I typically preach from a full manuscript. I know, I know, you aren’t supposed to do that. But it works for me. And I don’t just read from my manuscript. Even if I use a modified sermon outline format, I still type out pretty much every bit of my sermon. This means that I have at my disposal about 15 years worth of sermons and sermon topics. Some of the sermons are cringe-worthy. Others I can tweak to a present context and recycle for certain occasions.
I’m also a guy who will likely have at least two quotes from other sources as I’m preaching. I think it’s helpful to do this for many reasons. One of these reasons is it will introduce people to good books to read. Often folks will hear me quote an author and then do a bit more digging only to find a new best friend in someone like Robert Murray McCheyne.
But this leads to an interesting situation in our present context, when it seems a new pastor/leader falls about every week or so. What do I do when the person I’m quoting is a fallen pastor/author? As an example, I’m likely not going to be searching for Mark Driscoll quotes. But some of my old sermons might have them. What do I do when I’m recycling an old sermon and it has a quote from a guy who doesn’t need to be given a platform?
I’ll give you a couple of don’ts and then explain what I do.
First, don’t read their name without comment. When you name someone from the pulpit you are giving that person tacit endorsement. Orthopraxy is important just as orthodoxy. We don’t want to endorse those who don’t live what they preach. We also don’t want to risk folks thinking we are okay with endorsing a guy who covered up sexual abuse or who spiritually abused his flock. If you quote a fallen pastor you need to say something.
Secondly, don’t read their name with a lengthy comment. One of my pet peeves is when somebody reads a quote from someone and says, “Now I don’t agree with everything that person X says, but here they get it right.” There is no point in reading the quote at this point. Everybody is thinking about what you don’t agree with instead of actually listening to what they say. Besides, it creates and us v. them mentality that isn’t helpful to the body.
Thirdly, never pretend like the quote is your own. Seriously, don’t plagiarize. Don’t even take a sermon off the internet that is made available for you to use free of charge without first letting your congregation know that you’ve done this. It’s unethical. It’s not serving your flock. And it does irreparable damage to your integrity if it’s found out that you’ve stolen someone else’s material.
Now for what to DO…
Do consider whether you need the quote. It might be more harmful than helpful. There is no human quote that is absolutely vital. We are tasked with faithfully expositing the Scriptures. It might be better to find a good quote that is similar to the one you want to share, or just forget it altogether. But if you must proceed.
Consider saying something like, “as one Bible teacher has said…” or something similar. This is typically what I do when I’m keeping a quote from a needlessly controversial pastor, a fallen pastor, or someone who I think won’t help the cause by directly quoting them. But I’d suggest not using adjectives. If I hear, “As one popular preach said” it makes me want to look it up and figure out which popular preacher. Make the description nonchalant.
You know your congregation. Love them well and be thoughtful in your quoting of others.
This article originally appeared here.