Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal published a page one article entitled, “That Sermon You Heard Sunday May Be from the Web.” It quotes a pastor from my own state who unashamedly admits to preaching Ed Young Jr.’s sermons.
Reverend Brian Moon “says he delivered about 75% of Mr. Young’s sermon, ‘just because it was really good.’ That included a white-water rafting anecdote similar to Mr. Young’s in the original. Mr. Moon, who has now been a pastor for seven months, didn’t give credit to Mr. Young, and he makes no apologies for using a recycled sermon.”
Young sells his sermon manuscripts for $10.00 each off of his creative pastors website. That site generated $1.7 million dollars last year. I guess there can be no dispute about those sermons being “productive.”
Ray Van Neste offers some insightful perspective in the article (as well as in a recent blog post). As he says, “Credit isn’t really the issue. Integrity is the issue.” That is true not only for those who purchase sermons to preach to their congregations, it is also true for those who would never think of doing such a thing but who regularly read the sermons of our own heros like Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, Piper and MacArthur. As one wag put it, “Calvinists will start preaching better sermons when John Piper starts publishing better sermons.”
It is a danger that every preacher faces when he reads widely the sermons (or commentaries) of others. Originality does not mean that one should cease doing such reading and study, but that he should do so with a conscious determination not to become simply a parrot of the thoughts of others. Spurgeon said it well:
Do not be a mere copyist, a borrower and spoiler of other men’s notes. Say what God has said to you, and say it in your own way; and when it is so said, plead personally for the Lord’s blessing upon it (An All-round Ministry, p. 74).
God uniquely gifts, specifically calls and individually places His undershepherds according to His own wisdom. Learning to become comfortable in your own pastoral skin is a necessary and liberating discipline. As a man grows in that, he will be less inclined to preach the sermons of others as if they are his own.
HT: CT and Challies