How Not To Plagiarize

D.A. Carson gives three convicting reasons why plagiarism is wicked: (1) You are stealing. (2) You are deceiving the people to whom you are preaching. (3) Perhaps worst, you are not devoting yourself to the study of the Bible to the end that God’s truth captures you, molds you, makes you a man of God and equips you to speak for him. If we, as Student Pastors, want to be taken seriously and raise the bar from big adolescence to people called by God to handle his Word correctly and preach the Gospel to a lost and dying world, we need to take plagiarism seriously. Three ways that can help you fight the temptation of plagiarism and perhaps simply preach better are: 1. Listen to sermons for edification, not for ideas Student pastors can learn and grow from men like Matt Chandler, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, and others. However, we should approach a sermon for what it is for: something written to a particular congregation, in a particular time, for a particular purpose. That sermon you are hearing from Seattle, though you felt like Jesus came down and smacked you with conviction himself, may not work well for folks in the South simply because that pastor contextualized his sermon to a people group very different that your context. Just listen and grow. I think all pastors need to come back to the point of enjoying a sermon for what it is and not as a textbook to memorize so you can preach it to your people. If your kids came to hear Francis Chan, go buy BASIC. If your kids came to hear you, be original. 2. It’s okay to quote A pastor gave such a great illustration in a sermon once that I went up to him afterwards in his office to tell him that his “personal” illustration really hit home for me. He shared with me that since I was a pastor, he could tell me that the illustration he used wasn’t his; it was an illustration he heard from another sermon, but he just used himself as the main character. I felt kind of gross hearing that. I learned that day that if you didn’t experience it, do not lie for the sake of the illustration to land better. It is better to say, “A prominent pastor once said…” or “A good friend of mine told me a story once that…” rather than use someone else’s personal experiences and replace their name with yours. I have learned over the years that kids don’t care if it was you or someone else. If the illustration is good, it is good. Just give credit to where it is due. 3. Do your own exegesis I know we are all busy. We would rather be with students and doing ministry than doing the hours of study for a 30 minute message. For some, exegesis comes easier than others. I believe exegesis can be easier with the right tools. However, one of those tools can’t be the pastor you listen to. As stated earlier, that sermon you are listening to is for a specific group in a specific context. On top of that, you may be crossing denominational and theological fences when you are listening to other pastors. Now, good exegesis should be good exegesis no matter who is speaking it; however, nothing beats the study you do on your own time. If I hear a good sermon and a particular exegetical point that I may want to use, I have to check it no matter what. Invest in good commentaries. You don’t have to know Greek. I don’t! But Logos does! A ton of old nerdy guys with beards did a lot of the hard work for you so that you can simply read their books and seek the Holy Spirits guidance to write great sermons. Simply listening to a sermon and preaching someone else’s exegesis makes you a parrot. One of the guiding heart beats for YouthMin.org is to make the position of Student Pastor into one that is credible and full of respect. If we want student ministry to not be viewed as the “minor leagues” of ministry, then we have to step up and take our position seriously.

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35 Comments

  1. There have been a lot of times when I was able to build my sermon from an idea that I got in a sermon. I didn't copy the sermon, but a little nugget the preacher said was able to be fleshed out into a full-length message.
  2. There have been a lot of times when I was able to build my sermon from an idea that I got in a sermon. I didn't copy the sermon, but a little nugget the preacher said was able to be fleshed out into a full-length message.
    • In my case, Matt Chandler, in the midst of his overall sermon, said a line about if you want to know God, then look at Jesus. He then referenced Colossians 1. I was able to take that one little part and flesh out different areas that Christ had power over. Turned out to be a very powerful message and it stemmed from a tiny nugget that I heard someone else say.
  3. There have been a lot of times when I was able to build my sermon from an idea that I got in a sermon. I didn't copy the sermon, but a little nugget the preacher said was able to be fleshed out into a full-length message.
    • In my case, Matt Chandler, in the midst of his overall sermon, said a line about if you want to know God, then look at Jesus. He then referenced Colossians 1. I was able to take that one little part and flesh out different areas that Christ had power over. Turned out to be a very powerful message and it stemmed from a tiny nugget that I heard someone else say.
      • What you described is what I get a lot from Matt Chandler. I think that is how Pastors can get inspiration and ideas from other pastors. That is a healthy way to listen to other sermons.
  4. What do you think is the difference between getting information from a sermon, and getting information from a commentary?
    • I believe a sermon is for an intended context at an intended time. A Commentary, depending on the type of commentary you get, is for the intended purpose of study and preaching. Commentators are writing their books for the purpose of pastors to use and make better sermons. Sermons are for the intended audience. First: to its original audience. Second to anyone else listening. Quoting lines from Sermons and attributing them to the original author is fine in my eyes.
  5. What do you think is the difference between getting information from a sermon, and getting information from a commentary?
  6. What do you think is the difference between getting information from a sermon, and getting information from a commentary?
    • I believe a sermon is for an intended context at an intended time. A Commentary, depending on the type of commentary you get, is for the intended purpose of study and preaching. Commentators are writing their books for the purpose of pastors to use and make better sermons. Sermons are for the intended audience. First: to its original audience. Second to anyone else listening. Quoting lines from Sermons and attributing them to the original author is fine in my eyes.
  7. Hmmmm..... I get hung up when this topic is talked about. I do believe it is wrong to take someones intellectual property and claim it as yours, however there are so many resources out today that one does not need to look far to find resources that churches and pastors have opened up for anyone to use. I believe many have the gift of exegesis and cannot communicate worth anything while others may be great communicators and are not able to put there thoughts together well. Lets focus on how we are created, and bring others closer to Christ!
  8. Hmmmm..... I get hung up when this topic is talked about. I do believe it is wrong to take someones intellectual property and claim it as yours, however there are so many resources out today that one does not need to look far to find resources that churches and pastors have opened up for anyone to use. I believe many have the gift of exegesis and cannot communicate worth anything while others may be great communicators and are not able to put there thoughts together well. Lets focus on how we are created, and bring others closer to Christ!
  9. Hmmmm..... I get hung up when this topic is talked about. I do believe it is wrong to take someones intellectual property and claim it as yours, however there are so many resources out today that one does not need to look far to find resources that churches and pastors have opened up for anyone to use. I believe many have the gift of exegesis and cannot communicate worth anything while others may be great communicators and are not able to put there thoughts together well. Lets focus on how we are created, and bring others closer to Christ!
  10. So Good Frank. Just, so good... Way to call the community to a higher level. We all need to be studying the word for ourselves. I loved this line and think it could be it's own post: "You are not devoting yourself to the study of the Bible to the end that God’s truth captures you, molds you, makes you a man of God and equips you to speak for him."
  11. So Good Frank. Just, so good... Way to call the community to a higher level. We all need to be studying the word for ourselves. I loved this line and think it could be it's own post: "You are not devoting yourself to the study of the Bible to the end that God’s truth captures you, molds you, makes you a man of God and equips you to speak for him."
  12. Frank, excellent post. Thanks for sharing. One thing for me is the fact that if I steal someone else's stuff, I am NOT doing what really my main priority as a pastor is, and that is to pray and study the Word. That is why our "pastor" position was instituted in the New Testament. When you steal, you are not following through with your main priority as a pastor.
  13. Frank, excellent post. Thanks for sharing. One thing for me is the fact that if I steal someone else's stuff, I am NOT doing what really my main priority as a pastor is, and that is to pray and study the Word. That is why our "pastor" position was instituted in the New Testament. When you steal, you are not following through with your main priority as a pastor.
  14. I was talking with a pastor the other day about this very topic. He is a big fan of Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, and Craig Groeschel. He will often use their series in his church, but rather than taking the material wholesale, he will use their titles and outlines, but modify it to fit his church's particular needs.
  15. I was talking with a pastor the other day about this very topic. He is a big fan of Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, and Craig Groeschel. He will often use their series in his church, but rather than taking the material wholesale, he will use their titles and outlines, but modify it to fit his church's particular needs.
  16. Great post!We need to be confident in the abilities that the Holy Spirit gives us to reach the students that God put in our paths. Using a point another person has touched on is great but we need to put in the work to do our own exegetical work and develop the lesson in a way that relates to the students each of us have.
  17. Great post!We need to be confident in the abilities that the Holy Spirit gives us to reach the students that God put in our paths. Using a point another person has touched on is great but we need to put in the work to do our own exegetical work and develop the lesson in a way that relates to the students each of us have.

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