My friend Scot McKnight’s recent blog post on plagiarized sermons got me to thinking. We pastors operate under a fair amount of pressure and stress. I won’t elaborate on that now, but it is a topic worth examining (especially since there are statistics on how many of us burn out and/or feel that our lives are worse off for being in the ministry. Check out the stats toward the end of this post on Pastor Stress).
Yet even with all the stress we face–and I certainly have my share–I can’t imagine preaching someone else’s sermons! It’s not surprising that plagiarism is easy in this digital age. As an adjunct instructor for many years I know the pressure on students to copy someone else’s work. I just never thought of doing that as a preacher! Scot wrote about preachers who use the sermons of other preachers–and pass them off as their own!
Part of the pressure we pastors face is not to be boring! We have to be entertaining, relevant, relational, informative–and not too long! I am sure that some of my colleagues would agree that it is difficult at times to be what people think they want. We often feel that we are competing with a TV preacher, some mega church pastor in the next town, or perhaps even the memory of a beloved pastor who baptized some of them or dedicated their children. Sermon prep and delivery is not a simple or insignificant task.
Yet, as Scot noted, “the sermon is highly biblical, highly personal, highly local, and highly temporal: it is the individual preacher engaging God and Bible and congregation, in that specific location, for that time.” I agree. As I noted in my comment on Scot’s blog, my sermons have to touch on OUR life together. While what is preached in some mega church somewhere in a fancy suburb may generally apply to us, telling OUR story while studying the Scriptures connects us together. I have to try my best to do at least that.
Actually, in this era of church as “production” more than “community,” with podcasts and video by celebrity pastors, local sermons may be starting to die anyway. That too, is something that will need some further scrutiny and discussion. Maybe I can copy somebody’s thoughts on that…just kidding.