A few years ago I did an interview with the Wall Street Journal concerning originality in weekend messages. Several pastors were asked about their views pertaining to one-of-a-kind messages. Most of them said they thought it was okay to borrow insights from other’s messages. Rick Warren, who says, “If my bullet fits your gun, then shoot it,” also says modern day messages of pastors are the equivalent of yesteryear’s commentaries. I agree with Rick.
Over the years I have borrowed from others – and some have borrowed greatly from me – some have even published my stuff in their books (sometimes with permission, sometimes not). Consider a couple of thoughts.
No matter where you stand, don’t get too arrogant about your claim to originality. I’ve had people tell me they never lift other’s material – that they only share original information. I don’t believe them. The Bible says, “There is nothing new under the sun.” No matter what you say, you are pulling information from somewhere that has been stored in your memory banks from input you’ve received along your journey. Some are better at recalling pieces of input than others. That doesn’t mean they are more creative.
When you use other’s stuff, do so humbly and thankfully, not exhaustively. Your audience is usually bored with that. On Sunday mornings you are giving a helpful message, not a defense of a doctoral dissertation. If you share a lot of ideas, I don’t think it’s necessary to offer all of the sources of information you share in a message.
Robert Schuller once shared with me his policy for giving credit in messages. “The first time I use someone’s stuff I say, ‘Like so-and-so says and I name the person.’ The second time I say, ‘Like someone has said…’ The third time I say, ‘Like I’ve always said…’”
Creativity is a gift from God. As we call upon him his ideas will flow. Let’s move in it by the empowering of the Holy Spirit.