Originality Rule

I make no claims to originality

When I started preaching at the age of 16, I’d never heard of exegesis or hermeneutics. I saw a book at the Gospel Advocate Bookstore on expository preaching and thought is was when you wanted to preach a sermon and expose someone for doing something wrong. I bought a sermon outline book, Simple Sermon Outlines, by J. C. Choate and used many of the outlines for my sermons during my last two years of high school. It never occurred to me I was plagiarizing. The book was printed to use for Bible study and presentation.

The issue becomes a problem when a preacher claims borrowed material is his. It becomes a problem when a preacher or teacher does little or no Bible study on his own but only copies someone else’s material and presents it as his own.

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I make no claims of originality. I was born ignorant. I didn’t know my A, B, Cs or how to count. Everything I know I learned from someone else.

Most of my sermons and classes came from others’ books, sermons, articles, and commentaries. One series of nine lessons I prepared from an idea in one sentence in one book I heard on cassette tapes. I don’t remember the book. I don’t remember the author.

I may preach one or two sermons from www.sermoncentral.com . I claim no originality.

There’ll be times when I’ll give the source. There’ll be times when I don’t remember the source. If you want to know where I got my information, I’ll tell you if I remember.

If I say I read it, I read it. I may not be able to prove it’s true.

When I say something happened to me, it happened to me.

When I use the phrase “less than fifty years ago, and less than five hundred miles from here” it means it’s something that happened, but I won’t disclose the people involved.

My commitment to you is I’ll continue to read, study, and listen to present sermons and classes I think will be helpful for us at the time. I learned from someone else. If you want to know my sources, ask. If I know, I’ll tell you.

How do you keep fresh and original and avoid plagiarism?
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10 thoughts on “Originality Rule

  1. Ahhhhhmen! How I wish more people had the courage and truthfulness to publicly express just what you said. It seems there has developed an elite intellectual attitude that says I cannot use anything that anyone one has used with out a footnote or bibliography. If we are honest with one another what we know is what we have “heard” from someone else and only after we have experienced it can we say it is now mine. Preach on brother.

  2. In the spirit of humor and humility, I copy and paste the following from I Corinthians 1:20 NLT:

    So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.

  3. Thanks for the thoughts. I’ve always tried to give credit to whomever said what. It may be “some very wise man who I don’t know once said,” but it’s to keep people from thinking I came up with it myself. Generally, I use Sermon Central or Google to get ideas when I’m stuck. I grew up at the feet of a man who wrote all his sermons every week and I’ve tried to take that route since I’ve been preaching.

  4. I would say the bible but that means you have to plagiarize the Holy Spirit. Since I didn’t invent letters I guess I have to steal words.

  5. I HAVE BUILT FROM 3 TO 5 SERMONS OFF OF ONE SERMON BY TOM HOLLAND…HIS LESSONS ARE LOADED W/INFO AND SCRIPTURES IF PROVE THE POINT….I HAVE USED NUMEROUS SERMON BOOKS FOR MANY SERMONS…YES…I HAVE WRITTEN SOME OF MY OWN BY SCRATCH….TOM’S BOOKS ARE WONDERFUL..I HAVE TOLD HIM SEVERAL TIMES I PREACH HIS SERMONS OFTEN..HE SMILIES AND SAYS GOOD…I AM HAPPY THEY ARE USEFUL …THAT IS WHY I WROTE THEM…THANK YOU FOR YOUR HONESTLY AND CLEARITY IN EXPLAINING.

  6. Thanks brother… I own the sermons I use… and I paid for the books so they are “mine” and I’ll use any good Biblical material…. I’m not smart enough to come up with all original material. After all, my material has already been posted and used before, countless times… THE BIBLE…

  7. Ecclesiates Chapter 1 particularly verse 9 and 10 makes the idea of plagerism quite clear. Though you may write or speak in different words or a different language the idea and concept is still taken from someone else or else you are teaching a new doctrine, a false doctrine(Gal. 1:8) Consider the source carefully.

  8. This brings to mind a conversation I had with a great friend and preacher a few years ago when I was invited to teach a series on the Revelation. My friend complemented my teaching, to which I replied something to the effect that all I know was taken from study of the works of others. I told him jokingly I never have had an original thought, to which he replied, “you better not.” His joking comment reinforces the concept that we learn from and build our abilities off the work and study of others. I see nothing wrong with this. As was said earlier, the problem comes when we try to pass the works and thoughts of others off as our own original work or thoughts. Use, but give credit when credit is due.