What counts as plagiarism in a sermon?

J. D. Greear offers some personal rules that he follows:

1.     If I ever preach the gist of another person’s sermon, meaning that I used the lion’s share of their message’s organization, points, or applications, I give credit.

2.    If I glean an interpretation of a passage from someone, but the organization of the points, application and presentation are my own, I generally do not feel the need to cite.

3.     When I take a direct point or a line or the creative wording of a truth from someone, I feel like I should cite. 

4.     When I give a list that someone else has come up with or offer some piece of cultural analysis, I feel like I should cite.

5.     If I hear a story told by someone else that reminds me of a story of your own, and I tell that story from my own life, I don’t think I need always to identify where I got the idea for that story from originally.

What do you think?

Good advice?

Too loose?  Too tight?

Read much more on the subject from J. D. right here…

QUESTION:  Have you ever felt guilty after giving a sermon, feeling that you may have crossed the line?  Why or why not?



  • Jeorge de Jungle May 22, 2013 Reply

    Citing sources depends on the circumstance. I was told by my preaching professor that in small churches every thing must be cited. In medium churches you can say “it is said…” In large churches you just say it. I don’t know if this actually ethical.
    Probably as long as you do not take credit for the idea and you have proved yourself to be ethical and you are not publishing the material outside of your immediate congregation it doesn’t matter.

  • davepatchin May 22, 2013 Reply

    I think JD had an excellent grid. Plagiarism is form of theft and is sinful behavior, as well as illegal. Having heard some pastors preach word for word sermons from others as if it was their own, far too many are too loose. Cite the book that shaped your thinking, or the theologian who had the insight you shared. The biggest challenge to citing sources is simply pride.

  • Richard Schoonover May 22, 2013 Reply

    Note the section on character and leadership regarding preaching. Sometimes it is better to cite than lose integrity in someone’s eyes. http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200202/200202_010_character.cfm

  • Steve Miller May 22, 2013 Reply

    I once heard a pastor in a sermon tell amusing anecdote after amusing anecdote lifted from a Mark Driscoll sermon. It became very uncomfortable as he told little family stories removing Mark’s wife’s name and inserting his own wife’s name. So I finally started to finish his stories before him loud enough so those around me to hear. They marveled at how I could know all the punchlines since it was first service. In the digital age it is unbelievable to plagiarize.

  • Willie Mac May 22, 2013 Reply

    I think that insight from other sources need to be shared, if only so that others will go and consult those sources! We are not all-knowing gurus and it hurts our credibility when we pretend to be. We need to point to people who are greater than us, so that God may be glorified in the work amongst all of us.

  • Paul May 28, 2013 Reply

    A good general rule: if you would feel comfortable if the person was in the room while you were preaching it, you probably should give more credit.

  • Bud Brown May 28, 2013 Reply

    When I deliver a sermon that people think is a home-run I generally give credit to the Holy Spirit. It’s hard to go wrong doing that.

  • Claudia May 29, 2013 Reply

    Everything has been said somewhere. In this age; everything is also on-line and many times people are quoting a quote and giving the credit incorrectly to the person who was quoting the quote. I once heard a sermon on three points that I had just read in a book and knew it had been lifted. Credit was not given. It felt bad because I really respected the speaker AND the author. Give credit when you should. Just be honest. The person who wrote or said that particular thing, probably heard it or read it somewhere else. By the way, can you plagiarize the Bible?

  • Rev. K. A. Christian June 7, 2013 Reply

    Always give credit… Or simply state, “I’ve once heard about…” Or, “I’m reminded of something I heard said….” This in itself gives the speaker credit by not taking credit…

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