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Footnotes in the Pulpit

How to credit your sources without distracting your hearers

Footnotes in the PulpitSee theme

"Now, what was that first book you mentioned? I read the other three, but I never heard of that one."

In a sermon, I mentioned four recent books in which university professors expressed some belief in the concept of intelligent design behind existing life. Now one of my friendly critics wanted information about the first. I knew he wasn't exaggerating about having read the other three. I was glad to be able to recite the author, title, and publication year. I knew he would read that book—and check to see if my attribution was accurate and fair.

To provide arresting and relevant sermon illustrations demands that preachers read widely. When we use others' material in the pulpit, integrity demands that we give proper attribution. But how do we strike the proper balance between too much information and too little in a verbal footnote? The trick is to give our hearers enough background so they can understand, accept, and recognize the importance of the quoted material, ...

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