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Stolen Goods: Tempted to Plagiarize

Understanding the necessity of citation and the damage of deceit

A couple of years ago, a student in one of my preaching courses was struggling terribly. The sermons he preached in class were plodding, disorganized, and weakly supported exegetically and theologically. He was aware that he was not meeting expectations, and he was frustrated and embarrassed by his performance. But then, in his final opportunity to redeem himself in the course, he surprised us all by preaching a stunning sermon, both profound and lyrical. It was unexpectedly excellent.

Too good, in fact. Sadly suspicious, I plugged one of his more delicious phrases into Google. Alas, up came the whole sermon on a church's Web site, preached by the pastor of that church many months before. It was an unfortunate but clear case of plagiarism. That was not, however, the whole story. My search actually produced dozens of hits, disclosing that, evidently, my student was not the only preacher to find this particular sermon compelling. A number of others, all with their sermons posted online, had ...

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Displaying 1–5 of 23 comments

Michael Rossmann

March 03, 2014  8:20am

Rom. 13:7 has always guided my 'footnoting'. To be sure, the challenge is how to present these in the flow of the message without sounding like MLA or APA, thus creating a staccato effect. Not only have you addressed a very current issue, you have encouraged me by speaking to the ethical integrity of those who present the truth of the Word. Perhaps, as our Lord said, "You have heard that it was said" could suffice with us, as well?

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GRIF VAUTIER

February 19, 2009  1:53pm

The temptation to plagiarize in the pressure-fillled world of ministry todayis almost overwhelming, but Dr. Long's thoughtful admonitions ring starkly true. The credibility that hearers entrust to a preacher of God's Truth can only be honored by acknowledging the major sources used in developing the message w

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GRIF VAUTIER

February 19, 2009  11:55am

The temptation to plagiarize in the pressure-fillled world of ministry todayis almost overwhelming, but Dr. Long's thoughtful admonitions ring starkly true. The credibility that hearers entrust to a preacher of God's Truth can only be honored by acknowledging the major sources used in developing the message when they are not original. I deeply appreciate this article's call to a higher standard than is commonly used for many pulpit messages delivered these days.

ARNOLD GAJRAMSINGH

December 22, 2008  10:16am

Let's not be that selfish. I prepare model sermons for my young people to preach as I train them in the art. Once a message has spoken to someone and blessed them I am sure that it can bless someone else in a modified manner best suited to the preacher's personality,spirituality and values.We belong to a 'profession' which is characteristic of the sharing of information for further developments. I want no personal agrandizement nor glory..It belongs to the Lord. Let's build His kingdom not our our's. Plagarism pertains to the kingdom of the world not the His kingdom. The best we can do is to give credit to whom credit is due for thier work. One preacher said",I milk many cows but I churn my own butter"

Daniel DeVilder

May 02, 2008  12:08pm

There are many layers to this discussion of "stolen sermons" and I think the article points out many of them. Intentionally passing on others' work as your own--wholesale publishing of sermons not researched or written by you is one thing. There are times in my study where I seem inundated with great quotables, whether from Markus Barth's Ephesians commentary, or something unearthed from Max Lucado. They seem SO good, I want to use them all. And it seems I have a quandry: do I spend hours trying to figure out a way to make that verbage or concept my own--which I don't often have, or, is it in a sense "my own" as one who has studied the text's meaning thoroughly that I can repeat some of these related quotes "feeling" as though they are my own? There seems a difference between "owning" something internally, or just passing something on in laziness or vanity as one's own. I realize this raise more questions than I have space to explain. Wrestle with it.

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