The capitalized “NO PREP” of your earlier posting gave me a different impression altogether. Perhaps if you had spent a little more time searching for just the right phrase? (Sorry…I couldn’t resist.)

    It seems to me that we aren’t really talking about method anymore but motivation. The temptation to glorify self, or ingratiate oneself to the congregation, or keep from rocking the boat is ever present. I think it was Craddock who said that the preacher’s greatest temptation was to be ineffective (but being inoffensive). But I have seen preachers who reveled in their ability to “perform” well spontaneously, and I have known preachers who humbly and carefully did search for just the right word, preaching from a manuscript as an outgrowth of their intense desire to handle their task with the integrity it deserves. I have often had the experience of saying “God led me to a place I didn’t anticipate in this sermon,” and often had the experience of being convicted by the message. That happens more frequently on Thursday than on Sunday for me, but I count it no less a work of the Spirit.

  32. January 6, 2007

    Hmmm… I don’t know which I’m more surprised about – the flat out number of responses that this post has gotten, or the amount of “conversation” about the legitimacy of lifting others words and claiming them as your own.

    Surviving on the foundation of a person’s ownership of what they create, maybe I’m a bit biased. But, then again, I keep thinking about Dr. Fair’s wife warning him of the “lake of fire” when he fibbed… Yeah, that’s not what John’s words were referring to, but still…

  33. missionary-type permalink
    January 7, 2007

    It’s frustrating to me that spontaneous and Spirit-led have, in some circles, become synonymous. Equating the two seems to limit our view of the Spirit’s power. If I sit to prepare a lesson with an open heart and an open mind, am I not open to the leading of the Spirit? If I feel called to use parts of a lesson that someone else wrote, not because of my own laziness but because it is just the message that needs to be heard, could that not be the Spirit? Or if I write nothing down beforehand and get up to speak, are my words guaranteed to be from the Spirit? Certainly not. It is not our job to decide when or where God and His Spirit will work. All we can do is humbly ask for His help, which we may or may not receive in the way we desire. So I prepare, I make the best use of my resources and I remain open to some last-minute intervention. I can be Spirit-led and still use my God-given wisdom to get me through the rest of the time.

  34. January 7, 2007

    Some of those first preachers said “Go find 7 good men, filled with the Holy Ghost, to take care of waiting tables”, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word of God”.

    I suspect that more time was spent in prayer than in actual sermon prep. Could you preachers be more effective if those two tasks were your only responsibility? I believe it is still that important. Rather than being a “jack of all trades” to the congregation, I am convinced that if you had time for extended prayer and pouring over the word, the finished product would be greatly improved.

  35. January 7, 2007

    Used two Fleer quotes this morning. Gave him very loud credit. It felt so… liberating. Not that i didn’t do that last week, the week before that, the week before that…

  36. John permalink
    January 8, 2007

    missionary-type: “If I feel called to use parts of a lesson that someone else wrote, not because of my own laziness but because it is just the message that needs to be heard, could that not be the Spirit?”

    My case in point….lol. This is what I was thinking in my earlier post. Missionary-type said it much better. (I just might use that)

  37. John permalink
    January 8, 2007

    I’m all for a new website called “www.mikecopefreesermonmanuscripts.com”

  38. January 8, 2007

    I had a lesson early on in borrowing from another serman. I tried something I had seen Mid McNight do when I was young. He would read a passage from an old
    Bible, say something like “I don’t like that” and tear out the page. He moved on to tearing several pages out, then had a lesson on our accepting all of the Bible. Did not go over well for me even though I did credit him with the idea after. I leaned that sermons need to fit your own personality.
    I found you hit a place after a couple of years of two sermons and one or two bible lessons a week that you have a hard time picking something new to preach on. It’s no wonder that it has been quite common for preachers to move on every 2-3 years to another church. Of course if you stay, it forces you to move past your favorites and learn something new in scripture and that is a good thing.

  39. cecil eager permalink
    January 8, 2007

    “The lasting value of our public service for God is measured by the depth of the intimacy of our private times of fellowship and oneness with Him.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, January 6.

  40. LDB permalink
    January 8, 2007

    I am a member at a Full Gospel Baptist church and we are so blessed to have a pastor that really devotes himself to the study of the Word. His messages show it – he has a powerful message empowered by the Spirit of God. Someone on here said that three days of locked away prep time won’t let you know what your congregation needs to hear. I strongly disagree…if the person preparing has a vibrant relationship with the Lord and is tuned in to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, he will know exactly what God has for his flock. There were many times the Lord spoke to Moses and told him what to tell the children of Israel. I believe God still uses pastors that way today if they genuinely seek Him.

    Also, my husband teaches the adult Sunday School class. He also puts much study time and prayer into his lessons. I believe that the faithful reliance on the Holy Spirit on a daily basis is just as valuable (if not moreso) as the “fly by the seat of yours & the Spirit’s pants” attitude that many seem to have. There have been some at our church (we’re kind of a mixed bag sometimes) that have been critical of advanced preparation of sermons and messages. Some have told my husband to loosen up and just let the spirit lead him – what they don’t realize is that’s what he’s been doing all week. Some of these people have actually gotten up and taught or given a testimony by the seat of their pants – they kept emphasizing “I didn’t prepare this, I’m just letting the spirit lead me…” as they rambled and didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Go figure…

    Also – I visited a church one time and witnessed a preacher preach a message I had just seen on tv by another pastor! Word for word, prop for prop! I was appalled. I also teach women’s Bible studies and at conferences, but I have never used another’s message word for word. I have borrowed ideas and given credit. I can’t even imagine telling a personal anecdote as if it were mine… seems like lying…

    Anyway – interesting posts…I enjoy this blog.

    LAURA

  41. January 9, 2007

    I’m late in the game here…but what a great subject and wonderful post / comments.

    I cannot make the same claim that Tim Spivey does… (ironic statement in this thread anyway!) … when in college I preached Jeff Walling’s “What Is A Disciple” word for word. I know it was word for word because I spent so long with my tape recorder writing down every word. I preached Marvin Phillips’ “How To Build A Fire Without Burning the House Down”. I practically read Jim McGuiggan’s God of the Towel to the church in weekly installments. I guess you could say I had room to grow … but the content heard each week was good stuff for the church.

    Even now while preparing I sometimes go to Sermon Central and key in the text … scan several sermons for a good story or humorous remark … seldom find anything I would lift entirely. In a turn of events not long ago I had my text selected and was cruising through some sermons at that site. I came across one that I loved and I decided to use it almost ‘as is’. Turns out it was my own. No wonder it was so good.

    How many preachers have visited a member and left a note, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock’ and had a return note the next Sunday, ‘I was naked in the garden and I hid from thee’. I’ve heard VERY WELL KNOWN preachers tell this as if it happend to them. And several times at Tulsa…in the same place even! Not good!

    Finally, I was thankful Bonnie told us about her dad. You know, he ministered before computers and internet … things that it was once said would save us so much time. ha! I wish I had known the man.

    blessings to all…thanks Mike…

  42. January 9, 2007

    Many times over the years, I have sat in assemblies and heard guys preach verbatim–articles from Christianity Today, books by Watchman Nee, passages from Swindoll, Stott, and others. I never confronted anyone about it, but felt such frustration and sadness. What a privilege these men had to preach. How easy it would have been to share the source of their inspiration. How insulting of them to assume no one in their audience had read or heard any of these materials.

  43. elder eli permalink
    January 15, 2007

    I grew up in an Amish church. They believe in general preparation
    with the Spirit guiding the message, given in German. As a young boy sitting on a hard backless bench it was quite boring. Once, one of my friends pulled out one of his hairs, caught a fly, and tied the fly to the end of the hair, creating a nice diversion. The preacher noticed the airial show, and without a pause reprimanded the young lad; then
    kept right on exhorting the congregation. Funny that out of all those
    Spirit-led sermons, that is one of the few I remember anything about!
    Seriously, I agree with Peter that we ought to listen to God rather
    than men!

  44. January 17, 2007

    I have heard one of our brotherhood greats (popular Pepperdine speaker) at a youth rally tell nearly word for word a Jerry Seinfeld stand-up routine as if it were his own experiences on his flight there.

    I own too many stand-up CD’s to not notice it. I didn’t say anything, but he lost my respect. I won’t say his name, but he knows he did it.

  45. April 15, 2007

    E grande io ha trovato il vostro luogo! Le info importanti ottenute! ))

  46. June 5, 2007

    Hey just more proof that it was never Gods will for one man to be stuck with trying to feed the sheep every week.

    1Jo 2:27 But the anointing which ye have received from him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man should teach you and ye need not that any man should teach you and ye need not that any man should teach you : but as the same anointing teacheth you concerning all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

    You will say this: he was dealing with certain Hearsay. But I say: but as the same anointing teacheth you (concerning
    all things)
    Mat 23:8 But you must not be called Rabbi, for One is your teacher, Christ, and (you are all brothers.) equal!
    Mat 23:9 And call no one your father on the earth, for One is your Father in Heaven.
    Mat 23:10 Nor be called teachers, for One is your Teacher, even Christ.
    Mat 23:11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.
    Mat 23:12 And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he who shall humble himself shall be exalted.
    Mat 23:13 But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Jesus said
    Mar 10:43 But so it shall not be among you: but whoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
    Mar 10:44 And whoever of you will be the chief, shall be servant of all.
    Luk 22:26 But you shall not be so: but the greater among you, let him be as the lesser, and he who governs, as one who serves.
    Luk 22:27 For which is the greater; he who reclines, or he who serves? Is it not he who reclines? But I am among you as He who serves.
    I am a house church advocate and host with experience. I was a pastor / preacher and know the trials of preaching and it is not Gods will. In our groups we all preach all share what God is showing them for that week. It is Great to hear from the saints every week. The letters of the New Testament are not written to the pastors of ……they are written to the SAINTS OF…..Pastors didn’t exist and never should have …one reference and a whole movement is born…Protestants…

  47. February 11, 2017

    Currently it sounds like Movable Type is the preferred blogging platform out there right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

  48. May 13, 2017

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