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It was early in my first pastorate. There were two Sunday morning worship services. My father’s custom had been to preach two different messages. So that’s what I did.

It wasn’t long before I found myself in a jam. Before I started pastoring, I wrote a new sermon every couple of weeks. But it was a whole other thing to produce two new sermons every Sunday.

I needed a second sermon idea one week. Reading through a book of sermon outlines (Can one actually read a book of sermon outlines?), I stumbled across one entitled, “Other Little Ships” from Mark 4:36. In the King James Version it reads: “And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.”

Jesus was on the main ship. But there were other little ships traveling with Jesus to the other side. So it is in Christianity, went the argument. When you get on the ship with Jesus, there are other little ships that must go with him, like church membership, discipleship, worship, fellowship, and stewardship.

Get it?

I thought this idea was brilliant. I preached it confidently. And I thought it went over well. After the service, however, a sister walked up to me and showed me her Bible. I don’t remember what translation it was. But it read “other little boats,” instead of “other little ships.” I couldn’t say anything. She smiled knowingly and walked away.

I learned several lessons from this “shipwreck.”

* Do not preach someone else’s outline or sermon without giving him credit for the work. (After being embarrassed, I wish I had given the author credit for that outline!)

* Sermon outline books may be helpful to see how another preacher handles the text, but they should not be used to steal material. Warning: Sermon outline books thrive on lazy preachers. So do sermon websites.

* Do not preach a message that can be easily trumped by a just simple comparison of translations. Focus on meaning. Don’t play with wording.

* Textual preaching, which lifts words, phrases, or sentences from the text without considering the context of the passage, is not the most faithful way to preach the word of God.

* Do your homework. Study hard so that you will be fully ready to preach and will not have to take shortcuts.

Have you ever had an “Other Little Ships” moment? What do you do to avoid taking shortcuts in preparation? Join the conversation in the comments section.



H.B. Charles, Jr. is the Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida, where he has served since the fall of 2008. He is primarily responsible for preaching-teaching, vision casting, and leadership development – along with all the other tasks that are a part of pastoral ministry.

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Talk about it...

Ronald Johnson

commented on Feb 10, 2016

I was once in a time crunch, so I decided to recycle a sermon I had preached in another church. I thought, "It was a good sermon. The people here have not heard it before." There were two visitors at the church that evening, both of whom had heard the sermon when I had preached it before. They did not say anything, but after I had been preaching for a few minutes, I recognized them, and my delivery suffered for sure.

Lonnie Bennett Jr.

commented on Feb 10, 2016

I have been told that this method is indeed a safety valve and I believe in working for my sermons, but I can see this working if for some reason you are put on the spot. Meaning if for some reason the speaker of the hour couldn't make it at the last minute. But other than that, I would have to agree, because proper preparation, prevents poor performance.

Lawrence Webb

commented on Feb 10, 2016

I went through a period for a few weeks when other aspects of my pastorate made it virtually impossible to prepare sermons adequately. So I used sermons virtually verbatim. I was not comfortable doing that, even for a short time, and I have never done that again over the years. Another person's sermon just doesn't fit for me. I do frequently google other sermons on my subject to find stories I feel will support my approach. I give credit for these. Overall, I want my sermon to be true to me as well as true to the Scripture. It won't be me if I rely heavily on somebody else.

Charles R Scott

commented on Feb 11, 2016

For over a decade, I ran a website on which I posted many articles, including sermons and also corresponded with over 100 clergy sending them articles also. One Sunday I stopped at a Church and was surprised to hear one of my sermons, almost word for word. The gentleman had good taste, picking one of the better ones!

Tony Bland

commented on Feb 11, 2016

how did you feel about that?

Charles R Scott

commented on Feb 11, 2016

We don't want to be plagiarizing, but we shouldn't be embarassed by quoting the good thoughts and insights of others. Of course we should give credit to the sources we use. But this website is not Comedy Central; it is Sermon Central. The work we do is not creating new ideas or formulating new truths. On rare occasion we may come across a situation that appears to be new, to which we apply the old, old story of Jesus and His love. I say rare because in the 2000 years that have passed since Jesus walked this earth, I suspect about every sinful situation has been repeated millions of times. . Our Christian faith is old and durable. The language others have used to praise God and preach the Truth is worthy of being repeated. Don't try too hard to be original, and don't be ashamed of passing on the Christian traditions,

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