“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 said.
“For many men in ministry, there’s an unwillingness to be disciplined at that point, because being an expositor is work. And it’s relentless work, because you’ve got to keep doing it week, after week, after week, after week, after week — but it’s the most rewarding thing.”
MacArthur went on to define pastoral plagiarism as “ministerial fraud.”
MacArthur then told the seminary students in attendance, “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.”
Speaking about those who use other preachers’ sermons as their own, MacArthur said, “You’re a fraud. You’re an echo, not a voice…There is so much underneath what we say, I can’t imagine just reading the words of a sermon on the surface and not having eight or ten hours underneath that.”
MacArthur estimated that roughly 80 percent of what he preaches in a sermon doesn’t come from any notes he has at the pulpit. “There’s a Spirit-led search in the mind of a pastor when they preach their sermon — for those who spend time studying and preparing. This is completely different than reading some script,” MacArthur said.
“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,” MacArthur continued.
“You may be dealing with the same passage [that you’ve preached before] but the circumstances [and] people you’re speaking to may alter, so the emphasis of the passage shifts in a different direction. Being relevant might demand that even though you go back to a passage, that doesn’t mean your interpretation changes, but your implications and applications probably will, based on the people you’re preaching to and society’s change.”