How original are your sermons?

First off, I stop trying to be original in my sermons.  Once in a great while I’ll write one that almost qualify as original, but the only problem is that I am confident that someone, somewhere has thought through what I just preached on.  And without knowing I may have quoted them indirectly, or restated their original thought.  Also I do strive for integrity in my messages and always give proper credit when I know that I am utilizing someone else ideas, etc.

I think about this often when writing my sermons.  I read a great deal and much of my thought process is influenced by what I read, including blogs.  But when I am writing I am not necessarily consulting any books just expressing what I have learned.  Sometime I can’t even remember where I may have read it.

If I do quote someone directly I always give the reference.  There are also times when one book influences me in such a great way, that I seek to craft a series of sermons based on the person’s writings.  At that point so much of what they said has influenced my message that I just state that this series of messages are based on the works of such and such author and that they are more than welcome to buy the book and follow along.  When this happens I restate in my own words what the original author said, and I present it in a way that my listeners will understand.  It is never a word for word, and if it is (a direct quote), again I do give proper credit.

Many of the books that I read state that they hope that it will help pastors in their understanding and messages.  So I think that at least in someway I use their material in a way that the author had hoped for.

Anyhow, anybody wonder about this but was afraid to ask?  BTW: I do write all of my sermons, and I have used other peoples materials when teaching various classes like the Theology Program that Michael Patton offers, but even then I add or remove various parts.


9 thoughts on “How original are your sermons?

  1. Gary Zimmerli says:

    We used to have a pastor who made no bones about it when he used other people’s material. He would tell you who he was quoting, and would stand up there in front and read right out of that person’s book. Looking back, I respect him for it.

    We had another pastor who never told anybody, but claimed all his sermons as his own. But I could tell by the style differences and the fact that sometimes he would preach beliefs different than what he personally held. He was the worst.

    I see nothing wrong with using other people’s material as long as you give credit where credit is due.

    On the other hand, I think it’s also good for a pastor to speak from his own heart. I think we sometimes get the best sermons that way.

    • Gary, thanks for the feedback. Most of my sermons do come from my personal devotions, or various topics that I want/plan to minister on. But even then I tend to read up on the subjects I plan on ministering on. Bad habit of reading that I picked up years ago.

      I do strive to keep my sermons as “original” (I mean writing my own sermons) as possible, and not using one from the internet, a practice I never do when preaching.

  2. Gary Zimmerli says:

    “Bad habit of reading that I picked up years ago.”

    Bad habit of reading??? Bad habit??? I don’t understand!

  3. Robert, I get seminal ideas from all over the place. Sometimes the Spirit would lead me in a particular direction.

    Right now I looking at Luke 15:1-32, “The Prodigal Son.” But I’ve titled it “Jesus Defines Community.”

    “Community” is my key word this year.

  4. Robert – I only write and preach my own sermons (and try to refer to the original languages as much as possible) – but when doing the prep I read as much as I can and then when integrating into my sermon I try to make it my own as much as possible – though like you, I do read a lot and try to read as widely as I can so I may not always remember how and idea developed for me.

    As to giving credit for an idea or direct quote – Try to do that as much as I can but I know too in my context most people have no idea about biblical studies or the scholars known among that field – so not that I am trying to steal idea, it just doesn’t seem to make sense for me to drop names since most will have no idea who that is or often may not even care (that’s just where they are at in their lives).

    But I did want to say that I have had experiences in the past when someone was preaching and I knew who else talks about that issue in the same way the pastor I was listening to did (e.g., if it is a John Piper, or Johnny Mac and so on). If you are well read enough sometimes you can identify where and idea may have come from since very very few of us actually come up with our own ideas anymore.

    I do think I had a fairly original way of approaching Paul’s Letter to the Phlippians when I preached on Phil 1:3-8 and “the ties that bind.”

  5. Brian, thanks for the input.

    I do work really hard at writing my own sermons, just curious how others felt on the matter, and wanted feedback. There are those sermons that I write that came out of my own studies with only consulting Greek dictionaries, Bible background and various bible translations. I always feel the best about those because I feel like I stumbled on to something. I did a message on the “Surpassing Greatness of God” based on Paul’s statements on Phil 3:8, 2 Cor. 9:14, 2 Cor 4:7, & 2 Cor 12:7 – Paul uses this word 4 times to describe how exceptionally great God is. Another message was on the Women of Luke 7:36-50, their are more but these were recent messages that I put together without the aide of books, or any other source other that what I mentioned above.

    But lately I have reading a great deal of Gordon Fee, and I have to be very honest he is making rethink lots of issues, and he is greatly influencing some sermons that I am preparing.

  6. Hi Robert, may I offer some comments as a listener?

    With reference to a line at your starting paragraph, “the only problem is that I am confident that someone, somewhere has thought through what I just preached on”, I believe it is not really a problem, so long as the ideas are not outrightly copied due to laziness.

    In fact, I believe originality is not really the issue, integrity is, and I can tell you are sincere in upholding it.

    Perhaps the real importance of a sermon is not about how original or creative it is, but rather how much it helps and blesses the listeners. And I believe if the sermons are preached from a revelation from God and from studying the Bible, it is inevitable that there will be coincidences.

    Therefore, as Gary mentioned, perhaps it is good to simply preach from the heart, and communicate messages that resonate with the spirit. That way, it doesn’t really matter whether the sermon is ‘original’ anymore, so long as they bring the listeners closer to God.

  7. Sean, I appreciate your thoughts. This does help me personally on a great level, I do strive to have integrity in my messages, and always hope that they are Spirit inspired and from the heart. That is my goal and hopes, and was hoping for some feedback from others that may contemplate these matters.

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