Monday, August 13, 2007

Steal the stuff you suck at...

I'm stealing this from Steven Furtick.


In keeping with the spirit of this post, I’ll note that I’m sure this thought isn’t original with me (no good ones are). But I don’t remember exactly how it originated, so I’ll post it as my own.

When it comes to using stuff from other people in sermon preparation, there are 3 kinds of preachers:

1. Those who rip off sermon material from other guys and admit it
2. Those who rip off sermon material from other guys and lie about it
3. Those who rip off sermon material from other guys and are so delusional they don’t even realize they are doing it

Bottom line: Everybody is ripping off somebody, whether they realize it or not.
Of course, there are sub categories for each of these categories. And I don’t want to rehash old arguments about whether or not it’s appropriate to “preach other people’s sermons”.
As for me, I study hard, pray hard, think hard, and preach hard. I feel my delivery is very authentic and unique to who I am. And I discern the heart of what God wants to say to our congregation first and foremost in planning and preparing the context and content of my sermons.

Someone told me last night they were planning on ripping off one of my sermons and my response was: “If my bullet fits your gun, shoot it.”
(I didn’t make that line up either.)
I love when something God originates through me goes beyond me. You can call that being ripped off if you want to. I call it being used by God. My friend called me last week and informed me he sang a song that I wrote while leading worship for 8000 people, and it “wrecked the joint”. He meant that in a good way. Was I upset that he “ripped off” my song? What do you think? I was honored.

So, as one who regularly rips off others, and rather enjoys being ripped off himself, let me give you a piece of advice when ripping off the ideas of others:

Steal the stuff you suck at.
Tap the strengths of others to compensate for your weaknesses. This will allow you to play to your communicative strengths.
For instance, I don’t have to steal many stories, analogies, or one liners from other guys. That’s my communicative sweet spot, so I’m usually covered there.

What I tend to suck at is condensing complicated historical backgrounds when preaching through an Old Testament passage. At least I used to suck at it. Now, I’m getting pretty good, because I learn from the masters. I encourage you to do the same. Pinpoint where you’re naturally strong as a communicator (I recommend asking others to help you identify this), and lean into these strengths wholeheartedly.
Then identify what components of your communication tend to regularly struggle or drag, and steal approaches and angles from the guys who are good at it.

This allows the uniqueness of the voice that God has given you to cut through the clutter of your natural limitations. It’s not taking a shortcut. It’s just intelligent development.

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Matt said...

We had two guest preachers two consecutive Sunday nights. The first was on older preacher. He gave a very specific illustration/preacher joke but prefaced it by saying, "One guest preacher walked into a church and you wouldn't believe what happened to him..." The next preacher, a much younger one, told the exact same story/joke by saying, "That last time I guest spoke at a church you wouldn't believe what happened to me..." Either that second guy is really the guy it happened to or he was taking a whole lot of liberty. I really consider that lying, not license. It really doesn't hurt a joke or a story to say it happened to someone else. It has the same effect.

mrclm said...

Thanks for stopping and commenting!

On borrowing/stealing:

I think there is an art to using other people's stuff. As an example, I would always try to avoid something that would lead to your situation. I can't borrow someone else's experiences. What I can borrow is a quality illustration though. So Mark Driscoll might tell a funny story about his sons doing something, and I can't use that, but I can use his explanation of how Nehemiah a "ground war and air war" approach while rebuilding the wall.

Beyond that, you simply have to avoid the tired old books of illustrations and jokes. In spite of that though, I have heard both Chuck Swindoll as well as C.J. Mahaney use illustrations/jokes that I had heard previously, so even some of the best do it from time to time. It is a fine line, but as your situation points out, you have to use your own content, especially for openings, whenever possible.

Big Chris

RC said...

i certainly can see when it's appropriate to share what you've heard someone else say...especially if you are able to articulate with clarity and stand by it's teaching.

i personally do appreciate when people do site who there stealing from, at least if they know they're stealing directly.