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Pastoral Plagiarism Update

I have been meaning for months now to post an update on this topic. After the WSJ article came out in the Fall, Steve Sjogren responded on his blog. He basically said that those who take issue with his suggestion of using others sermons are not really interested in evangelism. The language in his blog post is now significantly changed from its original. In response to criticism, he softened that statement while keeping his basic position. Tim Ellsworth covered the story very well in this post.

Since that time Dr. Mohler of Southern Seminary devoted his radio show one day to this topic. He and guest, Dr. Hershael York, did a great job covering the topic.

Various newspapers around the country continue to pick up the story- apparently from the WSJ story- and comment on it. Typically the reporters see the problem clearly in spite of the spin given by proponents of the practice. However, The Christian Index, paper of the Georgia Baptist Convention, ran a story which in essence defends the practice of sermon “borrowing.” The story was entitled, “Plagiarism: Whose Message is it?” It seems to have generated some response. This response is particularly well worth reading. Here are some excerpts from this layman’s response:

The College Dictionary defines plagiarism as “to use and pass off as one’s own writing or ideas from another.” Of course we know this meaning, but reading the article in your publication it seems as though this must not apply to pastors. Over a dozen pastors hopped, skipped, and jumped around the facts like a grasshopper on a hot grill. The answer is simple; anyone using another’s writings or ideas is a cheat! It seems simple enough to me…. If pastors spent more time in the Greek and Hebrew to exegete the scriptures they wouldn’t need to plagiarize others works.  Just about every pastor I have been under has spoken of Zacchaeus up a sycamore tree at least two or three times a year. Hey, we know that story. How about some meat of the doctrine? We have had an over abundance of milk.

One of the ridiculous statements in your article read something like this: “pastors who document the origin of their sources into fine detail usually deliver cold and impersonal messages.” This is a smokescreen to cover-up the fact that they wish credit for something they did not originate…. In closing, just get into the Word and forget about making impressions on the congregation. We have minds of our own and can think without fancy utterances.”

Well said!

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