A unique perspective to bring to the table on Ed Litton’s scandal of ripping off JD Greear’s sermons is a local pastor who does the hard work week in and week out. Pastor Troy Skinner, a pastor of a local church in Maryland, joins the Evangelical Dark Web to discuss sermongate which was a launching pad for a larger discussion on industrialized sermons and the nature of preaching.
Though the instance in reference is Ed Litton, the answer to this question applies to all instances. Pastor Troy wanted to make clear that just because a pastor sins does not make them disqualified for ministry. Being brought to repentance can make them a better pastor. The other issue with the term plagiarism is that it is largely an academic categorization of sin. With these actions one could be stealing someone else’s work and then passing it off as their own (false witness). Another issue of concern is what if the sermon was bought and then finished by the pastor. This is an entire industry whereby pastors can purchase sermons. Pastor Troy cautions us about being too dogmatic in drawing conclusions.
But a key concern that would lead to disqualification is the inability to teach. If someone is consistently making it a habit to not go through Scripture to write there own sermons it calls in to question their ability to preach as well as their own daily commitment to studying God’s Word.
Dangers of Industrialized Sermons
While Ed Litton clearly ripped off of JD Greear, JD Greear appears to also not write his own sermons. An obvious danger that was addressed in the discussion is the centralization of sermons, meaning that pastors outsourcing their sermon prep leads to more uniformity in the messages on Sunday morning. So if the industries providing this material are corrupt, then the information they are distributing will likely be compromised.
The Work of a Pastor
One can easily underestimate the work that goes into a sermon, as a sermon is supposed to be done. Careful study of the text, research of the history, commentaries, and then providing a useful tie-in to the audience and the church, and above all connecting the text with the metanarrative of Scripture (the gospel).
This leads to a discussion of whether to pursue topical or expository preaching. Topical being a sermon about a topic, and expository being a sermon about a text. Pastor Troy has done both but primarily practices expository preaching. Expository preaching has it’s advantages in being able to go deeper into understanding a text whereas topical preaching can address a specific moment of great importance to the congregation, an extreme example being the Sunday after September 11th. But Troy stated that expository preaching took longer to prepare, from his experience.
Ed Litton represents a small cog in a large industrial machine. Though because he is now president of the Southern Baptist Convention, this issue has been brought to light. This is all the reason to make sure you have a good pastor serving you and to appreciate their efforts.