Are Pre-Packaged Sermon Ideas a Good Idea for Pastors?
Daniel DarlingDaniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). For five years, Dan served as Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of several books, including Teen People of the Bible, Crash Course, iFaith, Real, and his latest, Activist Faith. He is a weekly contributor to Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Journal. His work has been featured in evangelical publications such as Relevant Magazine, Homelife, Focus on the Family, Marriage Partnership, In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley. He has guest-posted on leading blogs such as Michael Hyatt, The Gospel Coalition, OnFaith (Washington Post), and others. He is a contributing writer for many publications including Stand Firm, Enrichment Journal and others. Dan’s op-eds have appeared in Washington Posts’ On Faith, CNN.com's Belief Blog, and other newspapers and opinion sites. He is a featured blogger for Crosswalk.com, Churchleaders.com and Believe.com, Covenant Eyes, G92, and others. Publisher's Weekly called his writing style "substantive and punchy." Dan is a sought-after speaker and has been interviewed on TV and radio outlets across the country, including CNN, 100 Huntley Street, Moody Broadcasting Network, Harvest Television, The Sandy Rios Show, American Family Radio, the Salem Radio Network, and a host of other local and national Christian media. He holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College and is pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He and his wife Angela have four children and reside in the Nashville area. Daniel is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency
- 2011 Sep 19
Pastoring in this age is a great blessing, because of the volume and variety of resources at our disposal. I have hundreds of books and commentaries on my computer thanks to Wordsearch software. Then I have a library full of books and a number of key websites I visit. That's not to mention the study Bibles I own. You can be a marginally intelligent guy like me and still craft a good sermon.
One of the resources that I find most helpful are downloadable sermons. Several ministries offer these, includingPreaching Today from Christianity Today, Sermon Central, and Rick Warren's Pastors.com. Personally I enjoy Preaching Today and then I use Ray Pritchard's Keep Believing website to read his sermons and I frequent the archive of Ray Stedman, the late, great expository preacher. I also podcast several prominent pastors, first to feed my own soul and second to learn about the great texts of Scripture from great expositors.
Here's the thing, though. I read and listen to these sermons as commentaries, to get ideas of how to structure and shape a sermon on a particular text and to get another man's "take" on a particularly difficult passage. But I think it's a miscarriage of my duty if I simply preached someone else's sermon. I think most pastors would agree to this.
Which brings me to the idea of pre-packaged sermon kits. I'm seeing more and more of this from some more prominent pastors. Two examples that come to mind are Andy Stanley from Northpoint Church in Atlanta and Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill in Seattle. Both are terrific pastors whom God has blessed with great ministry.
What these guys (and other prominent pastors) are offering are complete reproducible and preachable sermon series. They come complete with slick graphics, which include printable art work for posters, handouts, banners, etc. They are quite nice. But my question is this. Should a pastor of a local church, who has been called and ordained by God and chosen by the congregation to lead, should he preach the work of someone else on Sunday?
This is tricky question. On the one hand, all preachers' work is the product of others. The old joke says that if you preach someone else's sermon, it's plagiarism. If you quote more than one preacher, it's study. Our preaching is built upon the wise men who have gone before.
But that sermon should still be the product of our own study, right? I'm having a hard time imagining me doing a series at Gages Lake and saying, "Okay, we're going to preach Andy Stanley's "Guardrails" series this month." The people might wonder, "Why are we paying him?" And isn't it my job to study the Word and preach what God has specifically laid out for those particular people in that audience?
I think pastors have to be careful here. Now, to be sure, these prepackaged campaigns and sermon series do serve a good purpose. I imagine they are good for small groups and Sunday Schools. This is where stuff like this is invaluable. At Gages Lake we often employ study series for men's Bible studies, women's Bible studies, small groups, and other teaching formats. There is a continual need for good, theologically sound material. And I always favor one not only meets this standard but is well-produced and comes with materials to promote it.
But, there is something sacred, I think, about the Sunday morning message from the pastor in the pulpit. There is something powerful when a pastor and a church move together through a book of the Bible, learning together and allowing the text to speak to them and their church specifically. Now, its likely that my sermon series in James will be vastly inferior to one produced by a well-known pastor.
Still, I think this self-study is important for the pastor. It forces us to dig deep and do the spade work ourselves in the text. I think this is the most vital part of shepherding.
It's not the only way we learn the Word of God. Good books, prodcasts, radio shows, and Bibles studies all supplement it.
But I'm having a hard time with the concept of abandoning our call to study the Word and preaching someone else's sermon series on Sundays.