Plagiarism is a collapse of faith. This collapse of faith knocks down three dominoes. First, a belief in the Creator God’s ability to grant creative, original thought to the local church pastor (stuck in the cornfields of Iowa). “That big shot pastor is on radio, sometimes on TV, he or she’s got books galore. I’ve got 23 families of farmers. What do I know?” The sin of comparison has sent too many pastors into depression. It has to stop. Stop now. Let the small town pastor meditate through the Book of Ruth. No kings. No priests. No mighty warriors. No prophets. What? An alien, a bitter widow, and a farmer.
Recently Scot McKnight had an excellent post about pastors plagiarizing. I read the post and followed the comment thread. Many good (and bad) things were pointed out about pastors preaching sermons of other pastors. Almost all thought it was deceptive to preach another pastor’s anecdote or experience or sermon as if it were their own. That is outright lying.
What in the USAmerican evangelical culture would tempt pastors to plagiarize?
The unwise set-up of many pastors’ conferences. I have been a pastor for 40 years now. I’ve attended countless pastors conferences. When well-known, celebrity-status pastors are trotted out to be the main speakers, the message to the home-town pastor in middle Iowa gets the message: I am nothing compared to this guy (or lady). The down home pastor thinks that just maybe he should be adapting (a euphemism for plagiarizing) this “big gun’s” sermons for the benefit of his/her congregation.
The book market for super pastors. Many Christian books by well-known pastors are marketed with built-in sermons that the pastor can preach to get his/her congregation interested in the book. Small group discussions can be spawned around the topics of the books. Yes, this is a way to market books through the local church. Trust me, I know what I am talking about here. The pastor thinks, “If I preach this canned sermon preached to a whole different group of people in another city across America, they will come.”
The ubiquitous presence of Christian radio (and TV and podcasts). So many church attenders are able to hear very capable and charismatic preachers on their favorite Christian radio stations. By contrast, their pastor seems so bland compared to the dynamic, nationally known preachers. Yet, who buried Grandma Smith? Who prayed over the cancer survivor? Who was there at the birth of little Susie? Who did the wedding of Bill and Marta? The pastor thinks I have to compete with Swindoll, (Charles or Andy) Stanley, MacArthur and that cool guy with the British accent. He or she thinks, “I know. I will preach their sermons as my own.”
Isolating the sermon as a thing unto itself. This really bugs me. I do not call communicators of the Bible in megachurches “pastors.” They are not. “My sheep hear my voice. I call them by name. They follow Me.” The sermon in USAmerican mega-churchism has been horribly divorced from relationships. This is not a good thing.