Plagiarize Driscoll Pastor
Pastor Mark Driscoll, left, uses a bow and arrow analogy in Aug. 2019. Pastor Zach Stewart, right, used the same analogy while preaching a very similar sermon to Driscoll’s in April 2021. (Video screengrabs)

‘If you have eyes, plagiarize’: When Borrowing a Sermon Goes Too Far

By Bob Smietana

Colleen Reese was ticked at her preacher.

Listening to the minister’s sermon at Franklin Christian Church, south of Nashville, she took exception when he began to criticize parents for passing bad habits — and bad genes — on to their children.

He included a joke about mothers passing on mental illness to their kids. Reese, who deals with depression, thought the joke was in poor taste and had little to do with Christianity.

When Reese typed the sermon title into Google, a link to her pastor’s latest sermon series popped up. But so did a three-year-old series from a church in Kentucky. The Kentucky sermon was almost identical to the sermon her pastor had preached.

Looking further, Reese discovered that her pastor had plagiarized hundreds of sermons — which made her feel as if she had been lied to. “I had to send my children to their rooms so that I could speak to my husband about it,” she said. “Because the words that came out of my mouth were really not Jesus-like in that moment.”

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For many Protestant Christians, the sermon is the central act of worship during Sunday service, a moment when God speaks to the congregation through the Bible and their pastor. The sermon also plays a key role in attracting newcomers. According to a 2016 Pew Research survey, people searching for a new place to worship want a “good sermon and warm welcome,” with 83% saying that the quality of sermons played a key role in their choice.

But as Reese discovered, pastors are not always preaching their own words. While there are no statistics on outright plagiarism — claiming someone else’s words as your own — preachers love to “borrow” from each other. 

As a young staff pastor at a church in the Pacific Northwest, Jesse Holcomb said that he and his colleague would be constantly on the lookout for good ideas at other churches. They even had an inside joke about it: “If you have eyes, plagiarize.”

Other churches were doing great work, so the thinking went, “Why don’t we take these ideas and use them as our own and bless our community with them?”

Things started to go wrong, said Holcomb, when his pastor wrote a self-published book filled with other people’s ideas. “I just remember sitting there thinking, ‘man, this is what we’re doing with everything,’” he said.

Plagiarism in book form is easier to catch and has struck as recently as 2017. Abington Press withdrew a book of prayers by the Rev. Bill Shillady, Hillary Clinton’s longtime pastor, after discovering he had plagiarized passages in the book. In 2013, megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll had to apologize when plagiarized material appeared in his book “Call to Resurgence.” Driscoll blamed a research assistant for using unattributed material.

For Driscoll, the plagiarism scandal was one of the first steps that led to his 2014 resignation from Mars Hill, the Seattle-based multisite megachurch that later splintered into separate congregations and no longer exists.

Thom Rainer, former president of LifeWay Christian Resources, a major evangelical publisher, labeled plagiarism as one of the “four most common acts of stupidity that get pastors fired.”  

Plagiarize Sermons Pastor
Photo by Nycholas Benaia/Unsplash/Creative Commons

Plagiarizing sermons may be more serious, however, at least theologically. A sermon isn’t just another speech, said theologian Scot McKnight, a professor at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. Instead, it is supposed to be an encounter with God. Through reading, prayer and study, the preacher hears from God and then passes on what they learned to the congregation.

When a pastor short-circuits that by plagiarizing, it’s an act of betrayal, said McKnight.

“The whole idea of taking someone else’s sermon destroys what sermon-making is supposed to be,” McKnight said. “I think that pastors who are plagiarizing are building a web of deceit and shame in their own life. They know what they’re doing is wrong. They live with the fear that they could be discovered. And they seek to mask it as much as possible.”

Among the sermons Reese’s pastor, Zach Stewart, reportedly plagiarized, were a number of sermon series from Southland Christian Church in Kentucky and another series of sermons on the 10 Commandments that originated with Driscoll, including a 2013 sermon entitled “Do Not Steal” that included slightly altered versions of Driscoll’s personal anecdotes.

After discovering her pastor was plagiarizing, Reese contacted the church’s elders, who eventually confronted Stewart, who left the church in 2016 without apologizing. The church removed all of his sermons from their site and tried to move on, Reese and other former members said.

An elder from Franklin Christian Church confirmed that Stewart worked for the church from 2011 to 2016 but declined to comment otherwise. Stewart also declined to be interviewed and said his new church’s elders and their lawyer advised against commenting.

In 2017, Stewart posted what he called an “1,800-word apology” on his blog. The post did not mention his plagiarism or former church but said, “I have deceived others greatly. I have stolen much secretly. I have perfected the lie of making myself look better than I really am.”

In April, Stewart, now pastor of Twin Oaks Christian Church in Woodhaven, Michigan, preached a pair of sermons on the Book of Proverbs, which drew heavily from 2019 sermons by Driscoll on the same topic, in places reciting Driscoll word for word and mimicking Driscoll’s gestures, according to a video that was until recently available on the church’s website.

The pastor made no mention of using Driscoll’s work in the video.

“Now, I put much study, reading, preparation and prayer into today,” Stewart told the congregation at Twin Oaks, as he started a sermon entitled “How Do I Heal Emotionally.” “I am eager to pass on to you God’s wisdom from God’s Word, to help you heal emotionally through whatever grief that you have,” he said.

Stewart said that he had been fired after a coup at his old church and made no mention of his own plagiarism, just as Driscoll began his sermon by retelling the story of how he left the now-defunct Mars Hill. 

Both men made the same gestures mimicking shooting an arrow as they told their congregations that sometimes, like a bow being pulled back, they had to go back to the past in order to move forward to the future.

After I contacted Stewart, nine of his sermons — including the two on Proverbs — were removed from the Twin Oaks website. The titles of two upcoming sermons, which were identical to other Driscoll sermons on the Book of Proverbs, were changed. A number of sermons were also removed from the church’s YouTube channel.  

Andy Traub, a former Franklin Christian member, said that Stewart’s departure left church members confused and hurt. People benefited spiritually from the sermons, no matter what the source. 

Traub was particularly troubled by his former pastor’s use of personal stories in plagiarized sermons, telling the stories of other pastors as if they were his own. Church members were left wondering who Stewart really is. “Every story he told was somebody else’s story,” said Traub. “The hard part is that nobody knows Zach Stewart. When somebody lies all the time, what do you do?”

Preaching other people’s sermons can be done in an ethical way, said Gary Stratton, dean of the school of arts and sciences at Johnson University, a Christian school with campuses in Tennessee and Florida. And it can be effective.

He pointed to the case of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, whose heart was “strangely warmed” after hearing someone read from Martin Luther’s preface to the New Testament Book of Romans. Stratton said that Wesley went on to supply new Methodist preachers with a set of sermons to preach before writing their own.

Pastors often cite other preachers or books they’ve read during sermons, and no one bats an eye. “That’s what is so mind-boggling for me,” Stratton said. 

Reese, who left Franklin Christian a few months after the plagiarism debacle, said she and some friends have kept an eye on Stewart since she left. She recently told her story on the Untangled Faith podcast with her friend, author and former Franklin Christian Church member Amy Fritz.

Reese said that the truth of the Bible can still come through, even with a pastor who plagiarized. But that does not make it right.

 “God also will not be mocked,” she said. “And that’s what he’s doing.”

Bob SmietanaBob Smietana is a national reporter for Religion News Service.

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56 thoughts on “‘If you have eyes, plagiarize’: When Borrowing a Sermon Goes Too Far”

  1. I appreciation this issue being covered by Roy’s Report.

    May I suggest a work on this subject by Scott M Gibson, a book entitled, “Should We Use Someone Else’s Sermon.”

    I heard Gibson speak during a lectureship series at Lincoln Christian University. He made the startling statement that “plagiarism is never the only issue, there is always a underlying moral issue.” Two years after that I realized that an associate was plagiarizing. I did some investigation and found that was indeed correct.

    Beware the preacher who does not give proper credit! I understand that “there is nothing new under the sun,” and that preachers cannot footnote every piece of research or thought from commentaries. But frankly, we know what plagiarism is – sort of like obscene art is hard to define, but honestly, we know it when we see it and there is way too much of it out there! Preachers are doing things for which CEO’s would get fired and for which students could be denied graduation.

    This is another area in which the church needs to be restored!

  2. Why would anyone want to “copy” Driscoll? I never listened to another word he had to say after he referred to women as “penis homes”. Mocking mental health issues, that fits his character.

    1. What’s with the stageyness. One can stand stock still in vestments and TALK about bows and arrows. We know what those are.

  3. Warren Millard Roy

    I don’t care much about preachers taking another man’s and preaching it as your own! Especially if that man even takes personal Illustrations and use them as their own.
    However be as it may I do get ideas from other preachers and like one I believe it was a quaker said, “I milk many cows but make own butter!”
    I like to give credit where is do. But that is the crisis I am facing now. As an evangelist I preached at a certain church and quoted Dr. J. Vernon Mcgee. I found out after church I never should have there!
    Plus in the light of the Ravi Zacharias scandal I would think twice before I would use his name in a quote!
    That has been my problem is the issue of giving credit where is due for some people are super sensitive when you quote “a bad source!”

    1. I feel your pain. I hate the attitude that says, “everything John MacArthur says is reliable,” and “nothing that Bruce Wilkinson says can be trusted” (based on the perception about one of his books) and that everyone in our theological camp is great and nothing outside of our camp is worth anything.

    2. Mr Roy. To clarify. You said: “I don’t care much about preachers… ” Not caring about preachers plagiarizing, I hope, was not what you mean but rather ‘I don’t care for preachers who…”
      Blessings.

      1. Warren Millard Roy

        I don’t like it at all when a preacher plagerizes. And especially when they go as far to use a personal illustration as their own!
        I have heard of men who memorize sermons of Charles G. Finney and preach them! Will they refer to personal Illustrations dating back to the 1800’s?
        I wonder those type would if they plagerize a sermon from John Wesley or Frances Asbury or George Whitefield from the 1700’s and tell their horse riding experiences as their?
        Or how about Martin Luther of the 1500’s?
        Or they use different messages where the preacher tells how they got saved. And you plagerize five or six different preachers with different testimonies? And they tell each testimony as their own!
        Thank you for the correction! And pardon my illustration for how absurd Plagerism can be!

  4. I want to compliment a minister who did it right. In the 1990s I attended Central Baptist of Hixson, TN, which is now Abba’s House. The senior pastor who did the most of the preaching was Ron Phillip’s, Sr. His own preaching was great, the church was growing, and his populariuty was increasing. He was also humble enough to preach a wonderful series of sermons with the title “Water From Other Men’s Wells” Each was based on a great sermon by a great preacher from different times, places, and churches. He combined the Bible, the outline and quotes from the original preacher, and his own thoughts to make a combination as tastey as a spiritual banana split. I still remember Pastor Phillips’ joy in telling us about the treasures he himself enjoyed so much. I also remember the Sunday I went forward for strengthening prayer. Dr. Phillips met me at the head of the aisle. I asked him to pray for me and he replied, “I’d be proud to pray for you.”, with thr emphasis on “proud” and “you” not on “I”.

  5. James Lutzweiler

    Dear All,

    Another theological thief is the Rev. Brandon Ware, presently the pastor of the Green Street Baptist Church in High Point, NC (where, incidentally, he became a successor pastor of the avuncular Mac Brunson, who in 2019 at The First Baptist Mega-Church of Jacksonville, Florida, awarded to Ravi Zacharias a Lifetime Achievement Award, while fully knowing of and ignoring Ravi’s affair with Lori Thompson). At the time I heard Rev. Ware, he was a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary—where I once heard speak plagiarist, Richard Land. Land was at the time the head of the Ethics agency of the Southern Baptist Convention. Land is now the president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC. To his other dubious credits, lifter Land also gave a free pass to the Rasputin-lookalike Ravi Zacharias at a school event in 2019, after having been informed of Ravi’s romance with Lori Thompson.

    But back to plagiarist/preacher Brandon Ware who, for short, is better described as B. Ware. I heard him plagiarize John MacArthur and then later some unknown person whose remarks about a Tennessee Williams novel about Tolstoy B. Ware got from the internet —and then got nasty with me, when I called it to his attention. Shortly thereafter I wrote a book about B. Ware and a Sunday school class in his church. It is entitled On Keeping My Mouth Shut in Sunday School. It was and still is published by Wipf and Stock. Sadly, B. Ware’s elders and trustees and members could care less about this sleaze, partly because they don’t listen well nor are most of them bright enough to comprehend the tocsin.

    For further information about the book and/or a copy of a long letter I wrote to B.Ware about his copping of big bad Br’er MacArthur’s story (a story which happened to be totally false but which on the lips of B. Ware became even more false, as in ludicrous), send me an email request and it shall be given unto thee.

    Sincerely,

    James Lutzweiler
    Archivist (1999-2013), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
    [email protected]

  6. Once years ago I was on an Elder search committee for one of the largest multistaff churches in our region. For the “candidating” message brought by the new prospective senior pastor, he orated a masterful sermon I knew I read or heard somewhere. No crediting of any sort. I spent all afternoon frantically looking for it, turns out it came almost completely right out of Haddon Robinson’s excellent book on Biblical Preaching (which I had in my library). This pastoral candidate even used a personal illustration from Haddon’s own life as his very own. Now that takes guts. When I asked him about it later that evening, he said he felt “liberty” to do that. Needless to say, he did not get the job. He went to another large church but only lasted a few years there… I knew another wonderful pastor, he was so careful to always point out and fully credit when ever using a Wiersbe, Swindoll or other pastor’s outline, story or reference. That is totally acceptable and made his preaching more effective, not less.

  7. Chuck Chillingworth

    Well now, this issue of plagiarism deserves a deep dive. The root of this problem is the business side of the church. These churches and authors become self-serving profit centers over time as God’s blessings are converted to personal and institutional assets. Whether it is sermons, books, podcasts or music, if it is truly from God as those who publish all state they believe, then they should know that God is the original author and He’s been giving His truth away forever for free (“Freely you received, freely you shall give”). They should be thrilled to have it “plagiarized” in furtherance of the gospel. The infighting over finances and intellectual property as well as manipulative appeals for money, is a sad reminder that evangelicals have re-created the Catholic system that spawned the Reformation. They just slapped different labels on selling indulgences, priests being the conduit for God’s Word, etc. They have forgotten that revival begins with the church first and it appears that God is clearing the moneychangers out of the temple. To bring this down to real life, my wife is a school teacher and I am a businessman in totally non-Christian environments. Over the years, we believe we’ve given a Spirit-directed word of advice or encouragement to people whether it’s work associates, friends, neighbors or young couples class members. The most gratifying thing we can hear is for someone to tell us years later that, “That advice or word you gave us was so helpful. We have shared that with others and they’ve been encouraged, too!” Plagiarize anything you want from us that is from the Holy Spirit, please!! We got it for free. We’re giving it away for free. To the so-called church leaders in America, our message is the same for you.

    Chuck and Janet Chillingworth

    1. The question of whether or not we should turn truth into a commodity to be sold is an interesting one, however, I don’t think that is the issue here.

      When a preacher says that, “I studied and prayed long and hard about what I’m going to share today,” and then reads what he “copied and pasted” from someone else, not only is he stealing, but also lying and he is cheating because he did no real work for himself. The teacher or preacher who does this, furthermore, is not transformed by any truth he is sharing. No matter how worthy the material may be, this preacher is denying the truth he is conveying by breaking several of the ten commandments in the process.

    2. Chuck, the perspective of this article is that the plagiarizing pastor’s main offense is against his congregants, and rightly so, for deceiving them about the source of what he is saying, not against the one from whom he plagiarized.

    3. A good sermon represents a joint enterprise between the Holy Spirit and the disciple giving the sermon.

      Some disciples work a lot harder than others in their spiritual lives – often with little reward.

      It is not appropriate that any Christian should use the life experience, spiritual and intellectual progress of others without asking permission first, and/or giving full attribution for the borrowing.

      Credit needs to be given where it is due. Anything else is deception, theft and pride: three character failings that all Christians need to get the better of, long before they apply to study at a seminary.

  8. We fired our pastor for plagiarism about a year ago. In a couple of conversations with him well after the fact, it was clear to me that he didn’t understand he was stealing. All he needed to do was give attribution and we all would have been fine. I just preached this past Sunday. At the beginning of the sermon, I told everyone I was relying on two theologians for the first part of my materials – cited them by name and how they could learn more. Then I preached. Taking entire sermons and preaching them as your own with out attribution is sin, IMHO.

    1. I think the unwillingness to properly attribute is just pride…the pastor WANTS people to think he is as eloquent or as profound or as spiritual as the person he is quoting.

  9. I had a pastor who was a Rick Warren groupie. He freely took Warren’s sermons and reworked them. For a while, he credited “outline by Rick Warren” in the bulletin, but that didn’t last long. He also re-told a John Ortberg sermon, including the personal illustrations. I’m not sure what this “doctor of divinity” did with all his time in his book-lined office, but it sure wasn’t study and sermon preparation.

  10. One Salient Oversight

    Preaching another preacher’s sermon is fine, so long as you give attribution to it and the congregation is aware of it.

  11. In my study on one occasion, I came across a masterful sermon on my topic and passage for the week. I decided that I couldn’t improve on it. I told my people that week that the entire sermon was from “so and so” because I couldn’t improve on it. I don’t think I plagiarized. People were definitely blessed. We have a strong ethic of attribution in our church, and our pastors adhere to it religiously.

  12. One issue not given much mention here is ministries like Saddleback Willow Creek, Granger and others that SELL the sermons that some pastors use. It can bring in considerable money to the church selling sermons for others to preach, of course with no attribution whatever. This is mind boggling to me, to hear the same sermons on the radio, at church, and online.

    The plagiarism discussed in this thread would have been considered academic misconduct at the large state university where I spent my career. A faculty member guilty of this was subject to discipline and potentially dismissal, depending on severity of the offense.

    Churches and pastors seem find this plagiarism OK since it is a “ministry resource” Getting ideas from someone else is one thing, but preaching word for word from another is stealing.

    This issue is far more widespread than many realize.

    – GB

  13. As a writer and editor, I take plagiarism seriously. Someone has likely spent a great deal of time thinking over a topic and studying various sources before coming up with what one wants to say. As a Christian, I find plagiarism to be a sin: stealing. I expect my pastor to spend time praying and studying God’s Word in preparation for his sermon. While one may get ideas from someone else, it is expected that one would then build on that with original (God-given) thoughts, and would acknowledge source of material used. To me, this is just another aspect of Christians failing to take the Word of God seriously. We are to be holy, and I fail to see how plagiarism is part of holiness.

  14. If your pasta is being paid a salary and as part of that salary, they are expected to prepare and deliver a sermon each week, and they have used someone else’s work without (a) crediting the original author and (b) adding their own understanding/insights/reflections, then what have they been doing with their time? If theyre being paid by the church to study and teach, they need to study and teach. I’m surprised that churches who hire a pasta simply to preach and teach (ie. Not provide pastoral care etc) dont save themselves tens of thousands of $$ and just play recorded sermons from their favourite celeb preachers. But that would put the celeb crony pastas out of business wouldn’t it? Who would pay their cushy salary then?
    If pastas believe their congregation needs to hear a sermon someone has already given, then send it out as a text or video during the week. Copying, especially without credit given, is lazy and deceptive.
    Personally I don’t agree with the ‘sermon’ being central to a church community, though I understand that its a key part of many Christian traditions. The whole ‘teaching pasta’ is an oxymoron. To suggest that a person is qualified to teach but is no good at caring for others is rubbish.
    Rant over.

    1. No disrespect to real pastors who care deeply for their flock and humbly serve and teach their community. My comments are aimed more at the big boy ‘pastas’ who think they are God’s special chosen ones- who are often just in it for themselves.

  15. These pastors typically justify their leadership of the church on the idea that God speaks directly to them.
    If God speaks directly to them, why don’t they have any abundance of sermon material?

    The need to plagiarize words and even ideas from other pastors says to me that they aren’t hearing much from God themselves. THAT is the problem. and it’s why plagiarism is the sign of something else, something deeper, that is wrong in the pastor’s life.

  16. Pablo Picasso reputedly said, “Bad artists copy. Great artists steal.”

    It is impossible to learn and grow without imitation. Most preachers begin in great measure by imitating a mentor or two until they find their own voice. The point of studying the Scripture and other preachers/teachers is to digest, process, and integrate this into one’s own heart. Being able to eloquently re-state a truth in one’s own words is a demonstration of higher thinking skills. To truly understand the Scripture text and to be able to explain it in one’s own words is a thing of beauty. To be able to take what’s been said before and bring it forth in a fresh, new way is “to steal it,” to make it one’s own. It’s like writing a song or a poem. It bears the mark of our soul. Because many preachers are overexposed and swimming in administration, they don’t have time for the integrating process. Hence, they copy. It’s a costly shortcut.

    The digital access to information has made copying prolific everywhere. Heard an original political speech in the last twenty years? I doubt it. Echo chamber news reporting has driven me away from listening to any mass news reporting. The problem with simply cutting and pasting old sermons together is that it results in the loss of a personal reflective life so necessary to the pastoral call. Maybe this is, in part, behind the many de-conversions in public ministries. They become hollowed out over time, simply saying words, actors not preachers, etc. Actors who are type cast into the same kind of role with the same lines often burn out, return to the theater, or leave acting for some other job in entertainment. I think it’s akin to people who work in jobs with a scripted propaganda pitch. Who works all their life as a museum tour guide? People ache for the opportunity of individual expression. Preachers who do this in time come to see themselves as fake, and pastoral work as a job.

    I think God fully intends that we should bring forth His Word in our ministries through the uniqueness of our personalities and temperaments. Creativity is woven into our being. It’s part of being made in the image and likeness of God. A life without creative productivity is a burdensome life. Perhaps, those who are copying and preaching someone else’s sermons wholesale should engender our pity and prayers more than anything else. And as for me, I’ll look for pastoral care and leadership elsewhere.

  17. Henry Ironside

    You all should be ashamed of yourselves. Let him or her who casts the first stone live in a glass house.

    I was a pastor for two decades before I finally quit. But it was only after 2-3 years that I was so sick of the sheep and ignorant conversations like this that I wished I could.

    The very same people who claim their pastor is doing nothing are most likely the same ones who would sound off if they were in the hospital or in a personal crisis (often of their own creation) and their pastor responded, I’m sorry. I can’t help you tonight. I’ve already worked an 80 hour week and I really need time to study.

    75 percent of pastors are in single cell churches and expected to preach sermons that are on par with the mega church pastors.

    That is impossible. Superman couldn’t do it. For example, Jimmy Mac had a team. He had a team that would pick his creative concept for his sermon series.

    A team that researched his illustrations.

    An individual who helped translate the ESV to write him a personal commentary on the passage and suggest an outline.

    Then he was given a summer sabbatical to calendar everything out.

    AND if I remember correctly three days of the week to study and prep.

    Then when it was over he had another team who turned those sermons into books.

    That is NOT a slight on Jimmy Mac. It is a judgement on anyone who comments here that their pastor isn’t doing enough.

    Sure, there are awesome examples of Billy Graham who didn’t respond to Eisenhower because he was studying. But I’m guessing the fit that Ike pitched was nothing compared to what some of you people would pitch if the roles were reversed.

    Give it a rest.

    1. But love is what? We should all be ashamed of ourselves for daring to leave a comment? An ex-pastor should know the answer from Paul. No wonder you failed if you blew off steam like this at the congregation. You sound just like a covert narcissist…

      1. Mr Jespersen,

        The word failure is yours.

        By the worlds standards I was considered very successful.

        My relationship with God was pure and I have zero doubt that I will receive a well done and a crown for my service in that office.

        But to take me to task is a bit short sighted (and dare I again use the word meaning uninformed) of the writing of Paul and the words of Jesus.

        Paul wrote to a young church planter by the name of Timothy. You may have heard of him. He was in Ephesus and according to Luke’s description among ravenous wolves. Enough so that they were ripping him to shreds emotionally. So much so that Paul advised him to drink to help medicate the issue.

        I’m guessing that isn’t a common passage taught in many of our Sunday School classes.

        Would it be safe to say that you wouldn’t refer to Timothy, Paul’s true son in the faith, as a failure?

        If so, then I take back my defense and would gladly be lumped in with him.

        Before you think that I am simply disagreeable, I find myself on a rare occasion actually agreeing with you on a separate point.

        The church that we have inherited is so far from the church as God intended that I don’t think any of the people alive at the time of Christ and worshipping in the early church would even recognize the mess that we currently call “church.” And yes, John Christendom did us all a huge disservice with the 3 point outline and the “sermon” at the center of the “service”

        There is a reason so many former pastors cannot even emotionally bear to attend a “church service” anymore.

        Truthfully, there are a lot of reasons. The weight led Timothy to drink. It led Paul to weep. And they were doing it the right way.

        I urge you all to please stop talking and judging about what you know not of.

        Are there people who have evil motives and unregenerate hearts in the ministry. Of course!

        That isn’t news! Jesus and the apostles pointed that out in the gospels and Acts. It is a topic that has more real estate in the sermon on the Mount than anything else. To say you were not warned simply would mea. You didn’t listen.

        But the same is true of law enforcement. But I’m going to venture to guess that the crowd responding to this blog isn’t part of the defund the police crowd. Why? Because you are smart enough to judge and individual rather than a collective group.

        Please apply that same principle here.

        Darrin Patrick was a friend and mentor. Some of the things written here were simply cruel.

        You don’t know the heart of that man. You didn’t sit with him in private settings while he bore his soul to younger pastors and peers. You don’t know how his body chemically and emotionally changed because of the hormones that were under so much stress for so long that it required medical attention.

        To say anything beyond that would be to speak out of turn but I bring testimony that he is not alone. There are bodies of pastors and their families scattered all over. Shredded by “well meaning” Christians who forget that it is not their place to judge.

        Give these men and women the same privilege you would desire. To stand before the throne of God and be judged by him.

        Dont listen to me… listen to Jesus. He is the one who instructed us to take that position.

        1. “Paul wrote to a young church planter by the name of Timothy. You may have heard of him. He was in Ephesus and according to Luke’s description among ravenous wolves. Enough so that they were ripping him to shreds emotionally. So much so that Paul advised him to drink to help medicate the issue.”

          This is a serious distortion of the Scripture under consideration. Alcohol was far less potent in biblical times; and it was often mixed in with water as an antibacterial, medicinal measure.

          “You may have heard of him”. It is a poor testimony to use sarcasm in discussion with fellow-believers. If you want to keep that crown that you’re so confident about receiving from Our Lord, holding your tongue would be a wise first move.

      2. Henry Ironside

        Jesus called the religious far worse … are you lumping me in with Him? Okay. Cool. I don’t mind that.

        I will let you in on a little secret… in addition to rebuking those who post self righteously on blogs… sometime I even hang out with tax collectors and sinners. 🤫😉

    2. Spoken like a true pasta ‘it was only after 2-3 years that I was sick of the sheep…that I wish I couldve quit.’ So you stayed in ‘pastoral ministry’ for 2 decades while harbouring this kind of resentment toward your own congregation? Cmon man you’ve got to realise how wrong that is. A shepherd loves their sheep, you call them ignorant.
      I think the main re a son many people expect these amazing sermons is because pastas themselves promote and idolise certain people. Or they try to emulate these people, but fall short.
      My pastor isn’t the best preacher and that’s ok. But he loves his flock. I think almost everyone in our church has had a meal(s) in their home. He lives round the corner from us and drops in to check on us and answer any questions we have. Id much rather shorter/average sermons which plainly teach/encourage/admonish the congregation by a pastor who loves and knows his flock than a 40 minute theological discourse each week but someone i don’t even know.

      1. Henry Ironside

        Alex,

        Jesus loved his sheep too.

        Enough that one day while they were in a boat, after a long sigh (which would have been enough for me) he called them blind, deaf, and dumb. Twice!

        Then as if that wasn’t enough… he walked them past their homes and healed a blind guy by spitting on his eyes.

        Then to top it off he walked them 2 days journey over hill and dale the 36 miles to the absolute most perverse place on earth only to call one of them Satan.

        I’m thinking that perhaps…. being tired of the stink of sheep doesn’t mean you don’t love them or your heart breaks for them and their stupidity… just means you are tired of the stink of sheep.

        We all joke that Jesus called us sheep because sheep are dumb… so it’s all fun and games until a former pastor points the finger at a flock and tells the sheep that their “sheep” do stink.

        Why is it okay to have an online forum where you and others consistently air your grievances against people you don’t know but it’s not okay for a former pastor to say what I did?

        Is it because it’s shocking?

        Offensive?

        Found in the Bible?

        Go read the word of Paul to the Galatians… “foolish” “who had bewitched you” “if you are going to ‘do it’ then you may as well cut it off all of the way.”

        Shall I go on?

        My point to you and the well meaning brother who offered me counseling is that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, so why Do you and others insist on playing the role of Elohim?

        I believe Christ’s reference near the end of John 10 to Psalm 82 is probably more appropriate… but again, you may be offended because the Pharisees who he said it too were so insulted they immediately tried to kill him. 😂😂

        Strength and Honor

      2. Warren Millard Roy

        About pastors and bitterness. I hate to say this but I have seen this but I have seen many pastors get bitter towards certain trouble makers in their churches! I am not justifying it at all! Nor am I justifying the troublemakers either.
        I am staying this as a fact that I as a preacher have seen.
        Now about pastors not being the best preachers! A good pastor may not be the best preacher. I am glad that I was talk that!
        It is better to care for their sheep and to be there for them than to be the greatest pulpiteer!
        I think it is better to be a man who loves and cares for his flock than to be a great theological windbag anyway!

        1. Henry Ironside

          Warren,

          Here Here…. Should an eye say to the ear… I don’t need you? (loose paraphrase…)

          I appreciate you advocating for the distinction, and thanks for your service.

    3. Henry,

      If you use others material, attribute it to them. Maybe I am old school, but preaching the Word is supposed to be a pastors focus. Said Pastor should also know Greek with a sprinkling of Hebrew thrown in. This is not the case within evangelicalism today. Why would a pastor go 50,000 in debt only to plagiarize other poorly thought out sermons-I am speaking to the new generation of speakers.They are entrusted with speaking God’s Word to the congregation. It seems as if the current crop did not spend time necessary to master their Preaching.They may be good communicators and public speakers, but they do not have a deep understanding of Scripture. Honestly, they do not even seem to be deep thinkers. This is a sad state of affairs. I am beginning to wonder what they teach in Seminary these days, or possibly the students aren’t paying attention while fantasizing how they will grow their church plant.

      Plagiarism is not a good idea-pastors are paid to bring their own unique discernment of the times to prepare their congregants for the life of steadfastness and faith. I believe congregations are open to stories, anecdotes and attributed material from other godly people that are speaking to the pastor at that particular time. The problem is when others stories and preaching become their stories and anecdotes. This seems like a deeper issue that just “borrowing” from others. Well, we all know it is.

      So, I am not sure where you’re coming from? As former Pastor, I cannot see you disagreeing with some of these thoughts? I can only attribute part of this due to the CEO cult and desire for fame and large churches. John Piper wrote a little book on,”Brothers, we are not Professionals”.

      If you had a bad experience, maybe others can learn from you and we can have new preachers get their priorities straight. I would be happy to hear your viewpoint as one who has been in the trenches. I wish to be encouraging and not tearing down.

    4. “I was a pastor for two decades before I finally quit. But it was only after 2-3 years that I was so sick of the sheep and ignorant conversations like this that I wished I could.”

      You think that is a good argument? It seem an awful like you should never have been in the position in the first place.

  18. I guess I am going to get in trouble here and take a shot at the bow of a sacred cow to many professing Christians. Could it be that the central problem here, the one that came first before every narcissistic “pastor” who cannot write well or give a decent public speech from his own head began stealing from others who, like Driscoll, have themselves stolen from someone else, that the central problem is simply the idolatry of the sermon?

    Did not Jesus say something about being a doer of truth and not just a hearer? Our current church system is based on the school lecture system. This is where all the students pretend to listen to the teacher, and then cram for the test only to very quickly forget everything that they heard a little while later? This is the system that we are all forced into in our schools and then we go to church and see the same thing. The teacher/preacher is elevated in too many cases too highly and Orthopraxy or the practice of our faith is only talked about but there are not even tests anymore. How much emphasis is given to actual practice? Is that not what discipleship is? Jesus said to teach others to do everything He instructed, not just talk about it.

    The result is a preacher preaching about purity to his church, not necessarily God’s, and all the while the singles are sleeping with each other and there is rampant adultery and rumors of them everywhere in this man’s church. Or their preaching on greed while deferring to the wealthy business owners who are the elders and board members, never mind what Timothy and Titus say about qualifications. I could go on and on but if all people want is a good public speech there are far less expensive ways to find those, although most of those are also now stolen because of the Internet. “Foolish is the man who does not put into practice what I have taught” – Jesus

    1. Yes! Mr Jesperson this! Idolatry of the sermon. And if we idolise the message, often we idolise the messenger too! The sermon as the center of a church community is a huge knock on the priesthood of all believers.

    2. Henry Ironside

      Mr. Jespersen,

      In the words of Reagan, “there you go again.”

      Forgive me, but you are as confused in your pedagogy as you are in your philosophy AND your theology.

      I appreciate your right to freedom of speech. I personally gave several years of my life so that uninformed people can speak freely in this country.

      However, I must correct you so that others are not misled…

      Pedagogy. Oration, which is probably most similar to what occurs on Sunday morning is not good pedagogy. The only “teachers” who use that as a primary method of instruction are preachers for whom preaching is the constant but learning and transformation are variables.

      While direct instruction may be the norm in “cemetery,” I can assure you that if you went to any public school in your community that you most certainly would not find oration being utilized as the method for actual teaching.

      Philosophy. Modern church is based more on Plato and Idealism. For those familiar think Allegory of the Cave. For those unfamiliar think The Matrix.

      But consider church architecture… we climb stairs to enter into the building signifying our ascent out of material darkness to spiritual enlightenment.

      We sit in rows staring at the back of the persons head in front of us.

      In the old days there was a strategically placed rose window in the back where the light would shine through. Now we just have lights.

      In the front we have the “shadows.” They are not real. We listen to someone present a 10 page paper that they spent 30 hours writing in the hopes that they can deliver it in 10 minutes or less. All the while they tell us about the outside world… it’s all Plato.

      Not to mention the steeple. Aspiring to the heavens. Now we don’t just have Plato we have Gnosticism.

      Think I’m making it up? Google it for yourself. Church history is all available online.

      Think it’s irrelevant? Read The Allegory of the Cave and then read John 1 in the version of your choice. John obviously didn’t think it was irrelevant.

      Finally, Theology. It wasn’t Jesus. It was his brother James who said that we were to be doers of the word and not just hearers. Close though…. I’m sure he was just plagiarizing his brother 👍🤦🏻‍♂️😂😎🤪

      1. You still sound like a bitter covert narcissist to me. To them it is always someone else’s fault that they failed. I have known some failure and it has always ultimately been my own fault. I do not leave comments here in order to vent at those who refused to see how great I am. That is what the narcissists like the Pharisees do…

        1. Henry Ironside

          Mr. Jesperson,

          What is it with you and the name calling?

          Why can you not have a content focused conversation?

          Is it is too difficult to focus on content or simply easier to call names intended to diminish character? .

          And again with the word “failure.” Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you, but I was addressing the content of your position while you lower the bar to accusations about my character and competency. the Bible is clear that we should not argue with fools, but as one young leader told me back in toddler school… “na na na na boo boo to you too.” :)

          Julie, please forgive me if this crosses any lines. But I’m not sure that Mr Jespersen is here to actually dialogue. So if you wouldn’t mind. This will be my last post on this topic.

          1. “my relationship with God is pure and i have zero doubt I will receive a well done and crown for my service.” In my 50 yrs of being in Christ i have never heard a disciple of Jesus Christ utter those self deluded words of self righteousness publicly.. Jesus turns his back on those types of people bro.Go and learn what this means; ministering unto the Lord is our first ministry and ultimate destiny.

          2. Headless Unicorn Guy

            Mr J’s been on this kick for at least several months. He used to do this on Wartburg Watch during the main lockdown period (same attitude, but much more longwinded with a lot more Bible proof texts. My most sympathetic interpretation is it’s his way of showing COVID Cabin Fever. (Everybody’s gotten a little crazy this past year.)

            Probably also with some Magickal Thinking. As in waving his Faith and Bible as a Magick Shield against the threat. In such a case, he cannot afford a single crack in that Magick Shield.

  19. Now look at plagiarism in Evangelical Christian books. Warren Throckmorton is on the case of Tim Clinton’s new book on Christian counseling “Take It Back” stealing from George Foreman’s 2007 book “God In My Corner.” This follows accusation of plagiarism against Clinton in 2018 (https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2018/08/14/former-liberty-u-professor-denies-plagiarism-allegations).

    Throckmorton summarizes nicely:
    “I continue to wait to see if anyone in Christian publishing takes any of this [plagiarism] seriously. I know academics like Prior, New and me do, but professional Christians apparently do not. Instead, if any questions are asked beyond this blog post, the Christian celebrity culture response will be to trot out a public relations humanoid with excuses and wait for the forgetting to set in.”
    https://www.wthrockmorton.com/2021/04/27/karen-swallow-prior-calls-out-egregious-plagiarism-in-tim-clintons-new-book/

  20. Joseph Salmoiraghi

    I served under a Sr Pastor (I was the associate) who had the church spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for Andy Stanley’s sermons, and then would turn around and preach Andy’s sermons. He even told me he just didn’t have the “gift” of preparing a sermon from scratch. It was sad. I’m glad the Lord removed me from that church and I learned war not to do from that “pastor”…

    1. Henry Ironside.

      Joseph,
      You can’t have it both ways.
      You can’t argue, as some on here have done, that pastors should be shepherds and “care for the needs of the flock.”
      And then ding them for being self aware enough to be humble about their gifting.
      That is what is referred to as being a hypocrite.

      Stanley has an incredible team.
      Unfortunately your pastor didn’t.
      He had you.
      And when he was transparent with you, instead of honoring his integrity you judged him.

      That is the response of what is known as “a little snot.”

      We’ve all been there. Judging someone without merit and thinking we know better. It was called being a toddler or a teenager.

      I’m amazed how much smarter I became when my kids entered college. 😂

      And yet how stupid I was when I first graduated. I had the self awareness of a sophomore and yet figured the world and the kingdom were simply waiting for me to use my gifts.

      30 years of ministry will change that perspective. Hopefully if you are ever burdened with a team they will be more self aware than you or I were.

      Billy Graham told a story once how some pastor in another country would read Billy’s sermons word for word each sunday. The church was thriving.

      As you know, a good sermon takes 30 hours of prep. Where is a guy in a single cell church going to find 30 hours to disappear into a study to put that time in.

  21. My pastor preaches over an hour – NO Notes (only bookmarks to find the Bible verses)

    Spirit driven sermons, powerful.

    Just my two cents on this plagiarism thing.

    Could any of these pastors who rely on plagiarism preach an hour on a subject at a moments notice? I doubt it.

    1. Or preach reasonably effectively and freshly for 17 mins. on Sundays and 7 mins. on weekdays (approx. preferred timings where there are more Scriptures)?

      My mum’s jam tarts were in the tradition of jam tart making – she got all the ideas from all over the place – and were moreover constrained by her circumstances (economic, even her physique) but were totally original.

      Average fairly good preachers of any denomination whom I’ve known sometimes say they’ve forgotten where they got a point from (it may not have been on the internet) and they sometimes forget to say anything about that, but it was genuine inspiration making it fresh enough. God intends us to receive “gifts differing” through people “differing”.

      I think the system is self-selecting: do seminaries over focus on people with “easily stereotyped” back stories? Such preachers will themselves get confused how to talk about what they have lived through. “Training” in preaching like a dog gets trained, must be an intense thing to be subjected to.

      Pope Paul VI was in the forefront of over-depending on newfangled “media power”, but Marshall McLuhan warned against it. Secular agnostics rightly criticise when religion becomes just memes being pushed.

      Bad church authorities would never dare “plagiarise” the Lord’s Prayer though. At one time churches didn’t have “statements” or “confessions”, they had the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds – short and snappy, and requiring inspired unfolding.

      Whatever a church leader thinks about where I should get the totality of the structure of my faith from, I own it and I bring it for a nice (or less nice) top up. They are not shaping it.

  22. Thank you for passing on this pastor’s blog (zachstewart.blog). It is so good. All night I’ve read as much as I could. So humble, funny and relevant.

  23. Fred Monninots

    What about notable evangelists who have ghost writers write their many books?
    In one case a noted pastor was accused of plagiarizing a book written years earlier by another.
    It turned out that both books were written by the SAME ghost writer.
    It is to weep.

  24. Chuck Chillingworth

    I almost hate to say to say it again but the answer is not to monetize the Truth but to give it away freely. The Apostle Paul had a spiritual mantle far greater than anyone discussed in The Roys Report and he felt it was more important to work a “regular job” taking significant time away from “full-time ministry” so that no one would accuse him of having a financial incentive which he felt would erode his credibility. I would recommend this strategy to our current crop of “leaders” whose greatest need is humilty not fame or attribution. We “rank and file” believers can hear from God just fine on our own, thank you.

  25. Henry Ironside

    Just an effort to put a little smile on our faces.

    It is ironic, given the nature of this particular dialogue that I can’t cite the source of this story. I just know that it was told nearly 30 years ago at a Founders Week in Chicago. It sounds like a Swindoll illustration given the tenor of the humor, but I’m not sure that he was the one who told it. It is also a shame that the only name that I remember is that of Ironside. I’ve tried to look up the story to be able to cite the second preacher but have been unable to do so.

    If you are familiar with the story and can help me out that would be awesome and much appreciated.

    So, the story goes that Ironside and a preacher who I can’t remember his name went on a preaching tour of the United States making several dozen stops over the course of several months as they criss crossed the country by train.

    Each night the unnamed preacher would preach a new sermon. He would dig deep into the text and have something fresh to feed the sheep.

    Ironside on the other hand preached the exact same sermon night after night. The same pauses, the same jokes, the same everything. It got to the point where the second preacher could recite Ironsides sermon from memory. Every joke, every point, every pause just like the great preacher himself.

    On the last night of the tour the second preacher had the opportunity to go first. So he thought he would put one over on Ironside and preach his sermon for him. And he did. He did an amazing job. He gave every illustration. He paused in every place. He told every joke and even closed in prayer with the same cadence and wording.

    After closing out the message in prayer he couldn’t help but smile to himself as he sat down next to Ironside.

    As the host was making the introductory transition, Ironside simply put his hand on the leg of the other man and said, “very well done.”

    Then he rose to the pulpit and without missing a beat he preached an entirely different sermon than the one that he had been preaching for the past several weeks.

    The second preacher was stunned…. How did he know?

    After the message was over and Ironside returned to his seat, the second preacher leaned over and asked, “How did you know?”

    “I didn’t,” said Ironside quietly.

    “Then how were you prepared to preach a different sermon tonight?” asked the stunned preacher.

    “Oh that is easy,” said Ironside. “I’ve been working on it for the past 12 weeks while we have been traveling in preparation for tonight, because that is the sermon that I preached the last time I was here.”

    – and in the words of Forrest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about that.”

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