'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?

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Stu, 16 Nov 2006 @ 5:15pm

    I LOVE IT ! !

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joe Smith, 16 Nov 2006 @ 5:47pm

    This is just moving to the internet a type of resource which has been available in paper form for a long time.

    http://www.logos.com/ebooks/details/PRSRC2006

    As sermons become more specialized targetted sermons are just another example of the long tail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ruppert, 16 Nov 2006 @ 6:14pm

    Couldn't this be considered sharing?

    I thought sharing was something good. If some other pastor put his sermon in a repository its probably because he wants to help his neighbor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2006 @ 6:16pm

    "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 :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    slimcat (profile), 16 Nov 2006 @ 6:29pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    me, 16 Nov 2006 @ 6:31pm

    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)
    or better yet - number of people putting money in the offering plate) if it increases the amount of money that is brought in, I bet leadership buys a laptop for the minister!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rick, 16 Nov 2006 @ 6:39pm

    Hmmm, maybe they should all stop using the same book to generate their sermons too?

    Yea, lets ban the bible now... Only the Pope gets to use it to preach from.

    Idiots.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ashley, 16 Nov 2006 @ 6:41pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2006 @ 6:57pm

    Hahaha that is so freaking messed up... Preachers should know better than that. You work for God, it's His work you are sharing with others and other preachers, they're just your co-workers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2006 @ 7:17pm

    I so am going to patent a means to store and deliever sermons online for the benifit of the pulpit . . .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kevin Purcell, 16 Nov 2006 @ 7:17pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sanguine Dream, 16 Nov 2006 @ 9:21pm

    The real question is...


    How long before churches start using online plagiarism detectors on their ministers' sermons?


    How long before priests start filing trademarks and copyrights for thier sermons?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jaz, 16 Nov 2006 @ 10:22pm

    Open Source Sermons

    If we had open source sermons, then the best ideas that really inspired people and touched their hearts and souls would be free for everyone to use...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Norris, 17 Nov 2006 @ 1:07am

    I'd be interested to hear the views of John-Paul Jones, bass player of Led Zeppelin, about this phenomenon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tom, 17 Nov 2006 @ 4:49am

    "Give credit where credit is due" ?? Absolutely correct! And the credit in ANY and EVERY case goes directly to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nobody Special, 17 Nov 2006 @ 5:44am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ray Trygstad, 17 Nov 2006 @ 7:55am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GOD!!!!! (j/k don't strike me down), 17 Nov 2006 @ 8:51am

    Why did I make you people???

    If it is a question of the ethics in coping someone else materials..... isn't that what their doing when they "copy" out of the Bible?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2006 @ 6:10am

    God is in ur internets writing ur sermons! (But seriously, Powerpoint presentations? In church??)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pastor Paul, 4 Jan 2008 @ 9:49pm

    What?!

    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!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RevSmilez, 21 Aug 2008 @ 3:10pm

    Open Source Sermon

    We're actually working on an open source sermon right now. Anyone can contribute. Who knows if it will actually work, but it's fun trying.
    http://revsmilez.com/open-source-sermon/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.