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Plagiarism, Shmagiarism

The why and when of giving credit

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Says one prominent speaker with a smile, "When Chuck Swindoll starts preaching better sermons, so will I." For preachers, using sermon content from others can provoke humorand guilt.

For one thing, we don't always know when to credit other sources. Preaching is like blocking defensive linemen in football: the line between blocking and holding can be as fuzzy as that between research and reliance.

At times the need to credit sources is perfectly clear. Tell someone else's story as though it happened to you? Use an entire sermon without giving credit? Penalty, 10 yards and loss of down, major chewing out from the coach. Most everyone says that's a foul.

At other times, citing a source is a judgment call. If you purchase a sermon or receive permission from the source to use it (Rick Warren says, use my stuff), should you still give credit? If you illustrate from a Time article but get the illustration idea from Joe Stowell, do you credit Stowell? What if you use only another sermon's "angle," ...

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February 21, 2011  5:37pm

A helpful article. Thanks.

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Tracy Farthing

June 06, 2010  12:46am

I may be a little late in expressing my opinion but I believe that citing my sources lends credibility to me as a researcher and teacher. It tells my congregation that I am a seeker just like they are; that I struggle and study to find answers just like they do; and ,most importantly, that Ibenefit from the wisdom and insight of godly people to find those answers and that they can do the same.

Albert Haynes

May 07, 2010  7:23pm

I once put together what i thought was a very original sermon only to have my pastor widow tell me see heard it before not knowly i had use what i read in research will be more mindful going forward. When you know better you do better i heard someone say this.

Steven Smith

March 24, 2010  12:00am

Excellent insights as well as thought provoking and convicting concepts for those of us called to the artform of Gospel preaching.

Rick Thompson

December 16, 2009  3:02pm

This is very helpful as all of us strive to communicate the gospel in ways that connect freshly with our listeners, so we're ever looking for an angle or story that is not predictable but relevant and timely. We truly wrestle with using a particularly poignant illustration, for example, and taking credit by not citing the source. And if we cite every effective phrase, thought or insight, we fear getting in the way of the message God is delivering in the moment by drawing attention to the sermon as an object or product that has been crafted by a preacher. Great article. This helps me understand the value of giving credit where credit is due. All to the glory of God.

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