Today, Skye Jethani posted an article on Leadership Journal's Out of Ur blog entitled: Word for Word: what is driving pastors to plagiarize?
Skye gives us an excellent little summary of the pertinent factors that are adding to the temptation to plagiarize sermons.
I would also add that "great preachers" have four things smaller church pastors do not: (1) a research team, (2) 25 hours a week to spend on sermon prep, (3) other teaching pastors to preach Wednesday night and next week and (4) an outstanding staff who visit people in the hospital and coordinate worship details.
What else is leading pastors to plagiarize?
People explicitly encouraging them to do so. Read this article at Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox on pastors.com
First of all, stop all of this nonsense of spending 25 or 30 hours a week preparing to speak on the weekend. The guys I draw encouragement from – the best communicators in the United States – confess they spend a total of about 15 hours preparing for their message. As I have already said, they get 70 percent of their material from someone else . . . Regardless of what you have heard or been taught – hit a homerun this weekend with the help of a message master!
Of course it is appropriate to borrow sermon ideas, quotes, and even outlines from others. It is part of research. We may also draw a quote, idea or outline from a commentary. But I think we must ask ourselves these questions when we borrow.
1. Do I feel complete integrity in this content? Am I repeating traditional American Christian cliches or is this material solidly rooted in Scripture? Am I seeking to live this material?
2. Is there an appropriate way for me to document where I have received my material? Do I put a note in the bulletin that gives credit to the original preacher? For example: "The message material today is based on the sermon series by Rob Bell of Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan entitled 'Where else is the cross true?'" Or do you say somewhere in your introduction "Today I'm drawing material from a sermon preached earlier this year by John Ortberg of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California entitled "'The Church on Monday Morning?'"
3. As the person set aside for study in this congregation and looked to as an example of integrity, am I putting aside an appropriate amount of time for preparation for building up my community in God's word? How can I regularly inform the elders of my church about my study habits so that they can protect, encourage me and hold me accountable? "Elders, I just wanted to give you an update on this next sermon series. I'm planning on drawing 70% of what I say directly from Ed Young's recent sermon series. I will probably be spending only 7 hours a week on sermon prep during that series instead of my usual 15. Let's talk about it after the series again and see if you have any concerns about whether I did not spend enough time in preparation or if I should more explicitly indicate the sources of my sermon material."
Later note August 14, 2006:
See also the common sense article from Leadership Journal in 2003 entitled: