Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Can I copy your sermon?

The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article a few days ago about the growing trend of pastors cribbing part or all of their sermons from online resources like desperatepreacher.com. It's a controversial practice, because such reuse of sermons is largely unacknowledged; parishoners don't realize they are getting a recycled sermon, and some of them feel cheated when they discover that their minister's wit and wisdom is not original.

I can go either way on this one. One the one hand, I can relate to the minister's challenge. I, too, have to come up with new spiritual content for a weekly gathering, and there have been many times when I've "borrowed" meeting ideas from other group leaders or from our own collective archives. That seems only practical.

On the other hand, I've witnessed how much the quality can degenerate when all the resources used are canned. The process of creating the weekly content is a part of what keeps the minister's mind in the right place. If he can't find a new and interesting angle on the teaching, then odds are good that he's not sustaining his own spiritual life sufficiently. The sermon is not just a single performance; it is a barometer of his overall being. In that regard, I think church-goers are being cheated if the content is not original.

When I went to the funeral of a close friend's father, the minister gave a little eulogy that was so banal as to be insulting to the deceased. The central theme was the image of "saving my fork," since the best part of the meal was yet to come. My friend's family was understandably pissed. "My dad did all kinds of things for the church --he helped build the church, he and his family were extremely active for decades. If he stopped to talk to anyone, he could have found more to say than some bullshit about forks." If a minister gets in the habit of recycling material, he runs the risk of missing opportunities to say something important about the people and situations that are at hand.



Post a Comment

<< Home