Kim Riddlebarger has an excellent post here on the awful practice of Pastors “buying” their sermons from a sermon service. It should go without saying that this practice is about as antithetical to Old School Presbyterian Preaching as it comes, and should be considered a form of homiletical plagiarism.
Riddlebarger does much to expose the problems with buying sermons and the long term bad effects it has on both the congregation and the pastor. A while back I wrote the following considerations on the same subject in a different forum:
I was discussing a case with another Presbyter recently, it concerned a Pastor who was caught plagiarizing his sermons from another famous PCA pastor. I commented that it seems like this practice is becoming more and more common as I’m seeing more instances of it occurring. The other Presbyter commented though that many people felt like this wasn’t a big deal especially now that there are a myriad of sites such as Pastors.Com or Sermonsearch.Com that will allow you to browse and purchase sermons by famous (or at least more famous than you) Pastors or their sermon writers (yes, the big guys have professional ghost-writers) – and legally preach them as if they were your own. This is well on the way to becoming an evangelical norm, and people who visit megachurches are beginning to report hearing “re-runs” of sermons they’ve already heard from other Pastors.
Now I know all-to-well how difficult it is to prepare a sermon, I write two a week. I know the awful feeling of realizing it Friday and you still don’t have two sermons in hand. I also know how disappointing it is to realize even as you are preaching that what you have produced isn’t very good. I have produced more than my share of sermonic “rotten eggs” for the people of God. I also know how alluring is the desire to hear our sermons praised (its one of the reasons I ask my congregation not to do it – it has the same effect as attaching a bicycle pump to my head.) But I know that even a pastor without an assistant, and with a heavy work load, can produce two thirty minute sermons every week.
Thinking about this, a few things occurred to me, in no particular order:
1) If a pastor is preaching someone else’s sermons, isn’t he more of a performer than a Pastor? Why on earth would he even need a seminary education? Surely a school on acting and public speaking would be more appropriate to produce these “Good News-Readers.” Also, if he isn’t even preparing his sermon, what is he up to all week? What are the chances he is actually doing that other great duty the apostles stated elders are called to: praying?
2) Is it just possible that the evangelical mega-church infotainment movement has lead us to the point were what is wanted are actors performing entertaining scripts for the “worship show,” rather than pastors?
3) What does a pastor who wants “perfect” sermons from other pastors really desire.
4) If as pastors we aren’t even writing our own sermons, aside from how poorly we are serving our Master, what on earth are we being paid for?
5) Isn’t this a violation of several different commandments all at once?
6) Is it just possible that the increase in leisure time not having to write your own sermons might actually create more opportunities for mischief?
It seems to me that Presbyteries and indeed, denominations, need to be setting out hard and fast rules about this practice, and indicating that not only buying sermons, but selling your sermons for others to preach is not too far from what was going on in the court of gentiles before Jesus arrived to overturn the tables. Also, it seems to me that church members should rightly take a very dim view of their pastors doing this.