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Is it wrong to sell sermons?

Southern Baptist president, Ed Litton’s sermongate has brought to the attention of many the industry behind pastor messages. In addition to companies like Docent Research Group, there are websites you can go to to buy and sell sermons. Plagiarism is an academic term used to describe a specific kind of theft. But theft is only an issue if the material was stolen as opposed to purchased. So what moral issues are there for pastors who sell there sermons?

Among the pastors who sell there sermons include Mike Stone, the pastor who Ed Litton defeated in the Southern Baptist president race. I have seen tweets that tried to draw a sort of moral equivalency between the two as though this is a drug dealer and junkie relationship. But such an analogy does not hold up.

A drug dealer knows that the heroin they are dealing is going to be used to feed an addiction. A pastor does not necessarily know that the person buying their manuscript is going to preach it verbatim. A pastor does not necessarily know that the buyer is even a pastor, as a laymen could purchase a sermon manuscript if they wanted to. While sermons are archived in video format on platforms such as YouTube and Sermon Audio, perhaps buying a manuscript is akin to buying a vinyl record of a contemporary band to go alongside your collection of classics like Charles Spurgeon or Jonathan Edwards.

So because their are benign uses for buying sermons, there must also be benign motives for selling them. A pastor could have really appreciated a sermon that another gave on a particularly difficult passage of Scripture. Are they in sin for purchasing a manuscript for their own sermon preparation process?

We must be careful not to be too dogmatic about the issue of this industry. The issue is not the existence of a cottage industry of buying and selling sermons. The issue is that this industry is a response to prevalent sins in our pulpits. Theft is one issue that this industry actually aims to resolve. But there is still the false witness of passing off other’s ideas and work as your own. Perhaps most importantly is how this calls into question a pastor’s ability to teach. The ability to teach is one of the most important and most obvious qualifications for being a pastor (1 Timothy 3:1-7).

We must keep the main issues the main issue when we address this issue, rather than getting bogged down in terms, like plagiarism, that distract from the core and other logical red herrings that call out “sin” where it does not exist.


6 Responses

  1. A man’s gots to eat.

    Sell? Yes. Get rich? No. Unless they are donating 90% to something other than their church that they do NOT get any money from.

    Nothing is “free”. Proudest moment of my parenting career came early when both children were in elementary school.

    On the way to drop them off a story on the radio came on about a summer “free” lunch program.

    I asked, “Is it really free?”

    The first said, “No”. I then asked the other, “Why?” TAXES.

    Job done.

  2. “But there is still the false witness of passing off other’s ideas and work as your own.” How about the travesty of passing off the message as God inspired, God led, as the pulpit should ACTUALLY be?
    The ‘business’ of church is Ichabod and cannot yield godly fruit. Anyone can buy or make up a sermon, false religions deliver them all the time. But Jesus said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing”

  3. As you are aware, I’m all for plagiarism. Plagiarize away, I say!

    Here is one reason why I say that…


    Have you ever read a TRACT to someone? Many church’s pass out TRACTS for people to READ to someone they meet on the street to EVANGELIZE.

    This is no different. The EVANGELIZER has absolutely no education in evangelizing, except to have someone read a tract.

    This is acceptable in many different denominations, including those not associated with the CORRUPT nomenclature of EVANGELISM.

    But, on the OTHER HAND…Did Jesus SELL his sermons? How about Paul? Did they pass out pamphlets? No.

    I know the Jehovah’s Witnesses has what is known as a “little brown book” that they carry with them. It has case scenarios of every type of person that one could come across, and what to tell them. It’s quite sickening, really.

    However, let’s look on the OTHER HAND, the opposite of what I advocate, regarding plagiarism.

    How about taking 10 years of your life, reading the bible from Genesis 1:1 to the end of Revelation SEVERAL TIMES just as a novel. Then transition from that, to reading it several times from Genesis to Revelation as a LAW BOOK. Then transition from that, to reading it several times from Genesis to Revelation as, YOUR faviorite type of preaching, EXPOSITORY (sounds like something you stick up your…well, you know).

    What this does, first of all, is that it gets ALL THE WORDS “in your soul”, so that you get the direction of how the story flows.

    And finally, transition from that to reading it several times from Genesis to Revelation to find out if you can see JESUS and Satan is ALL of scripture. Yes, I’m talking SPIRITUAL interpretations.

    Such as first, reading Genesis to find out the EXPOSITORY regarding WHAT the Promised LAND and the Promised SEED is, then when you come up with your answer, LOOK AT GALATIANS 3:16 for a completely different answer.

    All of the Torah and Prophets prophesied about Jesus…yes, including Jonah. Jonah is not just a bad man that didn’t want to go to Nineveh. His DISOBEDIENCE told a story of Jesus.

    Next, find out the CONTROVERSIAL stuff, and figure it out ON YOUR OWN, such as:

    1 Chronicles 21:1
    And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.


    2 Samuel 24:1
    And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

    Some say that both are one in the same story. Others say it’s a different timeline altogether.

    Which is it?

    My point, FORGET SEMINARY. Study on your own if you classify yourself as an EVANGELIST.

    Read the book. Study the book. Be intimate with the book. And before you know it, in a few years, I’d say five years, you will be able to EVANGELIZE from your heart, and memory, and you won’t have to STUDY ALL WEEK just to figure out what to preach on Sunday.

    It will just naturally flow.

    Schooling at seminary????? What does that really do for ya? When Paul set up church’s, how many went to seminary? What college did Paul build?

    PREACH FROM THE HEART, and ya won’t have to BUY a sermon, let alone plagiarize one.

    Ed Chapman

  4. Isaiah 55:1
    Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

    See if you can dissect that verse, using your “expository”.

    Now, see if you can understand it WITHOUT expository.

    You will see a completely different story. Expository will tell you FREE MEALS at the soup kitchen!

    But what is the SPIRITUAL take on it?

    The word of God is FREE, no matter how much you pay the preacher every Sunday so he can drive his MERCEDES or Cadelac.

    Ed Chapman

  5. The sale of sermons? Isn’t this type of thing (i.e. the sale of indulgences) that got the Protestant’s rolling in the first place in 16th. century Northern Europe?
    Sermon preparation is a duty of the clergy. That’s a given, and anything less is plain negligence or laziness.
    Where’s the checks and balances I hear about on here for Litton and Stone?

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