Ethics: Seminary Student Preaches Someone Else’s Sermons

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What would you do Wednesday!

Today I’m going to pick-on set the situation within the realm of Southern Baptists since I are one. It is also more culturally acceptable to use your own as an example, right? (Don’t worry, non-Southern Baptists may also comment.)

The created situation involves a seminary student who preaches someone else’s sermons. The question will be two-fold by considering the person as a student and then as a pastor. Your pastor.

For this scenario, the seminary student (SS) will be using, let’s see, sermons by – eeny, meeny, miny, moe, choose a preacher and let’s go – Adrian Rogers. There are many popular Southern Baptist preachers from which to choose, but we will go with the excellent orator, Dr. Rogers, who is now home with the Lord.

Once upon a time…

While in seminary one of your fellow students, SS, confides in you that he does not feel as though he has enough time to do the school work and successfully carry out his preaching duties. To save time on sermon preparation, SS listens to an Adrian Rogers’ sermon and transcribes it for his own use.

Stunned, you’re not sure what to say at the moment. A few days later you learn that a few other students found out that SS uses Rogers’ sermons. Although they were sort of making light of his actions and writing SS off as somewhat of a joke, they thought that SS ought to be confronted and rebuked.

What would you do?

  • Confront and rebuke him?
  • High-five him for preaching good sermons?

What if you found out this was your pastor in seminary? Would you say anything at all about this issue?

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The above article was posted on February 8, 2012 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 prchrbill February 8, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Sermon outline stealing is something that is common. You can go to just about any Indie Fundy Baptist Campmeeting and find sermon outline books for sale. (For those in the know, most indie fundie baptists came out of the SBC some 60 years ago or less.)
However, is it right to steal a word for word sermon and make it your own? I would say no. If he gave credit and said “I am repeating an Adrian Rogers Sermon word for word”, then I would be fine with it (though that would bring up issues of qualification, etc). He should be rebuked for sure.

With that…
I am prchrbill.

2 Mark B. February 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm

As long as he makes it known that he’s using an adapted version of another sermon, I have not problem with it. I’ve taken ideas and even other sermons from people and preached them–my congregation fully aware of what I was doing. We had a guy read a 150 year old sermon, verbatim to us once, so we could hear it and not just read it.

However, if he’s doing this week in and week out, I would rebuke him as he needs to study to show himself approved. He’s also not really paying attention to the needs of the flock for whom he is an undershepherd. He could possibly integrate what he’s learning in school with his preaching.

However, if he’s doing it for school, he’s likely plagiarizing and therefore committing an academic violation.

3 SK Schultz February 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Definetly confront in either situation. Preaching requires work. Using someone else’s material is at best lazy and at worst stealing. Being lazy opens the door for temptations to step in and plus, you never grow in your understanding of the scriptures yourself which makes you less grounded and that leads to trouble too.
And we all know about stealing.
It’s one thing to be influenced. I myself am influenced by many preachers when I have the opportunity to exhort another congregation. But I always to my own work. It’s best that way

4 Clark Dunlap February 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Rebuke the scumbag! OR, perhaps sit down with him and say, I understand your rationalization but you are A) being deceitful, B) violating the rules on palgiarism, and C) Not giving yourself to God in view of the text and thereby not properly serving God’s people. Oh, and D) Rogers was wrong once, do you know where? Are you willing to preach his mistake as well?
Oh and I have found (and purchased) preaching outlines at LIFEWAY Christian bookstores. They sometimes suggest logical ways at breaking down various books/chapters for preaching. But I still use my own outlines.

5 Scott February 8, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Odd that he doesn’t have time to do the study work but has time to listen to and transcribe a sermon. He’s lazy. And he also needs to seriously look at his spiritual life. If he had been spending daily time prayerfully reading his bible then this situation would not occur.

This young man needs to be gently rebuked and led to better self-disipline.

6 Joshua February 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Confront and rebuke. It is not only lazy to do such a thing but also dishonest as your flock is expecting this sermon to be yours. If a pastor truly has a heart for ministry and is faithful, competent, and caring…he will study and prepare his own sermons.

7 Chris Roberts February 8, 2012 at 4:30 pm

I would understand the situation, though not be too sympathetic. My own seminary experience involved full time student, part time job, and regular (3x week) preaching duties as well as other pastoral responsibilities, so it can be done (disclaimer: I was neither a model student nor model pastor).

But I would go to him, share concern with him about not fulfilling his pulpit responsibilities and find out whether or not the church knows what he is doing. If he is open about it and they accept the situation, I wouldn’t be as hard on him. And there isn’t really an issue with using Adrian’s sermons since, if I recall correctly, he once commented, “If the bullet fits, shoot it!” implying that people were free to reuse his sermons if they fit the situation.

On the other hand, I would be worried that the student would grow so accustomed to snatching sermons from other speakers that it becomes a habit that follows him after seminary. His excuse now is he’s too busy; what will be his excuse later? Even if he has a legitimate reason now (doesn’t really sound like it), there is no legitimate reason for slacking later. Rightly dividing the word of truth for the people of God is the primary function of the biblical pastor.

8 Michael Buratovich February 8, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Rebuke, but gently because Jude 23 says “to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

This seminarian has done something deceitful and 1 Peter 2:1 says, “Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of all kinds.” If he is showing this kind of deceitfulness in seminary, what will he be like when he stands in the pulpit and preaches every Sunday? (EEK!).

Secondly, as a Christian leader, he needs to have a level of holiness in his life that is a model to others. Hebrews 13:6 says, “Remember your leaders who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” This same chapter later tells the Hebrews to “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. For they keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” That really sounds like there is a higher level of accountability when it comes to leaders. Therefore, I would definitely tell this chap that there is a problem and that it needs to be made right.

9 chris February 9, 2012 at 7:11 am

Sadder yet is some only have one sermon a week and they still don’t dive deep in the book but glean from their favorite celebrity preacher…I see it all to often in the YRR.

10 Mark February 9, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Chris, you’re not welcome to come hear and make a blanket statement against the “YRR” whoever they may be. If you have evidence, show it. This type of problem can happen with anyone. I was recently told about an issue with someone who is definitely not YRR.

Everyone, thanks for all of the interesting comments. I especially like the point about having time to transcribe sermons, but not having time to study for the sermon. It is interesting that this same student would likely be failed and possibly expelled from a seminary class if he turned someone else’s work in as his own.

11 Michael Buratovich February 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm

What is the YRR?

12 Joshua February 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Michael,

Young, Restless, and Reformed. The term basically has no meaning anymore as anti-Calvinists, especially in the SBC, call anyone younger than them and reformed a YRR. I hate the term as it is usually meant in derogation.

13 Mike February 9, 2012 at 11:38 pm

The problem is that there are books that actually suggest pastors do this. The first one that comes to mind is “Go Big” (can’t remember who wrote it). We recently had one of our pastors in our state convention who was caught doing this, denied it repeatedly, and ultimately asked to resign because of it. This pastor was the poster child of the convention for doing things the right way because his church grew so much in the years he was there. This problem is likely to get worse and since it came up several questions do need to be addressed. I’ll just ask one.

What if your pastor/strudent preached or turned in a paper for one of his classes that was not his instead of just cheating at the church? If he plagarizes in his class the consequence is at least and F and more than likely he would be expelled from the university or seminary. At least it was that way when I was in school still. This is even true in most state universities. Are we the church not to have higher standards? I agree with most of the statements made in the previous posts so there is no need to bring them back up again.

14 Michael Buratovich February 10, 2012 at 7:23 am

Now we have struck upon an excellent point – that plagiarism in a classroom would not be tolerated in a seminary or public university (although I have seen some students get away with it for racial, politically correct reasons and that’s for another post), and, therefore, should not be allowed in the pulpit.

As solid as this point is, I do not think it goes far enough. Maybe I am naive, but I am just a lay preacher. Sermons are always given in a particular context; homilies are delivered to a specific group of people who have particular issues. You are speaking to them about the Word of God, but you are using the Word of God to talk to them about themselves and how the measuring stick of the Word of God can correct, rebuke, instruct, heal, convict, or convert them. How do you know how to deliver that message or what exactly to say? We all know the answer to this – extensive soul-searching prayer. This is the fuel-pump of any sermon and sermons must start, be sustained and end with such earnest prayer. This kind of prayer is hard work, but without it, greatly crafted sermons can fall flat.

If someone has lifted a sermon, have they done this hard work? No. They are cheating their congregations and their own souls. This is the part that puts my nose out of joint. It’s taking an easy way out that will kill off your conscience and spiritual sensitivity over the long run. People may say that you preached a great sermon and they might even bring someone else to church because of it, but have we really make a disciple in this case, or a fair-weather church goer who runs for cover at the first sign of trouble? So tell me brothers and sisters, am I just being naive?

15 Daniel J. February 13, 2012 at 1:44 am

Just saw this post and had to comment. Thank you all for shedding light on this topic. I few years ago I left a church that split over this very issue. A group of people discovered that the pastor was plagiarizing several well-known and unknown SBC preachers and confronted the pastor. Someone wisely stated earlier that being lazy opens the door for other temptations, as subsequently many other disturbing facts about the pastor’s private activities came to light. Unfortunately, the pastor continued to stubbornly deny and deflect. This caused much pain for many people in the church, and has taken a devastating toll on the church’s reputation in the community.

16 Mark February 13, 2012 at 10:08 am

Daniel,

That sounds like a very sad situation. A pastor in the mid-west recently stepped down over preaching other peoples’ sermons. A pastor friend was part of the same association and it was also a sad situation.

.

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