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The Island Syndrome: When the Only Sermons You Ingest Are Your Own

Much has been said recently about the dangers of sermon plagiarism, but the effect can be a misguided shunning of others' sermons. Growing preachers study the messages of other outstanding preachers.

Not long ago someone asked me how I felt about having transcripts of my sermons posted on the Internet. "Does it bother you that someone might download your sermons and preach them as their own?" Others have asked me similar questions. Each reflects the same basic assumption: What reason, other than plagiarism, would a preacher have for reading someone else's sermon?

Writers read the classics to learn about style and language. Artists study the paintings of the masters to discover their technique. Musicians listen to the works of great composers to understand the dynamics that shaped their distinctive sound. Preachers learn by reading and listening to others. Preaching, like other art forms, is partly imitative. Eloquence, Saint Augustine observed, is learned by hearing, not by rules.

In a seminar on preaching I attended some years ago, noted pastor and author Kent Hughes revealed that one of his hobbies was collecting old sermons. He found these volumes, often sold cheaply in used bookstores, ...

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Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

Cyndi Bloise

February 27, 2009  7:51am

Echos what I have always experienced when reading others' sermons. Thank you for speaking frankly and positively about other reasons for reading sermons, not for plagiarism.

Jeff Berger

February 10, 2009  3:40pm

Good article, John. I myself am often fed by the sermons of John Ortberg, among others.

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