What Does It Say About You When You Steal Someone Else's Sermon?

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We don’t often discuss is how stealing sermons hurts the thief, but we should, and it does.

Teresa Fry Brown makes a startling statement in her presentation of Charles Adams’ nine suggestions to preachers in her book Weary Throats and New Songs. She says: “One lacks homiletical integrity, authority, creativity, character, calm and spirituality if one’s entire preaching life is stolen.” Brown notes that one should at least credit a source if one uses another’s introduction, alliteration or other device.

Stealing sermons has some problematic aspects. But one that we don’t often discuss is how stealing sermons hurts the thief. Because she or he slowly loses the God-given spark of creativity that is used to put together strong sermons.

When you steal a sermon, it becomes a greater temptation to steal another one, and then as the difficult work of putting together a sermon interacts with the reality that stealing is a lot easier, we become less able to actually create that sermon.

In addition, there is a great possibility that we could lose credibility with the people. I remember hearing a particularly strong sermon from a well-regarded preacher. Later in my seminary study, I was reading a book of sermons and found that sermon that the other preached gave word for word. This brought into question all of the sermons that he had preached. I began to wonder, had he stolen many other of his sermons? Don’t let that happen to you.

I heard another preacher beginning to whoop, and he simply stole the catch phrases and whooping devices from two or three preachers and mashed them together. What saved the preacher was that the devices came from preachers from a different theological tradition, and thus many in the congregation had not heard them before. Imagine the surprise of your Baptist visitor when she is not impressed by your Pentecostal preacher’s whoop because she heard it before by a different preacher at her own church.

Such preaching may get you an “amen,” but it seriously calls into question your own integrity as a preacher. God has called you to preach to this people at this time. If God wanted that other preacher that you are copying to preach, then God would have placed that preacher where you stand. Preaching is hard work, but the benefits are enormous; don’t short-cut the process for a few ill-gotten accolades.  

Sherman Cox Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

More from Sherman Cox or visit Sherman at http://SoulPreaching.com

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  • the amen corner

    This information may be tight but it’s right

  • http://c-mog.blogspot.com/ Drae

    This whole article summed up in one sentence of yours. “If God wanted the other preacher that you are copying to preach, then God would have placed that preacher where you stand.” In order to truly accept this statement is to truly say that God is the one who appoints and that God is sovereign in all areas not just some. This is revelation is what helped me be me and let the Lord develop me. And you know it’s a whole lot easier to be me than not me. -be blessed and a blessing

  • Mark

    Sounds like theft to me.

  • Joseph Benigno

    When someone post his sermon in the internet and someone will use it as his sermon, is that stealing? It is just reading an illustration used by another person and use it in your sermon-is that considered stealing an illustration? It seems that there is no need to read any article or read any book authored by anyone and use them in your sermon if it is considered stealing. Stealing in my opinion is using the sermon of another as your sermon without his permission. But, once you posted your sermon in the internet which is a public domain, the one who posted it is giving others the opportunity to read and use any part or the whole sermon in his ministry. It is just like teaching doctrinal matters where you teach what is organized by someone in his book-is that stealing? If I will follow this way of thinking, anyone who will post his sermon in the internet is being used by satan to tempt others to steal that sermon by using it in the pulpit. Then, woe unto those who are posting their sermons in the internet for they are Satan’s instrument so that others will be tempted to steal. When you read Mathew Henry’s commentary, Adam’s commentary, and other commentaries and used what you have gained from these commentaries, according to this way of thinking, this is stealing. If you sing songs authored by others, you are stealing. To me, this is a weird way of thinking.

  • Fred Paul

    I understand the point you are making but there is nothing new under the sun. Must I always give Solomon credit when I say that. You should let the Holy Spirit guide you in all things and speak as He gives utterance. Anyone can speak from a teleprompter.

  • Jaria Jesohn Valtierra

    Many of the best preachers around use multiple illustrations and quotes from other people, but usually they quote them. There’s so much good stuff out there that is available for use in weekly sermon preparation, but there also has to be the initial creative process led by the Holy Spirit that in invaluable. Here’s what I do: receive initial revelation from the Word, create my own personal illustrations, then look for secondary sources that compliment what God has already given me. The only time I do not quote something is when i use a commentary, but even then I revise and paraphrase what I got from it.

  • Kara

    The Bible, the inspired written Word of the Lord is to be shared. The words never change!!! Topics will be the same, answers, if from the Bible, should be very close in response. So if preachers use the Bible as their source, you will come up with the same message time and time again!

    • B-LoK!

      Amen. That’s right. The longer you are saved.. the more times you’ll hear sermon messages repeated. It’s really simple logic. We only use 66 books. really, less than that in most cases.

    • Jac

      Topics and message yes, but interpretation and delivery no

  • Christoph Koebel

    An article like this is so much needed! If a pastor/preacher invests more time surfing the net than digging in the Word with prayer and all the skills he learned at seminary, it becomes a spiritual problem. I heard about a Pastor who got his sermon from the net. The church leaders talked to him about this. He denied doing this. An IT guy in the church proved that he died it and lied about it. It led to the dismissal of the pastor. A final word. The time when we pay a preacher minimum wage is history. Our Pastor get around $70,000 and 5 weeks vacation.

  • B-LoK!

    I get this. But: Everything preached is “stolen.” (your word, not mine.) I’d say “repeated.” Or “Has been preached before.” All of us preach from the same 66 Books. Repeating what many authors already said. A la Paul, Peter, Mark, Jesus….. Thus, everyone who repeats steals, according to your article. ///Now if some some one repeats another’s manuscripts word for word. Then I suppose your article will apply. /// And just because you felt that way after seeing the same sermon you heard before, doesn’t mean everyone else feels that way.. since it’s not the messenger, but the message that will stir up, cheer up and build up another’s soul. (id that message help you in anyway when you heard it?) /// Truthfully, I’d rather hear a great message repeated, than a dried up, lifeless, no Spirit of God in it sermon any day. Which is why we have sermons on CD, Tape, etc…. /// Bottom line: All ministers repeat, say again, “steal” other’s messages and always will… from the same 66 books that great preachers use. /// If they aren’t against us… they are for us. At the end all will answer to the One who called.

    • Jac

      In a way what you say is true, that all preachers preach from the same text. I think however your comment lessens the importance of the integrity of the preacher. My generation is one of distrust and we have found those in authority, especially church leaders to be dishonest and out for their own gain…preaching someone else’s sermon just adds to that.

      I have an acquaintance who regularly uses sermon central word for word and has not been caught. However I have zero respect for them and would never find myself attending their church….even using stories and ideas from other pastors should be credited.

      I’m sorry but your comment seems like a justification for wrong doing.

    • Wickramasingha Bandara

      Praise The Lord, I agree with you & Apostle Paul, (2Timothy 2:2 [NIV])

      ​And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

  • Jac

    I agree wholeheartedly with this article. I don’t think anyone ever assumes that the preacher will never use something that is not theirs, like illustrations and ideas…but copying word for word is plagiarism…no ifs ands or buts about it. To justify it in any way is the lessen the message that you are trying to proclaim to a generation that already does not trust the church

  • savr19

    Mike Bickle and the International House of Prayer write incredibly detailed messages and say that their copyright is the right to copy. Messages are taken from the Bible and the point is to get the Word out. When churches are viewed as profiting organizations and Pastors who hold their M.Divs begin wanting credit, we have a RED flag that we have Pastors who have spent too much time in school and not enough time on the carpet desiring the message of Christ to be taken to all nations. In regards to this article however, I do note that his point is very well taken that Pastors must take time in prayer and in connection with God to get creative and trust their own abilities and stop just surfing the web for cut and paste messages.

    • Buck

      Amen, and I have used IHOP material myself, but I gave credit. I was a full time professional with a part time youth position and a family, so I would listen to podcasts and books while I drove and develop messages in my head, but also do research and some crazy weeks I’d use a lot from other people, but I could never do word for word because I am not good enough. That being said, if we believe our creativity comes from God, then our messages aren’t ours. We just need to make sure we’re preaching what God is callin us to preach even if our creative spark comes from another preacher.

  • David C. Lannan

    Not everyone behind the pulpit is called of God and maybe that is why they are desperate to take someone’s work and claim it as their own. It is one thing to look to other preachers for interpretations of scripture, for ideas or quotes but if you have to plagiarize the whole sermon – you have a problem. If you are truly called of God, He will give you the message He intends for you to preach. You can go to school to learn about the history of religion, what other men say the Bible verses mean, about different preaching styles, church administration, etc. but no fancy degree means you are any more qualified to preach than the next pastor or minister. If you aren’t getting the message from above instead of copying verbatim off the Internet, maybe God hasn’t called you to minister as an occupation.

  • sad but true

    I lived this out sadly as an associate/youth with a guy for over 10 years. What started out as a springboard for creativity… over time and with the beginning of the internet, it grew into something horrible.

    The hours spent “preparing a sermon” were actually spent in sin. I have actually sent emails to groups that provide word for word manuscripts and told them of the sad story I became a part of. Plagiarism is one small part of this. It enables a pastor to become a performer, a play actor that reads a script that has been given (or purchased).

    Oddly enough… when I have shared this story with a few ministries that offer full manuscripts, only one has responded. The others do not. The response I got was that they were trying to help the overworked pastor to be freed up to do other ministry.

    I have been a preaching pastor for a while now, and realize that sermons are prepared in the midst of ministry. Some weeks have more time for prep than others. But if I am in the Word myself, growing in my faith, trusting in the spirit to give the words instead of a manuscript, then it will work out.

    My experience has been the very sad side of this argument. How often does it happen? Who knows. All I know is that so far in 20 + years of ministry I know of two who have gone down this exact path and are still on it

    • Jina Appa

      Pastor, thank you for sharing your testimony on this subject. I appreciate it.

  • Earl C. Wallace

    Many preachers do not have the gift of “preaching-teaching.” They have the gift of mercy. If you ask them why they got into ministry, they will tell you that they wanted to “help people.” The gift of “preaching-teaching” is accompanied by the capacity to do research and to study. Preaching-teaching is an outcome of those capacities. We used to assume that when people came out of seminary or Bible school, they were equipped with those capacities that make them good preacher-teachers.

    Following a consulting project that resulted in designing and facilitating the merge plan for two churches, a leader from another church, asked if I would be interested in preaching for them for part of the summer, to which I replied, “Sure.” Later the leader told me how one of the pastors from the merged church filled in for three weeks, while their pastor was on vacation. The person raved about that preacher’s three-part series, which really was one of mine. I asked some specifics about the series, which confirmed it was mine, which for sometime actually was posted on another church’s website, as I had filled in for pulpit ministry for that church for seven months. As a consultant, my living comes from the way God gives me concepts and messages that are more or less from an original perspective (acknowledging, of course, that there is “nothing new under the sun,” Ecc. 1:9.) I asked the person if the preacher had filled in for their pulpit ministry before, and he said, “Yes – all the time.” I asked, “Had he ever preached a message or series like that before or since? The response was, “No.”

    In some ways I feel privileged to have inspired the other preacher, but in some ways I must admit I feel ripped off. In a world where there are many people like myself, who feel God has given them something that really can help the church, I expect not always to be chosen. I just think of the lost opportunities that people have to grow and develop from experiencing the genuine, Holy Spirit anointed provision God provides to those who labor in Him to be able to have something of value to contribute vs. those who don’t really have that much to say, or who covet being the one “up front” in churches and who also perhaps only care about getting an extra paycheck in addition to the one their church already provides them – regardless of at whose expense that comes. Fortunately, God has opened doors for me to provide secular as well as church consulting.

  • Bossman

    There is honour in letting your hearers know your source. It gives credence to what you are saying. It absolves you if the information has serious debates about it. It leads your members to do further reading after church thereby making them good students of the word. Honestly I believe most of the messages preached today are recycled to suit current dispensations. Just credit your source and you will be respected. Above all pray, meditate and listen to God for that one line in your message that will bring salvation in all it’s forms.

  • Kay

    As a layperson I knew a man who got every sermon off the internet. He told impressive stories about things he had done. I was amazed until all his sermons were found on the internet word for word. So he really had done none of those things. Aren’t we to walk honestly before all ? Some questions have been on my mind. Is truth a different standard once in the pulpit ? How about taking pay or credit for something they didn’t do? What is half the church just doesn’t care and the other half sees it as very wrong ? What about scripture that says study to show thyself approved by God ? What does this say about us as a church that if we don’t care ? I read an article on plagiarist that said plagiarist don’t read very much, they don’t know a lot about their subject,they are trying to avoid work for a quick fix , they also lack skill in knowing good work from poor work and they “google” to make judgments on something, they also usually don’t pick the best work because they just want something to fill the need with the least attention to getting them caught.
    I believe when men stand in the pulpit it is a far more serious calling than most look at it as. How easy it is to just read another’s work something any good readers could do, and then there are so many warnings in the scripture of deceivers and imposters. Personably I believe this is a serious issue for the church.