07 December 2006

Long as you're down there....

by Dan Phillips
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise...
(Proverbs 6:6)
The laboratory of the wise man was life itself. He didn't go to mountain tops for esoteric experiences. Wisdom could be found right where he was. Lady Wisdom was like a street evangelist, calling out in the very thick of things to anyone who would listen (Proverbs 1:20-21).

And so the wise man does not speak of hearing the very voice of God speaking directly to him, as to a "proper" prophet. God's wisdom comes to him as he ponders, reflects, thinks.
I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
Then I saw and considered it [more literally applied my heart/mind];
I looked and received instruction.
(Proverbs 24:30-32)
Likewise, the sage speaks to people where they are. They don't necessarily need to go to find him. He may seek them out, and find them.

And one of the wise man's favorite targets is the sluggard. The Hebrew root `-ts-l is singled out for the sage's barbs and parodies some fourteen times in Proverbs, of which this is the first occurrence. Various attempts have been made to capture him: God's Word Translation has "lazy bum"; NLT and NRSV have "lazybones"; The New Jerusalem Bible has "idler"; The Message has "you lazy fool"; commentator R. B. Y. Scott has "loafer."

What tickles me about the current passage is that Solomon talks to him right where he is. And where is he? On his belly, as usual (6:9; 26:14). "So," the wise king says,
"as long as you're down there, why don't you look at those little critters scurrying past your nose? My, they're busy, aren't they? Rushing here and there as if they are late for an appointment. Yet look around. Where's the whip? Where's the boss? Where's the taskmaster? Nowhere! But that little one there — what is that he's carrying? Why, it's a bit of food, isn't it. And the one behind him, he's carrying some too. And that knot of little fellows there, struggling along together... why, they've got a nice, plump grasshopper, haven't they? That should serve them well in the coming winter.

"But you? What are you doing? 'Just a bit of sleep,' that's all you want. 'Just a tad more slumber, just a wink or two.' And as suddenly as winter will fall on the ants, your poverty will leap upon you! Only they'll be ready, and you'll be destitute. I swear, you're dumber than a bug."
Seems as if nothing stops ants. Someone in our family had left a bit of a granola bar on an upper book shelf, in our living room. Not in the kitchen, not in the pantry. Not in a room filled with food, but with books — and I doubt ants read much.

Yet one industrious little scrabbler found it. Not only that, he hurried back and told his mates, and by the time we were aware, there was a black trail streaming across the floor, and up the book case. What industry, what diligence. It fairly takes the breath away.

There are lessons here on many levels. I'm only going to suggest a few, and leave it to you to flesh them out.

The financial is probably the most obvious. I saw a young man holding a sign, begging for money, on a busy street the other day. And smoking. And so I wondered, "How much are cigarettes, these days?"

And I wonder if he ever saw an ant, poring over his pack of smokes? Did he make any connection? Not yet, apparently.

But, while we're feeling all smug, what of us, lazily glancing over our Bibles from time to time — if we're even that regular?

Mark well, I'm not even talking at this point to our leaky-Canon brothers, who don't think that the Bible has all they need as Christians in the first place. Nor do I think of our doctrinally cattywhumpus visitors, whose view of the Bible is many miles below the Lord Jesus' estimation.

I speak to myself, and to you. To us Sola Scriptura types, who say we believe the Book is bursting with the living mind of God. But do we search it diligently for nourishment, as some lone ant searched my barren living room for food? Or do we distractedly glance over the Word as if it were weekly ad-circular? Less than that! Does our behavior bear out our creed? Or does it shame it?

Perhaps I could bear down on pastors, as well. How diligent are you in the care of your own soul, let alone those under your watch? Or in sermon preparation — is it performed as if you will be speaking before immortals, to immortals, in the presence of God? I shouldn't need to say anything about outright sermon-stealing; good heavens, man, if you've nothing to say, give your pulpit to someone who does. Give it to me! But what of unnecessary sermon-punting, sermon-ad-libbing, sermon-bobbling? Did you search the text as that ant did my house?

Or then, again, maybe I will have a word for the man (or woman) who has idly passed by here from time, has heard the Gospel, yet still hasn't stirred himself to do anything about what he's heard. Better still, I'll ask Mr. Spurgeon if he has a word.

Oh, good. It seems he does.
The worst of sluggards only ask for a little slumber; they would be indignant if they were accused of thorough idleness. A little folding of the hands to sleep is all they crave, and they have a crowd of reasons to show that this indulgence is a very proper one. Yet by these littles the day ebbs out, and the time for labour is all gone, and the field is grown over with thorns. It is by little procrastinations that men ruin their souls. They have no intention to delay for years-a few months will bring the more convenient season-to-morrow if you will, they will attend to serious things; but the present hour is so occupied and altogether so unsuitable, that they beg to be excused. Like sands from an hour-glass, time passes, life is wasted by driblets, and seasons of grace lost by little slumbers. Oh, to be wise, to catch the flying hour, to use the moments on the wing! May the Lord teach us this sacred wisdom, for otherwise a poverty of the worst sort awaits us, eternal poverty which shall want even a drop of water, and beg for it in vain. Like a traveller steadily pursuing his journey, poverty overtakes the slothful, and ruin overthrows the undecided: each hour brings the dreaded pursuer nearer; he pauses not by the way, for he is on his master’s business and must not tarry. As an armed man enters with authority and power, so shall want come to the idle, and death to the impenitent, and there will be no escape. O that men were wise be-times, and would seek diligently unto the Lord Jesus, or ere the solemn day shall dawn when it will be too late to plough and to sow, too late to repent and believe. In harvest, it is vain to lament that the seed time was neglected. As yet, faith and holy decision are timely. May we obtain them this night. (Morning and Evening, November 24, p.m.)

There. Have we exhausted the text now? Not remotely. Welcome once again to the challenge, and joy, of Proverbs.

Dan Phillips's signature


donsands said...

That was some encouraging conviction.
Thanks for the good thoughts, and for Mr. Spurgeon's words as well.

Now I have to get to work.

Kay said...

I'm exhausted now. I shall go and have a lie down.

(Good thoughts, as usual. You should do some preaching or writing, you'd be great)

Learning Grace said...

Maybe you could start up a ministry

"Sermons for Sluggards"

Can't preach the Word... Then, for Heaven's Sake DON'T! Download these ready made sermons, available in .PDF and .RTF formats.

DJP said...

< forehead slap >

Why didn't I think of that??

James Scott Bell said...

"But what of unnecessary sermon-punting, sermon-ad-libbing, sermon-bobbling? Did you search the text as that ant did my house?"

I used to think a pastors ought to preach without notes, you know, off the cuff, facing the crowd, "relating" etc. But then I began to sense for too many this style resulted in poor language choices, useless repetitions, surface level teaching. It then began to dawn on me that the best preachers (IMO) were using extensive notes, not reading their manuscripts, but having their sermon in order, with key thoughts well phrased, etc.

The informal model of the emergents is too often a dismal failure. It's as if the preacher's job is to be well liked, to be the NOT-FUNDAMENTALIST guy (so we throw in a couple of cuss words to prove it)

Rant over. Thanks, Dan.

DJP said...

Good thoughts, jsb. Also gives me an opportunity for a little expansion.

I didn't think much of my seminary hermeneutics class, because it was cookie-cutter — as if everyone must preach the same way. Were that true, God should have only made one pastor, and cloned him. There's a reason why we're different.

But it is perfectly proper to judge the fruits. Spurgeon's method of sermon preparation (i.e. basically virtually NOT, compared to what I have to do), would be disastrous if I tried to adopt it as my regular method. But judging by his sermons, it didn't work out too badly. < /litotes >

You could say that Spurgeon was in constant sermon-prep mode. He read voraciously in the Bible and elsewhere, prayed, reflected, practiced.

My point is not to highlight a single specific method, but an attitude and commitment. But of course, attitude and commitment bear fruits and those fruits, as I said, are perfectly open for assessment.

LeeC said...


As one who used to harp on this a lot, I look back over the past few months, and in the mirror and find myself convicted.

Thank you Brother. That hurt, but in the faithful wounds of a friend kind of way.

Trinian said...

Ouch man, ouch. That cuts deep.

DJP said...

Be assured, the two-edged sword cuts me before it cuts anyone else.

Phil Perkins said...

That was actually a pretty good "rant." All points well taken and well stated.

I teach at a Bible college and the two biggest things I want to give the folks is dependence on the Scritpure and the work ethic to dig and dig and dig.

The Shama (Deut. 6:4-5) says we are to love Yahweh our God with " all our heart, all our soul, and all our uttermost." When Jesus quoted it in the NT he substituted "mind" for uttermost. God, intimately known, is not free. If you love Him you will pursue just like anything else you love.

In the beginning was the Word, not the grunt.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

R. Mansfield said...

I like the HCSB's rendering of "slacker." That seems to capture it well.

DJP said...

It's interesting you'd say that, r. mansfield. I actually hesitated over saying something about the HCSB's rendering in the article, but felt it wouldn't fit.

It's perfect comment-fodder, though!

I like the creativity of their rendering, but it's not the best for the Hebrew.

I have my notes at home, but in Exodus 5:8 and 17, the HCSB uses "slacker" to render a different Hebrew word. That word is based on the root r-ph-h, which arguably does mean to relax or slacken. There, "slackers" struck me as a perfect rendering.

Here? Creative, but not as accurate.

BTW, that's something I like about the HCSB as over against the ESV, though I overall slightly prefer the latter. The HCSB is more willing to strike out alone to capture the Hebrew or Greek better; the ESV is more conservative, in the not-good way.

C.T. Lillies said...

Wow. "Long as you're down there..." thats great. I particularly liked the picture of wisdom as a street preacher.

Dan is it true that HCSB stands for Hard Core Southern Baptist? Just checking...

"...the word of God is not bound."
--2 Timothy 2:9

DJP said...

I've heard lots of nasty things about the HCSB but, on the basis of simply reading it, I don't think they're borne out.

As to your question, if they were really hardcore, they'd render baptizo by "immerse" — which, actually, I think they should have. "Baptize" is after all a transliteration, not a translation.

R. Mansfield said...

It's also good to remember that only about half of the HCSB translators were Baptist, and the project itself was started before Broadman-Holman got involved. Although it's not without its flaws like any translaiton, I believe it is really well-done and should be given a fair shake outside Baptist circles.

Pastor Mike Paris said...

Super article! Proverbs and the My Son speeches are so right on target with where we live! What cool idea to use the ant since Benny (the drunken, sluggard son) was down there already. This is just another case of discipling on the way!


DJP said...

"Benny," I love it. Hebrew geek humor, ar-ar-ar.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it Spurgeon who also said,

“All originality and no plagiarism makes for dull preaching.”?

I wonder at what point someone elses words become our own? And at what point then are we plagarizing them? Is the mere use of ideas or concepts from someone else wrong? It would seem this is a very hard line to draw. I dare say not leaning upon the giants of the faith, from good men God has used in the past, is foolish. If your suggesting "having something to say" means we can't do that, I'd rather that man not speak either.

Jerry Morningstar said...

There's a 'huge' difference between learning from the giants of the past and lifting sermons from others to pass off as our own.

One is the work of the ant - the other is the work of the sluggard.

DJP said...

Jerry shoots... he scores!

joey said...

"as long as you're down there, why don't you look at those little critters scurrying past your nose?"


Very convicting. Reminds me of a cheap animated video I grew up watching of the classic "the Ant and the Grasshopper" story. The Grasshopper horses around all summer having fun and making fun of the ant who's always working, diligently storing up for the winter. Course winter comes and the Grasshopper is left out in the cold.

I have a tendency to be the sluggard "in the summer" when everything seemingly is going fine. A little winter comes along and I run to the ants I know for their food...when I should have been feeding on the Word the whole time. And they tell me that. Like Dan just did. Dan your an ant.

Anonymous said...

I'm not suggesting there isn't a difference, I'm suggesting it isn't as simplistic as this post and your reply make it sound. I'd hope the author of this post would understand this distinction as well. But considering his reply, it looks as if he may not.

And interestingly enough, I notice neither of you responded to the actual quote, questions or concerns of my post. My contention is you can "have something to say" and use material which isn't entirely original. Now, would you like to deal with the substance of the topic or continue to make immature allusions to sports?

DJP said...

As asked, your question was answered sufficiently, David. Sorry if the answer rankles you.

If you're looking for a word-count limit, then I think the problem's not as you're presenting it.

As to your tone and unwarranted snarkiness, I recommend a dose of Get-the-heck-over-yourself.

That's a mature allusion to medicine. Spirituality, too.

LeeC said...

"DJP said...
Be assured, the two-edged sword cuts me before it cuts anyone else. "
I hear ya.
As my pastor says "Hey you guys are getting it for one hour, I have to wade in this all week!"

That said I have been seriously delinquent of late, while eagerly spending time reading far less profitable material.

As for plagiarism, all snarkieness aside I have struggled with that as well. Not because I was trying to get a message done without working but because my secular teachers in the past had bludgeoned a rather unnatainable standard for avoiding plagiarism.

When I first started doing any teaching I would read the Word repeatedly get an outline and a rough done and then look at some commentaries to help me flush it out.

Often once I looked at say what MacArthur, Archer or someone said I would realize that we were saying the same thing, only in different words. Now I failed high school but took some college courses anyhoo including one on writing that was explicit in saying that would be plagiarism. I beat my head on this for quite a while.

Then I realized that this standard was based upon secular works and not Gods innerant Word that never changes. So if the commentator is interpreting the text accurately, and I am also we are naturally going to sound similar, but that doesn't make it plagiarism.

The trick for me is doing your own legwork, THEN look at someoen elses sermon or comments and possibly revise accordingly.

I still wrangle on this when I read something and feel like the commentator nailed it just the way I would have said it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not looking for a word count limit, and I'm not even sure I know what "snarkiness" means. What about my comment suggests I need to "get the heck over myself"? It is you who is seeming to suggest that your less-than-super-pious if you don't preach extemporanously, devoid of using other material, when even Spurgeon himself speaks contrary to you.

Isn't it possible your the snarky one needing to get over yourself?

Trinian said...

Be assured, the two-edged sword cuts me before it cuts anyone else.

I know. I'm sure we'd all be a lot happier if you would just talk about more positive things...

... just kidding! ... no, not the face!

Anonymous said...

I need to make a correction. You don't seem to suggest preacher preach extemporanously. Just that if you use other material for help, it suggests the preacher doesn't have anything to say himself and therefore should step down. I apologize for my mistake.

Brad Williams said...

Complete originality is almost certianly heresy. The point is not be come up with completely new things, but rather to say old truth in your voice to your people. I often, in fact in almost every sermon, use ideas that I have gleaned from others. If the idea is common to many, I don't reference unless I want to point people to a particular book, article, etc. If I am quoting someone's idea, I give credit. That's not laziness, that's preparation. I believe this to be an invaluable part of preparation and a good help for people listening who may learn of other great sources for study. Besides, if after all our study we find that we can't say it any better than Matthew Henry said something, then quote him and give him credit.

I think that's Dan's point, and it's not contrary to Spurgeon. What is irksome is when someone downloads a sermon, mimics the original author's style, and has given no thought or time to the subject himself. That's irresponsible, and it will not aptly apply to one's given congregation.

DJP said...

Well, I certainly want to be clear.

Is there anyone (beside David) who read my post, and thought that my point was that preachers should not "use other material for help"?

Anonymous said...

Dan, that's my point. When does using helps turn into sermon stealing? Your making a hard and fast rule where there is much gray area. Rather than discouraging your readers from reading other people's sermons, by suggesting it's "sermon stealing", you should be encouraging pastors to get solid biblical commentary from others in order to better minister to their flock.

Again, maybe you need to "get the heck over yourself" and come to realize reading someone else's solid biblical sermons is edifying not stealing.

LeeC said...

"Again, maybe you need to "get the heck over yourself" and come to realize reading someone else's solid biblical sermons is edifying not stealing. "

But he never said that it was, not anywhere here.

Mike Messerli said...


great piece! well written. thanks...I agree completely!

I'm currently reading J.P. Moreland's book, "Love your God with all your mind" and it is speaking to the same basic issues.

I'm listening, Lord!

Jerry Morningstar said...

David - perhaps I can clarify. There are people out there who get up in a pulpit and preach an entire sermon word for word written by another pastor. If they don't give credit to the source - that is plagiarism and sermon stealing. If the church board believes that they are paying a guy enough to study and prepare his own messages - the practice is fraudulent and unethical.

In spite of this - there are some who openly encourage the practice and try to hawk their sermons to others to preach them word for word [Rick Warren among others]. And there are preachers willing to do just that. Some even preach sermons written by good preachers.

Dan is merely saying that if you are one who subscribes to the 'buy a sermon' service - you are a sluggard and should get out of the pulpit.

On the other hand:

If a guy reads Spurgeon, MacArthur, Lloyd-Jones, as part of his preparation and study - it is not stealing to incorporate truths they teach or to quote them in a sermon and give credit to the source.

Dan was rather clear on this - but I wonder if you are just not aware of the practices that are taking place in some churches across America.

Again - there is a huge difference between learning from the theological giants of the past and lifting an entire sermon and passing it off as one's own work.

ricki said...

Can we say "heck" on Pyromaniacs?

Anonymous said...


Thank you for the clarification. Maybe you should be writing on this blog rather than "Dan". He seems content being condenscending and berating fellow believers rather than entering into real dialouge.

And oddly enough, I did not know such a thing took place. I have heard of churches who lack a minister listening to taped sermons. I've even heard of elders getting up and reading sermons. But there is never any secrecy about it. They all knew it was someone elses work. It is certainly deceptive to use someone elses work entirely without giving due credit. I have always, even if I wanted to say word-for-word what another preacher has said, either put it in my own words or given them credit. Anyone knowingly doing otherwise should be held accountable for it.

Again, thanks for being a mature voice on the matter.

bethany said...

thank you.

Jerry Morningstar said...

David - don't be too hard on Dan. The Pyro's put up excellent posts and take hits from a lot of different directions. Sometimes it's hard to determine the genuineness of the commenter. A lot of times people just want to take a shot at something they disagree with and aren't really seeking anything more.

Grace and Peace

Anonymous said...

Jerry, it's good to know your given the benefit of the doubt 'round here. Thanks again.

BTW Rick, what kind of cigar you smokin there?

ricki said...

David - I've learned from DJP to not read into that question. He once asked "hey rick, what are you smoking", I took offense, and then had to do something I hate, I had to apologize - and apparently I now owe him a box. Turns out he is a fellow aficionado.

Anyway, it is a Cohiba Siglo VI. IMHO the finest cigar made - hand rolled by Fidel's grandmother ... I understand that she and Spurgeon may have dated ...

farmboy said...

david mccrory writes as follows:

"Jerry, it's good to know your given the benefit of the doubt 'round here. Thanks again."

"Thank you for the clarification. Maybe you should be writing on this blog rather than 'Dan'. He seems content being condenscending and berating fellow believers rather than entering into real dialouge."

Maybe you could extend the same "benefit of the doubt" to Mr. Phillips. Mr. Phillips' original post was clear. Given the level of familiarity with the evangelical landscape that one can reasonably expect from readers of Pyromaniacs, there should have been no confusion as to the point Mr. Phillips was making.

Of course pastors are to diligently study. This study will include both more general background work and more specfic work directed toward a specific sermon. As part of this study they will read and ponder the works of those who have went before them. To do otherwise would be grossly negligent.

The above approach has nothing in common with a "pastor" who downloads a sermon from the internet and uncritically reads such sermon word-for-word without attribution to his congregation. This is the sermon stealing that Mr. Phillips was referring to.

That it is necessary to amplify this point is not reflective of Mr. Phillips lacking clarity. Instead, it is reflective of you lacking the necessary background to properly appreciate the point of Mr. Phillips' post.

If my memory is correct on this point, this is the first time you have posted on Pyromaniacs. Your approach fit the profile of the typical "drive by" poster whose sole desire is to drive by, stop for a moment to stir things up, and drive on. Given this, Mr. Phillips' interaction with you was entirely appropriate.

Connie said...

farmboy - VERY nicely put.

ChosenClay said...

To underscore the type of 'sermon stealing' that Dan is speaking of...We attended a small church with a pastor whose sermons vascillated between barely understandable to stellar, reformed, locked-on. Couldn't quite figure it out. One sermon in particular about Leah he liked so much he preached it twice in one year.
Fast-forward 6 months and we are visiting another church across town. Here we are presented a visiting pastor who begins his intro with "my kids are tired of hearing this sermon over and over again, but here you go" and he starts to preach THE EXACT SAME SERMON. same corney examples, same extreme gestures , same voice inflections. I sit in stunned silence and approach him after the service. "Where did you get the inspiration for you sermon?" I ask. He tells me that he is inspired by the writings of a certain Presb. pastor from the east coast.
I look up said pastor's website and find that he has no books, but years worth of sermons available. And I find almost all of the 'good' sermons the pastor at our previous church 'preached.'
Twas eye-opening for me...and heart-breaking.

Anonymous said...

Farmboy, very nicely put, but not entirely accurate. I do read Pyro occasionally, and have posted here before as well. I suppose since I'm not a groupie and post here everyday, that makes me an "outsider" and worthy of the "treatment".

The point of my original reponse was to use a quote from Spurgeon suggesting not all "plagarizism" is bad. In addition, I concluded my point by saying this is a gray area that deserves more consideration than Dan has given it here. I agree, to download a sermon and read it verbatim would be morally wrong. Yet how much influence can someone else's writing have on your own, in other words, how closely can your own style reflect someone elses before it becomes stealing? This is not as easy to answer a Dan suggests. We can't simply say, a pastor has "nothing to say" even if he uses other material. As I have labored this point for some time now, I feel we're rehashing old ground.

In addition farmerboy, you have affirmed the tendency here to "profile" new comers and to expect them to come and "stir things up". You haven't denied that what took place in my case. This being the case it seems to confirm my asserion concerning a lack of giving "the benefit of the doubt". If it is criticism Dan doesn't like, then maybe he should simply moderate his comments and weed out anything he doesn't want others to read.

What do I need to extend Dan the benefit of the doubt about? I came here, quoted Spurgeon, posted some questions and comments hoping to add to the discussion and was accused of needing to "get the heck over myself". I fear I have nothing more to doubt about "Dan" at this point, he's made it pretty clear.

Anonymous said...

oh and Rick, I wish I have made you take offense, then you'd owe me that box! I agree they are a very fine cigar.

4given said...

Sadly, I am one of the few who can say that we are a part of a church in which the pastor is diligent to pour himself into the word of God. It is obvious not only in the pulpit but in his life. He would say, "To God be ALL the glory."

The elders have put together a 2007 Bible reading plan for our entire church. The purpose of this plan is so that we, as a body, can encourage one another, hold one another accountable, and further facilitate growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. It is a unique plan that we will be posting on our church website under "Sermons and Studies" at the end of this month. This plan is broken down into sections as follows:
The Life of Christ (Matthew, Mark, John)

The Pentateuch - Chronology (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers)

Christ and His Church (Luke, Acts)

The Pentateuch - Theology (Leviticus, Deuteronomy)

Early NT Letters (James, Galatian, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans)

OT Poetry (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)

Middle NT Letters (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, 1 and 2 Peter)

OT History (Joshua through Esther)

Late NT Letters (Jude, 1, 2, 3 John, Revelation)

OT Prophets (Isaiah through Malachi)

It is broken down this way so that if someone gets terribly behind in one section within the year's reading plan, they can look forward to the next section.

donsands said...


Thanks for sharing abut the elders plan for your church.

I would love our elders to adopt soemthing like this for my church.
I will have to share it with my elders/pastors.

DJP said...

farmboy -- bingo. (Game allusion.)

hisgirl -- I remember J. Vernon McGee telling of visiting a church and hearing a sermon. Afterwards, he asked the preacher how long it had taken him to prepare.

"Oh," the fellow replied, "just a day or two."

"My, isn't that something?" McGee responded. "It took me three weeks!"

(Numbers are probably wrong; you get the idea.)

farmboy said...

david mccrory amplifies as follows: "I agree, to download a sermon and read it verbatim would be morally wrong. Yet how much influence can someone else's writing have on your own, in other words, how closely can your own style reflect someone elses [else's] before it becomes stealing? This is not as easy to answer a Dan suggests."

In asking Mr. Phillips to play the role of Solomon you are not only asking too much of Mr. Phillips you are also asking entirely the wrong question. Your question implies that there is a point where a pastor ceases to be a careful, thoughtful student of both the text and those who have previously interacted with it and instead becomes a miscreant guilty of sermon stealing. You ask Mr. Phillips to specify precisely where this point is.

The sermons that a pastor delivers depend in large part on the perspective of the pastor. A pastor who - properly understanding both the gravity and the privilege of his position - first seeks to master the material will never be guilty of sermon stealing. This pastor immerses himself in the text and those who have previously studied it. He studies with great care, thought and effort. The result of his studies is that he is radically transformed. In a very real sense the pastor is Spurgeon because he has been transformed through his study of Spurgeon. Similarly, the pastor is Calvin because he has been transformed through his study of Calvin. The ideas and understandings of Spurgeon and Calvin live on through the ideas and understandings of the pastor. There is no way, then, to determine where Spurgeon and Calvin end and the pastor begins. This very notion is nonsense. (To the extent that Spurgeon studied Calvin, to study Spurgeon is to study Calvin.) This happens any time a person is a true student. The person is radically transformed as a result of his study of the subject matter.

In contrast to being a true student, the sermon stealing pastor is someone who merely attends lectures. He does not master the material, and that is not his objective. Since he was never a true student - instead merely attending lectures - in his role as pastor he has no choice but to lecture straight out of the book. In a much less vital context we have all encountered the close cousin of the sermon stealing pastor, the college instructor or professor that lectures straight out of the book. It is hard work to be a true student. It is much easier to merely attend lectures. Thus, the number of pastors (or professors) who lecture straight out of the book greatly exceed the number of pastors who have been radically transformed through their study of the subject matter.

Asking when a pastor crosses over from careful, thoughtful interaction with the text and those who have previously studied it to sermon stealing implies an incorrect understanding of the problem. When evaluating a given pastor one should instead ask if the pastor is a true student or if the pastor merely attended lectures. That was the point Mr. Phillips was clearly making within the modern context of sermons downloadable from the internet.

Anonymous said...

Farmerboy, where do I sign you up to author this blog along side Jerry? Both of you are exceedingly more gracious and articulate than Danny Boy. And I agree, I believe, wholly with your last post. I might just qualify your assessment of my concern. Dan didn't draw the distinction as clearly as you've drawn here nor express it nearly as well.

I feel we are talking past one another. I'm not addressing the "preacher" who simply takes someone else's work en tota and who tries to pass it off as his own. He does need to be held accountable for this. No one is contending that point.

My reference and my post dealt with where exactly the line between "using" and "stealing" is? And your right to assert we can't really know. Only the man behind the pulpit really knows whether he's stolen another's work. Spurgeon's quote seems to suggest a need to use other's work. But even with a quote like that, I don't think Spurgeon would condone plagarizism due to laziness.

In theory (and if I heavily qualify his statement), it would seem I agree with good ole "get-the-heck-over-yourself" Dan. Men that don't have something to say, that aren't called into the gospel ministry, that don't feel the burden to proclaim the truths of God's wonderful grace, men that abuse positions of authority,
don't belong behind a pulpit. Any of this ringing home Dan?

My humble and quite meager post was simply to suggest that what could conceivably be construed as sermon stealing might very well be the influence of study and knowledge of another's person and work. And in all reality, the transparency of a minister's life, with his study habits, including who he uses as commentary, and the right kind of accountability, should elimnate any concern over this issue. A man who is stealing another's work has much deeper and serious concerns in his ministry than merely what is seen in the pulpit.

Thank you, again Farmerboy for your demonstration of Christian charity and honest dialouge.

farmboy said...

david mccrory, this advice and $1.00 (plus applicable taxes) will get you a double cheeseburger at Mcdonalds, so consider it in that light. God has seen fit to allow me to spend the last 46 years and some odd days on this planet. There are some things that only come with the experiences that only aging can bring, one of those is a measured temperament another is a tough hide or thick skin, if you prefer.

It is obvious that you believe that Mr. Phillips has dealt with you in a disrespectful, dismissive way. This belief has resulted in you referring to Mr. Phillips as "Danny Boy". Here are two questions: First, did your referring to Mr. Phillips as "Danny Boy" in any way enhance the quality of the thoughts you offered for consideration or how those thoughts were received? Second, did your referring to Mr. Phillips as "Danny Boy" reflect well on you, your family and your faith?

If you have casually read Pyromaniacs over time, then you know that in this post Mr. Phillips was simply being Mr. Phillips. He meant no disrespect or harm to you as a person. Desires such as these do not square with Mr. Phillips track record. (The one forgettable year that I spent in California gives me a better perspective for understanding Californians. It is a perspective I would have never had had I not spent that year in California.) It is because of this that I originally asked you to extend the benefit of the doubt to Mr. Phillips.

Note also that Mr. Johnson used to maintain Pyromaniacs all by himself. Given the burden this placed on him, he wisely added other Pyromaniacs to the roster. With Mr. Johnson's travel schedule and Mr. Turk's postings on his own blog, much of the work that goes into keeping fresh posts on Pyromaniacs has fallen to Mr. Phillips. It is my perspective that Mr. Phillips has discharged this responsibility quite well. Without Mr. Phillips' contributions Pyromaniacs would be a much less interesting place to visit. I very much appreciate Mr. Phillips and the service he performs here at Pyromaniacs.

Jerry Morningstar said...

hmm? Why do I feel like I just stepped in something and I want to scrape it off my shoe?

Anonymous said...


Thanks again for your kind and tempered response. Again I have to say your cordial nature is a stark contrast to what I've seen from Mr. Phillips. Believe me when I say I'm listening to you and appreciate what you've contributed.

And like yourself, I understand the value of thick skin. Yet, even thick skin on my part does not excuse uncharitable behavior on another, would you not agree? Simply because I'm wearing a bullet proof vest doesn't mean the shooter gets off Scott-free. If Mr. Phillips was, like you said, being himself, then "himself" is a serious issue.

Addressing him as "Danny-boy" reflects turn about being fair play. Granted that wasn't my only option, but it was a legitimate one. I don't think his initial attitude towards me was merely a subjective impression on my part. He mistook my motives, and comments and acted accordingly.

I have read Phil Johnson's work even long before Pyromaniacs came along. And I have since followed it for some time. He has some very good things to say. With my visits being spotty, I wasn't familiar with Mr. Phillips work (nor his gaudy personality)and didn't expect the reception I received.

Pyromaniacs is/was known as a place were challenging, thought-provoking discussion (even debate) takes/took place. Yet, in the past, this was successfully accomplished without personal references to "snarkiness", "tone" and "getiing the heck over yourself". Remember, any thing I might have said which drew offense, was already a response to Mr. Phillips harsh demeanor. Pyro used to have an atmosphere of Christian civility, not a third grade school yard.

My post was in the spirit of the former Pyro where edifying discourse often took place and questions such as mine were recieved in a spirit of facilitating more discussion along topical lines. Therefore it is at least partly my fault for assuming the same level of dignity stil permeated the discussion here.

Having said this and in the spirit of not sowing discord and maintaining the peace among the brethren, I will take my exit, with the desire that God richly blesses all you set your hand to do.

James Scott Bell said...

Farmboy, thanks for your superb thoughts on the preacher's duty, esp. to be a "true student." Who was it (Tozer? Lloyd-Jones?) who said he was first preaching to himself?

kenoshadave said...

A good Puritan sermon -- chose anyone you want -- will remind us of our paucity of Scripture knowledge. They lived in their Bibles. Of course they were missing the joys of TV and the Internet. Thanks for the admonition.

Suziannr said...

I am so appreciative for the value this blog has had and continues to have in my spiritual life. Thanks, Dan, for your part in that.

C.T. Lillies said...

Is anyone but me just a little freaked out that all this sound bible study is going on in California of all places? Wow. Not Nashville or somewhere in the Bible belt. California.

Great post Dan. Do you wear a helmet when you read these comments or just take it in stride?

"...the word of God is not bound."
--2 Timothy 2:9

DJP said...

LOL, thanks for asking, Josh. There often comes an almost surreal point at which I've said what I have to say, and an angry poster seems compelled unintentionally to prove the validity of my point over and over and over again.

So I step back and let him.

As I've often said, I take great comfort (at such times) in the public nature of this discourse. It's all out there. If I've done my job and am read fairly, all should be well. If I'm not read fairly, then more writing won't help.