Thoughts on Preaching another Preacher’s Sermon

As a teacher of preaching for nearly a decade, I have observed that one question inevitably surfaces in every class: Do you think it is okay to preach another preacher’s sermon? I cringe a bit, even though I have come to expect the question. The reasons for my cringing are several. For starters, I know my response is bound to offend or, worse, humiliate someone in the class. Secondly, this issue is too multifaceted and complex for some of the overly simplistic and arrogantly opinionated answers I am tempted to shoot back at my students. Here is, I hope, a reasoned response to the question: Do you think it is okay to preach another preacher’s sermon?

    • The best sermons are birthed through preachers who, like good ol’ Jacob of Genesis, wrestle with the angel for a sermon from the biblical text. In other words, the most profound and passionate sermons develop in preachers who have been engaged by God through a biblical text in a way that causes the former to come away personally transformed, limping with Jacob. This cannot happen for the preacher who simply downloads, prints, and preaches another preacher’s sermon. Developing a sermon that is conceived in you by the Holy Spirit through your engagement with the God of the biblical text not only makes for powerful preaching, it makes for powerful preachers.

    • Many of us have grown weary, by now, of the word “authenticity.” However, the fact is authenticity matters. God wants to incarnate Christ through each preacher’s authentic voice. The way that Christ is revealed to us through the distinct voices of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, he wants to come to your people through your authentic voice. As a local church pastor, you know your church and community context better than any preacher featured on Sermoncentral.com, Pastors.com or Wesleyansermons.com. God wants to speak to your people through your authentic voice, which is why he called you to the church in the first place. God would rather speak to your people through a sermon from your soul than a downloadable sermon from Rick Warren to his people.

    • Wesleyansermons.com provides a sermon outline to go with the featured audio sermon of the week. We did this to help you follow the flow of the featured sermon. The outline is there to help us reflect upon how to preach not what to preach. We have made these sermon outlines so brief that they absolutely cannot be preached without prayerful intimacy with God, diligent study of the text, and faithful sensitivity to your particular church context.

    • The Wesleyan Church has many pastors who are bi-vocational. Many of these pastors work full-time outside of the church and part-time (read “full-time”) in the church. We applaud these hardworking shepherds. Wesleyansermons.com seeks to provide just a tiny sermonic seed to get bi-vocational pastors, as well as full-timers, started on their way toward the blood, sweat, and tears of sermon development and delivery.

    • So, I do not advise, encourage, support, or endorse the preaching of another preacher’s sermon, though I am in support of allowing another preacher’s sermonic seed to get us started in the homiletic process. One more thing, always give credit in your sermon to whom credit is due. In other words, if you use more than just a tiny sermonic seed from another preacher avoid plagiarism and give credit.

Let’s listen to the featured sermons on this website for our spiritual growth. Let’s learn from the conversations with the featured preacher how to increase our homiletic capacities. Let’s lean into God so that the Holy Spirit might conceive in us sermons that make Christ known to the world.

Preaching Christ with you,

Lenny Luchetti


Dr. Lenny Luchetti presently serves as Assistant Professor of Proclamation and Christian Ministries at Wesley Seminary of Indiana Wesleyan University. He began his 15 years of pastoral ministry when he was 23 years old. During that time he has served as the Pastor of a small rural church, the Assistant Pastor of a large church, and as the Lead Pastor of a congregation that grew from a small to a large missional and multi-ethnic church during his tenure. Lenny has taught preaching courses for ministers since 2003. He has preached at churches, camps, and colleges in the United States and around the world. His passion these days is to invest in those who are investing in local churches.

Dr. Luchetti blogs at lennyluchetti.blogspot.com

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17 thoughts on “Thoughts on Preaching another Preacher’s Sermon

  1. Lenny,

    Thank you very much for this post and the fuller explanation of the website and its intended purposes. That being said, I am among those who are concerned by websites such as this. While I am willing to acknowledge the spiritual formation value of such a site and while I recognize that there comes a point at which we get stuck and might need to have our thinking stretched and the creative process jump-started, I fear that sites such as this are often not used for that purpose. In fact, a quick poll on Facebook and Twitter revealed that of my circle of pastor “friends” and “followers” the majority preached someone else’s sermon without significant revision or without revision whatsoever.

    This is troubling to me because not only has the process of sermon preparation and study been short-circuited, but that these pastors are receiving praise and accolades for another’s work. Furthermore, from an ethical standpoint this raises great concern. As someone who is in academics, such behavior would be deemed ‘plagiarism’ and would result in dismissal from my academic institution and any professional organizations of which I am a part. Yet, within the context of the local congregations such behavior might not only take place without notice, but might actually be rewarded and applauded.

    • Thanks Josh. I do appreciate your concern and resonate with it substantially. Because of our mutual concern, the sermon outlines are intentionally too “thin” for someone to simply download and preach. Yet they are, I hope, clear enough for listeners to follow the preacher’s flow of thought in terms of the sermon content. The goal of the sermon audio and outline is not to give preachers sermon material, but to help us all reflect on the theological “why” questions and the practical “how” questions related to homiletics. It usually helps to base these kinds of conversations on actual sermons that we can all listen to and explore. Hence, the weekly featured sermon.

      You bring up plagiarism and rightly so. It is an ethical issue, which is why I state as clearly as I could at the end of my article that credit should be given to whom credit is due. In other words, I’m with you.

      Josh, thanks for expressing your concerns forthrightly. But if we’re going to be able to develop a web resource that helps us consider the theology and practice of Christian preaching, we are going to need sermons upon which to base our discussions.

      Blessings and, again, thanks,

      Lenny

      • Lenny,

        As I said, I appreciate that you wrote a post such as this to clarify the intent of the website. Likewise, I understand the need for a common message around which discussion can take place.

        Looking back over my initial post (and after discussing this issue with friends) I recognize that my issue thus far has been with regards to the issue of plagiarism. Admittedly, my concerns stem from the fact that in recent months I have both attended churches where sermons by another have been preached (without giving due credit to the pastor who initially crafted that message) and have seen churches fire the pastor on the basis of plagiarism.

        As you noted, in many respects we espouse similar views regarding the issue. And, if the website serves as a platform for training and growth, I can wholeheartedly support such a site. Likewise, I’m thankful that if nothing else we can have a conversation such as this regarding pastoral ethics.

        • Thanks Josh. I think these issues are worthy of discussion…so much so that I’m actually beginning my Wesley Seminary preaching class this morning by wrestling with the issue. Thanks for your passionate concern and know that I share it with you.
          Grace and peace to you,
          Lenny

  2. Steps to Utilize a sermon on this site:

    1) Spend time in the text yourself. Wrestle with it. Allow it to even change you personally!
    2) Do you agree with the content of the sermon? Ask if the doctrine of the sermon is sound. Does it reflect the message of the text.
    3) Exegete your audience. The Gospel is always the same, the audience is different. What does this text say to your audience?
    4) Do the hard work to make the sermon yours.
    5) Ask how much of the sermon you should use and how much you shouldn’t.
    6) Give credit where credit is due.

  3. Jeff,

    Thanks for your additional insight.

    In response to your first point, I have found that I must simply sit in the presence of God and listen to his voice in my life and in the life of the congregation. I must wrestle with the text myself. Often, my best sermons are preached because the text changed me.

    Johnnie

  4. I agree with DJ here. I feel, Josh, as though you’re throwing the baby out with the bath water – just because some people have been inappropriate in the use of other preachers’ messages does not mean that we shouldn’t provide resources for those who will use them with integrity.

    What http://www.wesleyansermons.com is trying to do is provide skeletal resources that can help form a seed or foundation for a sermon in the event that a pastor is facing a case of writer’s block. However, the intention is that the pastor will, by necessity (and integrity) do their own research and wrestling with the text. Just because some will misappropriate it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be out there at all.

    The impetus, therefore, is on the integrity of the preacher using the material to actually follow through with their God-given command to diligently work to present the Word of God, not the word of Steve…

    In the case of using a bare-bones outline, if credit is given then the preacher isn’t plagiarizing or, I think, short-circuiting the sermonizing process. It’s more of a spring-board to get their own sermon written, but not unethical. If a preacher is downloading a full script and giving verbatim, then yeah it’s wrong. Strictly an outline is not unethical, in my opinion.

    However, even in a week when a preacher may feel the need to find an outline, they still have a responsibility to diligently study the Word. You must be sure that the sermon is arising from your relationship and devotion to God, your study of His Word, the experiences in your life, and the context of your congregation, even if my starting outline came from a website. If I fail to mine the depths of God’s word, regardless of where I may have gotten an outline or initial idea, then the sermon probably shouldn’t be preached anyways.

    • Jeff,

      I’ve looked through the comments and am unable to see DJ’s comment about my throwing the baby out with the bath water. Admittedly, my posts make it seem as if I see no place for websites such as WesleyanSermons.com. That, however, is not the case. I do believe that such sites have a place. They are useful for spiritual formation purposes, and they have within them the potential to get the creative juices flowing.

      My primary problems are not with the sites, but with those who use them. Judging from the conversations that I have had related to “sermon sites” many believe that: 1) it is not unethical to download and use another’s sermon without giving credit; 2) from a spiritual formation standpoint that what preaches in one place will necessarily preach equally well in another locale; and, 3) the end product (i.e. what is preached/delivered) and not the process is ultimately what matters.

      Like you, I believe that these sites can prove to be an invaluable tool if they are used with integrity, and as a tool rather than a simple solution. If we use such sites in this way they can become a source of both exegetical and hermeneutical help.

      Additionally, such sites can be a means by which God speaks to us, shaping us so that He might speak through us. This, I believe, is one of the primary purposes of any study that one undertakes in preparation for any message/lesson.

      Thanks for pushing back and continuing the conversation.

  5. I’m one of those bi-vocational pastors who also does some freelance writing. I’ve had to deal with plagiarism. But with the website mentioned in your article, don’t the preachers who post their sermons (either implicitly or explicitly) give permission for other pastors to use their work? Doesn’t that nullify the question of plagiarism?
    Plus, I post all of my sermons online. As a result, I’ve received emails from pastors, missionaries, and army chaplains thanking me for helping them in their ministries. I’m grateful God can take what I offer and multiply it like that. I actually hope they don’t feel the need to give credit to me verbally, as long as they don’t sell it. If they use handouts or post it online, it’s up to them if they want to list me as a source.
    Personally, the issue is about internalizing the message and “owning” it. If I try to use another person’s message–or even an old one of mine–without reworking it substantially, there’s always a disconnect. I need to pore over it, study the passage(s), pray about it, replace any personal illustrations, decide what points are relevant and what to delete, and rewrite it all in my own words. Basically, it can help me get through the “sermon block” while sparking the creative juices, but I’ve still got to do the rest of the work.
    I definitely think there’s a place for sites like this, especially for bi-vocational pastors, planters who are doing it all, and for others during weeks filled with unforeseen emergencies. The dangers are that it becomes overused/abused, that pastors fail to internalize the message, and that as a result congregations cannot connect with it.

  6. Hey Lenny!
    Thanks so much for this article. I have had this question for a while, and totally agree with you.
    I particularly resonate with the idea that when we wrestle with the Scriptures and ask God to speak a fresh word, not only will we preach sermons that bring about spiritual transformation, but we will be transformed ourselves!
    What a tremendous privilege we have as preachers!

    ~Gabe

  7. Here’s the reality. The Gospel is the Gospel. The message of the Bible remains the same. Each time we preach a sermon, we are using the message from scripture. When we preach a sermon, we would be wrong to imagine that the words we are using are new, fresh, and original to ourselves.

    We are constantly being hit from the right and the left with information. We read this scripture and that passage here. We hear this sermon and that devotional. We read this book or this commentary. These things influence us even when we don’t know that it is. Our thoughts reflect this influence, the way we think the words we use, the illustrations we pull from all point out the influences in our

    Thus, when we preach, we are constantly borrowing from these influences and we never give credit. We are unaware of their influence and thus are constantly plagiarizing without knowledge of it.

    The Gospel message ought to just infiltrate our every thought and action. We need not stop every time we talk to give credit. We just live it out. This happens in the same manner in our sermons. When we borrow a sermon, we’re doing what we always do.

    In our conversations, in our thoughts, in our actions, and in our sermons, we are simply seeking to affect people’s lives, to bring hope. As long as we are true to the intent of the sermon borrowed, I don’t think we need to cite it. We’re citing it by simply staying true to its message, e.g. the Gospel. Why do the work all over again if someone else has. The hope is to see lives transformed. The desire is to be smart in how we do ministry. Why rewrite the manual each time when someone else has done a great job.

    Find God’s heart, understand your context, care for your people, find a sermon that will lead them where God wants to take them.

    -Sam

    • Hi Sam,

      I agree that our thinking has been so shaped by others’ thoughts about God and life we aren’t always conscience of it. However, I think there’s a big difference between not knowing where we derived some of the thoughts we used in our sermon and knowingly using someone’s entire sermon or book and never giving them credit. I heard a sermon given by a Wesleyan pastor in which he used the key terms and ideas of a book I recently read and never once mentioned the book or the author. That pastor lost credibility with me and I would have a hard time listening to him preach “as one with [the] authority” that comes from honesty and integrity.
      Thanks for joining the discussion,
      Lenny

  8. Hi Lenny, It’s not a new issue, I remember hearing two of our key Wesleyan preachers preach identical messages in chapel while I was at Bible College 30 years ago, not sure who wrote it but they both preached it as their own.

    Like Greg I contribute to sermon sites and have had pastors, chaplains etc thank me for the material that I have posted and I’m always glad to help. However, it is annoying to find your material posted on the same site under somone else’s name. Wonder what that says about their integrity in other areas of their life?

    • Thanks Denn. This topic has generated some helpful discussions concerning integrity. I think it all goes back to the call to preach. Perhaps some pastors don’t really feel called by God to preach and, therefore, feel inadequate enough to use another preacher’s sermon. If God has called you to preach, he obviously wants to use YOUR voice to proclaim good news. This doesn’t mean someone else’s sermonic seed can’t germinate in the preacher’s soul. However, when she stands up to preach the message it will come from deep within her soul, despite where she found the seed. Simply put, the best sermons we preach are birthed by God from deep within us.
      Lenny

  9. With that being said, I am first and formost a preacher and remember being right out of College, preparing two sermons a week along with prayer meeting and an adult Sunday School class and ending up with a funeral or other pastoral emergency on top of everything and frantically flipping through John Maxwell’s first book “Think on these things” or the Sermon Outline Series to find something that I wouldn’t embarass myself with when I stepped into the pulpit.

    Now when that happens I have a fairly deep barrel to draw from, but if one of my messages can save the day for some overwhelmed preacher at some point than have at it. But if that is happening on a regular basis then they either weren’t called to preach or they are going about it all wrong.

  10. I believe this is a fair and respectable view. As one who has been guilty of preaching other’s sermons, I don’t enjoy it. I don’t feel my people get my full service and they don’t receive God’s Word through their pastor, their pastor becomes merely a messenger.

    My best sermons were ones preached out of conviction, they are the ones that I preach and feel satisfied regardless of whether or not I receive praise or criticism from those listening. When I walk out of the pulpit endorsed by God, and not looking for reassurance of the people, I know that I have truly preached.

    That said, there are great “seeds” out there for messages, but they must remain just that. That seed must germinate and grow within my own heart that beats for my community.

    Maybe some preacher’s sermons will be less fancy, have fewer illustrations, and be less ‘polished’ if they would not use other’s messages. But, in prayer, they can trust that God himself will be present and be heard. I suppose we sometimes are too concerned about how we look as God’s vessels to deliver the message than we are that our vessel is full of the Word of God. Shame on us when we do such a thing (Matthew 23).

    And, now my own toes hurt.

  11. Good thoughts, Marc. In your last paragraph you mention prayerful dependence upon God. Waiting and depending on God to speak to us through the text so that we may speak on Sunday is one of the significant “soul cultivators” we miss when we use another preacher’s sermon.
    Lenny