Zachary Stewart
Zachary Stewart preaching at Twin Oaks Christian Church (Photo Credit: Twin Oaks Christian Church)

Plagiarizing Pastor Still in Pulpit; Whistleblowers Attacked

By Jackson Elliott

After being exposed last week for once again plagiarizing sermons, Michigan pastor Zach Stewart is back in the pulpit—ironically launching a series on honesty.

Meanwhile, Andy and Sara Traub, a couple who blew the whistle on Stewart, say they’ve received a fake legal threat. They’ve also received a call from police, accusing them of harassing Stewart’s new church—Twin Oaks Christian Church in Woodhaven, Michigan.

The couple adds that when an elder from Twin Oaks finally contacted them, he told them that plagiarism was a “gray area.”

An old habit

The Traubs first learned about Stewart’s habit of plagiarizing sermons when a church member at their former church—Franklin Christian Church near Nashville, Tennessee—exposed him.

According to an article by Bob Smietana last week, when church member Colleen Reese looked up a sermon series from Stewart, she discovered an almost identical sermon series online published three years earlier.

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It was the tip of the iceberg. After a few more searches, Reese discovered that Stewart had plagiarized hundreds of sermons, many written by disgraced celebrity pastor, Mark Driscoll.

When Reese shared this news with Franklin elders, the leaders confronted Stewart.

The news devastated the church, the Traubs say.

“There was this big fall-out at our church,” Sara Traub said. “We probably went from about 1,000 people to about 500 people. There was so much damage. And just people hurt.”

Stewart left the church in 2016 without offering an apology.

Old habits die hard

In March, Andy and Sara Traub discovered Stewart was pastoring a church in Michigan and had renewed his habit of plagiarizing.

While exploring the church’s website, the Traubs say they found several sermons that plagiarized Driscoll’s work. In the sermons, Stewart copied Driscoll’s wording and even his gestures. He gave Driscoll no credit.

After Smietana contacted Stewart about the plagiarized sermons, nine of Stewart’s sermons vanished from the Twin Oaks website. Two upcoming sermons on the site once had identical titles to Driscoll sermons. However, these titles were changed to be original.

The couple said they wanted to make sure that Twin Oaks didn’t have to suffer years of deceit, so they decided to speak up.

“If we can warn them now, we can save them all this pain from finding out on their own,” Sara Traub said. “Our motivation was to help, out of love of the body.”

Evade and attack

Andy Traub first tried to warn the congregation at Twin Oaks by writing a review on Facebook.

“Pastor Zack is still using sermons he stole years ago and pretending he wrote them,” Andy Taub said on the Twin Oaks Facebook page at the end of March. “Same old bag of tricks.”

Twin Oaks responded by deleting its entire Facebook review section.

The day after posting the comment, the Traubs said they received a legal threat on Facebook Messenger from someone who claimed to be a church elder and lawyer named “Kenneth Smith” from the law office of “Duncan and Smith.”

“What we are seeing is that this is an unhealthy pattern that you have displayed that will require legal action from us,” reads the message, which the Traubs shared with The Roys Report.

The church’s latest available public list of elders includes no Kenneth Smith. Also, a search of the Michigan Bar Association found no law offices with the name Duncan and Smith.

When The Roys Report asked Twin Oaks if Kenneth Smith was an elder, the church refused to comment.

The Traubs said the threatening message included several private incidents that occurred at Franklin Church that few people besides Stewart would have known about.

For example, it mentioned a phone call Andy Traub had made to a Franklin church family who had invited Stewart to live with them after he resigned from the church. Traub said he had asked the family why they had taken Stewart in when they knew he had deceived the church.

When the Traubs contacted the Twin Oaks to inquire about Kenneth Smith, church elder Jack Catton and Stewart filed a police report against the Traubs.

According to the police report, Stewart told police that the Traubs had tracked him from church to church, attempting to get him fired with “false” plagiarism accusations.

Police called the Traubs on April 7, warning them that they could face harassment charges if they continued to call Twin Oaks, Andy Traub said.

Reconciliation or another cover-up?

On April 28, Twin Oaks elder Jack Catton asked the Traubs for their side of the story. The Traubs say Catton also told them not to comment or encourage others to comment on any church Facebook posts.

“My job is to protect the membership first,” Catton said in a text message the Traubs shared with The Roys Report.

In a phone call with her, Catton also claimed that plagiarism was a “gray area,” Sara Traub said.

“There are no immediate consequences (for Stewart),” Andy Traub said. “Instead, they call my family and harass me and tell me that I’m harassing the church, when in fact, I’m just trying to do the Biblical thing.”

Stewart remains the lead pastor of Twin Oaks and the church apparently has taken no disciplinary action against him for plagiarizing.

Jackson Elliott is a Christian journalist trained at Northwestern University. He has worked at The Daily Signal, The Inlander, and The Christian Post, covering topics ranging from D.C. politics to prison ministry. His interests include the Bible, philosophy, theology, Russian literature, and Irish music.

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16 thoughts on “Plagiarizing Pastor Still in Pulpit; Whistleblowers Attacked”

    1. Darren Gruett

      At the Twin Oaks Church website there is a page with the caption, “Any Question, Anytime.” It goes on to say, “There’s no question too large or too small when talking about God. We would love to get to know you and help you connect with the right resources to find the answers you’re looking for. Seriously, just ask.”

      But, “When The Roys Report asked Twin Oaks if Kenneth Smith was an elder, the church refused to comment.”

      So I guess honesty in this church only goes so far, but what would one expect from a church that hired somebody who steals other people’s work as his own.

  1. James Lutzweiler

    So, Elder (youngster?? —how old is he?) Jack Catton calls plagiarism “a gray area”? Ha ha ha ha ha! No wonder churches are dying. Nothing gray about this statement. Totally black.

    James Lutzweiler

    1. Abigail Grossberg

      God isn’t in ‘gray areas’. It’s either black or white or yes or no and anything inbetween is evil. Ellen White from SDA plagiarized and she has been seen in Hell by someone whom Jesus took to Hell. Plagiarising is lying simply put.

  2. Crystal L Brooks

    “it mentioned a phone call Andy Traub had made to a Franklin church family who had invited Stewart to live with them after he resigned from the church. Traub said he had asked the family why they had taken Stewart in when they knew he had deceived the church.”

    I’m confused. Why are they calling this family to question WHY they are extending kindness to a disgraced pastor? What business is it of the Traub’s to question this family’s actions? I’m just wondering why we need to kick somebody when they are down. Look at the end result of his ouster. They went from 1,000 members to 500. Why not focus on rebuilding your own church community that has suffered so? One does have to ask why the Traub’s tracked him down at a new church and then began to call him out. It’s one thing to “help the body”. But is it helpful to cause even more division someplace else? Whatever happened to going to the person privately? If he still committed the action, then you go to the elders. Mr. Traub just went public by calling him out on Facebook. I don’t think Jesus would be pleased by that. Did he first try to reach out to Mr. Stewart by noting the plagiarized sermons yet AGAIN? If so, and he got nowhere, then I can understand reaching out to the elders. As the article pointed out, that didn’t do a lot of good. They are probably worried about the repercussions after what happened at his former church. In this current climate, who wants to lose half of their members? It is a shame that Rev. Stewart feels the need to steal from other preachers. Preparing sermons is hard work. I do them. There are resources and sermon aids to help pastors write them. Some of the resources publish full sermons. But they always tell you to attribute the source. It’s just clear Zachary Stewart uses the sermons of others as his own instead of actually doing the work himself. And to me, that is just pure laziness. Journalists lose their jobs for plagiarizing. And he was right to resign his position. It’s just too bad he couldn’t be humble enough to apologize to the congregation for his actions. That just tells me that he was not really sorry for what he did.

    1. I think you have misunderstood. It was a brother to brother call…. only Zach would have known about it which shows he wrote the fake letter to us. Posing as someone he wasn’t to try to protect himself. Hope that helps. This is probably more complicated than is expressed in the article.

    2. Order of events.
      1. I contacted the church through Facebook to warn them.
      2. I get a threat from a fake elder and fake lawyer.
      3. I called the church to warn them.
      4. They called the cops, who told me to stop calling and asking to speak to an elder.
      5. Article and video comes out proving Zach is plagiarizing.
      6. Elder contacts us and says they are investigating.
      7. Zach still preaches and elders do not apologize to my family for calling the cops on us when we were trying to contact them to warn them. Neither do they follow up with me once I give them the fake Facebook message from Zach/Kenneth Smith the fake elder and fake lawyer.

      The man lied three weeks ago to his congregation about his firing from our church. He lied in the police report. He lied about stealing sermons. He’s a serial plagiarizer. These are not opinions. These are documented facts.

      I know Zach well enough not to try and reason with him. He has lied again and again to my family, our church, and now his current church.

      Watch it for yourself:

      https://youtu.be/XEwl3q_4sDU

    3. Repeated attempts were made to handle this privately over the course of a month. The initial phone call was made to ask for “Kenneth Smith”, who threatened us. (Kenneth Smith ended up being Zach). Two phone calls were made a week later, and the phone was immediately hung up on me due asking for an Elder. I had sent emails to two staff asking for an Elder bc the phone calls did not work. The police were called. I was kind to all staff, expressing empathy for this awkward situation. For the church to vilify us for simply requesting an Elder to share truth, is Outrageous, and very hurtful to our family. All of it. And we did not CAUSE DIVISION. I will speak for the thousands of people that are accused of this by sharing truth! We noticed a plagiarized sermon graphic from our old church, did some digging, and realized he was still doing it regularly, and tried to alert the church. That is all. Zach and his mishandling of this information, and the their bully response, will hurt their church. Not us. Stop accusing people to expose darkness as “causing division”. And no one caused Zach to lose his job except Zach. He alone is responsible for what happened. He has a very long trail of victims over many, many years. I was hoping for this church to find out and save themselves any more deception. This article is not very thorough. There is a lot more to the story, and a lot of very hurt people. We have been treated like an enemy, were ignored, lied about to police, and vilified. I hope that helps.

      The church has had no concern that we were threatened in a fake letter, by a fake pastor, using a fake name, claiming to be an Elder and a Lawyer, from a fake law firm. When I sent a text requesting an apology, I was once again told we were the bad guys. Wow. I’m just living in total atonishment at this point.

      This is spiritual abuse. And it is wrong.

  3. Rebecca Carson

    There is so much more to the story than what this article has room for. Zach Stewart destroyed a thriving church with his lies. He was asked to resign WITH a severance package. This video goes into way more detail.

    https://youtu.be/XEwl3q_4sDU

    1. Thank you. It’s pretty simple. Lied. Got caught. Was given a chance to confess. Didn’t. Lost his job. Started at new church. Started lying again. Got caught again.

  4. Jeff Rodrigues

    Thank you for this follow-up story.

    A question for the Traub family if they should read this. In addition to presenting video evidence of plagiarism to Twin Oaks, has any kind of relevant documentation also been submitted to them originating from Franklin Christian Church relating to Zach Stewart’s firing such as elders’ meeting minutes, public announcements, etc.? Just curious.

    Thanks.

    1. Franklin Christian has chosen to remain silent, and sadly because they never released anything, Zach has been able to be hired and hide his past disqualifications from ministry. individuals have spoken out testifying to what happened. You can listen to the “untangled faith” podcast, and watch YouTube videos online, as well as read the article prior to this one by Bob Smeitana with links to more information. When leaders fail to do the right thing, and cover for the perpetrator, more victims are made… which is what we have now at Twin Oaks. I feel badly for them. It’s very confusing to go through. We couldn’t have peace knowing that he was revictimizing, and we knew about it. We had to do something… we just had to also pay a price. It’s been profoundly disappointing.

  5. Mark Zimmerman

    Speaking about false teachers, Peter says, “Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and, ‘A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.’” (2 Pt 2:22)

    Recidivist public plagiarizer, deceiver, and spiritual abuser Zach Stewart fits these descriptions, except it seems he never washed when he was exposed at Franklin Christian Church, whose silence has enabled him to continue his shameful ways at Twin Oaks Christian Church, which is abetting Stewart further, even though in its “about” description on Facebook it says anyone can come there and find “uncompromising truth.”

    Respect to the Traubs for helping bring all this to the light.

  6. I appreciate that. Thank you so much. It’s not a position we wanted to be in, nor the response from the church we expected… But when you know, you know… and I did not want to do, what I had resented others for: Staying silent, which resulted in more people getting hurt. I hope this stops with Twin Oaks. It will likely never been seen as such, but I think of it as a gift to his family, and the church. Truth and freedom always come together. Living a lie any longer will only cause more personal pain for his family, and countless victims of his lies. I truly hope the best for the Stewarts…but it can’t come until the truth comes out.

  7. JEFFREY C JONES

    There are many problems with the churches here in Traverse City ,MI….suicide,,bearing false witness,discrimination against seniors teaching Sunday school…Beware ye wolves in sheeps clothing. Beware because God will judge you harshly!

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