The Derth of Preachers Offering a Fresh Word from the Lord

By | October 16, 2013

Curtis C. Thomas, in speaking of the work it takes to prepare a sermon in “Practical Wisdom for Pastors” (Crossway: 2001), writes:

“One pastor described it accurately in this way. When asked by his deacons what he did with his time, he explained that for one thing, he prepared three sermons each week that could be compared to having to prepare three college term papers every week.” (p. 114)

Well, apparently we have a lot of preachers these days who just don’t have the time it takes to prepare a sermon.  You can find sermon outlines on-line and apparently these outlines are well used.  I have also read numerous stories of preachers plagiarizing another’s work.

Listen to Wayne Grudem beginning at the 1:20 mark of his sermon at C.J. Mahaney’s church.  He makes what I consider to be a rather shocking confession.  He has 8-10 sermons that he uses over and over again, and has been doing so for years!  He preached this same sermon 9 years ago to Sovereign Grace leaders!

C.J. Mahaney must have figured if it works for Wayne Grudem it should work for him too.  Check out these two sermons.  Based on the nearly word for word recital I believe we can safely assume Mahaney has delivered this message many times.

You can skip the first 8:40 of this video as it is a not so subtle attempt to pump up the “world class communicators”  couched in the humble language of a simple man urging them to appreciate their own preachers more than the conference speakers.  One of the interesting points Mahaney makes is the hours and hours of time the local pastor puts into the preparation of each sermon.

Umm, OK, but maybe not if you just pull it from your file of sermons you have preached numerous times before!

Mack Stiles is an elder at Redeemer Church of Dubai.  He has written several books on evangelism and has an effective ministry among college students in Dubai.  He is not a full-time preacher but seems to be a rising star among the 9Marks, Gospel Coalition crowd, having been a featured speaker at several of their conferences, with more engagements in the near future. I was a bit shocked when, after listening to two of his sermons, I found that they were nearly verbatim copies.  I did some more investigating and found he has recently preached five times from the same text!  You can listen to three of them below and you will find out they are delivered nearly verbatim in a highly polished manner that can only be the result of numerous repetitions.

Mack Stiles – “Ambassadors For Christ,” Sovereign Grace of Louisville, 3 February 2013. No recording is available.  Below is a copy of the church bulletin.

2013-2-3 Mack Stiles at Mahaneys church

Mack Stiles – “Ambassadors For Christ,” Redeemer Church of Dubai, 22 March 2013

Mack Stiles “The Ministry of Reconciliation” (same message, different title) The Gospel Coalition Missions Conference 7 April 2013

Mack Stiles – “Ambassadors For Christ,” United Christian Church of Dubai, 2 June 2013

Mack Stiles – “Ambassadors For Christ,” The Church of the Good Shepherd, Durham, NC, 28 July 2013.  No recording  is available but very reliable  sources told me Mack Stiles preached his usual sermon from 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.  Here is the sermon page from the churches web page, notice the date Mack Stiles spoke is missing.

In my opinion this highlights the problem, rampant in Christianity, of elevating men to “super star” status in the para-church conference world.  I just don’t think it is biblical.

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[…] I noticed was DeYoung’s sermon is a carbon copy of what he has preached many times before.  (A common trait among the “crazy busy” celebrity preachers.)  Here is an earlier version of the same message DeYoung preached at Mahaney’s church, […]

swanman

FEED MY SHEEP’, THE CALL DID COME ,WHEN JESUS SPOKE TO PETER
“I WILL GO! ISAIAH SAID, WHEN NO ONE ELSE WAS FOUND
HAVE YOU BEEN CALLED OF GOD, AND TO HIS WORD EXPOUND
THEN PREACH IT ALL, AND PREACH IT SOUND!!!!
AND NOT A LIAR YOU’LL BE FOUND

[…] too busy to respond personally to emails.  His assistant does that for him.  He is also too busy to prepare new sermons for his occasional guest speaking commitments. One would expect such a busy man to manage his time […]

[…] Grudem is too busy to respond personally to emails.  His assistant does that for him.  He is also too busy to prepare new sermons for his occasional guest speaking commitments. One would expect such a busy man to manage his time […]

[…] may recall how, in the past, Mahaney has praised pastors for the hours and hours they spend in sermon preparation.  I highlighted that this seems not to be the case with Mahaney as these days he seems to prefer to […]

Eagle

Todd…I’m curious what attracted you to a SGM/9 Marks Church and why did you stay? Now that you have exited how have you preserved your friendships or have some of those been lost? I’d love to read a post about your mindset in a SGM Church and how you didn’t practice discernment.

Hey Eagle, Maybe I should write a post on this sometime. I think what Wendy Alsup wrote applied to me:

“Throughout my years in ministry, I have noted regularly that some Christians have a poor ability to distinguish between spiritual gifts and talents. Someone may be a motivating public speaker or incredible musician, and we think they are therefore especially gifted by the Holy Spirit for a great public ministry. No, those are TALENTS. And they do not correspond one-to-one with true gifts of the Spirit for long term fruitful ministry.”

I was not able to preserve many friendships from SGM. I was treated similarly to many whose stories I have read about on SGM Survivors; once you leave you are shunned and quickly forgotten. I do maintain contact with three men I knew from my SGM days and that is probably because they all left the church too.

Eagle

I’m amazed this is happening…at the first church I was involved in…an Evangelical Free…after I left the pastor they hired was practicing plagiarism and stealing sermon material and he was fired. Standards have dipped.

We attended a church for 8 years and remembered a sermon that the pastor gave one Easter. It was hard to forget because he used an illustration about a dead woman holding a fork in her casket at her funeral. Flash forward 3 or 4 years later and the pastor gave the exact same sermon on a separate Easter. We knew by the illustration. By that time we were done with that church, but that was just another instance that sealed the deal for us.

Not only are illustrations and sermon outlines easy to find online, but a quick search on chrsitianbook.com gives you several choices as well.

Thanks for the comment Kathi. It is remarkable enough, in this age of the internet, that pastors would repeat the same sermon in different venues, but repeating a sermon in the same church is unbelievable. I remember when I was growing up we attended a small church where the pastor preached on Sunday morning, Sunday evening and led a bible study on Wednesday evening. Now many churches don’t even meet on Sunday or Wednesday evenings and they have pastoral staffs with 3 or 4 guys who all share the preaching, yet it’s too difficult for them to do the necessary preparation to deliver an original sermon?

Royce

I do not get the obsession with a pastor having to always preach an “original sermon.” After all, we use the same scripyures over and over, do we not? Now, if that is what the pastor is being paid for, as part of his employment agreement – the okay. But why do we have “full-time” “lead” pastors earning big salaries anyway? That is the real issue here. Not whether they re-use material they have used before.

Good question Royce. Yes we read the same scriptures over and over, but I have always heard, and can attest to the fact myself, that the Holy Spirit will often illuminate a certain passage to your mind in a new and meaningful way, a way that you had never even thought about. The Scripture is a rich treasure of wisdom, truth and light that continually feeds the new believer as well as the seasoned saint.

Wendy Alsup, in a blog entitled “Rogue Mega-Church Pastors” wrote:

“A shared characteristic among these mega-church pastors is that they have significant second sources of income by way of book sales and speaker fees. The problem is that they write these books during the time that they are earning salary at their church. So one could well argue that the profits from books that they produce while ON THE PAYROLL OF A NON-PROFIT should significantly benefit the ministry paying their salary while they wrote it. Maybe most of these pastors only write these books after they have fulfilled all of their paid ministry obligations to the church, perhaps staying up nightly after having visited the sick, counseling the wounded, and preparing their sermons. Oh wait, they DON’T visit the sick and counsel the wounded. I almost forgot that that is another characteristic of such pastors.”

While not all pastors who repeat sermons are also writing books, the point is that we as a congregation are paying the pastor’s salary to prepare and preach sermons to us that are hopefully sculpted to speak to needs in the local body. The content of these sermons should be influenced by his discernment and through prayer. I have a blog article with a recording of C.J. Mahaney urging his conference audience to return home and tell their pastor how much they appreciate him. They work so long and hard on preparing a weekly sermon for you, they spend hours and hours on this, etc. Undoubtedly some do. May God bless them and prosper their ministry. Others don’t. I remember reading, years ago, about a preacher who preached at a conference every night for one week on the same verse. I don’t remember the text, but I think it was about the love of God. Every night the message was different, but every night it was powerful. I don’t attend conferences these days, but if I did I would be very disappointed to spend an evening listening to a well rehearsed sermon that could be found in numerous places on the internet. If you listened to the sermons I linked to in this blog you will find they are nearly word for word copies. Is this the best the celebrity preachers can offer? I would submit perhaps they are too busy, “Crazy Busy” as Kevin DeYoung’s new timeless masterpiece of a book is titled. Or perhaps it reflects on a soul that is not abiding in The Vine and thus doesn’t have much to say.

[…] Once again Mahaney expends himself in sermon preparation for his joint conference with Al Mohler at Cornerstone Church of Knoxville. […]

When I first heard about this kind of thing happening, I was shocked. One of my readers sent me a link to a website where pastors can go to find whole sermons written out for them. I saw that one guy had written for Driscoll. The same thing is happening with books/editors, etc.

I guess these guys are too busy going to their conferences to be able to put out new material?

I think so Julie Anne, too busy being celebrities. Crazy busy as Kevin DeYoung would say!