Thursday, March 16, 2006

"Juiced" Preaching

I'’m a baseball purist. Like many, the recent scandals surrounding Barry Bonds and other names of the game, have almost drained my tank of goodwill for the sport. "“Juicing"” has tainted a generation and honor may never return to the national pastime.

I'’m also a preaching purist. And the realization that many pastors are short-cutting the Holy Spirit by downloading or purchasing sermons from notable pulpits is more scandalous to me than anything in baseball.

As a preacher, I spend long hours reading, researching, pondering and praying over my text in order to feed the flock each Sunday. I use many resources to do this: original language studies, commentaries, dictionaries, the Internet, and yes, even the sermons of other preachers! But unlike a growing segment of pastors, I preach my own sermons. I might use an illustration, or a point or even an outline from something I have read or heard; but I always give proper credit. If Rick Warren said it, I acknowledge it. If Spurgeon was a source I say so. If Bill Hybels preached it, I praise him for it. But on most every Sunday 99% of what my people hear is what the Holy Spirit has laid upon my heart.

But if Steve Sjogren is to be believed I may be in the minority. Here is what he says in a recent article:

"“I regularly read the blogs of my favorite communicators from influential churches around the United States. Without mentioning their names in this article, they are young guys who are well-known to everyone reading this piece. They are all authors. They all have very large churches. Each of these pastors has recently come out on their blogging sites and admitted, curiously, the same thing. They get approximately 70 percent of their messages each week from other people -– word for word according to them. They fill in their own personal illustrations and stories, of course. Two of the guys that I am thinking of as I write this have churches of more than 10,000 in attendance each weekend."
He then goes on to defend the practice and offers this "“helpful"” advice:

"“First of all, stop all of this nonsense of spending 25 or 30 hours a week preparing to speak on the weekend. The guys I draw encouragement from -– the best communicators in the United States -– confess they spend a total of about 15 hours preparing for their message. As I have already said, they get 70 percent of their material from someone else. Remember, Solomon wrote that "there is nothing new under the sun ..."

Borrow creatively from others in the Church world. Some are easier to relate to than others. The one guy who is the most borrowed from in the United States is, no doubt, Rick Warren. Warren's famous line is "If my bullet fits your gun, then shoot it!" By the way, who does Warren borrow from? He says that he listens to three or so preaching tapes a day! So who knows where he gets his stuff!

Let's forget about originality -– which is often a form of pride. Let's begin to focus on effectiveness, and pray that we will be powerful at connecting with not-yet believers."”

Since when is hard work, much study and dependence upon the Holy Spirit prideful? To hear people like Steve and others tell it, I wasted my seminary years, when all I needed was a broadband connection. I guess we need to amend the Eighth commandment to read: "“Thou shalt not steal except for sermons."”

"Juiced"” preaching is ultimately not so much about content as it is about integrity. Before God and man. I may not hit a homerun every Sunday, but at least the sermon won't need an asterisk behind it.

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