How can a preacher avoid plagiarism in their sermons? Start with the Bible as their primary source for sermon preparation.
And so far, nearly 5,500 pastors have affirmed their commitment to do so.
"There isn't a pastor I know of that doesn't use other sources outside of the Bible," said Ron Forseth, general editor of SermonCentral.com, which claims to be the world's most highly trafficked sermon website. "Most look to the wisdom and experience of their preaching colleagues.
"The question is what place the Bible takes in their sermon preparation and delivery."
Forseth was the first to take "The Preacher's Pledge" at the launch of the campaign last year. By signing on to it, Forseth made a commitment to keep the Word of God preeminent in his preaching and to use other resources to enhance rather than replace his personal interaction with Scripture.
"We encourage every pastor to carefully study the appropriate passages and 'make them their own' – that is, to carefully study and gain a solid grasp of the biblical passages they are preaching," Forseth commented. "Our site is a valuable supplement – but not the primary source for a sermon. God's Word is."
Scott Evans, president of Outreach, Inc., which owns SermonCentral.com, added, "We want to strengthen the quality of preaching in pulpits around the world. The Preacher's Pledge is helping to do that by affirming pastors that keep their messages purely and intentionally biblical."
The Preacher's Pledge was introduced as sermons have become widely and easily accessible through the Internet. SermonCentral.com alone offers over 140,000 free sermons and illustrations from pastors and ministers. Many pastors also offer their sermons for free on their church websites.
With that, many have used sermon series originally preached by other, and most likely more renowned, pastors.
"In the case of entire sermons supplied by another pastor, some pastors may mold a large amount of another's sermon according to their own study," Forseth noted. "Others may adjust another's sermon only slightly because, after careful examination, they view the sermon of another leader as solidly biblical.
"I think it is a very rare pastor who takes a sermon word-for-word with no personalization and independent study."
While the free resources can serve to help pastors write better sermons, help grow their knowledge of God and even save them some time, sermon resources can also lead to laziness, shortchange the personal conviction that comes with struggling over a passage and also prevent pastors from taking into account their congregation's need, according to SermonCentral.com.
Forseth noted that those behind The Preacher's Pledge do not seek to be the conscience of a pastor, but they do point to the Bible as the source of authority and the root of every message a pastor preaches.
"Our goal for The Preacher's Pledge is to urge pastors to preach the Word, not just ideas that seem relevant or helpful," he highlighted.
To take The Preacher's Pledge, visit www.sermoncentral.com/preacherspledge.