Friday, May 04, 2007

Thomas Long on Plagiarizing Sermons

Thomas Long, Professor of Preaching at Emory’s Candler School of Theology, has written an excellent article entitled, “Stolen Goods: Tempted to Plagiarize.” I encourage you to read it. It is well balanced and considers the common rationales given for preaching the sermons of others. He argues the point I have sought to make in the past that the key issue is integrity. Long writes:
Perhaps as much or more than any other form of communication, preaching depends upon a cord of trust binding together the speaker and the listener, the preacher and hearer. A good sermon consists not primarily in flawless logic, soaring poetry or airtight arguments, but in passionately held truth proclaimed with conviction. To compromise the truth in ways that hearers would consider deceptive makes them reluctant to extend this necessary trust and damages the witness. For evidence, we can point to the hard disillusionment and sense of betrayal experienced by many in congregations where pastors have been caught plagiarizing sermons.
He also makes the key point that what people need is not a good performance but the Word of God applied to their specific situation by one who knows and loves them.
The preacher comes from the pews to stand in the pulpit. Only preachers who deliver their own sermons stand with one foot in the life of the people and one foot in the biblical text. No Internet preacher stands in this same place. No borrowed sermon, however fine, can answer the question that cries out from every congregation, "Is there a word today, a word for us, from the Lord?"
This is a great article. May it be of much help to the church.


Anonymous said...

I strongly agree with you, Ray. This is truly a great problem in our day. Perhaps a delegation of you in prominent places could ask for a meeting with Rick Warren, who perhaps more that any other has contributed to this problem by encouraging pastors to preach "his stuff" since "there is nothing new" anyway, to try to persuade him to stop encouraging this and to recognize the depth of the problem. I am happy you have taken up this cause. God's grace to you. And thanks for being a blessing to my daughter, Mary.

Ray Van Neste said...

Thanks Dana!
It has been a joy to get to know Mary!

Jenn said...

What do you do when you find out your pastor has plagiarized? An elder (my husband) will be confronting him this week but what does the resolution look like? We are a new church plant and this is unchartered territory. What if he isn't repentant, what if he is?

Ray Van Neste said...


Sorry for my delay. This is tough. If tehr eis repentacne then you can move on, perhaps with some specific accountability. If tehre is not then leadership will have consider how serious they think this is. I woudl think the leadership as a whole would confront and there would need to be change if the pastor is to continue in the church.
Let me know how it goes.