'Go Forth And Multiply' Evidently Doesn't Apply To Online Sermons

from the religion-2.0 dept

Another web plagiarism scandal is brewing, but it’s coming from something of an unlikely place: the pulpit. Apparently a hot issue at churches around the country is clergy members using online resources to generate their sermons. There appears to be quite a booming industry of online sermon repositories, where ministers can get transcripts of others’ sermons, as well as Powerpoint slides and videos to accompany them. While some have no problem with drawing “inspiration” from someplace other than their deity, plenty of people seem to think the practice is, at best, ethically questionable. One theology professor says the problem stems from ministers’ desire to be “sizzlingly entertaining”, a result of all the technology modern churches use in an attempt to spice their services up. It’s easy to see why some people would object to the practice — after all, simple ethics say copying is bad, and after all, shouldn’t you expect preachers to hold themselves to high moral standards? But, at the same time, it doesn’t seem like the ability to generate original work is the point here, as perhaps it is in the classroom; delivering the right message to the flock seems like the bigger goal. Whatever our feelings about it, though, this furor doesn’t seem likely to die down soon. How long before churches start using online plagiarism detectors on their ministers’ sermons?

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Comments on “'Go Forth And Multiply' Evidently Doesn't Apply To Online Sermons”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“How long before churches start using online plagiarism detectors on their ministers’ sermons?”

Won’t happen, obviously intended to be a pun, but in all actuality the leadership of churches tend to be after “the numbers” (numbers of people saved) more than anything. If the preacher is getting his inspiration from somewhere online I don’t think they’re going to object. I don’t see why it’s a bad idea in the first place…They’re all preaching out of the same book anyway 🙂

slimcat (profile) says:

Father John

This story makes me think of Father John Nicholson who used to agonize Monday through Saturday over what he was going to say on Sunday in his sermon. This was a guy who gave last rights to sailors on aircraft carriers during the battles of the Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal and others. His sermons were truly from his heart, his experience in life and the book from which he preached. I am now older now than he was when he died but I will not forget him because he never forgot me.

Ashley says:

Not a huge deal, as long as the pastor cites his source. My pastor will include references from commentaries, journals, and systematic theologies but he always gives credit. However, to have significant portions of your sermon quoted verbatim from another pastor would start to stink of dishonesty or, at least, laziness. And if this is a good church, the elders should be encouraging him to do his own work.

Kevin Purcell says:

I am a pastor who occastionally uses material found online. The most important thing is to give credit where it is due. So long as I don’t download most of my sermons and so long as i never preach another pastor’s sermons word for word and so long as I give credit by saying, “This message is inspired by a sermon i read online” or “heard online” then my congregation and most congregations do not have a real problem with this. I will preach an outline downloaded from an online location only if … 1) it is so good that I cannot say it better myself 2) the author gives me permission to do it and 3) I make sure my congregation knows what is not original and what is original. I do the last one by simply saying I read or I heard or there is a pastor who approached this bible verse like this …

Of all the pastors I know, this is their way. Just as there are a majority of honest doctors, IT professionals, school teacher etc there are a majority of pastors who are honest. But like these other jobs there are losers who don’t deserve to hold the title.

Nobody Special says:

Few Don't Plagerize

The simple fact is that few preachers don’t borrow heavily from others. In fact, while at Bible College there was a good number of people advocating that we should take notes on all the sermons we heard and thus have a huge library of outlines to use in a career.

While not universally accepted, many accept a number of things:
1) The preacher’s stories have been embellished for the day.
2) The preacher’s stories may not actually be first hand as presented.
3) The preacher often took ideas (and maybe more) from another source.

Most often, preacher’s are not even expected to say where they got their material as long as they readily say they get material from various sources. Now if asked where particular pieces came from they should name the source. Chances are the preacher gets a good amount of his/her stuff from said source. For the most part, sharing is considered considered the norm. I have never come accross a preacher who would object from others using their material.

Ray Trygstad (profile) says:

Plagiarism is a Sermon Tradition

While the fact is that ethics requires attribution of sources, the use of other’s materials in sermons goes back to…well, as far back as sermons go. I have many of my sermons online, and others are welcome to use them; all I really want is for them to share the same message I was sharing. If I found a really compelling sermon that met a need, I would use it–with attribution–without a pang of regret or conscience, and 99% of the time the author of the sermon would probably be delighted to know I used it. I know other folks have preached my sermons and I certainly do not mind. Yes, sermons are ”intellectual property” but because of their purpose and how they are used, it is in a very different sense than most people view IP.

Pastor Paul says:


How can some of you be so naive? Pastors have ALWAYS shared their work with each other – and justly so. The internet is just a forum to do it more broadly and quickly. Scripture itself COMMENDS the sharing of previously delivered truth from one minister to another (e.g., 2 Timothy 2:2). I can tell you from 20 years of experience that I have NEVER spoken without the benefiting from the work of other men of God. So do all my fellow preaching pastors. We’d be fools not to stand on the shoulders of others as we undertake such a weighty responsibility. After, the wise Teacher said, “There is nothing new under the sun!”

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