Ethics: Pastor Uses Company for Sermon Preparation

What would you do Wednesday!

Today, I’d like to find out what people think about pastors using sermon preparation companies like Docent Research. Docent will be used for illustrative purposes to show that a sermon preparation service actually exists and to show what they offer.

Always curious about what your pastor is reading you browse the books on his desk while waiting to meet him. While shifting one of the books in order to get the title of another book an envelope falls to the floor. “Oops,” you mutter as you bend down to pick it up just as your pastor walks into the office.

“I’ll take that,” your pastors says as you grab the envelope,”I’ve got to finish Sunday’s sermon.” Noticing the words “Docent Research” on the envelope you ask if he’s doing some sort of theological research. “Nah,” he replies, “just some stuff for my sermon.”

Your  pastor quickly changes the conversation to focus on the purpose of your meeting.

Once home you do an internet search for Docent Research to find out about their services. On the homepage under “Research Briefs” you find a few bullet points.

  • Stories, statistics, quotes
  • Connections to culture
  • Theological insights
  • Exegetical analysis of Scripture

Another click of the mouse loads more bullet points.

  • Desire to inform and transform an audience
  • Need smart researchers who are well-read and well-trained
  • Need stories, metaphors and statistics that connect with their audience
  • Value visionary and skillful communication
  • Require a team that will execute the Pastor’s specific ideas, questions and instructions.
  • Speak to culturally savvy congregations

You wonder if it’s right for a pastor to use this service. As part of the process the site states, “Once we have learned from you how to best serve you, we recruit a specific, dedicated research team that is matched to your theological commitments and your style.” You also wonder why the company would match the pastor’s style if it is only providing research.

What would you do next? Should a pastor use this type of service for sermons?

  • Nothing, it’s the pastor’s prerogative.
  • Nothing, as long as the sermon is good it doesn’t matter.
  • First, talk to the pastor to understand the service better.
  • Confront the pastor explaining why he should do all of his own work.
  • Blog that the pastor is a fraud; then mass email the blog to everyone you know.
  • Or…
Let's connect!

tagged as , in Christianity,Church Issues,Culture

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris Roberts September 12, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I would question the pastor’s wisdom. Why pay for sermons when so many are already freely available on the internet?

2 Chris Roberts September 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Hah it cut off my final snarky tag… That should end with: *runs and hides*

3 MarieP September 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm

“First, talk to the pastor to understand the service better.” Yes, I know, I’m quoting you word for word 😛 It COULD be that he received it in the mail as a promotion (pastors get crazy stuff, I’m told!) I would wait to ask until after the sermon, to make sure he isn’t intending to use it AS a sermon illustration (“My point is that pastors ought to preach with their flock in mind. But today, this is not etched in the mind of ministers as it ought to be. For example,. I did a little research on a company called Docent Research…”)

Secondly, I would ask him, if it truly is the case that he’s using the company, why he is doing it, and how he will ensure that the flock will be fed according to its need. You might as well just download sermons off the internet (not a bad thing to do- but you need more than just a preacher!) Plus, the issue of plagiarism. My own pastor wrote an excellent blog post on this very issue awhile back, so I would be sorely tempted just to hand that to him and see how he reacts 😉

4 mburatov September 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I am not a professional preacher, but I have preached many times as a lay preacher. I can say that once I have picked a passage, studied it, and have a good idea what it says, getting ideas for application and clear explanation are the hard part. I have scrounged from all kinds of places for ideas, and if my pastor wants to use a company to help, that seems fine to me, with some reservations.

If, however, the pastor is leaning on the company materials to do his hard work for him rather than digging into the Scriptures himself, then that is not good. Therefore, it seems to me that it depends on how he is using it.

5 David (NAS) Rogers September 13, 2012 at 10:15 am

Several senior pastors have staff people who do this very thing. Most professors who write use their doctoral seminar students to do research and/or translation work through their paper assignments. Dr. James Leo Garrett of Southwestern Seminary several times used many of his students’ research insights but to his admirable credit he noted their contribution in the footnotes of his Systematic Theology.

Some may find it more cost effective to use this site than hiring a staff person to do the same thing.

I would say that the Scripture work and theme structuring should be done by the pastor, if he can be assisted by others in the supportive illustrations and statistical research areas then that is legitimate in principle. The pastor should certainly serve as an overall shaper of the sermon and not merely a regurgitator.

“Style” adaptation may just refer to kinds of illustrations and range of research data. Some preachers are more folksey and thus need common everyperson types of illustrations, others prefer academia based analyses.


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