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Pastoral Plagiarism, Part 2

The previous post has caused some stir, and I am glad because I think this is an important issue to consider. I am also glad because no doubt many will read the Sjogren article as it is on Rick Warren’s site, and I hope there will be people ready to hold accountable those who fall under the sway of Sjogren’s argument.

To further the discussion let me point out also a post from about a year ago by Justin Taylor and an article by Justin Taylor and Matt Perman. Many of you will no doubt already be aware of these documents but I did not know of them until Justin posted about them this week.

Finally, one reader commented on the previous post, linking two of his own posts arguing a different view on the subject. Here are J. A. Gillmartin’s arguments- post 1, post 2. I encourage you to read his arguments and join the conversation. Here is my response to him

J. A. Gillmartin,
Thanks for interacting. I did read your two posts. I encourage other readers here to do the same and join the conversation. I do think we disagree, and I would want to challenge you to consider your logic.
You seem to take issue with accusations that people are indeed preaching sermons verbatim. That is directly encouraged in the article I referenced. To say that simply preaching the results of another man’s efforts is the same as using reference tools (you mentioned lexicons I think) is incorrect. Most people understand and expect that for preaching (as well as any other research, speeches or papers) one will consult the work of others, preferably those who have demonstrated wisdom and godliness. However, learning from others is significantly different from parroting them. The goal is to study the Word with helps from others and absorb the truths yourself. Then when you proclaim it, you are no doubt influenced by others, but what comes out has been assimilated into your own mind and soul. You are not seeking to emulate another’s passion for a certain point but are speaking from your own affected soul. (The comment in the previous post which quotes Lloyd-Jones is especially good here).

As I prepare to preach from 1 Peter this week I have first wrestled with the Greek text on my own without consulting other expositions. After making some preliminary observations I plan to read commentaries by Schreiner, Grudem and Marshall (among others) and to listen to a sermon by Don Carson. I want to learn from these men who are wiser than me. But I will not preach their message. I will then prepare a message for my people, applying the text as best as I understand it to their lives as best as I understand them. And, no, I am not full time at my church so I know about the crunch of time.

You also take the example of third world pastors to prove a point but the example does not hold. Certainly there are people in especially difficult situations. I would not encourage them to simply parrot sermons either (and I don’t think you do), but the issue at hand in these articles is not harried 3rd world pastors. These are American pastors. Let’s not confuse the issues. It is true that the pastorate is demanding. But herein lies much of the problem. In the American church we have confused ourselves on what the pastor is to do. We need to relieve pastors of some things they think they must do (not least the drive to “keep up” with the latest church growth theories, and the need to be “creative”), and encourage them to devote themselves to the apostolic priorities of the Word and prayer (Acts 6). Note what Paul exhorts Timothy to pay special attention to. In 1 Timothy 4:6-16 the focus is on Timothy’s teaching and his lifestyle (esp. v16). In 4:13 Paul esp. highlights the public reading and exposition of Scripture. In 2 Timothy the whole focus is perseverance in right doctrine and holy living. 4:1-8 is the climax of the entire letter. 4:1 sets up a very solemn charge. The content of this solemn charge (v2) is a call to preach.

I agree wholeheartedly that pastors tend to be run ragged. The answer is not to skimp on time in the Word. The answer is to cut back on institutional machinery that is not part of the calling so that we might devote ourselves to the task God has given. I previously posted on this approach, in the form of an exhortation to churches on how to help their pastors fulfill their tasks. I would be interested in your thoughts on this.

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