The Day the Pastor Plagiarized


So, one terrible Sunday morning, our church hosted a visiting pastor.

I don’t know his story. I imagine he’s a man who loves God and maybe he just got really pressed for time or overtired or something. But on this particular Sunday, his choice to preach someone else’s message had serious consequences.

So, he starts preaching, a message he communicates as his – not crediting any other source. But what he’s doing is the stand-up routine of a Christian comedian known all too well to the teens in our congregation and to me, because I’m the one who introduced the teens to his videos.

The comic’s routine is amazingly funny and delivers a powerful message about following Christ. The teens had watched it over and over and had memorized the choice sections.

Which made what was happening on this Sunday morning particularly painful.

It was like watching a speeding train head for a dog on the tracks and being unable to stop what is coming.

As the teens realized what the pastor was doing, they begin to shoot furtive glances at me, at first appearing nervous. But as the sermon continued, their glances became obvious, pointed and alarmed. This guy was standing in the pulpit plagiarizing one of their comic heroes and doing it poorly to boot!

Most of the adults in the congregation were oblivious except for a few of the parents whose faces were turning as red as mine felt. Every time this pastor reached a punch line, he would get a polite ripple of laughter from those who were unaware but nothing but glares from the teens. The adults in the know could only manage to stare at the floor and pray for wisdom until it was mercifully over.

It was the longest sermon I’ve ever heard in my life.

So, then it’s over. The elders are quickly informed what has just transpired and I trust them to talk with the pastor. I have a mob of angry, confused teens waiting to confront me in the back of the sanctuary.

After a lengthy discussion, we reach a point of drawing conclusions. And here is where I learned that God will not be thwarted from delivering the message HE wants to deliver from the pulpit.

“How did he do” I asked, “delivering this other guy’s material and style?”

“Terrible!” They all agreed. “It was the same material but he didn’t do it well at all.”

“So,” I continued, “what message do you think God communicated in the service this morning?”

One thoughtful young man responded wisely. “I think God showed us how bad it looks if we try to be someone else. I don’t ever want to look like that!”

“Yeah”, responded another teen. “You always tell us God has a special plan for each of us. I guess I can see now how important it is to find MY plan and not try to live someone else’s.”

So, even when the messenger takes a complete left turn, God can still deliver His message.

Romans 12:4-6a says, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”

We don’t come to the Lord to find ourselves. But, when we search for and find Jesus, we become transformed.

Some people fear that following Christ will turn them into bland, cookie-cutter, pew sitting drones but quite the opposite is true. The closer we grow to Jesus, the more we become a “new creation” and each of us reflects God’s image in a unique way. Peter was not John and John was not Lydia and Lydia was not Paul.

God, alone, knows what His idea of us was when we originated in His imagination. When we pursue Him, He peels away the layers of conformity to this world and reveals our true selves. This is a beautiful thing. This is freedom. This is bliss.

So don’t be afraid. Go deeper into the heart of God.

You won’t lose yourself. Well, you’ll lose the imitation self you’ve put on to cope with being fallen in a fallen world but that’s no real loss.

You’ll find Him and He will free you and give you the courage to be who you were designed to be. And when that happens, He will bless us all through you being you.

So what happened the day the pastor plagiarized? God taught us all a lesson, that’s what. Because He’s God and nothing stops that train.


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11 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Anonymous says:

    I rember this happening. Very good writing Lori!
    -Amanda

  2. Thanks, Amanda! Hope you’re being uniquely YOU in Jesus!

  3. A great lesson for the teenagers…and for all of us. Thank you…great post.

    Jackie

  4. Thanks, Jackie. Feel free to use the story (Don’t encourage your visiting pastor to plagiarize to get the same effect!) 🙂

  5. Amy says:

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much the entry moved me. I’ve been struggleling with “who” I am in God. This passage has helped me see that, I can be me, and still be a child of Christ. Thank you.

  6. Praise God! You just go deeper into Jesus, Amy! No fear. You’ll never lose anything you really need and you’ll find everything you’ve ever wanted. Like stained glass, once you are filled with His light, you’ll truly know the beauty of your design.

  7. Phoenix says:

    It gives us the humility, courage and boldeness to be ‘who we are’ in Him!

  8. Karen says:

    What a terrible decision that pastor made. Hopefully his experience in making such a poor choice gave him some material to create an original sermon.

  9. Thanks for dropping in, Karen!

  10. dlevans says:

    Great that you wrote about this however, I am left with the words of the teen that as you stated, “One thoughtful young man responded wisely. “I think God showed us how bad it looks if we try to be someone else. I don’t ever want to look like that!”
    And then the other teen-
    “Yeah”, responded another teen. “You always tell us God has a special plan for each of us. I guess I can see now how important it is to find MY plan and not try to live someone else’s.”

    I believe this was the whole key for the morning and I am sure one that the teens will never forget as I was so touched by this piece.

    I love how you ended your writing with the truth of God. As far as the pastor in question…I believe that was a learning lesson for him, as we do feed off the body when giving a message. As hard as it is, I am sure that he is a changed person because of it. But there still is grace and mercy as none of us have arrived yet have we?

    Good Job!

  11. I know I was affected by what the pastor did and how the teens responded. It was a catalyst for me to be who I am in Christ and not who someone else is. We did discuss the need to respond to the pastor with grace and love and the teens could truly identify with the temptation to take a shortcut. They really focused on what God had to say through the unfortunate situation. THanks for dropping in!