Perish the thought

My grandfather, who we affectionately call "Fa fa", has written a book called "Preach or Perish". He's an old school church minister with a passion for clear communication – and so that's the subject matter the book tackles. I haven't received my *ahem* free copy yet (I'll send him a link to this post and hopefully get one in the mail). Dad has a chapter in it. So as you can see preaching is in my blood (incidentally I'll be preaching at one of the local Pressy churches this Sunday night).

I'm even included in the bio:

Donald Howard had a varied career before his passion for preaching took him to Moore Theological College. His first parish was St Peter's Burwood East from 1966. Foollowing the death of his first wife Diana, he worked in the Anglican Department of Evangelism. In 1981 he married Nan and they ministered at St Stephen's Lugarno until 1992. They retired to Camden where Donald pastored the congregation of St James' Menangle for eight years. He has four children, eleven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild from his first marriage and he and Nan have two adult daughters.

It turns out that a plague of plagiarism is running rife in the American church (and probably Australian ones too) – the dawn of podcasts and posting full text versions of sermons has created the shoddy practice of lifting texts from the net and delivering them verbatim, without disclaimer. The article linked there makes a somewhat unfair (in my opinion) comparison between plagiarising sermons and pornography…

"Clearly, the internet has contributed to the problem. Sermons in both written and audio form are quickly accessible, and the temptation to plagiarize is easier than ever before to indulge. In this regard the sin differs little from the epidemic of internet pornography. But accessibility alone cannot account for the problem. Just as many believe porn is an unhealthy way of coping with a lack of intimacy, there must be some underlying issue that drives pastors to plagiarize."

While I'm prepared to acknowledge plagiarising is probably an example of laziness – I would have assumed that those of us who subscribe to a belief in the Holy Spirit would see sermons as "open source" able to be shared, and used by others within the broader body of the church royalty free. I certainly don't buy in to this argument, at all. If you want to preach someone else's sermon I think that's fine – provided that in the spirit of the open source movement you give credit to the original author. One of the key strengths of the Open Source movement is that source code is provided and is malleable – you're free to make contextual and appropriate changes to suit you use – this too has applications to preaching.

Reinventing the wheel when someone else has a functional, well planned wheel already working seems somewhat silly. I always thought that's what commentaries and other Christian resources were for – that said, I'm not condoning the wholesale reproduction of other people's work – preachers need to connect with their audiences and no one is better placed to speak to a particular church than their own minister – or in fact the other issue raised by the linked article. That of ministers video-casting their sermons to multiple church campuses ala Mark Driscoll. Which is the subject of a separate article

"Only a preacher with a golden tongue has authority to preach the gospel. It conveys the unspoken belief that no one in the satellite congregation has the authority to speak to their context because preaching requires unique talents that only a few actually possess. Like the wizard in The Wizard of Oz, only the larger-than-life giants, painted by pixelated light, and hovering above the congregation, possess these elusive talents.”

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.