Sunday, April 13, 2008

Be honest about the source of your sermon

Here is an interesting point about sermons!

You struggle for suitable material to work up into your sermon. A little searching on Google and, hey presto, here is just what you need. Actually it is a complete sermon saying what you want to say. A little bit of editing here and there to excise stories relevant to far away and incorporate tales readily understood by your congregation. Just the ticket.

But after the service people come up to you. 'Excellent sermon!' ... 'Well, done!! That's the best I have heard from you.' Whoops, what are you going to say? 'Actually it was really a sermon given by Billy Graham/John Stott/Joyce Meyer.' Or, are you going to smile and say nothing, confused as to what people would really think of you if they knew how little of your sermon was original to yourself?

My first piece of advice is to be a little bit smart. If you can source a sermon off the internet then your hearers can do a little googling themselves and check their hunch that you have pinched another's work. The smart thing to do is to acknowledge your source, to share the credit with the one to whom it is due!

Here is my suggestion. Somewhere in the sermon - but not in the first sentence - acknowledge your debt. 'In working through this morning's passage I am going to use some powerful reflections developed by X' or 'Here are the three main points in the passage according to Y' or 'I am grateful to Z for his insights into the passage, insights which I feel strongly we should take on board here at St M's today'.

And when folk come up afterwards with their compliments, say something like this in response, 'Thanks, I was really helped by a sermon by N which I read in preparation for this morning.'

The use of other people's sermons is an ancient custom. The problem is not the use of sermons prepared by another but the honesty of the preacher. To receive credit for work which is not yours is - not beating about the bush - dishonest. The internet makes it easier than ever before to locate a pre-prepared sermon apt for this coming Sunday's needs. But the issue of honesty needs addressing.

I am hearing too many unattributed sermons these days. Its time to start proper attribution to the elves of internet sermons!

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