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Thomas Long on Plagiarizing Sermons

Thomas Long, Professor of Preaching at Emory’s Candler School of Theology, has written an excellent article entitled, “Stolen Goods: Tempted to Plagiarize”. I encourage you to read it. It is well balanced and considers the common rationales given for preaching the sermons of others. He argues the point I have sought to make in the past that the key issue is integrity. Long writes:

Perhaps as much or more than any other form of communication, preaching depends upon a cord of trust binding together the speaker and the listener, the preacher and hearer. A good sermon consists not primarily in flawless logic, soaring poetry or airtight arguments, but in passionately held truth proclaimed with conviction. To compromise the truth in ways that hearers would consider deceptive makes them reluctant to extend this necessary trust and damages the witness. For evidence, we can point to the hard disillusionment and sense of betrayal experienced by many in congregations where pastors have been caught plagiarizing sermons.

He also makes the key point that what people need is not a good performance but the Word of God applied to their specific situation by one who knows and loves them.

The preacher comes from the pews to stand in the pulpit. Only preachers who deliver their own sermons stand with one foot in the life of the people and one foot in the biblical text. No Internet preacher stands in this same place. No borrowed sermon, however fine, can answer the question that cries out from every congregation, “Is there a word today, a word for us, from the Lord?”

This is a great article. May it be of much help to the church.

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