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Restoring the Church.

Did Josh Howerton Plagiarize His Apology?

By Julie Roys
Josh Howerton apologize plagiarize
Josh Howerton may have plagiarized Florida pastor Joby Martin in Howerton's apology last Sunday. (Video screengrab)

It appears Texas megachurch pastor Josh Howerton may have plagiarized a Florida pastor in his apology to his congregation last Sunday. Howerton’s apology, which concerned a “joke” about women doing whatever their husbands want on their wedding night, was almost word-for-word the same apology given by Florida pastor Joby Martin two years ago.

On Sunday, Howerton, pastor of Lakepointe church in the Dallas area, started his apology by saying he needed “to address a thing.” Howerton then explained that he had made a “joke” that had landed “wrong” on a “few people.” And though Howerton said he was just trying “have fun,” he acknowledged that according to Proverbs, “Careless words can stab like a sword, but that wise words lead to healing.”

“And what that verse means is if, like, even if somebody had a steak knife, and they like had the intent to cut their steak and their hand slipped and actually stabbed you in the face . . . I still need to own that,” Howerton said.

Similarly, in August 2022, Joby Martin, lead pastor of The Church of Eleven22 in Jacksonville, Florida, told his congregation that he also needed “to address a thing.”

Martin then said that he had spoken about breastfeeding in his sermon the previous week. And though Martin said he meant the comment as a joke, he recognized now that he had been “careless” with his words.

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“The Bible says in Proverbs 12:18 that careless words stab like a sword, and wise words lead to healing,” Martin said. “. . . And what the Bible means in Proverbs 12, when it says ‘careless words stab like a sword,’ it means regardless of your intent. Like, if I was careless with a pocket knife, and it slipped out of my hand and stabbed you in the face, it is still my responsibility.”

Martin and Howerton also concluded their apologies the same way.

In 2022, Joby said, “Church, I need you to hear this. Okay. Three things. I love you. . . . I love this church. I love getting to do this thing together. And again, I am sorry. And I want to say thank you. Thank you for the grace that you give me every single week to stand up here and do what I get to do. And I hope by God’s grace, I’ll get to do this for decades and decades to come.”

Likewise, Howerton said on Sunday, “I need you to hear three things. Number one. I love you. Now listen, Lakepointe Church, I love you more than you will ever imagine. . . . Number two, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for something that felt like careless words. Let me actually, let me rephrase. I’m sorry for careless words. I’m sorry about that. And number three, thank you for your grace to me. I want to be doing this with you for decades and decades and decades.”

The Roys Report (TRR) reached out to Howerton to explain why his apology so closely resembled Joby’s apology but did not receive a reply by time of publication.

Side-by-Side Comparison of Martin’s and Howerton’s Apologies

Howerton faces criticism for perpetuating ‘harmful’ tropes about women

Howerton has faced criticism since March for telling the controversial joke, which some people claimed perpetuated “harmful” tropes about women.

Specifically, Howerton said that just as women dream about their wedding day, men also dream about their wedding night. Then, he offered a “gold nugget of advice” for those who had missed a marriage conference Howerton had just hosted.

“Now ladies, when it comes to his wedding night, he has been planning this day his whole life. So just stand where he tells you to stand, wear what he tells you to wear, and do what he tells you to do. And you’re gonna make him the happiest man in the world.”

howerton lakepointe
On Feb. 24, 2024, Pastor Josh Howerton preaches at Lakepointe Church in Rockwall, Texas. (Video screengrab)

Howerton also faced criticism after his apology Sunday because, as TRR reported, Howerton had told the same joke and received the same negative feedback three years earlier.

In private messages from 2021, which were shared with TRR, Howerton wrote to a visitor offended by the joke, “I’ll genuinely take this into consideration for the future and beg your grace in advance for when . . . I say something that’s a miss in your eyes.”

Some, like marriage and dating author Sheila Wray Gregoire, also took offense to Howerton couching his apology Sunday with comments about people getting offended too easily. Gregoire said she was offended because jokes like the one Howerton told perpetuate harmful ideas that women are obligated to give their husbands sex and that women don’t have libidos.

Howerton accused of plagiarism before

In the past, Gregoire has also called out Howerton for plagiarizing. In 2022, Gregoire analyzed a sermon of Howerton’s that had five pithy sayings, four of which came from sources other than Howerton, Gregoire claimed.

sheila wray gregoire
Sheila Wray Gregoire (Courtesy Photo)

Gregoire cited about a dozen specific examples of verbatim quotes or similar wording between Howerton’s sermon and the text of a book by Andy Stanley.

She also noted that Howerton used a phrase disgraced pastor Mark Driscoll had used repeatedly. And she said Howerton quoted pastors Steven Furtick and Rick Warren in his sermon without citing them.

Howerton responded to Gregoire’s criticism in a blog post, claiming that using other pastors’ material without citing them is okay because “almost every pastor tells other pastors to use anything from his sermons that’ll help them.”

Howerton also said it’s not lying to pass off other people’s work as his own.

“It’s only a lie if a preacher *actually lies* and specifically takes credit for something he knows he didn’t create,” Howerton said.

Julie Roys is a veteran investigative reporter and founder of The Roys Report. She also previously hosted a national talk show on the Moody Radio Network, called Up for Debate, and has worked as a TV reporter for a CBS affiliate. Her articles have appeared in numerous periodicals. 

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38 Responses

  1. Methinks either Howerton or one of his minions/PR hacks did an internet search to come up with some quick and pithy as damage control boilerplate. No different than the myriad of similar PR statements other churches and organizations issue when scandal hits. Another typical non-apology apology issued by this pathetic dudebro of a “pastor”.

    1. So, only some people can determine when it is appropriate to be offended, righteously angry, or write a blog?? If you like course joking, back peddling, and plagiarism, then this preacher is your cup of tea. Why do you read these articles if they bother you?

    2. Scripture discusses the harm done by careless words and doesn’t blame those harmed. If you disagree with the writer here, you are also in disagreement with scripture.

    3. I appreciate Julie’s persistence on seeking out the truth and holding pastoral leadership up to the light. It looks like you’ve appointed yourself the gatekeeper for what’s important and what isn’t. Fortunately, Julie Roys has an uncanny knack for keeping an eye out for what is important.
      But don’t be offended!

    4. so you’re offended that others are offended.

      seems to me it’s simply having convictions about things. like sentient beings have always had.

      that is until the offended police shows up and expresses his convictions that no one else is allowed to express their convictions.

    5. Alan, if articles on this topic offend you why do you read them? You’re free to read other things.

  2. The plagiarism of online sermons is happening more often than we think. I don’t know if it’s laziness to actually study the Bible or a lack of understanding they have an opportunity to communication to their congregation in a unique, loving way.

    1. Any academic caught doing that would be fired. A student of mine who did that in a paper would face academic probation. A pastor who can’t write their own sermon, or at least attribute to the original author the words he quotes is perhaps not suited for the job. If it’s a matter of poor education, that could be remedied. Standards should be higher in church, not less than other professional spaces.

    2. But to plagiarize AN APOLOGY? How lazy or unremorseful can you be to not take the time to actually think through and write out your own apology? This is genuinely startling to me. Where is the reflection of Christ in this man’s attitude?

      1. Exactly. I don’t see Christ in him, his words, his attitude…
        At all.
        And when I was born again 11 years ago, I was horrified to read about a pastor who was “hurt” when people didn’t “compliment” him on his sermon.
        Since then, I’ve seen that it’s common for pastors to expect praise for their sermon [performance]. Like this guy who likes to insert “jokes” and run his speech by others before presenting it.
        Is this the entertainment world?? Theatre?? Are these men actors?
        Where is the “doing it all for God’s glory”??
        As Jesus says about FRUIT and knowing them by…(Luke 6:43-44)

    3. The use of phraseology or anecdotes does not constitute plagiarizing a sermon. Let’s get this straight and upfront. Once it is widely used, it becomes common language and knowledge. We can go with many great speakers of past and see this commonality.

      1. There is nothing “common” at all about the phrasing he uses.
        And it’s not just one line.
        It’s practically the whole thing.
        Add to that the fact that it’s an entirely subjective (some would say “self-serving EISEGESIS”) exegesis of Proverbs 12:18.
        I don’t agree with his/their understanding of it at all and have never heard that analogy either.
        For me, it just doesn’t fit. The Proverb does NOT say that the careless words are “accidental”

  3. Wow. There is no way that can be a coincidence. How lazy and unrepentant to plagiarize an apology. And what will be his excuse now?

  4. Does Josh not realize that the rest of us have access to the Internet too? He appears to be as lazy as he is dishonest.

    1. Jane, you are attacking his character from this article alone. If you had half the decency that Pastor Howerton has, you would hold your tongue to such a statement. The lazy one here isn’t the one being attacked, it’s anyone who will make a whole judgment of a person from an article you read on some website. You are doing more harm than good here. What is your intent in attacking his character here? Perhaps we should look inwards.

  5. This dude… there is seriously something wrong with him. He plagiarized an apology ?!!!!

    He needs to step down.

  6. Count me unsurprised when pastors who seem to pull from the same toxic playbooks on sex then plagiarize their not-apologies.

    That said, the real problem here is pastors without professional training in sex, sexuality or therapy, getting onstage and giving sex advice to an audience of thousands and that audience using the advice.

    Be wise folks. Your pastor is (hopefully) knowledgeable about theology. They are likely not a qualified source for sex advice.

    1. To hopefully clarify some misunderstandings about Seminary Training, Josh did his seminary work at Southern. While I do not entirely agree with their theology, they are a fully comprehensive seminary that does include pastoral counseling. I also went to Seminary and earned the 125 Hour Masters in Divinity, from an institution that is part of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The amount coursework spent with professors of family psychology, was quite extensive; however, the coursework dealing with sex and marriage, was steeped in very conservative ideology. Does this disqualify a pastor who is married with children from discussing the issue from his platform? No, but it does have to be taken with a grain of salt understanding where they are coming from. Personally, I earned my masters in psychology as well and I probably would have told the same joke IN THE CONTEXT the joke was told.

      1. 1. They you should re-examine your own beliefs because it is not an appropriate so-called joke in any context.
        2. Howerton never graduated from seminary

      2. What is the punch line of the so-called “joke”? What is the part where everyone in the congregation could reasonably be expected to laugh because they’ve heard something unexpected that causes them to react to the profound absurdity of our species?

        1. The punch line is that it is not to be taken at face value. It is a hyperbolic allegory to point out that there are two different approaches to the same day, and that there must be compromise, out of respect, for both sides. The “joke” is taking an extreme to reveal reality which is much more compromising and respectful. The fact that all but a select few “got” the joke as for what it was meant in the big picture, goes to show that the joke itself reached its goal in the context of the marriage conference and further into his teachings. Could there have been a better joke to tell, maybe, but the point was not lost on the ultra vast majority. In fact, more people are offended at the attention it has gotten outside of the church, or even the area, because by and large this could easily be interpreted as select few trolling the church and its leader, for their own benefit.

      3. “Josh did his seminary work at Southern.”

        That’s a way of saying something different from what it seems to say. It’s as if I said, “I did graduate studies at UT-San Antonio.” People might reasonably think I’m saying I have a master’s degree; actually, I took two graduate business courses through a cooperative program UTSA had with my employer.

        Dee Parsons at Wartburg Watch contact SBTS and was told by them that Mr. Howerton did not graduate from the school. Who knows what courses he took or how well he did.

      4. Dude, I appreciated your thoughtful answer but, you totally lost me with your last sentence. That would be an inappropriate joke to tell in any context where people were valued.
        How would you square a joke like that with the imago de?

  7. Pastor Josh is an amazing God fearing, bible preaching man and our church is a loving caring wonderful place to be! I think he and we are doing an amazing work, and the devil knows it! He will try to stop it at every turn, and this is one way he does it, by having people who have no idea what they are talking about make comments that are intended to hurt the great work that is happening at Lake Pointe. Pastor Josh is human, and the people to attend Lake Pointe are human, we are not perfect people. We are just a bunch of sinners saved by the grace of God, and striving to reach people for Christ. So, as y’all continue to do Satan’s work and try to knock down a good man, we will continue to pray for him and lift him and our church up!!

    1. It’s not easy to hear criticism, even more so when that criticism is levelled at a brother or sister in a cause we hold in the sacred space of passion, faith or even calling. But we need to heed the concerns of brothers and sisters outside our cause – because as fallen imperfect people (sinners) we can miss the mark.
      No one is above reproach. This is even more true of those who teach and preach the word publicly. To question a pastor is not the work of Satan. Some of the words above are coarse and hurtful, but that is the part of the sinfulness you claim grace for.
      Setting all that aside, all the offense and insulting language, you are still left with the question: Was what Pastor Josh said ok? Were his comments about men and women on those wedding days and nights honoring to God? Could his words cause harm?

    2. Aaand there it is..

      I was expecting one or all of the following:

      1) We’re only human
      2) We’re all sinners

      [None of the above are found concerning regenerate Christians in the New Testament].

      Or, the classics:

      3) “Judge not!!”
      (Those quoting that never complete the whole passage and never quote John 7:24, 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, Ephesians 5:11 etc..)

      4) “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!”
      (Folks quoting that always “forget” to mention that Jesus adds: “GO AND SIN NO MORE”)

    3. #1 – I’ll repeat a comment I had made on a previous Josh Howerton post: (Original comment) So, are you saying that Josh Howerton had no reason to apologize? Because, apparently he felt he needed to do so, even going so far as to say “I’m sorry” while also citing Proverbs: “Careless words can stab like a sword, but that wise words lead to healing.”

      It would appear that Josh is in disagreement with you. (End of original comment)

      #2 – It sounds like you are accusing people with opposing views as working with the devil. It seems to me the devil is sort of lazy if his recruitment of other Christians to criticize church leadership behavior is the best that he can do.

      Just remember, as I noted in #1 above, Josh did say “I’m sorry.” Was Josh being dishonest when he said “I’m sorry”?

    4. Multiple people have contacted him over the past several years about how he shut down the women’s ministry, tells offensive jokes in his sermons (including breaking the spirit of a disabled child by making fun of a person with only one arm in a sermon), and he doesn’t care, he just keeps doing it. No one is expecting him to be perfect. But he can listen to the people he’s hurt and choose jokes that don’t minimize people who are already hurting. That’s not asking for perfection.

  8. Howerton seems to be an empty suit. I don’t know his heart, I can only judge his actions. His actions have shown he’s performative and not contemplative. He seems fake and lacking in humility.

  9. If someone tries to tell you that they love you more than you could ever know, eh, pay close attention to their actions and how they treat you. Sometimes it’s legitimate but sometimes those words are an attempt to distract you from what they’re doing. Like eliminating all the women’s ministry programs so they can put up big screen TVs to show ESPN before church and sell hot dogs and hamburgers. And continuing to have a men’s ministry program with an enormous budget. Hmm.

    1. To Lor: Respectfully, Lakepointe sponsors dozens of women-led Life Groups and women-only Life Groups and couples Life Groups, singles Life Groups, it seems like there is a place for everyone to turn a big church into a small church. I hope women feel respected and honored there, as a male congregant it is part of my calling and responsibility to help with that.

  10. I write from a humble heart. For years I have sat with my family in the second row and watched Pastor Josh Howerton shed real tears while he struggles and works mightily to create a congregation of evangelical Christians and deliver them to the gates of Heaven. Josh is a third generation pastor living humbly with his wife and 3 adopted children and he has been very open about his struggles with public speaking (remember Moses also struggled?). Please uplift him and his work and build this fallible human’s confidence, empower him to advance the kingdom of God and forgive his mistakes. He inspired me to read the Bible cover to cover, if he can bring a car wreck lawyer to God he is indeed effective.

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