A lot is expected of pastors these days. They are expected to teach several times a week while also doing hospital visits, house visitations of new guest, develop new strategies to grow their congregation, train and inspire their deacons and other leaders, handle finances and a multitude of other responsibilities and that’s just on a Monday. With all the different activates pulling for a pastors time and the added temptation of millions of sermons available online it can be a huge temptation to use what God has taught someone else and pass it off as your own. Yes, it’s crazy to think about but some pastors do steal sermons.
It is even encouraged by some mega church pastors who have a staff of writers helping form their sermons each Sunday. They then package those up and sell them online with PowerPoint and handouts all included. As Mega Church pastor Rick Warren says, “if my bullet fits your gun, then go ahead and shoot it.” And I’m certain that there are times when you have a bi-vocational pastor of a little country church who could really benefit from such material, but what about the full time pastor of a church who is hired with the expectation that his time would be spent first and foremost in the preaching of the word of God in such a way that he shepherds the specific flock he has been given.
When I became a pastor I had a choice to make of what kind of pastor I wanted to be. The very first time I was asked to speak I went to my father who is an excellent preacher and teacher and I questioned him on what topic or idea I should preach on. I’ll never forget his advice. He simply said, “Preach from the overflow of your heart.” What this means is that my job is to be so enriched by Gods word, such a student of it, that I can’t help but proclaim the goodness and mercy that God has for his people. I tend to be a very animated when I preach and my wife calls me the weeping pastor because I have been known to cry when I get moved while speaking. This merely comes from the fact that I have wrestled for weeks with a certain passage allowing God to use it to wreck my life, peeling off the scales from my eyes that I did not even know I had so that I could see more clearly who God is and what He desires.
I’m not sure if it is right or wrong to use another pastor’s sermons. But I know that even though there is a lot of things pulling for my time, my first priority is to feed the sheep God has given me. It would be easy to download a series, use the same bullet points and scripture, but then unless it was something that God had used to utterly destroy and rebuilt me in my own personal walk, I do not think I could preach it and feel like I did my job. If I was going to be so lazy as to just repeat what someone else said then why not just download the video and let that Pastor preach it for me?
I do know however, it is morally wrong to preach another pastors sermon without giving that person credit for their work either in the sermon or in the bulletin. And to do this week after week is an offense to God. Can you imagine getting a love letter from your wife only to learn that she had copied the kind words someone else wrote and passed them off as her own? Would they seem as sincere? Would her love for you seem less personal? Scripture is Gods love letter to his people and to steal from another Shepard and to con your congregation into thinking you labored over their hearts through prayer and study, that just seems horrific to me.
Whether you are a pastor or just someone who attends, God has put specific people in your life with specific needs, and there are specific ways that you can help them. I think we do more harm than good when we fail to answer them in a personal way. Let the scriptures speak and move you first so that you can effectively speak it to others.
Caleb is lead pastor at Logos Church and enjoys writing about pop culture, Star Wars, Jesus and what effective ministry might look like in Tulsa.