Improve your sermon prep with our brand new study tools! Learn all about them here.
Preaching Articles



I reviewed a copy of Scott Gibson's book, Should We Use Someone Else's Sermon? published by Zondervan. Scott's the Director of the Center for Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and co-founder of the Evangelical Homiletics Society.

His book squarely addresses the issue of plagiarism in the pulpit and has a lot of good insight into answering the question posed by the title of the book.  The book is extensively researched and articulately written, including vivid examples of pastors who have gotten into deep water with their sermon preparation practices. Just the book's style and intellectual treatment of the topic makes it worth reading.  It's a fairly brief book with just over a hundred pages and carefully prepared with 324 endnotes.  I recommend that preachers get a copy.

In my observation, the book is a fairly hard-hitting presentation, starting with words like "sermon-stealing" and ending by calling plagiarism "sin."  There is a whole lot in between that examines different angles on sermon sharing, including historical examples down through the centuries.  I'll share my reflections here, some in contrast to the book.

The book basically answers its own question with "We shouldn't use someone else's sermon," or at least we shouldn't plagiarize another's sermon. A better title to the book might be Should We Plagiarize Someone Else's Sermon? I think my article title leads to a bit more of a messy discussion and, perhaps, conclusion.

With a fascinating and extensive run up to defining the word "plagiarism," Scott cites two definitions of the term, one from Haddon Robinson:

"In a world of preaching, a pastor who takes sermons from other preachers – word-for-word – without giving credit is guilty of plagiarism. That is stealing what is not yours."

I think the "giving credit" element is critical but also problematic.  Dr. Robinson's definition raises other questions:  If we quote 50 words from another pastor – word-for-word – and don't cite them, is that stealing? What about 100 words?  500 words?  An entire sermon?  What if we quote anything or anyone in as little as a sentence?  Or two?  Is that stealing? The definition can get blurry.

In another instance, Dr. Robinson is quoted as saying:

"It's hard to footnote sermons. There's no way to make people in the pews understand all of the sources you are using, especially if they're highly academic sources. I don't think anyone expects preachers to stand up there and quote all of their reference books and commentaries by name."

Robinson's point is excellently made, though it seems to conflict with the earlier point.  If we preach a sermon like a professor writes a text book, the art of preaching will clearly be undone.  We're faced with this tension, and it's not going to go away.  Hopefully, pastors can develop a framework which can facilitate healthy decision making in their sermon preparation process.

The other definition of "plagiarism" in the book is from a journalist:

"Plagiarism is borrowing someone else's words and passing them off as one's own, whether in print, in speech or performance."

So here's another question:  If we borrow someone else's words and don't pass them off as our own, are we okay then?  For example, if I memorize and recite the Sermon on the Mount or the Declaration of Independence, is that plagiarism?  No. The world knows the content is not mine.  The same is true of a homily in Latin provided from the Vatican or Archdiocese. The audience understands from the context that the priest didn't write the sermon.

I could ask the same about Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.  By the time I got to "the content of his character," my audience

would know I didn't invent the speech.  So, I wouldn't be violating their trust. But, I might be violating the law with a copyright infringement.

Another example: If I modify the language of a Charles Spurgeon sermon and preach it without citation, is that plagiarism? Maybe. My guess is Spurgeon would be thrilled—and disinterested in a royalty!  But it might cause a breach of trust with my audience.

Still another example: If I find a great sermon from another pastor on Matthew 24 filled with crisp, current illustrations, and I recite it verbatim without citation, is that plagiarism? It's pretty hard to argue that it's not, even if he's given me permission to use the sermon. Using someone else's content extensively requires permission from both the source and from your audience.

In an article in The Wall Street Journal, Steve Sjogren emphatically stated, "Don't be original. Be effective!" He urged pastors to quit spending time striving for originality; they should instead recite the words of better sermonizers. "We need to get over the idea that we have to be completely original with our messages each and every week. The guys I draw encouragement from...get 70 percent of their material from someone else." I think that Steve's on tenuous ground as we must ask the question, "Just how is the 70 percent handled?"  I do agree with his point that the expectation of originality can go too far.

Rick Warren is emphatic in the sermons he provides: "Use them!" He asks for no citation. However, a pastor using Rick's sermons must assess the expectation of his or her congregation. Most listeners expect a certain level of originality, and if it's not there, they probably expect a citation of some sort.

Several years ago I asked Max Lucado about his sermon preparation. With no apology (but with great humility), he shared that he has preached someone else's sermons before. It was during a very dry time in his life due to multiple book projects and a heavy pastoral load in his church. He was just wiped out.  This is how he handled it: He called another pastor friend, told him he was in need, and asked if he could preach to his church the same series his friend had just preached at his church.  The friend readily agreed. Max openly told his church the source of his material, he preached the messages, and all was well. He clearly borrowed someone else's work and words, but he did not pass them off as his own; so I sensed no violation of conscience. I, too, would have liberty of conscience under the same circumstances, properly handled.

I believe that conscience is one of three major issues here.  "Am I guarding my own conscience in my sermon preparation and delivery?"  I must add that my conscience has to guide me, and your conscience has to guide you. If the conscience of others dictates my own, then my conscience will incessantly be conflicted. We aren't wired to be driven by the conscience of another; each person's conscience must stand or fall on its own. The conscience of some preachers compels them to cite meticulously; others aren't so compelled. We must have faith before God that our sermon preparation is approved by him.

 "Why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience?" (1 Corinthians 10:29 NIV)

The second major issue is diligence. "Am I faithfully studying the Word that I am preaching?"  If using the work of another is simply an excuse or temptation to neglect my solemn duty, I've strayed from my calling. Chuck Swindoll emphasized this to me over and over in an interview: "Sermon preparation is hard work." We are workers.

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15; NIV)

The third major issue is that of trust. Frankly, I think this issue brings the most clarity to Scott Gibson's question. If our mode of sermon preparation breaks trust with those to whom we preach, then the answer to the question posed by the book's title is a clear "No." How can a relationship proceed with broken trust? It cannot unless it is restored. And restoring trust is far more difficult than guarding trust in the first place. There are pastors who have paid with their jobs to demonstrate this.

So, in answer to the question, "Should we use someone else's sermon?" I would say that in many, many cases, the answer can legitimately be "Yes." We can use the sermons of Jesus, Paul, Peter, Stephen, Calvin, Edwards, Wesley, Moody, Finney, Sunday, Graham, and many, many others. Anthologies of sermons have been valuable tools for preachers for hundreds of years. Now (as on SermonCentral.com), we have more than a hundred thousand sermons available online, including some of the great sermons of history as well as contemporary sermons of pastoral peers. I believe these, properly used, are a tremendous resource.

Should we deliver them verbatim while secretly concealing the source? Certainly not. But compare them, study them, glean from them, treat the online collection as a million-page commentary on virtually every verse in the Bible? I think so.

Think of the precious time and money that pastors have saved by learning directly from each other online. Pastors are among the busiest people on the planet. They must balance the demands of studying the Word and accomplishing much, much more with their congregations and communities (admittedly, often too much more). SermonCentral is about assisting pastors in more efficient, biblical sermon preparation, a highly time-and energy-consuming activity.

(Note: To guide what we consider to be the proper and improper use of the resources on our site, we recommend that users join more than 10,000 other preachers and teachers in affirming The Preacher's Pledge.)

I'd like to delineate between the three terms I've used in regards to the use of others' work. I'll also give some examples of how they play out in preaching (these are my own definitions):

  • Plagiarism: Taking the work of another and representing it as your own. (Actually, that one might be stolen! I honestly can't remember.)
  • Quotation: Taking a limited portion of the work of another and representing it as such.
  • Citation: Identifying the source of a quotation.

Are we required to always cite? Haddon Robinson has expressed that complete citation of all sources is very problematic. If I preach the sentence, "Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty," do I have to reference John Donne? I think not. I may, but I don't have to. Everyone either knows that Donne wrote the sentence, or if not, they know that I didn't write it! Either way, it's obvious that it's not my original thought. Similarly, if I say, "We're not trying to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. We're just trying to share Jesus with someone by the end of the week," must I necessarily cite John F. Kennedy? No.

Does this mean quotes need not be cited? Often they should, especially when a quickly mentioned name can get the job done. A preacher will constantly be faced with a stream of decisions about how to present materials and when or if to cite a source. Through intellect and conscience, each of us is equipped to regularly make those decisions. (Romans 14:22-23)

In terms of operating guidelines, the longer the quote, the more likely a citation is needed. Also, the less a quote is known, the more likely a citation is appropriate. JFK might not need a reference, but a little-known pithy summary of the Bible by Henry Johnson probably merits a citation.

In summary, if we are guarding our conscience, working hard to study a passage, and maintaining trust with our hearers, we should enjoy full freedom to utilize the sermons of others. I agree with Scott Gibson that we should not plagiarize someone else's sermon. In the framework I've presented here, I think he'll probably agree that there can be real value in using someone's sermon, so long as it does not violate conscience, diligence, and trust. I'll email him a copy of this article with an opportunity to share further in our article forum.

It's remarkable that we have the privilege of holding in our hands the very words of God, to preach those words, and with them to shepherd God's people. Thankfully we have a community of peers to learn from, to challenge us, and to encourage us along the way.

Ron Forseth is Editor-at-Large for SermonCentral.com, ChurchLeaders.com, and FaithIt.com. He studied for two years with Wycliffe Bible Translators and has a passion to share Christ and see all people groups of the world reached with the Gospel. He served for several years as a college pastor in Colorado and in Christian service for most of the 1990s in China and Mongolia. He is General Manager of Outreach Media Group and Vice President of Outreach, Inc., an organization dedicated to inviting and connecting every person in America to a Bible-believing church so that they might have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Ron lives with his wife, Carol, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Browse All

Related Preaching Articles

Talk about it...

John E Miller

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Why anyone would want to use Rick Warren's sermons in part or whole is beyond me. The idea of using anyone else's sermons at all is in itself the admission that a man is bereft of knowledge of God's word as the Holy Spirit would use it through him. In 1 Cor.1:17-25 Paul describes the basis of his preaching. His second letter to Timothy was probably the last letter that he wrote that is part of the canon of scripture. In ch.4:1-5 he gives Timothy clear instructions for his preaching. In verse 3 he gives specific instructions of the falsehood of "seeker-sensitive" preaching and in verse 5 urges Timothy to "fulfil your ministry". In other words Timothy had been given his own ministry and that was what he must fulfil if he was to be serviceable to God. Using other mens' sermons is empty repetition, particularly when they are the sermons of men who are not faithful to the word of God.

Gilbert D Vitaliz

commented on Apr 14, 2012

I agree that there can be no hard and fast rule regarding the use of someone else's sermon. After all, IF the message is really from God then there is no human ownership. Still, a preacher needs to guard his choice of which sermon to use. First, he is God's messenger to his people. He should first listen to God through prayer and study of the Word. Second, he should carefully guard his church's distinctives. As much as Sermon Central and the like are great resources for busy preacher's, he cannot be indiscriminate. Finally, his congregation's culture behooves him to at least re-state another's sermon. Believe me, English is not the same in every culture.

Beverly Birchfield

commented on Apr 14, 2012

When I have read over various materials, be it books, sermons, or commentary, some of what I read sticks and I cannot remove it from my memory...some of it is subconscious...some may even get into my spirit. I have no way of knowing who deserves the credit...these readings become a part of my creativity... Isn't it so that some water, some plant but God gives the increase... i have listened to persons who sit under certain ministers, many times I cannot tell who is the actual minister, the disciple or the mentor, because each have the same mannerisms and accents, not to mention the same message...I don't believe this is sinful, just growth...as God intended.

Bruce Emmert

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Saying things like "If the message is from God then there is no human ownership" misses Forseth's point entirely. Saying things like "I have no way of knowing who deserves the credit" also misses Forseth's point. Plagiarism in this context is knowingly and purposely using sermon content written by another person without acknowledging having done so either verbally or as a footnote WITH the intention of passing it off as the product of one's own Holy Spirit inspired discernment, study and writing or outlining. We obviously stand on the shoulders of brothers and sisters in Christ who have come before us and are influenced and inspired by those who stand shoulder to shoulder with us for the sake of Christ and His Gospel. And so, obviously, not every thought or idea that we might preach on a Sunday morning wells up from our own independent, Holy Spirit driven, Word of God informed work. The only issue here is whether a preacher with purpose and intention seeks to represent that he or she authored something that he or she knows full well someone else authored. Plagiarism in this context is not an issue of stealing someone else's work, it is an issue of lying before God and man by claiming to have done something one knows full and well he or she did not in fact do. Why is being honest and upfront with the congregation, God and oneself about the source of sermon material so difficult?

Doug Conley

commented on Apr 14, 2012

I wonder if any of the writers in the Bible were worried about who got the credit. So, we work together as long as we get the credit due us. Sounds kind of prideful to me. I thought we were to give God the glory.

Paul Newell

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Who was it that said, "When better sermons are preached... I'll preach them." :-)

Bruce Emmert

commented on Apr 14, 2012

The issue is not about the author deserving or even wanting credit. The issue is about a preacher claiming to have authored something that he or she knows full well he or she did not author. What is wrong with simply being honest about it? How does intentionally claiming someone else's work as one's own honor God?

Alexander Shaw

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Quite a challenging article to be sent on a Saturday Evening!

Josh Marihugh

commented on Apr 14, 2012

When my Dad began in the ministry, he prepared a sermon that he has shared with multiple congregations, entitled "What to Do When All Your Friends Want to Stone You." (The message was taken from the story of David after the pillage of Ziklag.) Years later, I heard another preacher with a similar message (not identical, and I know he'd never heard Dad's message), entitled "What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life. Not long ago, I wound up preaching a message, using Dad's title, and the message itself was somewhere between the two messages. I told my congregation that night, up front, that I was borrowing the title and many of the main points from others, but that it would be in my own words, as the Spirit led.

Denn Guptill

commented on Apr 14, 2012

A Pastor emailed me to let me know he had used a message of mine from Sermon Central on Easter Sunday and 7 people made commitments. I was thrilled.

Marci Hafemeister

commented on Apr 14, 2012

People come to church to be fed. They want to feel they got their "moneys worth". If somebody took the long route to create it are we not allowed to use their knowledge to save us the trip.

Rowel Del Mundo

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Is there still original message today that has not been preach in this day of age. To claim originality is hypocrisy.

Steve Fish

commented on Apr 14, 2012

It's interesting to me that this discussion is happening on sermoncentral.com... Even if I did use someone else's sermon in its entirety I could not preach it as it was written. I would stumble all over myself. Preaching takes work... use the work of others... be honest... and preach the word.

Julius Magee Ii

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Well, after reading the article, I have this question? Are we looking for credit for what has been said, or are we trying to win souls for Christ? Apparently, some people are having an issue on what is being said. Using someone elses sermon is one thing, taking credit for it is another. I myself will not take credit for what is being said behind the pulpit for the credit belongs to the Lord! We live in an age when everyone is so greedy they are forgetting the focus. I could care less if someone took a phrase or two from me and used it to help bring someone to Christ or help my parishioners come closer because it is not about me. If that was the case, then we all are guilty starting with using the scriptures that we read from the word of God. It is about His story and not our story. Our focus again is "if any man come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me!" We have so many DOCTOR'S IN THE PULPIT, yet the people are still sick in the house they are serving and this is because we are bickering over someone is having a problem with plagiarism. Are we to immitate the Pharisees and be like Hypocrites? When is enough, enough? When in college, we have to pull and quote from the author's who wrote the whatever's and give them credit. What happens when because you have learned so much that it is instilled within you that you wind up using what you have learned in a message because the Spirit moved you into using that particular quote or phrase? So at this point, because I can continue, if someone gets upset just because, then I say take it up with the Spirit of God. These messages are not or should not be ours anyway, but what the Lord has given us to share with others and if by chance someone in the congregation loved what was said and chose to use it, then so be it. Even if I get the credit or not. It wasn't mine in the first place. It all comes from the Lord! I don't need to use scripture to make a point even though I used one, but we as clergy should not get hung up on the plagiarism. It takes away the real cause of what we are trying to do! "Oh, I better not say that. I didn't get permission yet" or "I wish I could use that but I didn't call Pastor So/So to see if it was alright" and because of that, someone is now lost or has turned away just because! So I hope this helps because whether or not, I still will keep going in the name that is above every name and not worry about if I used someones line to get a point across. Suing me is not helping the cause but hurting. We shouldn't be selfish. I'm glad someone may quote from me. It let's me know I'm doing a good job for the Lord and not for man!

Matt Worstell

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Out of curiosity, were we having this debate 30 years ago? I seem to remember seeing a row of sermon outline books on my dad's shelves growing up. What's the difference between those and using one from sites like sermoncentral?

Charles Klock

commented on Apr 14, 2012

The Apostle Paul had no worries about plagerism. To Timothy he commanded "The things thy hast heard of me, among many witnesses the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also." Paul was hopeful that the truth Timothy heard from him would be given to others who would take the same truth a.d share it with others. Paul encouraged others to plagerise his work.

Charles Klock

commented on Apr 14, 2012

The Apostle Paul had no worries about plagerism. To Timothy he commanded "The things thy hast heard of me, among many witnesses the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also." Paul was hopeful that the truth Timothy heard from him would be given to others who would take the same truth a.d share it with others. Paul encouraged others to plagerise his work.

Glenn Hawkins

commented on Apr 14, 2012

The fact that we are even having this discussion tells me how far fallen God's shepherds, who are supposed to be examples of integrity, are. How can a pastor ask members of his congregation to live a trustworthy life if the pastor is himself is plagiarizing a message for the flock the Lord has entrusted to his care? Ask ANY person what would happen to their jobs on Monday if they would apply the same approach and attitude at their places of work as what is passed off as "homiletic license" in many pulpits on Sunday? The answer is obvious. Can we, who are to be the examples of integrity to our people, do any less than our congregants in their secular jobs? A quick look at the apostles' writings tells us they were men of integrity--they cited their sources. We have entire seminary classes that deal with this subject. I believe they are called, "O.T. Usage in the New". Allusions and quotations cited by the apostles abound. And lest we forget, these were men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to pen inspired Scripture! Remember Paul on Mars Hill. Though he didn't cite the actual names of the pagan poets, he referenced them. There seems to be an appalling lack of biblical integrity in our pulpits today. Part of that has to do, in my opinion, with how pastors (who in large measure are evangelists who belong on the streets; leave the pastoring to those with the God-given gifts) treat the authority of the word of God. Often the text presented is merely used to prove the speaker's point; the word of God is not expounded and applied, but merely exploited for the speaker's own purpose. With that said, please don't take this as me being mean spirited; there needs to be many more pastors filling the pulpits, declaring the Truth of Scripture in all of it's power and majesty. My heart breaks when I hear what should be a straight forward treatment of the text turn into, by the speaker, nothing more than a springboard for his own "wisdom", while claiming to have heard a "word from the Lord".

Theodore Payne

commented on Apr 14, 2012

There are times that many of us are found reading information, some may be from the sermon central, another book, or a special message. either way are we found guilty of stealing anothers sermon ? If it is the word of God, it is fair game, but I never feel justified in just copying an entire message from another.

Matt Worstell

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Out of curiosity, were we having this debate 30 years ago? I seem to remember seeing a row of sermon outline books on my dad's shelves growing up. What's the difference between those and using one from sites like sermoncentral?

Hal Seed

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Congratulations Ron! This is one of the best thought-out and well articulated articles I've read from Better Preaching. The three tests ring true! Here's a dilemma you didn't cover: in our day and age, Outreach (and perhaps others) pre-packages sermons for Church-Wide Campaigns designed specifically to be used by pastors during the series/campaign. I've written more than 3 dozen of these for you guys and every time I do, I want to say "DON'T CITE ME!" - I say this because I have written these specifically to help younger preachers raise the quality of their sermons and drive home the point of the sermon or series. You didn't treat this circumstance. Do you think it's covered by the "implied" understanding that when a church does a packaged Campaign or series the people know intuitively that the pastor at least got some help from the packager's source? I hope so. I agree that we don't want to violate conscience, but when I write these "sample sermons" I want to set guys (and gals) free to preach their best, with my help. We're all in this together to reach people for Christ.

Jonathan Filson

commented on Apr 14, 2012

This discussion is very disheartening to me. It totally tears down the body. I have always told the congregation that I am serving that I glean from all kinds of places - Sermon Outlines, Commentaries and yes even this site. Are we really so foolish to believe that everything coming out of our mouths is Spirit inspired and totally original with ourselves. There is tremendous value and many of you have blessed me with your insights on passages of scripture and your understanding. If I have violated you in using your words to share the Gospel then I am most sorry.

Steve Fish

commented on Apr 14, 2012

I thought I learned way back in my NT Survey Class that even the Gospel writers borrowed from each other. So, did Mark plagiarize Matthew, or did Matthew plagiarize Mark? Or, did they both plagiarize Q. Then what about Luke? As preachers we must be honest. We can't use other peoples illustrations as our own. We should not preach some else's sermon as our own, but to say that use someone else's outline or idea for a sermon without quoting sources is dishonest. I disagree.

Td Pangilinan

commented on Apr 14, 2012

I agree with Ron Forsythe's insight on this matter. Like with anything, we must learn to discern and judge our own motives. As a preacher, I have continually gleaned and learned from others as part of my learning process. There would be times when I hear other preachers preach a sermon that is so complete that it would be almost an injustice to alter it. However, What I have discovered is this, " I can never preach another preacher's sermon like another preacher," even if you're not preaching your original sermon, you will inadvertently preach it according to your personal style and in response to your audience's faith and circumstances. Since preaching according to Spurgeon is "caring for (the hearers') souls." As far as serving "good food" to your congregation is concerned I think it's ok to get some tried and tested recipes from others who may be better cooks than yourself. In the last 20 years of preaching, my growth and inspiration did not just come from my time of prayer and personal study but also from other ministers and mentors who have challenged my paradigms and doctrinal stance both by their writings and spoken word. By all means, we need to give credit where it's due but the glory must go to God. So what's my My response when others use my message and not give me credit? "glory to God!" Further, here's what Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy2:@, "You have HEARD ME teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach THESE TRUTHS to other trustworthy people who will be able to PASS THEM ON to others." In the end, The preacher's goal should never be to compose and preach the greatest sermon in the world but to persuade souls unto Christ. Besides, "If what we preach is truth, then pass it on!"

Td Pangilinan

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Sorry for misspelling your last name Ron, (for the sake of the those who strain the gnat, et al) just want to make I cited the right person.

Garth Wehrfritz- Hanson

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Thought provoking article, that's generated some interesting discussion. Two thoughts come to mind for me after reading the article and discussion. Many years ago, I read an article, I think it was by Wm. H. Willimon, in either the Christian Century or Christian Ministry. In the article he made the case for the early Christian church freely using/plagiarizing thoughts or material from others, likely without even understanding the meaning of plagiarism or copyright. I too doubt whether the notion of copyright was a conscious concept among most Christian writers and preachers until the invention of the printing press in the age of the Reformation. On the other hand, one of my seminary professors used to say that if we preachers want to be entirely honest about our sermons, then we should begin preaching the sermon with quotation marks and end the sermon with quotation marks. In truth, there are very few "original" thinkers/preachers, and not much is new under the sun.

Dr. Blessing Foluso Adeoye

commented on Apr 14, 2012

I need some clarifications here. When I am writing an academic paper, I cite all my sources; I gave all the credits to the references that I use because it is an academic environment. But when it comes to using the words of God to win soul, I usually use a combination of my note, insight from other pastors to speak the word. Sometimes I give credits and some other time I do not. I am serving in a place where sometimes it is difficult to get materials and to even get on the Internet is impossible. I remember many occasions; I use my Pastors sermon outline, study it and preach to the people without giving credit. I know my Pastor will not care about giving him credit. Now, are you saying that I have committed sins, I cannot make it to heaven because I have preached using other pastors sermon outline without given credits. But souls have been won for God's glory and lives have been transformed. What is important? I did not ask for money from the audience.

Dr. Blessing Foluso Adeoye

commented on Apr 14, 2012

I need some clarifications here. When I am writing an academic paper, I cite all my sources; I gave all the credits to the references that I use because it is an academic environment. But when it comes to using the words of God to win soul, I usually use a combination of my note, insight from other pastors to speak the word. Sometimes I give credits and some other time I do not. I am serving in a place where sometimes it is difficult to get materials and to even get on the Internet is impossible. I remember many occasions; I use my Pastors sermon outline, study it and preach to the people without giving credit. I know my Pastor will not care about giving him credit. Now, are you saying that I have committed sins, I cannot make it to heaven because I have preached using other pastors sermon outline without given credits. But souls have been won for God's glory and lives have been transformed. What is important? I did not ask for money from the audience.

Dr. Blessing Foluso Adeoye

commented on Apr 14, 2012

I need some clarifications here. When I am writing an academic paper, I cite all my sources; I gave all the credits to the references that I use because it is an academic environment. But when it comes to using the words of God to win soul, I usually use a combination of my note, insight from other pastors to speak the word. Sometimes I give credits and some other time I do not. I am serving in a place where sometimes it is difficult to get materials and to even get on the Internet is impossible. I remember many occasions; I use my Pastors sermon outline, study it and preach to the people without giving credit. I know my Pastor will not care about giving him credit. Now, are you saying that I have committed sins, I cannot make it to heaven because I have preached using other pastors sermon outline without given credits. But souls have been won for God's glory and lives have been transformed. What is important? I did not ask for money from the audience.

Robert Glass

commented on Apr 14, 2012

According to 1 Cor.4:1, We are to be stewards of the mysteries of God. As Good stewards, we should let our YES be YES and OUR NO, NO. We can't let our YES, be someone else's YES. Our NO can't be someone else's NO, it has to be OUR no. Stealing is wrong.

Thomas Sterbens

commented on Apr 14, 2012

I heard Jack Hayford once say something on this matter. I think it hits the spirit of the issue at hand. I will attempt to quote (wording may be off a bit, but content and intent will be in tact - smile). "If you are not willing to acknowledge the creativity of the Creator at work in another, it is doubtful He will give much of your own." It really is a matter of pride vs. worship. It may be impossible to pen the specific parameters of the violation, but it is something we all "know" when we have crossed the line.

Cynthia Jennison

commented on Apr 14, 2012

I quote people all the time. If it is a well-known person, I say something like, "Martin Luther King, Jr. once said..." If less well-known, I say, "One Bible commentator notes..." Then in the footnotes of my manuscript, I give the complete citation. If someone wants to see the sources, I can hand them the printed sermon. This avoids both plagarism as well as cumbersome citation within the preaching context, but the people know that I am quoting someone else.

Td Pangilinan

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Sorry for misspelling your last name Ron, (for the sake of the those who strain the gnat, et al) just want to make I cited the right person.

John Mcalister

commented on Apr 14, 2012

when you think of the multiplied thousands of preachers worldwide ,preaching out of the same bible and having access to the same printed resources,should we not just ask was it effective,was someone touched,strengthened ,convicted or converted.john mcalister

Dearl Hardy

commented on Apr 14, 2012

I completely disagree with the notion that using someones outline or part of their sermon that they have made available is Plagiarism, our goal as servants of Christ is to reach lost souls whether it is by quoting words that God has given Paul or Peter or words that he has given Graham or some local pastor. It is NOT about the credit to the pastor it is about glorifying our Lord and reaching lost souls and only someone seeking credit in a selfish way would think otherwise. Everything we preach is from the Bible and or Spirit inspired so nothing came from any certain preacher to begin with, We are all speaking Gods words and if not then it falls on deaf ears anyway. Find a more servant subject to focus on and get personal selfish feelings out of the way we are short on time to lead lost souls to our Lord no matter who we quote or who's sermon we use. Just find one and teach it to lost folks and seve and get over youselves personally. It is ALL about God!!!!

Td Pangilinan

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Sorry for misspelling your last name Ron, (for the sake of the those who strain the gnat, et al) just want to make I cited the right person.

Efe Akpomudje

commented on Apr 14, 2012

I find this discuss rather interesting and this is my take on it; we are talking about preaching God's word here, whether an original or somebody else's. Please note that as far as I know, the original copyright of any sermon belongs to God and God alone. So in effect, no sermon can be claimed to be anybody's sermon enough for someone else not to preach same, even if word for word. As long as you have prayerfully sought God in prayer about what sermon to preach to your congregation and you have God's permission to go ahead, then by all means do so. After all, all scripture (in other words all God inspired sermon) is given by the inspiration of God...2 Timothy 3:16

Barney Lewis

commented on Apr 14, 2012

A great preacher (My Pastor) once told me, "I don't mind you using my switch to chase devil with." every man knows his own heart. I may milk alot of Cows, but I will churn my own butter.

Barney Lewis

commented on Apr 14, 2012

A great preacher (My Pastor) once told me, "I don't mind you using my switch to chase devil with." every man knows his own heart. I may milk alot of Cows, but I will churn my own butter.

Barney Lewis

commented on Apr 14, 2012

A great preacher (My Pastor) once told me, "I don't mind you using my switch to chase devil with." every man knows his own heart. I may milk alot of Cows, but I will churn my own butter. If preachers don't others to use their sermons,then they should not post them.

Efe Akpomudje

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Oh by the way, it is practically impossible to preach somebody else's sermon word for word , except the preacher in question is reading straight from a script through out. It means the preacher will more or less never look up through the entire sermon as he reads and not make eye contact with his congregation which is very necessary. Although not an original, any preacher using a non original sermon still has the duty of studying thoroughly and using his own language accordingly.

Dr. Luke Kauffman

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Dr. Bruce Emmert is "right on target." The previous congregation I attended, the Pastor preached others' sermons, and many knew it to be true, as did I. As a member of the Personnel Committee, I was given four of my pastor's sermons with video and the word for word text of the same sermons of renown ministers that gave the date, place and the speaker's name. The other members of the Personnel Committee could have cared less, and after the issue was not pursued, the pastor asked me to never come back with an official restraing order from my dear friends on the Board of Deacons. Many of my students in Homiletics Class saw nothing wrong in copying and preaching another preacher's sermon in class, expecting to receive an "A." Yes, Dr. Emmert, I share your convictions and paid a great price outside of the Seminary classroom.

Matt Worstell

commented on Apr 14, 2012

After posting (#15...and still waiting on a response from you old timers :) ), this has been on my mind this afternoon and after reading through these comments, Robert Glass in post #30 serves as an illustration for the first of 2 reasons I came up with why we shouldn't take other peoples sermons: 1) there are a lot of bad applications of scripture (i.e out of context) used on this site and 2) a lot of old and tired illustrations that may or may not be true but are still preached like they are. Other than that, I guess if you feel strongly that people shouldn't use your 'original' material then don't post it...or are we that arrogant to think that we should get credit? As for John Millers post (#1), maybe its because tens of thousands of people have been baptized into Christ through his sermons and work? If those "seekers" heard the word and believed, but you don't accept it because of how they came to hear the word, is it because you doubt the work of the Spirit in their life? For those that cry foul at plagarism, how do you interpret Philippians 1:14-18

Dearl Hardy

commented on Apr 14, 2012

I completely disagree with the notion that using someones outline or part of their sermon that they have made available is Plagiarism, our goal as servants of Christ is to reach lost souls whether it is by quoting words that God has given Paul or Peter or words that he has given Graham or some local pastor. It is NOT about the credit to the pastor it is about glorifying our Lord and reaching lost souls and only someone seeking credit in a selfish way would think otherwise. Everything we preach is from the Bible and or Spirit inspired so nothing came from any certain preacher to begin with, We are all speaking Gods words and if not then it falls on deaf ears anyway. Find a more servant subject to focus on and get personal selfish feelings out of the way we are short on time to lead lost souls to our Lord no matter who we quote or who's sermon we use. Just find one and teach it to lost folks and seve and get over youselves personally. It is ALL about God!!!!

Dearl Hardy

commented on Apr 14, 2012

I completely disagree with the notion that using someones outline or part of their sermon that they have made available is Plagiarism, our goal as servants of Christ is to reach lost souls whether it is by quoting words that God has given Paul or Peter or words that he has given Graham or some local pastor. It is NOT about the credit to the pastor it is about glorifying our Lord and reaching lost souls and only someone seeking credit in a selfish way would think otherwise. Everything we preach is from the Bible and or Spirit inspired so nothing came from any certain preacher to begin with, We are all speaking Gods words and if not then it falls on deaf ears anyway. Find a more servant subject to focus on and get personal selfish feelings out of the way we are short on time to lead lost souls to our Lord no matter who we quote or who's sermon we use. Just find one and teach it to lost folks and seve and get over youselves personally. It is ALL about God!!!!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Apr 14, 2012

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 rememberance of former things; neither shall there be any rememberance of things that are to come with those that shall come after." If someone preaches "someone else's sermon" and souls are saved, do you really think God cares that the preacher preached "someone else's sermon"? All the glory should go to God. God speaks through men and do you really think He doesn't tell different men to preach the same things? Do you really think God says to a preacher "This is only for you to proclaim. It is your's and your's alone. No one else should use this."? I don't think so.

Jerry Shirley

commented on Apr 14, 2012

You cannot put a Copyright on God's truths. However, there is a personal responsibility which each preacher must bear - to study and not be lazy, and to make sure whatever message God has for him to preach, it is God led in his heart and soul, and presented in he Spirit. But I simply cannot get past the fact that we all stand taller on one another's shoulders. We are a team for the kingdom, and we all need help from time to time.

Bishop Raymond Allan Johnson

commented on Apr 14, 2012

In writing last week's Easter Homily I combed for hours through the Nicene Fathers, commentaries, and numerous websites like this one. Who among us didn't -- or hasn't -- depended on numerous outside resources, in our preparations for preaching? Or arre we to blieve even the most pious of you who have responded, thus far, simply walked past the seminary library and depended on proprietary Divine inspiration, throughout your ministry? For me, Ron's most important point was the second: "Am I faithfully studying the Word that I am preaching?" If your answer is "yes" then maybe it is over-reaching to accuse brethren and sistren of "stealing," when they include what God has given to someone else in their message -- citation or not. After all, didn't the message originally belng to God, not the person who preached it?

Bishop Raymond Allan Johnson

commented on Apr 14, 2012

By the way, those who think the men who God used to write the scriptures always gave credit when something they wrote came from someone else, haven't read your Bible carefully. Just take the New Testament, and compare its words against the Old Testament and the Gospels, and you can't deny that the Apostles consistently "quoted scripture," iften without citation. And the Old Testament writers also orrowed extensively from sources outside of scripture. In the end, I must agree with those here who've observed that what matters most is that souls are saved, not who gets credit for the words that helped those souls come to Christ.

Michael Gibney

commented on Apr 14, 2012

Sermons should never be copyrighted. I tell people use my sermons, I give them away. Only in western, materialistic Christianity is this even a discussion.

commented on Apr 15, 2012

What have we received , what we have not received.? It is absolutely impossible not to commit Plagiarism of some sort taking into account the million of sermons preached throughout the church age.If you received a message by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, who are we to call it our own? After preaching for thirty years i have a trunk full of sermons, what use are they laying in the basement? I sometimes refer to them as ''trashcan sermons". are they trash, no,but that is where they will land up, if someone else can't make use of them. Are we here to build our own little kingdom or here to advance His kingdom, whatever means it takes. As for royalties, what happened to ''free you received. free you must give", if you received your reward through royalties, please don't expect a reward hereafter,

Jerry Burns

commented on Apr 15, 2012

Why don't we all try this. If you don't want to share, then don't share. If it is shared on Sermon Central then let's just assume that the author would be delighted if someone used it. There are several who share their sermons online that beautifully demonstrate that liberal giving spirit. Among them, Rick Warren, Mark Batterson, and Melvin Newland. Why can't we all show that same spirit?

Dr. Luke Kauffman

commented on Apr 15, 2012

Ron Forseth has given one of the best discourses on Sermon Plagarism I have ever read as a Homiletics Prof. One or two notes, if I may: 1) We cannot assume that the NT writers borrowed from the OT, for that same author, the Holy Spirit wrote both Testaments. He is simply being consistent in both of His Testaments; 2) In one of my lectures I have notes where Charles Spurgeon took a Sunday visit to another church near Newington, and the minister who preached did not realize that Rev. Spurgeon was in the audience as he preached one of Spurgeon's sermons. After the service "CS" introduced himself to the pastor, and is quoted saying, "Sir, if you are going to preach my sermons, do me a favor, and preach them better than I can. If not, wait, until you can."

Dennis Cocks

commented on Apr 15, 2012

Phil Kitchin, like your way of putting it. It is a lot of grass, especially if you are preaching three times a week. Like the mockingbird analogy also.

Jose Marin

commented on Apr 15, 2012

I agree that if God inspired the author then God is the owner. To God be all the glory

Chris Appleby

commented on Apr 15, 2012

An excellent summary of a difficult issue! As a regular contributor to Sermon Central I assume people will use my sermons on occasion in their preparation of their own sermons. If they choose to use the sermon verbatim as I know a few have that's fine by me. But the reality is that if they use my words it won't sound like them. We all write and speak in particular ways so we need to rewrite what may otherwise be an excellent sermon so it comes from us not from somewhere else, otherwise our preaching loses its power. I should add that for me if God can use my preparation to serve the kingdom in some other place I reckon that's a great use of my time and energy.

Jun Baday

commented on Apr 16, 2012

Well said, Dr. Bruce Emmert.

Jerry Shirley

commented on Apr 16, 2012

You cannot put a Copyright on God's truths. However, there is a personal responsibility which each preacher must bear - to study and not be lazy, and to make sure whatever message God has for him to preach, it is God led in his heart and soul, and presented in he Spirit. But I simply cannot get past the fact that we all stand taller on one another's shoulders. We are a team for the kingdom, and we all need help from time to time.

Troy Heald

commented on Apr 16, 2012

Good article, as a lay speaker who has the priviledge to expound on God's word about 20-25 times per year filling in the pulpit of other's it can be a challenge to put a message together. The demands of full-time secular work, a family, church involvement/leadership, and other commitments chew away at the time necessary. I don't use other messages however, I do use other messages as a take-off point to building a sermon. Giving credit when due and where do is appropriate and right. Thank you for this thought.

Gerald Graham

commented on Apr 16, 2012

Here's my 2 cents (which I figure is worth nothing if they get rid of the penny...). It's a double edged sword. On the one hand, any thing that is "mine" is not really mine. If we truly believe we are preaching the God inspired word then there should be no claim to "rights". If you see something in my messages, illustrations or skits, that you agree with and God inspires you to use it in any way, use it! At the same time there is a very real danger in not allowing God to inspire you personally and becoming comfortable with that. However, if you post on this site only to be acknowledged before men, or if that is our central concern, then you better reread the messages you are preparing because I think you missed something in Matthew 6...

James Sellers

commented on Apr 17, 2012

I've really enjoyed reading most of the comments written on this difficult subject. Over the years I've heard statements like, "When they write better sermons I will preach better sermons" and "If the bullet fits my gun, I will fire it." But I think the long and short of it is (we are all doing the Lord's work. If we study, and pray and seek God's will and word for our congregations and He allows us to use materials from others- then praise be to His holy name. He alone deserves the glory, honor and praise. If a pastor/teacher/preacher doesn't want others to gleam from their God-given thoughts and inspiration then they have a pride issue. I take great joy in knowing that the Lord can use a vessel such as me to inspire anyone.

Derrence Smaage

commented on Apr 23, 2012

About a year ago I turned to Sermon Central to find a sermon outline I could preach on Sunday morning. It was an excellent outline by one of my students I had taught 25 years earlier when I was his homiletics professor. Was it his outline or maybe it was one of mine or someone else's? Anyway, I preached it, God used it, the congregation was blessed and so was I.

Dr. Luke Kauffman

commented on Apr 24, 2012

Dr. Smagge . . . With all due respect to you,if I my Homiletics Prof had told our doctoral class what you admitted to doing with a sermon as you admitted, I kindly would have left my student desk, and walked right off of the campus for fear of Divine displeasure!!! This is not said unkindly, it is my respect for creativity in a Homiletics prof that is a total requirement for his chair.

Dionne Stratton

commented on Apr 25, 2012

My main concern is violating the trust of the audience esp. if you use an entire sermon from someone else. The audience is going to assume you wrote it unless you say otherwise. Knowing that it seems more than a little deceptive if you knowingly allow them to think what is untrue. How are they going to feel when/if they find out the truth? I would never feel comfortable doing it.

Sara Brown

commented on Nov 29, 2014

I think that if a pastor has studied it would be impossible for him site every source he used. I also dont think that the congregation would expect him to do that IF indeed he is studying. It is one thing to barrow or quote a trusted source. It is another thing when a church member can come to a website and read sermons word for word, including illustrations, as if they had been actual experiences their pastor had himself. That kind of "barrowing" would likely make those who found out about it question a lot of things. I still believe God would use something like this for those who want to learn. If the Holy Spirit gave the message to someone else then God is the Author and He will use it for the good of those that love Him; however, at the risk of someone finding out I don't think it should be done because of the damage it would cause. We are all sinners though and if we all knew everything God knows about those we love, self included along with those I love and am loved by, then we would be a lot more disappoint in some people than we ever thought we could be. We should be careful to remember our own faults and speak to each other, even our pastor if we need to, in love.

Join the discussion