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Pirates in the Pulpit
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Dear Ask a Seasoned Pastor: Some of my members have discovered the fact that most of the time I re-preach the sermons of other great preachers. I find that most of the congregation is being fed by these outstanding sermons. However they think that the sermons I preach should be my own creation. What do you think?
 
Borrow, Don’t Steal
Preparing sermons for years on end can sometimes be challenging and we all can use a little "help" every now and then. Sometimes the revelations shared in a sermon from another pastor can be an exciting diving board for me to plunge in and research for deeper content. In that regard, pastors can share and help each other. However, I would be concerned about simply repeating someone else's content - word by word, line by line. Why? That could be an indication of laziness - taking the easy route rather than taking the time to seek "fresh manna" for myself. Sermonic regurgitation also blocks the Holy Spirit's intentional message directed towards the specific needs of the congregation. The doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction that is needed in one congregation may not be what’s needed by another. One size sermons don't necessarily fit all! Let’s embrace the creativity of the Spirit and take the time to listen to His unique messages for His unique churches.
 
Brenda Billingy is senior pastor of the Metropolitan Church in Hyattsville, Maryland and an associate director of NAD Ministerial
 
A Matter of Integrity
I see three problems with preaching the sermons of other preachers, even if they are outstanding. First is a problem of integrity. It is wrong to pass off the work of someone else as my own. Even though most sermons are not copyrighted, the same principle applies. It is a kind of theft to take someone's work and present it as if it were mine. Of course, this problem is solved if appropriate credit is given and the congregation is told whose sermon this is. Second, if I am truly ministering to my congregation, I cheat both them and myself if I do not do the diligent study necessary for me to present Scripture in a way that intersects with their lives. As their pastor, with the most intimate knowledge of their situation, I need to study the Word to see how God is speaking to their specific situations and problems. The sermon of another preacher was made with another congregation in mind and can never be as relevant as it should to this particular congregation God has asked me to serve. Third, I need the discipline of studying so that God can use my particular person and voice. If God calls me, He expects me to have something to say. I'm not sure I do justice to His call if I mute my voice by simply quoting other voices.

John Brunt is senior pastor of the Azure Hills Church in Grand Terrace, California and professor of pastoral ministry at La Sierra University
 
Inspiration vs. Revelation
In the words of the wisest man that ever lived "there is nothing new under the sun." Put plainly in the context of preaching there are no new or original ideas in the pulpit. Let's be honest no matter how anointed and gifted the preacher, all of us to some extent have benefited from the wisdom and insights of others in the preaching moment. As a matter of fact most of whom we call great preachers are those who have spent time in extensive and in-depth preparation, which mainly refers to studying and reading commentaries or other insightful study helps which are summarily the thoughts of others. However, the preached Word should be mostly influenced by one’s personal wrestling with the Biblical text versus repeating and revising the result of someone else's revelation from God. Preaching is simply telling the people what God said. We should use other people’s sermons as inspiration not revelation. Revelation comes from wrestling with God in His Word. 
 
MyRon Edmonds is lead pastor for the Grenville Church in Cleveland, Ohio
 
Ethical and Legal Issues
Every congregation loves a good sermon! So the issue of “borrowing” a sermon from a great preacher certainly has its advantages for the preacher and the congregation. However, there are ethical and legal issues that must be considered. I will let the pastors deal with the expectations that a congregation may have that their preacher should prepare and present a fresh sermon as well as the ethical issues when presenting someone else’s sermon.
From the legal perspective you must be aware that such a “borrowed” sermon, whether obtained in written or oral form from the Internet or elsewhere, is copyrighted and owned by the person who originally wrote and delivered it. Using someone else’s sermon requires that owner’s permission and a license (preferably in writing for obvious reasons) to use the material. This could be done by an exchange of e-mails or more formal documentation. If a pastor is only going to make a brief quote of a sentence or two from another’s sermon an attribution is appropriate. Some very well-known preachers today have websites on which they offer to license their sermons and materials for use by other pastors. In the eyes of the law, claiming another person’s creativity in writing a sermon is considered theft of that person’s property.

Bob Kyte is president of Adventist Risk Management