As I was scrolling through Facebook the other day, I saw a post about a pastor who was caught using another pastor’s illustrations and sermon points. Basically, the pastor was copying another pastor’s teaching for his own congregation. In a day where it seems you can’t even sing a song about God without permission and license, what is our response when we see a pastor benefitting from using other pastor’s sermon material?
For the pastor who shared the post, it was a horrible ordeal. So grievous, that it seemed that it was a crime worthy of removal of employment. He even called this pastor a parrot preacher. And as I read through the comments one after another, I could see an anger and judgement come against this unknown pastor who was caught in the act of this heinous crime. In times like this, we judge not according to the Word of God, rather we judge in step with the world and it’s set of values.
Any true Christian Songwriter or pastor will tell you that they want the information they have received from God to be disseminated to as many people as possible. I mean think about it, if God came to you and gave you a message to share, wouldn’t you want as many people to receive that message as possible? If that is the case, what truly is the issue that gets us so worked up when it comes to copying someone else’s ministry ideas?
In reality, we care too much about receiving credit for His message. How dare anyone steal our ideas or even our very words to share God’s message more effectively! Can you see how backwards this entire concept really is? It is only by the selfishness of our flesh that we truly care who gets the credit for how someone shares Christ with others.
I think we all need to remember that nothing God gives us to share is of our own, and that there is only one Word and He gets all the credit. How powerful is His Word? Scripture tells us, 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. John 15:3
Jesus is not just the Word/message, He is the One who speaks it through us by means of His Holy Spirit. And if the goal of a pastor is to be “less of myself” and “more of Him” as we preach, who should get the credit for the amazing illustration we just thought up or the beautiful discourse we wrote to share His Truths. Who should the glory point to when those 3 application points help transform lives or that method of response yields the fruit of repentance in those who hear?
The sin of this world has moved the spotlight off God and has placed it on our pastors. And this sin is being felt in many ways. Most of all, there is a constant pressure to force originality in our ministries. Maybe we should read that sentence again because it is so antichrist in nature. For I would say that originality is the total opposite trait of a messenger of God. We are not called to make or create; we are called to share that which is not ours to claim ownership of.
The business of church is contrary to the will of God. We are called to be puppets of the Master. And those who truly believe in sharing the Gospel should not care if someone else is using their methods or teachings to reach the people we could not reach on our own. Rather, we should praise God that more and more people are receiving the Light that God has revealed through us. Instead of malice, we should feel joy.
Nothing is new under the son. Therefore, why are we so concerned with plagiarism in Christianity? How many illustrations can effectively teach the same theological concept? Is it more godly to waste time coming up with something original or to use what already works and take the extra time to minister in other ways?
I am a puppet pastor. I have been trained by mentors like Stephen Manley and Steve Hoffman. My ministry is the sum of the men and women who have invested in me and trained me to serve the Lord. I am the offspring of the teachings of Wesley and Luther. And most importantly, I do my best to remain in the unity of the one Spirit and Fellowship to which all Christians embrace. With such a cloud of witnesses who have influenced and supported our calls to ministry, how could anything we say be truly original in any way?
Pastors, don’t feel guilty using “the things God reveals through other pastors” in your ministry. For originality is not a trait that messengers of God should be concerned about. We are called to be puppets of the King; messengers of the Messiah and His return is near. He has given us the privilege to share His message to a dying world. Therefore, we should hold no credit for ourselves, nor should we require permission for others to share the Light we have received. The Church needs less creativity and originality and more people who are willing to be inglorious puppets. Therefore, let’s get out of doing the business of church and use the energy we save to share Christ in the most effective ways we can. Let us be pastoral parrots holding no glory for ourselves. Or as Manley would say, let us be “Jesus Pushers”.