Image courtesy of the Southern Baptist Historical Library & Archive
Assuming that—as part of your job description—you are expected to preach in a church setting on a regular basis, here is your reality: Every Sunday, in your audience, there will be sin that needs to be confronted, sinners who need to be convicted, doubters who need to challenged, mourners who need to be comforted, and saints who need to be encouraged, exhorted, and equipped.
What’s more, many will sit there with their arms crossed, silently channeling their inner Pat Benetar: “Hit me your best shot, preacher; fire away.” Even your long-time believers will sit in the pew with an unspoken attitude that says, “I want to be mentally stimulated, entertained, and made to feel good. Make me laugh; make me cry. I don’t want you to talk over my head, but yet, I want to feel like I haven’t been talked down to. I don’t have time to cut and chew my spiritual food, so I want you to do it for me.”
A tall order indeed! What’s more, you are now constantly compared with whoever the Internet “preacher du jour” is.
Can we “borrow” from other preachers?
With all of the above as context, here is a question: Should you always come up with every bit of your sermon on your own? Is there an expectation by your congregation (and by God) that you labor and sweat over every point in your outline, that your exegetical insights are all totally original, and that your illustrations are poignant, funny, and not from a sermon that you heard David Jeremiah preach last week? Bottom line: Is it OK to borrow here and there from other preachers?
Without answering the question (yet), let’s consider this reality: Many feel there is a stigma—real or imagined—that goes with a pastor preaching a sermon that isn’t entirely home-cooked. And what’s more, we all know of some of our fellow compatriots who consistently preach “fill in the blank” sermon downloads from sermons-r-us.com, and give little, if any, serious time to either exegesis (finding and bringing to the surface a glorious nugget of biblical truth) or homiletics (delivering that nugget of truth to the listener in an engaging, relevant, and meaningful manner).
And let’s face it. There is a certain amount of pressure on the preacher that is not on the singer. For every Steven Curtis Chapman (who usually writes most of the songs he sings), there are a lot more Steve Greens, Sandy Pattys, Amy Grants, etc. who don’t. Has anyone ever accused the latter group of not being effective singers? Thus, we don’t insist that the singer who sings just before the sermon have written the song he/she sings, but we expect the preacher to have come up with all the points, all of the ideas, all of the fresh insights, and all of the illustrations, without copying or borrowing from anyone else.
Dig and glean
So what’s the answer? Do both: Learn to dig your own gold, and glean from (and use judiciously) material that fellow pulpiteers have come up with. And when you are ready for some fresh insight, I know of no better reservoir of sermons to study and learn from than the 2,000+ sermon transcripts that are currently available by my father, Adrian Rogers. They are all fully outlined with his original sermon points integrated directly into the sermon text. Furthermore, all of the sermons are searchable using Logos’ powerful search capabilities.
My father was once asked if it would be OK for someone to preach one of his sermons. Of course, if the bulk of your sermon is drawn from another preacher’s work, you’d be wise to acknowledge that. But his reply was fitting: “If my bullet fits your gun, shoot it, but use your own powder.” He followed it up with this: “Don’t let it come out here (motioning to his mouth) without first going through here (motioning to his heart).” My admonition to you: “Go, and do thou likewise.”
Now available on Pre-Pub, the Adrian Rogers Sermon Archive represents the most comprehensive source of sermons by the famed preacher and teacher. Be sure to pick up the archive on Pre-Pub for $249.99 and save $100 off the regular price!