John MacArthur rebukes pastors who plagiarize sermons: It's ‘ministerial fraud’

Pastor John MacArthur at The Master’s Seminary
Pastor John MacArthur at The Master’s Seminary | Screenshot: YouTube/The Master's Seminary

Christian ministers who plagiarize sermons are “lazy, incompetent and unsanctified,” said Pastor John MacArthur in response to reports that two pastors had been plagiarizing their sermons.

“Why does a pastor plagiarize? Why does he use someone else’s sermon? Why does that happen?” MacArthur was asked at a conference attended by students at The Master’s Seminary, where he serves as chancellor emeritus.

“Because he’s lazy and incompetent,” the pastor replied. “Besides that?” MacArthur was then asked. “And, I’ve got a third point, unsanctified,” he said.

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“I think, you become a showman; you are an actor, you’re playing a part, playing a role,” MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church, continued. “You know, the one thing that expository preaching does that is apart from the congregation is it sanctifies the pastor … the relentless study of the Word of God is how God sanctifies and protects the pastor. When you’re just opening your iPad and reading somebody else’s sermon, you’ve never been exposed to the sanctifying work of the Word.”

In June, a video posted on YouTube highlighted similarities between separate sermons delivered by Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton and his predecessor, J.D. Greear, who both suggest that God appears to “whisper” about sexual sin in the Bible. Litton then apologized for not giving credit to Greear.

While arguing that homosexuality is sinful, both Greear and Litton made nearly identical comments about the behavior.

“Homosexuality does not send you to Hell,” Greear noted in the clip. “You know how I know that? Because heterosexuality does not send you to Heaven.”

In his sermon, Litton noted: “Homosexuality does not send people to Hell. How do I know that? Because heterosexuality doesn’t send people to Heaven.”

Litton also used the same anecdotes as Greear in that sermon. 

Similarly, in March, Pastor Zachary Stewart from Twin Oaks Christian Church was found to have plagiarized hundreds of sermons, many written by Pastor Mark Driscoll.

“When a pastor steals or over-borrows someone else’s work, that pastor is not only playing a role like an actor but isn’t a true messenger from the Lord,” MacArthur continued. “That’s not to say you can’t preach the same doctrine. There’s only one accurate interpretation of the text … It’s when a pastor’s sentences are ‘exactly verbatim’ of another pastor that they’ve bypassed the spiritual impact of God’s Word, and what the divine work the Lord would be doing in their heart because the truth wasn’t studied like it should have been.”

MacArthur added that probably about 80% of what he preaches is not from his notes. “Because you’re an expositor of the Scripture doesn’t mean you preach in a vacuum. You still have to connect with the world around you,” he explained. “You may be dealing with the same passage, but the circumstances, people you’re speaking to may alter, so the emphasis of the passage shifts in a different direction.”

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