Also from the most recent edition of my denomination’s journal, comes a small news piece concerning the proliferation of websites dedicated to producing sermons for pastors. (Unfortunately, this item is not on-line.) The basic concern of the piece is plagiarism among pastors. I have written about pastors and plagiarism before, and what caught my attention this time was the number of sites out there dedicated to this sort of thing, how creative and detailed they have become, and lucrative some of them are.
Among the sites listed are creativepastors.com, desperatepreacher.com, pastors.com, sermoncentral.com, and powerpointsermon.com. The article notes that creativepastors.com earned 1.7 million since its inception in 2004.
The author ponders whether copying a sermon off a website is plagiarism, and though he doesn’t come down hard in one direction, he notes that many do not feel plagiarism is committed if the pastor pays for the sermon.
Though that might be technically correct, I think there is more at stake with the integrity demanded between a pastor and congregation than whether they paid for the sermon or not. I believe the rightly implied and inferred subtext to a sermon given by a pastor is that it is the pastor’s work for this congregation at this time. I believe that copying a sermon or buying a sermon breaks this implicit relationship, and is thus unethical behavior.
One line in the journal article said that a “time-strapped” pastor might need resources like these websites to create their sermons for them. I think this comment betrays a fundamental problem in the pastoring world—pastors who are too busy being executives to pastor. The biblical role of shepherd/pastor is unfortunately only a subtext in the world of advice to pastors in the current evangelical world. One of the primary jobs of the pastor is to prayerfully and as expertly as possible handle Scripture. Something might have gone awry if a pastor is too “time-strapped” to do that from week to week.