SBC Pastors Should Preach My Sermons – So Says James Merritt

** Update: You can see the video on this website – SBC Voices

James Merritt preached tonight at the Southern Baptist Pastor’s Conference. He began his sermon by mentioning his website PastorsEdge. He encouraged his listeners to download his free Father’s Day sermon – illustrations and PowerPoint included – and use it this Sunday with his blessings. He assured them it was not plagiarism and they had his full permission.

The prices at Pastor’s Edge are very reasonable. For $30 you get a complete sermon series with all of the following:

The complete sermon manuscript in Word ® and as a PDF. A complete PowerPoint® presentation that highlights each main point. A beautifully illustrated listening sheet that can be easily duplicated for your congregation. The only thing left for the pastor to do is prepare the message. All of the supporting files are ready to go!

If you are on a tighter budget, you can get the single sermons for $8 with artwork or without for only $5.50.

There has been some talk lately about using borrowed sermons.

After 102 Comments this conversation has been transfered to SBC Voices.

If you want to continue the conversation please do it there.

Posted By Tony Kummer

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103 Responses to SBC Pastors Should Preach My Sermons – So Says James Merritt

  1. Tony,

    I heard that live and couldn’t believe it. I guess pastor’s these days have more important things to be doing than preparing messages for Sunday morning. Unbelievable.

    And then to preach on holiness afterwards was a bit weird for me. Part of that message he talked about the number one thing that people want to be know for is being authentic. What is authentic about copying word-for-word someone else’s sermon? How can we call for authenticity when we are encouraging them otherwise in the same sermon?!

  2. Andy Atkins says:

    Tony,

    Man.

    I guess it just goes to show that everybody sticks his foot in his mouth once in a while, including Dr. Merritt.

    Thanks for calling attention to this.

    – Andy

  3. Josh Buice says:

    Tony,

    Not planning to preach Dr. Merritt’s sermon! I think it is sad to see preachers like Merritt condoning this practice. It becomes very dangerous! Today, people are looking for a genuine man in the pulpit – and such practices do not provide a genuine touch to ministry.

    In the words of the great Apostle Paul – “Preach The Word!

    Josh

  4. Andy,

    Let me say that I plead guilty that I have some personal experience for sticking my foot in my mouth (perhaps this is another one), but usually such an occasion usually occurs by accident or lack of forethought. However, in Dr. Merritt’s case, it was planned and an intentional plug for his website. I don’t know if that registers for foot action, but it is most unfortunate indeed.

  5. I am VERY GLAD I’m not in San Antonio. I’d probably have gone ballistic on the inside. Wow. This man must have a high estimation of himself. It’s as if he’s saying, “Y’all aren’t good preachers, so just read this instead.”

    You know this isn’t all that new in history. The Jehovah’s witnesses have been doing it that way for years. Every Kingdom Hall preaches the same sermon on a given Sunday. They’re all mailed out from Watchtower HQ in Brooklyn regularly. Their method seems to have resulted in substantial growth, so why shouldn’t we use it???

  6. Tony Kummer says:

    Timmy,
    The links above from Mohler and Van Neste really cover all the issues on this topic. I don’t think you are putting your foot in your mouth. Merritt said what he said. The website is clearly an intentional undertaking.

    It really surprised me to see this practice advocated at the SBC pastor’s conference. Especially by such a well respected pastor as Dr. Merritt.

    Someone should email LifeWay and get them to research the ‘borrowed sermon’ trend. I would assume that someone must be buying these sermons if so many websites are being created to sell them.

  7. Tony,

    Wow! Thanks for pointing this out. I was unable to attend this year. You and Timmy are exactly right. This is not sticking your foot in your mouth. This is not an accident, especially in light of the conversation that has gone on this last year (my article went out in Baptist Press). This is truly sad. It is further evidence of how far (low) things have gone.
    Our church culture is infatuated with performance (you can buy artwork with the sermon!!) and crowds.

  8. Gentlemen, I just had tears well up in my eyes as I thought about what this means. Timmy, I thought your post on outsourcing within the convention missed the mark a little bit.

    I don’t care how nice a guy he may be, or who he knows, this is representative of a badly flawed view of the church, the pastorate, and what it means to be “qualified to teach”. I may not be able to put my finger on it exactly, but his peddling of sermons online would tend to indicate that Merritt is in serious error.

    Above the pillared front entrance to Norton Hall is the greek phrase, “rightly dividing the word of truth”. I guess the folks organizing the SBC Pastors’ Conference want to outsource that, too. We haven’t even heard the convention’s opening gavel, and this has already taken a turn for the absurd.

    If anyone thinks the battle for the bible is over, I think this is proof positive that there are many skirmishes yet to come, and many more casualties on the way. D-Day may have struck the decisive blow against the Germans on the Western Front, but the bloodiest battle was still yet to come, the Battle of the Bulge. True conservatives who love the scriptures must not rest on their “resurgence” laurels while such blatant examples of error are paraded about our convention. This is the kind of thing that even such bitter polar opposites as Burleson and Patterson, Ascol and the Caners should be able to unite with each other in condemning.

    The resurgence has not gone too far; it hasn’t gone NEARLY far enough.

  9. Ross says:

    I didn’t know about the JW, but the Christian Scientists do the same thing. They don’t even call them pastors, but readers. I think it’s OK to take another’s sermon and use it as the basis for your own sermon.
    BTW, plagiarism does refer to copying w/o permission. If you have permission, it’s not plagiarism under the law. OTOH, in scholarly circles, it’s considered proper to reference the sources you used. Failing to do so would constitute plagiarism in a scholarly journal.

  10. Tony Kummer says:

    The header on the Pastors Edge website has the tagline “creative resources for rightly dividing truth”

    Merritt was clearly instructing the pastors that it was ok with him to preach his actual sermon. That is the point of the whole website. So, it is not intellectual theft.

    But the issue of integrity relates to what your people think you are preaching. Will they email Dr. Merritt and thank him on Sunday afternoon?

    We could also talk about studying the Bible – being a pastor can not be reduced to a performance of a sermon. While using a sourced sermon does not guarantee one is not studying the Bible, it certainly is a move in that direction.

    G.F.,
    I keep thinking – is this what our Baptist heros had in mind when they stood up for inerrancy? This is about the sufficientcy of scripture, even when preached by a less than superstar preacher, to accomplish God’s work.

  11. Ross, I’d like to clarify something with you: authorial permission notwithstanding, the reason why scholarly journals require citations is because when we do not cite our sources, we are implicitly passing off someone else’s work as our own.

    In order to be clear of the charge of plagiarism, any pastor who preaches Merritt’s Father’s Day sermon this coming sunday will not only have to have Merritt’s permission (which has been given) but he would also have to state clearly to his congregation whose work the sermon was. Has anyone even heard of a congregation that would tolerate that? If I were a betting man, I would wager my last dollar that over 85% of Merritt’s paying customers are not telling their congregations who actually wrote the messages.

    I’ve sat under preachers who have made direct quotations of other theologians discussing the passage at hand, but it was a brief, snappy quote to illustrate the preacher’s point, and always clearly attributed. There is a world of difference between quoting another preacher, and preaching his sermon wholesale without attribution to your congregation.

  12. Something very terrible is going on when we have “for profit” preachers and no longer “prophets” who preach “Thus saith the LORD” – and do not put a for sale sign next to it.

    What does this say about our consumer culture when even the sacred desk is auctioned off for the cheapest sermon on the market? Preachers now pick and choose their favorite sermon to plagiarize. One week it’s Merritt. Another week it is Rick Warren. Another week it is Adrian Rogers. We have men who will speak for men. Do we have men who will speak for God? That is the question of the hour.

    It is not only doublespeak to call for authenticity while encouraging others to be another man’s puppet, but it is altogether another level of indictment when doing so is entrapment to American capitalistic culture. I mean, if you are going to encourage pastoral plagiarism, at least make it free. But I guess when you have an audience of 2,000+ potential customers (pastors), you can’t pass up a free public advertisement of your own product.

    Look it. I know what I am saying sound harsh. It needs to be harsh. We should not tolerate flippancy with the scared call nor placate the “peddlers of God’s Word” (2 Cor. 2:17).

    If the pastor is looking to be a plagiarizer than a prophet,
    if he has more things to do than spend time laboring and weeping over God’s Word,
    if he is willing to supplant personal investment and internalization of Scripture for a quick, superficial, and scandalous treatment of the sacred desk,
    then methinks it is time to consider one’s calling and figure out whether we are a God-called shepherd or a hierling that “cares nothing for the sheep” (John 10:13).

  13. Pingback: Dead Yet Living » Take my Sermons, Please!

  14. Tom says:

    “Whack!”

    That’s the sound of my jaw hitting the floor. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

    -Tom

  15. Consider this a low-tech trackback. I have issued a challenge to Pastors’ Conference Attendees on my blog:
    http://motopolitico2.blogspot.com/2007/06/my-challenge-to-pastors-conference.html

  16. Greg Alford says:

    Unbelievable!

    “Father’s Day???”… Here is the root of this error… coming to the Lord’s House, on the Lord’s day and honoring men. If one is going to honor men then I don’t care whose sermon he preaches.

    Grace to all,

  17. Pingback: Church Voices » Blog Archive » Development

  18. Dave says:

    I’m not a pastor, just one of the faithful in the pews. I’ll tell you, if instead of spending 10 or 15 or 20 hours preparing a 30 minute sermon, my pastor could minister to the personal needs of a half-dozen families in our church, I think we’d all be better off. Would God look more favorably at someone spending 10 hours at a word processor or 10 hours on his knees with troubled Christians? Do we require original music in our services? What about artwork?

  19. David G. says:

    Dave,

    I think you have a wholly wrong view of what is central. As Warfield said, when someone said to him “It would be better for a pastor to spend 10 hours on his knees than 10 hours in his study!” Warfield retorted “Better 10 hours on his knees in his study!”

    Inerrancy only matters if we are proclaiming the Word of God and having the Word proclaimed to us. The problem with so many churches is that the Sermons are trite and off the cuff. The times I have seen churches where God is exalted and people are bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God are those where the pastor spends his time on his face before God pleading that the Lord will attend the preaching of His Word with the power of the Holy Spirit transforming lives. Beside there are other people in the church that should be praying with the people as well. All this to say, there is no need to have a high view of Scripture if we do not treat it with the respect that it deserves as God’s personal and direct revelation to us sinners.

  20. Jerry Minor says:

    Wow, I must be doing everything all wrong. Instead of wrestling with God’s Word each week I should be downloading my sermons!

    I truly believe that this is one of the problems with topical preaching. If you can’t think up a clever topic then you need to look for one. If you are engaged in expository preaching then you never need to worry about what you will preach, God’s Word will speak for itself.

    As a bivocational pastor I find that I don’t have the time nor talent to come up with clever alliteration and catchy points. Instead, I devote myself to the study of God’s Word, let it speak to me, and allow God’s Spirit to talk to His people each week as we navigate the Word.

    I believe that this is what it means to “preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season”.

  21. Dave (#18), That’s precisely what deacons are for. That very service was instituted (we have full account of it in the book of Acts) specifically for direct ministry to the people. I’m NOT saying pastors should never minister to their congregation, so don’t hear what I’m not saying.

    So, yes, in fact, God would look more favorably on a pastor’s faithful study of His Word and designating others to care for the flock than He would a pastor’s caring for the flock at the expense of properly handling the Scriptures. Notice I said, “at the expense of;” hopefully both can happen. But if/when one has to give, the direct ministry gets assigned to the deacons and other members of the church.

  22. Sean says:

    Consumerism…..not what we need in our churches and not what we need from our pastors who feed the sheep.

  23. I was really surprised to hear that this came from such a luminary as James Merritt. No wonder there is little power in the pulpit when pastors abandon the weekly process of wrestling with the text of Scripture. This trend of “easy proclaimism” seems to indicate that pastors are no longer viewing the preaching of the Word as their primary task. Sad for both pulpit and pew.

  24. Dave, when we mention the power point slides bundled with these sermons, (artwork) it is not out of an insistence that pastors use their own power point slides, rather, it is because the Word of God speaks for itself, and does not need our showbiz gimmicks. The Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” but the multimedia church experience, the drama teams, the bright lights and flashy clothes seem to me to be an indication that we as a church do not truly believe the Gospel on its own is enough.

  25. Andy Atkins says:

    Sorry, guys, about the “foot in the mouth” comment. My point is that we all have noble intentions that turn into unholy disasters from time to time. It’s why the psalmist said in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer,” and James 3:6 tells us, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)
    Even the most sanctified among us trips up from time to time.

    Whether Dr. Merritt’s intentions were noble or not, it was a BAD judgment.

    -Andy

  26. Mike says:

    My memory could be failing, but in *On Christian Doctrine*, doesn’t Augustine encourage less educated and skilled pastors to preach his sermons?

    This appears to be an ancient (and accepted) practice.

    -Mike

  27. Pingback: James Merritt Wants to Prepare Your Father's Day Sermon at PastorBlog

  28. I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I know a pastor who can write a sermon in 15 minutes, and this is with five points of alliteration. In fact, I have watched him put together a month of sermons in one day. This is so he can have free time with more important things, like his friend other than his wife.

    I of course am being sarcastic here. How so tragic that Dr. Merritt would encourage others to shirk their pastoral duty to study the Word of God on their own and to allow the Holy spirit to bring the Word of God to the sheep. I am surprised.

    I know that my pastor spends between 25 and 35 hours a week preparing God’s message for His people to be brought by His servant. Allowing others to use your sermon is akin to giving you notes from class to another to prepare for a test.

    I am a layman and have so much respect for pastors; in fact, my youngest son is at Boyce studying to be a youth pastor. I think he would be appalled at the notion of anyone suggesting that he use their message to use before his students. This attempt of help is not well thought out and can lend itself to spiritual laziness, apathy, and a weakened love of the Word of God.

    I have to believe that those of you who are pastors and posting on this, and who do write their own sermons, have such a deep love of God’s Word and that you usually get more out of the message than we who sit in the pews. In the case of this ill-advised suggestion, does Dr. Merritt truly believe that everyone who uses it would have come to the same conclusion or CONVICTION about this particular passage? I pray not.

    May I encourage all of you who preach the Word, “in seasons and out of season”, preach it as if the Holy Spirit has led you to….. because that is the way it should be.

  29. All I really want to say about the whole plagiarism deal is that the first time I tried preaching another’s sermon was the last time. I have never been more uncomfortable. Even though I spent a week studying the message, its Scriptures, how to apply it, and tailoring it to my congregation, it just wasn’t me. So I leave preaching others’ sermons to the lazy or for use in drama or readings.

    I do want to say one more thing. Mark said, Allowing others to use your sermon is akin to giving you notes from class to another to prepare for a test. I disagree, but I want to make clear this is a nuanced disagreement. If we aren’t willing to see what others have preached when constructing a sermon, how can we refine our arguments? How can we eliminate fallacies or just plain wrong arguments? Or if we discover someone is using the same argument in a sermon that we are on the same text, could not those sermons be used to tighten our exegesis and application?

    I know Mark isn’t speaking to that type of sermon usage, but I just wanted to put that out there for your consideration.

  30. Pingback: Worlds Apart “SBC Pastors Should Preach My Sermons” «

  31. Dennis says:

    I don’t get it – wouldn’t the way to evaluate if it is wrong or not is by the reaction of the congregation if they knew the truth of whose sermon it was? Preach someone else’s sermon, but if you’re trying to cover it up in the slightest, no doubt you know something is wrong.

  32. Dennis,

    Who would you say is the preacher’s primary audience? For the man of God, the reaction of whether it it acceptable or not comes from the audience of One. Itching ears have a large following of the fabricated folly of famous preaches (hello Joel Osteen).

    I would argue that it is wrong or not whether God approves of it. Some of God’s choicest prophets were kicked out of town and scolded for remaining true to the Word of God and the God of the Word. That’s part of the problem with popular, savvy preaching these days. We are measuring ministerial success on purely pragmatic principles and the appraisal of man. In the end, it is the man who is faithful to God and steadfast in His Word that finds the applause that eternity brings.

  33. Dennis says:

    Timmy,

    Thanks for a thought provoking post. I would ask – why the need to “borrow” another’s complete outline? There’s been plenty of documented cases where the congregation has asked the pastor to resign on account of plagiarism. Where are the original authors of these sermons in addressing this serious issue? If the majority of my congregation would view this as wrong, shouldn’t I give that some consideration, whether I think it is wrong or not? I would go further to say that the pastor that is using these online sources as the bulk of their sermon is more trying to gain the appraisal of man (interesting, thought provoking sermons, beautiful illustrations) than to God.

    Again, if there is no morality issue, why not tell the congregation : “I got this sermon off of Rick Warren’s Sermons.com”? Or at least print it in the bulletin? Please see

    http://www.knightopia.com/journal/archives/000717.html

    As a worship leader, I certainly give credit to the author of the music, and would never think of passing a song off as my own with or without permission. What’s the point? Why the secrecy? Thanks.

  34. Tony,

    I blogged about some very concerning things leading up to the convention, namely the fact that we were going to see revival without Jesus. I’ve got numerous posts in the last 6 – 8 weeks about the articles on BP.

    This just continues that trend. Preaching without Jesus. Revival without Jesus. Leading without Jesus. Conversion without Jesus. Life without Jesus.

    As long as you have your “get out of hell” free card, you’re good. Jesus is unimportant at that point because the prayer was said. I hate to say it but is the convention going to be the next “Church” in need of Reformation?

    Food for thought!

  35. Dennis,

    I apologize if I mislead you, but I am in no way whatsoever supporting the idea of pastoral plagiarism or anything resembling that practice. My comments in this thread was to point to what I see are the terrible realities of the state of the sacred desk which is the primary responsibility of a preacher.

    For what it’s worth, I wrote about this last year when Dr. Van Neste brought it to our attention. I also linked to other posts as well. You can find my articles by going here, here, and here.

  36. Dan says:

    Gentlemen, where is the line? Have you ever “borrowed” an outline? How about a point in an outline? How about a phrase in a point in an outline? How about a word in a phrase in a point in an outline? Let’s be careful that we don’t foster the spirit of a Pharisee while trying to diagnose a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I think minimizing time in the work struggling to find what is saying is cheapened by the download shortcut, but I find the many broad, bombastic comments equally wrong. Let’s help our fellow pastors out by identifying the boundry not simply thumping our chests. Where is the line?

  37. Dennis says:

    Thanks, Dan..

    I agree that a line needs to be formed – I was specifically speaking on using entire outlines. I’ll think a bit more on this one…..

  38. There is a stark difference between quoting someone and the replication of a sermon in its entirety. I am sure that everyone here reads commentaries and grammars; however, I doubt anyone would show up on a Sunday and preach the entire text of a single commentary. The line is a clear one; let us not confuse ambiguity with humility.

    This clearly denies the work of the Spirit of God through the Word of God in the heart of the man of God before he goes before the people of God. We are most certainly living in an age without discernment.

  39. Dan says:

    Thanks Keith. I am not sure your understand my point since in your desire to give clarity you are guilty of being ambiguous. The “line”, in your opinion, is the “replication of a sermon in its entierty.” I agree. I assume then that you think it is OK to “borrow” an outline, illustration, introduction, phrase, etc. and not be guilty of plagiarism? Let’s be helpful to our brothers and not thump our chests with unhelpful rhetoric.

  40. Dan,
    Your point is well-taken. All preachers utilize the material of other preachers and/or scholars in the preparation of sermons. That is a given. I think what the commenters are reacting to is the brash invitation to shortcut the process of preparation and ride the wave of someone elses work.

    There seems to be a growing segment of pastors who think it is OK to minimize the importance of exegetical study and sermon craft in favor of other pastoral duties which are deemed more important. The issue is not that we all use the material of others. The issue is the trend toward devaluing the impact of personal study and preparation in preaching.

    My preaching prof in Bible College said, “Men, milk a lot of cows but always make your own butter.”

  41. Dan says:

    Kelly I agree. The issue or “line” for me is not the whole of a message or the parts (whether this be the outline, phrase, etc.). The “line” is: Am I working hard to determine the meaning of a passage for myself? Until I have done this any presentation I would make would be wrong not because of I am breaking the law in regard to plagiarism, but because of my responsibility as a teaching before God. This is the issue. Let’s not sink to the basic rules that this world is governed by.

    After I do this, I feel complete liberty to use other resources if they help me express the point(s) that I worked hard to find. If this means using an outline in total, I will cite it. A picture? I will pay for it. However, I will not cite phrases or word pictures since those are related not so much to substance as they are to delivery.

    BTW. To not happen to turn a phrase someone else has used probably means that you are not studying/observing other teachers and this is foolish in regard to being a steward of your gifts.

    Brothers, help me be sharper and give me counsel in this area. Would I be wrong to have this as my standard? Is this helpful or am I nuts?

  42. Dan,

    Please understand that as a layman and the one who sits in the pew and hears the message each week, I truly have a great love and appreciation for those men who have heeded the call of God to be a shepherd. I think yours and the others posting is a very special and unique calling, thank you for being obedient.

    Having said this, I do question where the line is and how I would perceive my pastor if I knew that he had “borrowed” someone else’s sermon, in whole or in part. My immediate concern could or would be, why can’t he study and prepare on his own. What I think means so much to me is when my pastor studies (and I know he does) is to see just how the Holy Spirit spoke to him in this passage, not merely for the content, but more so in how to convey (preach) this to the members. In short, it is as if the Holy spirit is telling you, my pastor, or the other pastors who have posted here, “this is what I want my sheep to hear and this is what I want you to say.”

    With that in mind, what am I or others to think when or if I find out, well this wasn’t really my own digging and searching and hearing, I got this from Dr. Merritt because he said it would preach well? As for the line, the trouble with setting lines is that typically they will ultimately be crossed or moved, and that is when one starts down the slippery slope. One mro enote if I may and I apologize for the length; often times my pastor will quote Spurgeon, Piper, Mac Arthur, or others, but that is usually as an added to what he has said, as if to quantify his point even further. But rest assured, he always, always brings us back to the authoritative Word of God and that, that alone is his plumb line. He does not rely on anyone else but his own research and trusting the Holy Spirit.

  43. Dan says:

    Thanks Mark. I agree with your sentiments and also wholeheartedly believe we must be plowing the field of God’s Word for ourselves. When that is done this issue disappears since we will have the jewels of God’s Word imbedded into our souls and growing excitement of showing others our great God. When a person buys a “message” all get is a mechanical sermon that has lost its unction.

    I just get concerned when we sound so above this and give no definition for those who truly need to grow in discernment. In our day of the WWW we need to provide guidelines as well as distain for this type of practice. After all Dr. Merrit is a “hitter” in the SBC. If he is promoting this, how many believe among the SBC throng are in lock-step? So, let’s give tools for pastors to grow in discernment or they will simply compare our chest-beating as being mean-spirited in comparison to the legacy of Dr. Merrit.

    BTW. I like Dr. Merrit, I think he is a great guy. But let’s face it, he is in the belly of the beast that is the SBC; which often is more concerned with marketing itself that it is with spreading God’s fame.

  44. John Fariss says:

    Hary Emerson Fosdick was arguably the best-known preacher of the first half of the 20th Century in America (yes, I know he was liberal, but his theology is not the point–bear with me). Several books of his sermons were published. Once, while on vacation, toward the end of his life, he stopped to worship at a small church in Maine, where the young minister preached an old Fosdick sermon, exactly as Fosdick had written it 30 or more years before. As he left–stooped, and walking with assistance–he complimented the young preacher with an old man’s voice, then asked how long it took him to write the message. “Oh, a long time. Several hours.” With that, Fosdick pulled himself up to his full height, and with the full force of best voice, replied, “Well, it took me 20 hours to write it!”

    It is well known that Fosdick–and most other notable preachers of his era, liberal and conservative alike–advocated one hour in the study for every minute in the pulpit. Fosdick himself had a magnificant office in the Riverside Church, but he rented a tiny, cramped office, I believe at a nearby bank, where he did most of his sermon writing. He didn’t even have a telephone there, so minimize distractions, and was not to be interupted unless the building was on fire.

    In a town where I formerly ministered, one preacher there bought “canned” messages. I heard him once, and thought the message was good, but the congregation quickly discovered what he was doing, and pressured him to leavev after only two years. I am not a “prince of the pulpit,” never have been, never will be. And personally, I have rarely had the “luxury” of spending 20 or 30 hours in sermion preparation–too often ministry interferes, and then there is the little thing called “family.” But shouldn’t the “princes of the pulpit” in the SBC challange us to “rightly divide the Word” for ourselves as did liberal Fosdick?

  45. Thomas Long wrote a good article on this describing where the boundaries are etc. I posted on it several weeks ago including a link for the article here:
    http://rvanneste.blogspot.com/2007/05/thomas-long-on-plagiarizing-sermons.html
    I’ll also say that I find it sad and puzzling that the boundaries here seem so unclear to so many. Isn’t it patently obvious the difference between learning and drawing from various sources and simply copying others?
    It seems to me that the root problem is in what we seek to accomplish in our preaching. Is it discipling/equipping people or crowd drawing/pleasing performance?

  46. Dan said,

    “Let’s be careful that we don’t foster the spirit of a Pharisee while trying to diagnose a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I think minimizing time in the work struggling to find what is saying is cheapened by the download shortcut, but I find the many broad, bombastic comments equally wrong. Let’s help our fellow pastors out by identifying the boundry not simply thumping our chests.”

    Again,

    “Let’s be helpful to our brothers and not thump our chests with unhelpful rhetoric.”

    Once more,

    “[L]et’s give tools for pastors to grow in discernment or they will simply compare our chest-beating as being mean-spirited in comparison to the legacy of Dr. Merrit.”

    Dan, it is evident that you want to drive your point home. Point taken.

    But alas, the point in addressing this issue is to focus on a serious issue going on in the pastorate. Pastoral plagiarism is not only accepted but encouraged and even now marketed. Perhaps the reason some of us are as passionate about preaching God’s Word and honoring the sacred desk is due to its woeful neglect and contemptible treatment thereof. By no means is anyone trying to come across as “mean-spirited” or “bombastic” while “thumping our chests.” Rather, it is to be clear, direct, and convictional about a matter that deserves nothing less. I certainly hope you understand the nature of the concerns represented in the comments aforementioned as reflective of that noble aspiration.

  47. Sam says:

    I just watched the video clip of James Merritt telling pastors to use his sermons and then go straight into saying that he was there to talk about holiness. I find that a little ironic. How about holiness of the pulpit and pastor having integrity.

    I am just a lay person but I have firsthand experience with pastoral plagiarism. My former pastor was discovered using sermons that he bought from a very popular sermon download website. He would read these sermons word for word in the pulpit Sunday after Sunday. He would even go as far as claiming that the personal illustrations of the author were his own experiences. Not only was he plagiarizing, he was lying. Week after week of rehearsed lies from the pulpit. We found out that he was doing this for his entire 3 yr tenure at our church. I ask you this, how can a man of God lie week after week and not get convicted enough to stop and repent of this practice? When he was confronted with the evidence he claimed he did nothing wrong. That it was OK for him to use these sermons because he had the author’s permission via a disclaimer on the sermon service website. I am curious if this same “permission” defense would hold up in an academic setting where a student bought a term paper from another student and the student buying the paper was given full permission by the seller of the paper to user and pass off the sermon as his own. Now, when the professor caught the student using a bought term paper, would he be not be charged with plagiarism because he said he had permission from the original author of the paper? I think we all know the answer to this question. Therefore, in the House of God where we are to hold to higher standards than the secular world why do we cloud the issue of pastoral plagiarism?

    I speak from personal experiences where I have seen the effects of this practice first hand. I have seen a pastor who was caught in bearing false witness by passing off sermons that were not of his own labor and study of the Word. I have seen this pastors continue to lie and manipulate the situation and cloud and contort the situation. I have seen a church almost torn apart. I have seen many members leave the church I love so dearly when this pastor finally resigned in shamed after 3 months of denial, lies, and manipulation. This isnt some test case for me. This is what my church a year later and a new pastor is still healing from.

    What upsets me about James Merritt is that he gives pastors that plagiarize and decieve their congregations license to continue to do this. Pastors that engage in this pratice now can use James Merritt as their defense, “well James Merritt says its OK”. All the while, churches are sufferring for this practice. I pray that James Merritt will repent from this practice and understand his influence he carries and the responsibility of that influence. I futhermore hope that some day the SBC will denounce pastoral plagiarism.

    For me, like I have said, this is no matter of theorectical debate or hypothetical situations. It is a very personal matter that I have seen the first hand damage of pastoral plagiarism and the feeling of betrayal of trust of the most holy pulpit that results from it.

  48. The current church paradigm: the “congregation” gathering at various times and locations, listening to a video preacher (who knows almost none of the people), who downloads his sermons each week.

    And we wonder why our churches are so frail and our evangelism so weak.

  49. Dan says:

    Timmy and Sam, I agree with both of you. Timmy, thanks for letting me know I was getting through – it helped greatly.

    Teaching Pastors who teach from manuscripts that were created by other men (even if bought) is wrong. It will lead to a performance-based ministry mindset that will invariably implode (i.e. Sam’s story). When we see this practice we must condemn it.

    We also need to encourage pastors that to wade into Scripture should be a joy since we will see Jesus there! Sure it is work, but it should be joyful work. When it loses its joy or simply becomes a performance then we have taken a step toward becoming a rip-off artist.

    Let’s rebuke people for taken others messages and push them all the way back to enjoying our great God in their times of study.

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