September 19, 2011
Pastoring in this age is a great blessing, because of the volume and variety of resources at our disposal. I have hundreds of books and commentaries on my computer thanks to Wordsearch software. Then I have a library full of books and a number of key websites I visit. That’s not to mention the study Bibles I own. You can be a marginally intelligent guy like me and still craft a good sermon.
One of the resources that I find most helpful are downloadable sermons. Several ministries offer these, including Preaching Today from Christianity Today, Sermon Central, and Rick Warren’s Pastors.com. Personally I enjoy Preaching Today and then I use Ray Pritchard’s Keep Believing website to read his sermons and I frequent the archive of Ray Stedman, the late, great expository preacher. I also podcast several prominent pastors, first to feed my own soul and second to learn about the great texts of Scripture from great expositors.
Here’s the thing, though. I read and listen to these sermons as commentaries, to get ideas of how to structure and shape a sermon on a particular text and to get another man’s “take” on a particularly difficult passage. But I think it’s a miscarriage of my duty if I simply preached someone else’s sermon. I think most pastors would agree to this.
Which brings me to the idea of pre-packaged sermon kits. I’m seeing more and more of this from some more prominent pastors. Two examples that come to mind are Andy Stanley from Northpoint Church in Atlanta and Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill in Seattle. Both are terrific pastors whom God has blessed with great ministry.
What these guys (and other prominent pastors) are offering are complete reproducible and preachable sermon series. They come complete with slick graphics, which include printable art work for posters, handouts, banners, etc. They are quite nice. But my question is this. Should a pastor of a local church, who has been called and ordained by God and chosen by the congregation to lead, should he preach the work of someone else on Sunday?
This is tricky question. On the one hand, all preachers’ work is the product of others. The old joke says that if you preach someone else’s sermon, it’s plagiarism. If you quote more than one preacher, it’s study. Our preaching is built upon the wise men who have gone before.
But that sermon should still be the product of our own study, right? I’m having a hard time imagining me doing a series at Gages Lake and saying, “Okay, we’re going to preach Andy Stanley’s “Guardrails” series this month.” The people might wonder, “Why are we paying him?” And isn’t it my job to study the Word and preach what God has specifically laid out for those particular people in that audience?