“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth”
2 Timothy 2:15
When I was just starting out as a pastor, my wife’s grandmother asked me a question I thought was really odd. She asked me, “Did I come up with my own sermons, or did I preach the one ‘they’ sent me each week?” Now, no one was sending me sermons, so I wasn’t quite sure what she meant. I later found out she assumed the Sunday School Board sent out sermons to preachers the same way they sent Sunday School quarterlies to teachers. It surprised me to find that a lifelong Baptist thought preachers used canned sermons written by other people.
But what’s more surprising is to discover that this really is a “thing” today! Many pastors now defend the practice of preaching canned sermons or passing someone else’s message off as their own. (Perhaps you’ve seen this controversy blowing up online). So here’s the question, “Is it OK for a pastor to preach a sermon he’s “borrowed” from someone else as if it was his own?”
The short answer is, “Absolutely not!” It’s a matter of integrity. A pastor is called to give himself to the study and preaching of God’s word (1 Tim 5:17, etc). When he stands in the pulpit and declares, “Thus says the Lord!” he needs to know from his own study and God’s dealings with his own soul that this word is true and faithful to the text. Anything less would be fraud. That doesn’t mean he can’t quote from others, or borrow a good idea from another pastor, teacher or commentary. But when we do, honesty requires us to let it be known. To preach someone else’s material as your own is dishonest. And when a preacher does use someone else’s words, he should say so. “I’ve borrowed this from John Piper.” Or, “I was really helped by what Dr Lloyd-Jones said about this.” I’ve done that. But to preach someone else’s sermon as if it was your own is a failure of integrity.
Pray for faithful preachers! Most are tired. All need God’s help.