August 13, 2021•700 words
1 Point Preacher
Plagiarism is always sin, no matter who you are. But it's worse for pastors.
Westminster Larger Catechism
Q. 151. What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?
A. Sins receive their aggravations,
- From the persons offending: if they be of riper age, greater experience or grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others.
- From the parties offended: if immediately against God, his attributes, and worship . . .
When faced with this issue, elders and congregations will try to shirk it off. "It's no big deal." Not bad enough to warrant action.
Say sorry to the few who know, and delete the evidence.
Let's make the case by looking at the pastoral calling, from the Pastoral Epistles.
Plagiarism is a violation and contradiction of the pastoral office.
*Plagiarism violates the pastoral calling:
- The requirement of "able to teach"
- Holding fast the faithful word, able to exhort and reprove.
- faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
- Be a model to the congregation
- Give attention to public reading, exhortation, teaching
- Do not neglect the gift within you
- Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all
- Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things
- worthy of double honor, especially those who labor at preaching the word and teaching.
- Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
- solemnly charge . . . preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and teaching.
- But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
As we go through this, keep in mind the prospect of church discipline for the plagiarizing pastor.
Titus 1:5–9 (LSB), For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,
namely, if any man is beyond reproach, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, who are not accused of dissipation, or rebellious.
For the overseer must be beyond reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of dishonest gain,
but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled,
holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to reprove those who contradict.
1 Timothy 3:2 (LSB), An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
The skill/ability of teaching must exist. It's not, "be willing to learn" how to teach.
Not knowing or having the ability is not humility—it's called being disqualified.
Able to teach includes sermon preparation.
This is why responsible churches give substantial time to the training of the next generation of pastors—before they ever set foot in the pulpit.
The system of education and training will act as a vetting process. Those who cannot study and are not diligent will drop out.
Can't is the opposite of able. And if you can't teach, then go do something else.
If it has been shown that a pastor has been copying sermons for years, the question is, "why?"
- Is he just lazy?
- Or is it because he cannot make a sermon for himself?
It just might be because they cannot do job #1 for the pastor—preach the Word.
They'll find their material elsewhere.
Copy an entire sermon, that anyone could find by searching his words on the internet.
Or more sophisticated: a preaching team that creates a collaborative sermon for the "pastor" to deliver.
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Written by Bryan Teoh