Plagiarism and the Pulpit

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In God’s blueprint and design of the church He has gifted certain individuals to be teachers of the word of God. This is an important and weighty responsibility that ought not to be considered lightly. For this reason the apostle James counselled his readers, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” ().

It is the preacher’s duty to take the Scriptures and rightly handle them (). He is to carefully, with great precision accurately handle the word of truth. This refers to God’s word, the Scriptures (cf. ). How is this done? This will come a result of one who carefully studies the Scriptures and applies specific principles in interpreting God’s word. This is called exegesis (from a Greek term meaning “to lead out”). Exegesis is the practice of carefully studying the Bible and drawing a conclusion that comes from the passage you are studying. The preacher is to be a diligent workman. This process will involve hard work and time! The preacher/teacher is to be an approved workman who is diligent in handling the truth. Of course, throughout the duration of his study he will need to consult other writers (commentaries etc.) who have given themselves to this practice of biblical exegesis as well. This is will be helpful and encouraging.

At this point, I want to discuss the problem of plagiarism. Many preachers and teachers seem to bypass the process of study by simply crafting their sermons by directly using the work of others. What is plagiarism? Plagiarism is the act of taking someone else’s words or ideas and making them look like yours. This practice is an issue of theft and trickery. It is wrong for preachers and teachers of the word to neglect their study of the Scriptures and substitute it for plagiarism. Powerful preaching will occur when the man of God, in full dependance on the Lord, gives himself to prayerful study, consults with other men of God and preaches the word. Plagiarism is a poor, lazy and deceitful substitute.

For further reading please see:

TGC Asks Don Carson: When Has a Preacher Crossed the Line into Plagiarism in His Sermon?

3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

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Andrew Courtis

Andrew Courtis

ANDREW - Serves as Pastor of Hills Bible Church. I am married to Dianne and we have three children (Kate, Emma and Jack). I was born and raised in Melbourne, moved to Adelaide to undertake theological studies (BMin.), and have completed additional studies with the Australian College of Theology (MATh.). I have served in pastoral ministry in both Melbourne and Sydney and am a qualified school teacher. I am committed to expository preaching and making the word of God known and understood.

2 thoughts on “Plagiarism and the Pulpit”

  1. I understand, but then we should then never read another book or read another paper or never hear another sermon. For out of all those resources comes your sermons. No preacher should ever blog, or write a sermon and post it on there site, record another sermon on Podcast or on Vimeo. Nor should a preacher ever listen to another podcast.

    1. Hi Charles. Thanks for your comment but I don’t agree with your conclusion. My point is that the preacher ought not to steal and deceive people by making them think that someone else’s work is theirs.

      A right understanding of plagiarism ought not to result in a reaction that casts everything aside (books, papers, sermons, blog’s etc.). Rather, it ought to lead to an individual who has integrity in the pulpit. Sometimes in my study one author or preacher will say something in such a way that I could not improve on it. If I want to use that quote, I need to have the integrity to give the recognition that someone else said it.

      Plagiarism is not a matter of being influenced and informed by what you read. Rather, it is taking what someone else has said and making people think that you came up with it. That is theft and trickery.

      Furthermore, those that use the material of other people and passing as their own are being lazy and are cheating themselves of personal blessing of digging into the word.

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