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There are two factors that, taken together, make plagiarism a danger for those in the Christian ministry. First, those engaged in pastoring and teaching generally love to learn and share what they have learned with others. This is obviously a very good thing.

But second, the guidelines for giving proper credit to those we have learned from are not always clear. Hence, there is a danger that the good desire to share and spread truth will sometimes be carried out, unknowingly, through the untruthful means of plagiarism.

Defining Plagiarism

The essence of plagiarism is to give the impression that the ideas or words of another person are actually your own. This can be done intentionally (in which case it is outright theft) or unintentionally—but either way it is wrong.

The tenth edition of Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary formally defines the term "plagiarize" from three different angles:

1. "To steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own"

2. "To use (a created production) without crediting the source"

3. "To commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source"

In a nutshell, you have committed plagiarism whenever you use another's ideas or words without crediting or acknowledging the source.

Committing Plagiarism

We can spell this definition out more concretely. There are basically three ways in which plagiarism can be committed:

1. Quoting someone else word for word but not crediting them as the source.

2. Paraphrasing another's words without acknowledging the author whose words you are restating. In other words, if you do not quote the person verbatim but instead just change a few words and do not give credit, you have committed plagiarism.

3. Using the ideas of another without acknowledging their source. Hence, even if you state another person's ideas entirely in your own words, you still must credit them as the source of the ideas. The only exception is when the idea is well known and has become common knowledge. For example, if I state that "it is 93 million miles to the sun," I do not need to cite a source. It is common knowledge.

The Problem With Plagiarism

The central problem with plagiarism is twofold: (1) it is stealing; and (2) it bears false witness. Obviously, both of these are unacceptable for Bible-believing Christians (see Exodus 20:15; Mark 10:19; Matthew 15:19, etc). Stealing and bearing false witness fail to love your neighbor as yourself (Romans 13:9). The words and ideas of another person are precisely that—their words or ideas.

To fail to acknowledge their source is to give the false impression that they have originated with you. Hence, plagiarism steals from another and gives a false impression to your audience. Both of these factors should be of utmost concern to the Christian, and especially pastors and teachers who should have the utmost respect for the sanctity of truth.

Overcoming Plagiarism in Preaching and Teaching

It is not hard to avoid plagiarism. All that you have to do is acknowledge the source whenever you quote, paraphrase or use the ideas expressed by another. But, of course, life almost always throws us complex situations where it is not clear how to apply a general principle such as this. Hence, it will be helpful to spell out some specific guidelines.

1. General acknowledgements do not suffice. It is not enough, for example, for a pastor simply to say to his congregation, "Once in a while I use the ideas or words of other theologians. I don't tell you every time I do it because I have reminded you from time to time not to think that everything I say originated with me." Instead, each instance of quoting, paraphrasing or using another's ideas must be accompanied by attribution to the source.

2. Detailed bibliographic data is not necessary. It is not necessary to give detailed information as to the page number, publisher of the book, date of publication and so forth when attributing a source in a sermon. It is helpful to do this in papers, but even then the absolutely necessary thing is to name the person from whom you got the idea or quote, and if possible the specific book or lecture or article.

3. Common knowledge does not need to have its source cited. "Common knowledge" does not necessarily mean that everyone in your audience knows the information. What is it then? The Purdue University English Department suggests helpful criteria. You have "common knowledge" when (1) "You find the same information undocumented in at least five other sources"; (2) "You think it is information that your readers will already know"; (3) "You think a person could easily find the information with general reference sources" (source). Hence, "Jonathan Edwards was born in 1703" is common knowledge. "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him" is not common knowledge.

4. If the original source simply cannot be found, it is acceptable to say "As someone has once said…" (Most sources, however, can be found. For online searches, www.google.com is indispensable. You might also try the new "Search Inside the Book" feature at Amazon.)

5. Restatements, in your own words, of the positions of general movements do not necessarily require citation. For example, it is OK to say, "Calvinism holds X" without detailing the history of the movement or even discussing its historical origins in general. However, a restatement of the Calvinist position that follows the structure or outline or unique wording of someone else's prior work on the Calvinism would require citation.

6. The preaching of another's sermon is usually a bad idea, but is not plagiarism if the original author is clearly cited.

7. To base the structure of your sermon on someone else's sermon, but to use your own words, is plagiarism. The author on whose work you are basing the structure of your sermon would need to be cited.

Matt Perman formerly served as the Director of Strategy at Desiring God. Previously, he was Director of Internet for Desiring God and led the design and launch of their website release in 2006. Matt graduated with an M.Div from Southern Theological Seminary in 2003. He has a strong background in theology, project management, general management, strategic planning and online strategy. He holds a Project Management Professional Certification and has been doing independent consulting on website strategy and workflow management for several years. Matt blogs on productivity, leadership, theology, and culture at What’s Best Next. He is currently writing a book titled What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Changes the Way You Get Things Done, which is set to be published in Fall 2014. Matt speaks in a variety of venues, including seminars at churches, conferences and workshops. Some of his previous engagements include Together for the Gospel, the Desiring God National Conference, The Gospel Coalition and the 2011 Christian Web Conference. He lives in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area with his wife and three children.

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Bill White

commented on Jul 24, 2013

When Bible study leaders, Sunday school teachers, etc. use curriculum do the same rules apply? And if not, why not?

Patrick Brown

commented on Jul 24, 2013

It seems to me, that there is very little seminal thought on any given topic and therefore a vast majority of the thoughts presented in many sermons and lessons are actually from another source originally. Hundreds of books and years of advanced education make up many leaders' vernacular. To credit a source each time seems to be incredibly laborious and ultimately unnecessary and unhelpful to the audience as there are often dozens or even several dozens of sources that make up ones material... So, how does one retain integrity in situations where the majority of material is from numerous other sources? To have 20 or 50 sources shared in any way seems ludicrous, and many times, one does not recollect who or what formed this thinking in their minds... Here is my quandary.

Davis Daniel

commented on Jul 24, 2013

Please Matt! THERE IS NO PLAGIARISM in ministry! If someone wants to use one of the sermons I preach as a pastor, praise God! We have way to many people in ministry thinking the words they are saying are their words when in fact, when we prepare a sermon, it is God's words not ours, so how can we say we own it!!!!! If I present a sermon that are my words and thoughts I am then commiting a BIG injustice to God! I do not own a sermon, commentary, or journal that I may write! We are servants of God, all we have or say is His! Plagiarism is a word developed by prideful men and has no place in ministry of the gospel!

David Rutledge

commented on Jul 24, 2013

This theme has been written on many times before. Your thoughts are the same as I have read before. That being said is this whole article plagiarism because you took an idea of some one else and wrote about it. Just a thought.

Dennis Munn

commented on Jul 24, 2013

From reading the Bible and applying these rules, it would seem that most of the Biblical authors were plagiarists. I agree with Davis Daniel; take anything I have and use it. Thousands of others have poured into me, and I can't copyright God's inspiration.

Kevin Billiot

commented on Jul 24, 2013

I get the gist of this article. However, When it comes to plagiarism, I think we tend to confuse academia with ministry. Plagiarism in academia is taboo. Plagiarism, by definition, in preaching is inevitable and seems to be very subjective. When I entered the ministry one of the first reference books that my mentor recommended to me is "Pastor's Annual" which consists of sermons for every Sunday and Wednesday service for the entire year.

James Bailey

commented on Jul 24, 2013

Just a follow up---if I quote someone, and they plegarized that quote, from someone who didn't give all this academic credit to the speaker--who also stole the thing from someone who is now dead --do I need to footnote ALL of those folks--or just the one who used the quote and really couldn't care less if I use it????

Mark Hatcher

commented on Jul 24, 2013

Interesting that John Wesley would often write sermons for his lay pastors and encouraged them to preach it to different people groups. I guess they were all guilty of plagerism! If somone wants to use all or any part of my messages, I could care less if my name ever got mentioned! The main thing is that hope is held out to those caught in sin, the church is built up, and God is glorified.

Lossan Bonde

commented on Jul 24, 2013

Thanks Dear Matt Perman for clearly defining plagiarism. I like many other think that plagiarism is not for ministry. A sermon is a message received from God, to be delivered to His people. The preacher is not the author, ortherwise it is a common speech.

David Parks

commented on Jul 24, 2013

If you deem any of the material I have posted on this sight worthy of repetition, you have my permission to to use any or all of it in any fashion you desire as long as you do not credit me as the source. It's not about me, and I have not copyrighted any of it.

Robert Sullivan

commented on Jul 24, 2013

The author of the book I use to prepare my sermons (the Bible) has given specific, written permission to use it freely. I do acknowledge Him on every occasion that I quote from His material. To suggest that 'outlines' or 'truths' derived from His material 'belong to' or require 'permission from' another person misses the point that every thought, quote, or illustration that proclaims the Gospel of Christ is subject to the highest standard of all... God's. Any minister that 'creates' a biblically sound sermon, has used by permission that which is 'owned' exclusively by God who has placed it in the 'public domain' for the good of all mankind. While I agree with Matt on the literary or academic aspects of his article, we should take the attitude of Paul who rejoiced that the gospel was preached... even if for the wrong reasons. By the way, I regularly quote my sources because I want my people to know that none of the content of my sermons originates with me... and by extension, my sources.

Lou Butterfield

commented on Jul 24, 2013

I agree with Kevin Billiot. I think we tend to confuse academia with ministry. When I was in academia (for 38 years) I was very careful in my writings, media productions, etc., to site every source, follow every copyright law, etc. I continue to abide by every copyright law in my ministry. However, this additional thought may be appropriate. Not long ago I was in deep study of a passage of scripture and after several months came to my own original idea, or so I thought, as to application of such scripture today. Then upon continued study, I found my application to be almost exactly what was taught, in print, 100 years ago. So, even what I think might be original with me is probably not.

Lossan Bonde

commented on Jul 24, 2013

Thanks Dear Matt Perman for clearly defining plagiarism. I like many other think that plagiarism is not for ministry. A sermon is a message received from God, to be delivered to His people. The preacher is not the author, ortherwise it is a common speech.

Ed Wandling

commented on Jul 24, 2013

My chief reason for citing sources when presenting a message is to keep my ego in check. While I understand that in today's world there are legal issues involved that must be observed, I am more concerned about making sure I keep myself humble by giving credit to the person God used to make me aware of some thought.

Michael Brown

commented on Jul 24, 2013

I suspect that those who refute your article are themselves guilty of plagiarism in one way or the other. When I received my journalism degree it was pounded into our thinking to always give attribution regarding our sources. I have applied that rule to my sermons and articles. Even though it's tempting to take the credit myself, it's more honest to cite where you obtained your sources and to attribute those we are actually quoting.

Gerald Graham

commented on Jul 24, 2013

Interesting topic once again. I have a question. Is citing a source keeping my ego in check or feeding the ego of the one I am quoting? If you don't want the work God has given you to be used why put it out there unless it's to feed your own ego? To say that those who do not agree that there is plagiarism in ministry must also be plagiarists is a bit presumptuous maybe even judgmental. Maybe they just really don't care who uses the very words God gives them. Interesting that he writers of the Old and New Testament didn't put any stipulations on their writings other than to teach what they had taught...

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jul 24, 2013

Eccl. 1:9-11 "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after." Lou Butterfield is a great example of this. He thought that he had an original idea only to find it had been presented 100 years before! There truly is nothing new under the sun. Like many others have stated, I have sermons on this site that can be linked by clicking on my name and anyone is free to use them without giving me credit. God is the one who gives me ideas, they do not come from me! And I am sure He has given the same ideas to others thousands of times before and will do so after, just as Eccl. states!

Dr. James Gipson

commented on Jul 24, 2013

As a professor I insist that students use sources and references to prevent plagiarism. In grading papers the computers we use will point out plagiarism and sometimes I know that that student did not copy someone living a thousand miles away that they never met. If I print my sermons for publishing, then I also must use sources and references. In preaching many times I will quote a famous person and give credit to their names. Again as the old saying goes, "There is nothing new under the sun." (I can't give credit because I do not know who said it. If I were to use it in my sermon, while I was preaching, I would not have the resources to check it out either. Does that make sense. We need to back up our words with sources to prove them to be true. I am tired of people saying, "It is in the Bible somewhere." Show me.

Arisnel Mesidor

commented on Jul 24, 2013

Wow! This is a very interesting discussion. I find that Matt's position very difficult to implement. I remember I once preached a sermon that was inspired from another sermon preached by Henry Nouwen. At the beginning of the sermon, I made sure that I made that clear. After the service was over a member of the board came to me and told me that I did not have to mention Henry Nouwen. The audience was not interested in knowing that. I could simply use the term someone in lieu of Henry. Imagine this is what I was told for making one reference only. What if I made fifteen? However, I feel that Davis' position too much at the other extreme. If we say that everything we say in ministry is not our words but God's, how can we then write books and sell them for money we keep for ourselves? Is it totally true that one should never be credited for his works (sermons, commentaries, bible studies, etc.) in ministry? In my opinion, this is a very important discussion that needs to continue.

Arisnel Mesidor

commented on Jul 24, 2013

Wow! This is a very interesting discussion. I find that Matt's position very difficult to implement. I remember I once preached a sermon that was inspired from another sermon preached by Henry Nouwen. At the beginning of the sermon, I made sure that I made that clear. After the service was over a member of the board came to me and told me that I did not have to mention Henry Nouwen. The audience was not interested in knowing that. I could simply use the term someone in lieu of Henry. Imagine this is what I was told for making one reference only. What if I made fifteen? However, I feel that Davis' position too much at the other extreme. If we say that everything we say in ministry is not our words but God's, how can we then write books and sell them for money we keep for ourselves? Is it totally true that one should never be credited for his works (sermons, commentaries, bible studies, etc.) in ministry? In my opinion, this is a very important discussion that needs to continue.

Scott Letson

commented on Jul 24, 2013

who actually has original thoughts? most everything in our mind are things we have heard or read. we may not even know where or when we recieved this information. If we must give credit on every statement we make thats all that we will have time to do. I'm not disagreeing with honesty in our preaching I just can't see how to implement this into my preaching.

Robert Sullivan

commented on Jul 24, 2013

The author of the book I use to prepare my sermons (the Bible) has given specific, written permission to use it freely. I do acknowledge Him on every occasion that I quote from His material. To suggest that 'outlines' or 'truths' derived from His material 'belong to' or require 'permission from' another person misses the point that every thought, quote, or illustration that proclaims the Gospel of Christ is subject to the highest standard of all... God's. Any minister that 'creates' a biblically sound sermon, has used by permission that which is 'owned' exclusively by God who has placed it in the 'public domain' for the good of all mankind. While I agree with Matt on the literary or academic aspects of his article, we should take the attitude of Paul who rejoiced that the gospel was preached... even if for the wrong reasons. By the way, I regularly quote my sources because I want my people to know that none of the content of my sermons originates with me... and by extension, my sources.

Raymond Slocum

commented on Jul 24, 2013

The letter kills, but The Spirit gives life! If it's anointed! Use it!!!!

Robert Webb

commented on Jul 24, 2013

A little over the top I think,but with research documentation is necessary.Everything a Minister preaches would be plagiarism if this was true.I have found that any original thought I thought I had ,was already thought of!

Robert Webb

commented on Jul 24, 2013

A little over the top I think,but with research documentation is necessary.Everything a Minister preaches would be plagiarism if this was true.I have found that any original thought I thought I had ,was already thought of!

Robert Webb

commented on Jul 24, 2013

A little over the top I think,but with research documentation is necessary.Everything a Minister preaches would be plagiarism if this was true.I have found that any original thought I thought I had ,was already thought of!

Simon Peter

commented on Jul 24, 2013

All thoughts come from God. Give Him all the glory!

Kevin Joseph

commented on Jul 24, 2013

How can one be called a thief because they did not give someone credit. I was part of one ministry for twenty years and now I am pastoring. A lot of what I say and teach comes from the Holy Ghost inspired Preaching and Teaching that I absorbed over the years. Any revelation one receives by inspiration from God does not belong to them. I thank God that I am a plagiarist of the word of God. I am plagiarized (as you would call it, by the disciples of our church all the time, and I have one thing to say to that "to God be the Glory". The word plagiarism is a worldly principle that God will never establish as truth in his Kingdom. Why does one need credit for saying something that most likely has been said all ready by someone else 50 years ago.

Derek Brown

commented on Jul 24, 2013

As a professor, I am scandalized that so many of the comments here denigrate the idea of giving credit for a quote or an idea. This smacks of laziness on the part of many pastors who do not want the extra work of documenting sources. Not only is this a witness, it helps one avoid using false illustrations or urban legends in the pulpit. It takes two seconds to jot down the name of the person from whom you took the idea, concept, quote and two seconds to state where you got the idea. This extra work is a discipline and a witness. Great article!

Solomon Salawu

commented on Jul 24, 2013

It was a wonderful write up. But how does the truth that is preached circulate?

Paul Zeron

commented on Jul 24, 2013

I think you have some generally good descriptions here, but an article of this sort can't cover every kind of base. When I write out my sermon notes, I make sure to have any citation included in the notes in case I want to do publishing further along. A sermon should not be treated like a performance or an academic exercise. It is more like a conversation, a personal communication between a pastor and those he is mentoring. Whether I am preaching to someone on the street, in his house, over dinner, or in a large room, it is all the same. However, if I were to publish by putting a recording online, or in print, I would not really be just mentoring someone any longer and citations are clearly in order, even if as an addendum. Otherwise, scholarly proof is not part of a sermon...it is not a thesis paper. I will almost always say simply, "As someone once said...", unless the character of that someone is integral to understanding the significance of the quote. I think that citation would actually get in the way; are people checking on my form or are they trying to get an insight into life. Take a cue from the news media when they simply say something like, "In a statement issued by the White House..." They do not tell you who said it in the White House, who holds the copyright to that statement, how to look up the information in some White House archive, etc. Perhaps some of this information can be obtained upon request, but it is not part of the news report. Similarly, we report the Good News; how to find the sources would be good to have upon request, but should not necessarily make it into the News Report.

Rev. Phyllis Pottorff-Albrecht, United Brethren Communi

commented on Jul 24, 2013

While i appreciate the general theory behind this article - I thought I would point out that, within Christianity, this would probably be difficult to achieve. The United Brethren Community Fellowship is an outgrowth of those pioneer community churches, which sprang up in many communities while the pioneers were establishing homes on the western frontier. Often, when a group of Christians - from different theological backgrounds - arrived in a frontier town - there usually were not enough members of any one denomination to make it possible for those members to be able to call a pastor to serve their congregation. So Christians from a variety of different denominations would still meet together for Bible study and prayer. When Community congregations began to be formed, the Christian friends who banded together to form one church often had a smorgasbord of management models and theological concepts from which to choose. The final outcome was often a blend of management models and theological concepts from such diverse groups as Lutherans, Amish, Baptist, Pentecostal, Prebyterian and Methodist - among many others. The United Brethren Community Fellowship developed a unique blend of management models and faith and practice preferences which owed some part of their development to many different denominational models. When you bake a cake, you need some eggs, some butter, some flour and some flavoring - and each ingredient is distinct and identifiable BEFORE the ingredients become mixed together. When you mix all of the ingredients together and put those ingredients into an oven, at the designated temperature - for a designated amount of time - the end result is a cake - but you can no longer tell where the eggs leave off and the butter begins. So it is with Christianity. Sometimes you can tell people that you have a no-egg cake - but, then, again, as a general rule, most people who have eaten a no-egg cake will tell you that it did not seem very different from the cakes which are baked WITH eggs. I believe that, as often as possible, pastors need to remember to give credit where credit is due - but - on the other hand - if you no longer remember whether you used brown hen's eggs or no eggs at all in your cake - most people do not care - so long as the cake satisfied their hunger for the Word. I Kings 17. Luke 4:24-26.

Ken Houston

commented on Jul 24, 2013

I see what you are saying but then why would I subscribe to Sermon Central or e-sermons. If I read someone else's sermon then I would fear I might use a thought from that sermon and not realise it. I certainly don't want to be a thief.

Samantha Sandys

commented on Jul 24, 2013

Im so worried that when Christ returns, and pastors, priests etc will stand before him and say, we preached, we did miracles in your name, I stopped people stealing my sermons and my quotes, etc...but He says, 'Get away from me I do not know you...for when I was hungry you did not feed me, when I was thirsty you did not give me a drink. Why cant we as the body of Christ just share for the building of the body. Freely you have received, freely give. I believe, that those who want to be acknoledge, need to pray against PRIDE, which is the very sin that got Eve to rebel in the 1st place....you will become like God!..ok let me have it!.and the rest was history. To those who have offered their quotes and sermons to be use...God bless you guys, for those who want to be quoted, may God keep you and guide you.

Peter Dohnt

commented on Jul 24, 2013

I find this whole argument very interesting. Jesus regularly quoted whole chunks of inter-related scripture and would deliver statements based on traditional perspectives of the time (some for and some against ). Was Jesus therefore a plagiarist and if so do we "follow" as He invited??? As has been alluded to by others - if what we preach has not undergone more than just an academic approach it is likely to deliver death rather than life. Even when I have used someone else's idea or structure it seems by the time I have studied, prayed, thought and re-thought that it really is just a reflection of the journey the thought gave foundation for - and yes - if there is something left of the original then I always credit what I know belongs to the originator. Not to do so would be denying the fact that we are a body and that each part supplies to the whole. But for the sake of academic satisfaction - sorry - not from this little black sheep. SORRY MATT - forgot to thank you for an article that helps us to analyze how we might honour one-another and reminds us that we are not alone in thought and calling.

Anthony Perkins

commented on Jul 24, 2013

News Flash. Here's an additional note for all that are concerned about citation. When a minister produces a sermon while serving as the pastor of a church, that sermon does not legally belong to him/her unless they have a 'right to intellectual property agreement' already in place with that church. Without such an agreement, the sermon legally belongs to the church since he/she produced it while in the employment of the local church and the minister has no copyright claims to the work. However, that should and would not relieve one from citing the source.

Bill Williams

commented on Jul 24, 2013

Like Derek Brown, I am also an educator; and I share his reaction to the majority of the comments made. Look, this isn't about academia v. preaching or about having original thoughts or about whether you give other people permission to use your materials or anything like that. Pure and simple, this is a matter of personal integrity. I realize that after a lifetime of studying the Bible and other authors, we absorb so many ideas to the extent that it is difficult to trace exactly where all these ideas came from, but that's not what the article is arguing for. In simple terms, if you clearly got something from someone else--wording, a certain structure, an illustration, etc.--just take ten to twenty seconds to say so. Why should such a common-sense show of courtesy result in such backlash?

Anthony Perkins

commented on Jul 25, 2013

Well said Bill. Common sense and courtesy are still good qualities that we should utilize.

Violet Arzadon

commented on Jul 25, 2013

Of course, you can always quote from the Bible whether from the Old or New Testament. Would you plagiarize Jesus Christ? Aren't we encouraged to memorize verses? And we do the same to our Sunday School charges. Give your own original examples as prompted by the Holy Spirit.

Christian K

commented on Jul 25, 2013

interesting article...im sure I've seen it before?! Does this mean what is taught in bible college cannot be preached at the pulpit?

Selzing Miri

commented on Jul 25, 2013

I absolutely agree with Davis Daniels. 2 Tim.2:2?"And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also". I think we should focus on giving glory to God who inspired us to speak in His power rather than giving glory to men. I believe the messages published here are mained to be share if one is blessed through it, so where comes the issue of plagiarism? For your information, I will by the grace of God be sharing one of the messages that blessed me this sunday with my congregation. I dont preach to gain glory but that the people be blessed and Christ glorify.

Elder Johnathan Hester

commented on Jul 25, 2013

There is no such thing as Plagiarism in Ministry, for Gods word is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow and if it's bible versed it's Gods word in used for the edification of the soul, and the glory of God,not for the pumping up of man, I share my sermons and illustrations with young and upcoming Ministers, to be used to uplift the Kingdom not I,If me ,myself and I, is the issue then we miss the mark.

Doug Conley

commented on Jul 25, 2013

If you can use my work to help you bring another soul to the Lord, I say, "AMEN!". www.meyersdalecoc.org

Robert Sullivan

commented on Jul 25, 2013

As I have followed this discussion, I have seen merit on both sides of the issue. Those who opt for full disclosure generally make it a matter of 'personal integrity' to combat the notion that 'we are free' to simply present the gospel without the encumbrance of the 'original' source. Those who opt for 'freedom' generally negate the 'law' entirely in favor of the concept of 'freely you have received, freely give'. Personal integrity is just that, personal! Each of us stand or fall before our Master, not the conscience of others. At the same time, those who opt for freedom are not to use their freedom in a way that causes others to be hindered in their walk with Christ. The whole dispute seems reminiscent of the Scribes and Pharisees arguing over points of the Law regarding personal behavior in keeping the Law? while at the whole time they were both under the subjection of the Roman government, with its corrupt society and legal system... and imposition of certain types of behavior. In 2000 years, apparently little has changed in our dealing with this controversy. And Jesus, being the most controversial preacher in all of history, only adds fuel to the fire because of his regular use of paradox to illustrate his points. The 12 regularly had to ask him what he meant with his illustrations. We are just as guilty of 'division' as those 1st century religious leaders when we draw battle lines and entrench ourselves on one side of an issue and 'take shots' at the other side as though they are the enemy. Jesus, while telling Paul that he was not subject to the temple tax, instructed him to pay it anyway for the sake of his conscience. He also acknowledged that we might find ourselves living under a corrupt legal system (I see very little difference between the Roman empire and the current U.S.) and should simply 'render unto Cesar AND unto God'. I, for one, believe in freedom. But I will continue to quote sources. Not for my own conscience, but for the sake of some of my brothers consciences, who opt to live under the 'law of the land' as being superior to the freedom we have in Christ. No excuses. Live free, but avoid offence.

Jeff Strite

commented on Jul 25, 2013

I'm not losing any sleep over borrowing an "idea" from someone. You might define that as plagiarism but I don't. However, if I quote a person, or use their story in a sermon I'll put their name in my sermon at least the written form like in sermoncentral. However, when I'm preaching before an audience I'll often say "someone once said" to avoid sounding like it was my quote or story. I don't want to claim credit for clever wording or impressive stories that aren't mine, but I also don't want to get bogged down reciting names that the audience doesn't know nor care about.

Robert Sullivan

commented on Jul 25, 2013

In reading what I just posted, I find myself guilty of some form of plagiarism. I attributed a source to 'Paul' when it was actually 'Peter'. Unintentional, but never the less, incorrect. I can only wonder how many times in my 50 years of ministry I've done that. Thank God for grace!

Kevin Kleinhenz

commented on Jul 25, 2013

I post messages I have preached at our church on-line and I had a pastor friend tell me that he listened to one and he liked it enough to preach it to his congregation. I am almost sure he did not tell his church it was inspired by me, but I really don't care! I was honored that he felt it was something the body of Christ needed. I heard a very well known mega church pastor from the Houston area many years ago do a series that was almost a complete repeating of Max Lucado's "In the Grip of Grace" I had just finished the book so I knew where these "inspired" thoughts were coming from. I think if you are going to attempt to make thousands of dollars from c.d. sales on someone else's material that is copy righted that is a totally different subject. As for me I often use multiple sources for a single message now I am going to have to figure out how to keep these messages under an hour by mentioning every 2 minutes a "source". I see the intention of this article but really do not find it "practical".

William Rumbaugh

commented on Jul 25, 2013

An unusual article to have posted on a sermon sharing site.

Anonymous

commented on Jul 25, 2013

I totally agree with Kevin Joseph! I think this article has a lot of trickery to it!

Charlie Carroll

commented on Jul 25, 2013

I understand if I stand up in my church and proclaim that I have a new vision God is leading me to create a program that deals with The Purpose Driven Church, and I plan on marketing this theme and follow up with a program on The Purpose Driven Life, I completely understand and agree that is nothing short of stealing. I know this seems extreme and probably not what brother Matt is talking about but after 20 plus years in ministry I have read many sermons, devotions, commentaries, etc., and there is no way that I can remember where all of this came from other than the Holy Spirit. I know this sounds like a cop out but I assure you at almost 60 years old remembering what I preached last Sunday is a chore. I am afraid that if we concentrate to much on crediting others it might cause someone that is truly being led by the Holy Spirit too speak on a subject remain quite for fear of plagiarism. I read in one of the post that the people that are not agreeing with this article are probably guilty of plagiarism is again pretty extreme. I do a daily devotion and I write this devotion daily. I have read so much different material that in no way can I remember all of the sources that I heard or read from. So if I cannot remember do I refrain from speaking or teaching or preaching on this topic? I don?t think so, I have also worked in General Industry as well as Construction as a OSHA approved trainer and we process all kinds of teaching topics and methodology to insure our people get the latest and greatest material out there. And we are talking about personal body safety. In preaching we are talking about so much more we are talking about where some will spend eternity. How am I going to stand before Christ after Him going through the death and humility of the cross and tell Him that I got upset with my brother because he used one of my ?ideas? and did not give me credit. Shame on us I am absolutely tickled plum to death if someone mentions to me that something I wrote or said was repeated and used by the Holy Spirit used to give them a word that this world is in need of hearing. If I say it you can take it and use it how the Holy Spirit leads you. There is no way I as a preacher could pull up Sermon Central and print off a sermon and get up Sunday morning and preach that sermon. I don?t know about you but God does not allow me to do that not because of plagiarism but because if He did not give it too me then it might fall on deaf ears. And that is a real tragedy. I am in no way slamming bro Matt for this article because it truly made me think and search my heart for the things I say and hold myself accountable.

Rev. Osbourn Ross

commented on Jul 25, 2013

I can understand Matt's concern about plagiarism in its general or academic term. It is wrong to copy someone's work without giving credit to the author when the person doing the copying is going to benefit academically (Professional degree or certification) from the material. When it comes to ministry especially pulpit ministry, where does the original source come from? Can anyone who labored in prayer for a week and got a word from God for the church claim that material as original? Suppose I did the same (intense seeking God for a message on a similar text) and came up with a similar version to one that has been published, would you call that plagiarism? I am of the opinion that no one can lay claim to the knowledge given to them by the Holy Spirit for the church as personal. It is sad that ministers try to sell a word from God as if it was given to them exclusively and for personal gain. Our mission here is to expand the kingdom of God using only the word of God; who cares who gets the credit. one day all of our works will be tried by fire, some will be purified and others burnt up. Let us not loose sight of our mission. All credit and citations should be given to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Edgar Dotson

commented on Jul 25, 2013

Eddie states: I do not care if all of the sermons that I have written are broadcast around the world. The only guide I use is if it is Copy Written I will give credit, but if not I will use it. I guess I have been guilty of plagiarism for over 40 years. Were do we come off so prideful that we cannot use a good sermon outline from someone else. Since I have stated this, I have never preached a sermon like anyone else has given it or written it. I usually change it to fit my personality and ministry. If we cannot use the sermons on Sermon Central for ministry and rearrange them to fit our needs, close Sermon Central down. By the way I love this site, but the argument is going too far on plagiarism. Get over yourself and allow God to bless the body with each other's ministry unless it is Copy Written and then state, to give credit which I will do. Sincerely

Edgar Dotson

commented on Jul 25, 2013

Eddie states: I do not care if all of the sermons that I have written are broadcast around the world. The only guide I use is if it is Copy Written I will give credit, but if not I will use it. I guess I have been guilty of plagiarism for over 40 years. Were do we come off so prideful that we cannot use a good sermon outline from someone else. Since I have stated this, I have never preached a sermon like anyone else has given it or written it. I usually change it to fit my personality and ministry. If we cannot use the sermons on Sermon Central for ministry and rearrange them to fit our needs, close Sermon Central down. By the way I love this site, but the argument is going too far on plagiarism. Get over yourself and allow God to bless the body with each other's ministry unless it is Copy Written and then state, to give c

Susan Loke

commented on Jul 25, 2013

May I know pastors and teachers would you called it plagiarism if a preacher reads word for word from someone else's sermon found in the internet. And he does it every time he is at the pulpit. Would it be considered God's Word for the local church where he is preaching the sermon? The only thing he did was to change the title of the sermon.

Dave

commented on Jul 26, 2013

i am a Pastor and also a full time evangelist, i am always looking for new ways of presenting the scriptures in everyday language and illustrations, nearly everytime i hear a quote or story that illustrates a bible principle i try to remember it to use in evangelism. Am i supposed to remember the name of the person who quoted it and then presume to tell the person i am witnessing to the source of my illustration. We get so caught up in the worlds idea of running church the worlds idea of leadership and that's why the church is in such a mess and the people we are trying to reach stay away. Get real folks, it's about a lost and dying world, not about minister egos.

Christian K

commented on Jul 26, 2013

this is one article I definitely wont be using....

Daniel Heaberlin

commented on Jul 26, 2013

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. If I stopped here, would that be plagiarism? No matter what I say about the subject I am afraid I joined the conversation too late not to plagiarise someone elses thought... But I will say, there have been times when I have given credit, and times when I have not... If it disrupts the flow of the sermon I generally will not.

Clarence Lawson

commented on Jul 27, 2013

I understand the idea behind not plagiarizing a book, video, work of art, song, musical tune etc... But a sermon is there to be used to bring someone to Christ. Sermons should come from the Lord. Chances are if your sermon is not from the Lord then It won't have enough life in it for me to use anyway! If it is from the Lord it's not yours to claim. It is there to Preach, Proclaim, Share, Spread abroad... I often say a generic "The Bible says..." Without saying if it was James, Paul or Luke.

Clarence Lawson

commented on Jul 27, 2013

I understand the idea behind not plagiarizing a book, video, work of art, song, musical tune etc... But a sermon is there to be used to bring someone to Christ. Sermons should come from the Lord. Chances are if your sermon is not from the Lord then It won't have enough life in it for me to use anyway! If it is from the Lord it's not yours to claim. It is there to Preach, Proclaim, Share, Spread abroad... I often say a generic "The Bible says..." Without saying if it was James, Paul or Luke.

Daniel Israel

commented on Jul 29, 2013

Most of our Easter/Christmas sermons seem to be plagiarized! I poured my heart out in prayer and preached a message that came straight from the throne of grace. A lady approached me and told me that it was a great sermon, but she heard the very same message in the radio on her way to church! So much for the originality!

Sophia Carter

commented on Jul 30, 2013

when it comes to sermons, isnt it suppose to be God inspired? Aren't pastors suppose to lean on God and the Holy Spirit for wisdom and understanding of Scripture and then share what He reveals to them and the message He has for His church. Are you not doing the Lord's work and are we not all part of the body of Christ. So where does this carnal, worldly concept of plagiarism find its place here. Why is plagiarism important in God's work? Because a pastor will get offended that someone used his sermon? Or the congregation will give the credit to the wrong person? I don't understand this article nor the level of thinking some of you display. It is disappointing.

Rufus David

commented on Aug 1, 2013

Yes it is true that we get a message from the Lord and preach and then the Holy Spirit convicts. Having heard messages over the years and having read quite a lot what we preach will contain all that is inside of us especially stuff that have impacted us a lot. But we may be intentionally using bright ideas and thoughts from different people to convey that core message. If we use it as if it is our own idea or as if directly received from God, then it is a lie. We make a false projection of ourselves. We need to humbly acknowledge that it is not our own but whose idea or thought it is. Even while using others? sermons (which I don?t recommend) or while using others? sermon outlines (even with some changes) it is a Godly act to give credit to those it is due. It is an ethical issue and not to be spiritualised - Rufus David, India.

Dilseng M. Sangma

commented on Aug 8, 2013

A great reminder for pastors and teachers of the Word. Personally I will not mind if ever a preacher quotes and shares an idea that is mine originally. It is also good to remember that we are called to be faithful stewards of God's word. God's word is powerful and it is not easy for simple folks to understand. If we can contribute to the people of God by making God's Word known then credits goes to the Almighty. I believe this is our purpose as a preacher of the Word. For Word is of God and should be shared without restriction.

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