Thou Shalt Steal Sermons--"To Be Effective"
Steve Sjogren advocates sermon stealing on the Rick Warren web page. Instead of being original, putting in the hard study time, laboring to forge a godly message through the prism of your own character, Sjogren says it’s better to steal from sermons that work, that are effective. Although it reads like a parody, it is serious--and it is a serious, serious, and pernicious sin.
We are commanded by God not to steal. Lifting other people's sermons word-for-word, as the article recommends. is intellectual theft and is based on the idolatry of imitating "effective" preachers (read: megachurch pulpiteers). It is nothing less than the worship of "effectiveness," which translates as: get big numbers with minimal effort and integrity optional. In fact, according to the larcenous Sjogren, sermonic integrity just gets in the way and wastes time.
Yes, all preachers learn from and quote other preachers. A few undocumented phrases here and there are no sin. In my Sunday sermon, I quoted Daniel Boorstin's line that celebrities are "well know for being well know." When people responded more than I anticipated, I said I got that from a social critic. Otherwise, I may not have mentioned the source. Further, some basic ideas came from a book by R.C. Sproul (The Holiness of God), which was cited in the "recommended reading" section of my sermon outline given to the congregation. When I quoted Matthew Henry, his name was mentioned. However, if one takes credit for large sections of others people's work, not putting in their own time before the sacred text, one can only pity them and their followers.
No, we can do more than pity them. We can call them to "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand," as Jesus said. As John the Baptist thundered, "Bear fruit worthy of repentance." That means, confess your theft; renounce the ungodly counsel, and start working as unto the Lord, who searches hearts and minds. That includes those who sell their sermons: first and foremost Rick Warren. You should not sell what others should not buy.
Do we wonder why there is so little spiritual power and wisdom in America's pulpits? Many "worship services" worship market share, attendance numbers, and giving units, as opposed to a "holy, holy, holy" God (Isaiah 6:1-3). The First Church of the Golden Calf was more "effective" (for a season) than The First Church of Moses and God. Until we start to preach, and teach, and worship before "the audit of Eternity" (Kierkegaard), all our efforts are but wood, hay, and stubble. May God have mercy on us and revive us again.
[I was alerted to this egregious article through this article on "pastoral plagiarism."]