Need wisdom on an issue of ethics

Discussion in 'General Discussions' started by in_HIS_hands, Apr 13, 2016.

  1. Hey everyone! I'm new here and this is my first "real" post after my introduction post in the welcome thread. I'm sorry to say it is a bit of a big issue that I could use some help on from people who are not directly involved, and who do not have direct knowledge of anyone involved. I live in a small town so asking others in the town will still lead back to me...and small towns thrive on gossip which I would prefer to avoid here. This is a rather long post (I'm sorry) but I could use some advice. Here it goes:

    Our church is currently searching for a new pastor. In the meantime, we have an interim pastor. He's a retired pastor who occasionally will fill in for a church in need of a pastor. When he first arrived in September most of us were excited. His sermons were a bit deeper than our previous guy, though they lacked the challenge we were used to. I'd say he is more of a "teaching" pastor whereas our former pastor was more of a challenger who wanted you to get out and live like Christ in the community.

    That excitement fell fairly quickly as his sermons often seemed to drag before he made his point. I'm all for a long sermon as long as there is something there to grab onto, but I felt something was missing. To my great shame, I tuned him out. It turns out several other had as well. In early March, I finally heard one of his sermons and it just did not sit well with me. I felt he was teaching something contrary to scripture. After a few discussions with close friends in the church, I decided I misheard him. The next week was even worse. So I started looking up some of what he had taught to see if others were saying the same thing and try to understand why I am not coming to the same conclusions.

    In that process, I discovered a sermon that sounded a lot like what he said. I went to my church and grabbed the CD copy of his sermon and found he had 100% plagiarized someone else's published sermon. I mean he didn't even try to cover it up. He added a sentence here and there, but otherwise you could read along just like those kids books we all grew up with. As I looked into this I discovered that he, a Covenant pastor, was using the sermon of an Episcopalian priest! That's probably why it stood out to me because it was something that the two denominations differ on.

    So after this, I grabbed the CD from that other sermon. You guessed it. It was plagiarized as well. Only this time it wasn't a direct copy of one sermon. He did more work on it. It took the intro from one sermon by the same priest, and then the next few paragraphs from a published work by the same priest. After that I am unsure as the work he seemed to copy from was only available to me through a book preview and it wouldn't let me read the rest and I just didn't want to buy it.

    So I called our youth pastor that I work with and told her my concerns. She immediately took it to our church leadership figuring that the plagiarism would be enough to send him packing. Well, they for some reason only considered the one to be plagiarized, and not the other because we couldn't prove the rest of it was (though 4 word for word paragraphs to me seem like good evidence). They confronted the pastor about the one sermon and he muttered about how he had come back from his vacation and didn't have time to prepare a sermon so he took one from his file of old sermons and somehow it accidentally was this lady's sermon. It was, according to him, a one time thing. To me this is an utter lie. However, our leadership (except for the youth pastor) bought into his lie.

    Here's the thing: the sermon that they believe was plagiarized was the second Sunday after his return. The other sermon, the one that they seem to think was not plagiarized, was the Sunday when he returned. If it was a one time thing then it had to be the first Sunday, not the second. So that already rubs me wrong. Second, why would he have another pastor's work in his specific file? And wouldn't he proofread it before hand and realize it wasn't proper? Plus, the added sentence here and there makes me believe it was intentional.

    Anyway, our Easter sermon he talked about the meaning of a word in the Greek. I won't say the English but just say that he described a word as meaning something really vulgar. He said that Bible scholars tell us this is what the word means. Well, I've looked in Strongs, Thayer's, and Vine's and cannot find anything to confirm this. When I searched online, I found several pastors who quoted a Presbyterian pastor as making that statement, but nothing other than her writing says it. So now he is looking into another pastor's work. KNowing this, I looked at her stuff and found a lot of similarities to his sermon (not as direct, but certain key phrases that are not likely to be coincidental...they would totally be failed in a college paper). With this I tried again to bring the info forward and am being told to just wait because he is only temporary and we'll have a new pastor soon. I know two people on the search committee and my understanding is we aren't close when is soon? 2 months? A year? That's a long time to teach a congregation false doctrine....or doctrine that is contrary to the core beliefs of the denomination.

    Our youth pastor had a talk with him and questioned where he sources his material because of complaints she has received. He said he doesn't examine the pedigree of those whose work he reads. This struck me as odd and contrary to the ideals one finds in 1 John 4:1 and Acts 17:10-12. Also coming to mind are the ideals in 2 Corinthians 11:3-15. We came to the conclusion that the leadership in the church is not going to do anything about this issue. They don't even seem concerned. I am seeking wisdom at this time. Should I follow through with Matthew 18:17 and go public to the church as a whole? Or should I just wait? I cannot gather any more evidence at this point as the leadership has ensured that the CDs are no longer available. I looked immediately the last two weeks and they just aren't being put out. I don't even think they are recording them. It's a disgrace in my opinion. Please help me. What would you guys do?
  2. My first reaction is to forgive him as God has generously forgiven you. Redouble your efforts to find a new pastor with the energy to write his own sermons. He may be doing the best he can to fill in.
    KingJ, Elizabeth O, in_HIS_hands and 1 other person say Amen and like this.
  3. If I were you, I would wait it out. "Interim" pretty much tells you the answer IMO. An "interim" is only to hold things together until a new pastor is found. As Adonaicole said, it should motivate you and the church to find your new pastor quickly.

    Now if he is promoting heresy or false teaching, that would be an issue for confrontation. The truth be told........what you are describing is very common in all churches and religions.
    KingJ, in_HIS_hands and Blessed4JC says Amen and like this.
  4. This is sad, but I'm also beginning to realise some Preachers do actually preach the same messages as you have described inn your OP. (IMO it's a reflection on how they view the majority of their congregation - just followers who wont bother to check out what their preaching/teaching. (Lesson wake up saints and know the Word of God for yourselves!)

    I agree with the other two members. Further, I think you have done enough by bringing it to the attention of those is positions of authority! I don't think it would be right for you to go over their heads and address the church yourself on this matter.

    I hope you get the new Pastor quickly.
    Elizabeth O, SouthernStorm, in_HIS_hands and 1 other person say Amen and like this.
  5. I can 100% relate to this. I moved from Hertfordshire to Bristol and I tried to fit into this church that everyone kept talking about. The teaching was very different and i felt very uncomfortable with everything regarding the church, I started to knit pick and criticise everything. I prayed and asked God for forgiveness but stopped going to the church because if being hurt by church causes you to lose faith, then your faith was in the people and the building not God. I am not implying that this is the case with you but I think you should speak up. Jesus did in Mat 21:12

    When I say speak up i don't mean in a disrespectful way, You can talk to the Pastor and tell him him how you feel. The Pastor even if he is a Temporary Pastor is the Shepard and the congregation the Sheep. You can not follow someone you don't trust. Pray and then speak with your Pastor.

    I pray God gives you the wisdom and the knowledge you need to handle this situation.
    calvin and in_HIS_hands say Amen and like this.
  6. Interesting. With the internet today, the fact that you found this at all is pretty amazing. That said, if I was a pastor, I would continue to listen RC Sproul, RaviZJohn MacArthur, Charles Stanley, ... and would certainly be influenced by that type. I agree with others who have said you have done enough. You do not want to stir up trouble or gossip as those are unhealthy for any church. At the same time, it would not IMHO be problematic to try to light a fire under the search committee. Are there other small towns w/small churches close by where-by maybe they have a dual-career pastor (ie: pastor on weekEnds, school counsellor on weekdays) ... and encourage him to go dual-church instead of dual-career. Another temporary reprieve would be to line up some "itinerant preachers". This is something Ravi did in his early years. Wouldn't it be great to hear a young Ravi for a week or 2. Just thinking out loud.
    in_HIS_hands likes this.
  7. This really scares me that this is very common in all churches....
  8. One of my main concerns is teaching something that is completely contrary to sound doctrine and getting away with it. One such example comes from the parable of the prodigal son. In his sermon on this he taught that the prodigal son never repented. Now, I have always found in my reading, and the various sermons and commentaries on the subject, that he humbled himself and repented. That said, I know from searching the internet that there are a number of pastors who are also teaching this. Here is the problem I have with this teaching. He said the son "connived" his speech that he would give to the father in order to "manipulate the system" when he returns. As a parable of Jesus, I do not believe for one second that Jesus would teach us all that in order to receive God's grace and salvation that we need only manipulate the system. In fact, I feel that it is obvious by reading the Bible that a real conversion/repentance is required, not a half-hearted one. Moreover, within the teachings of our denomination, this is the accepted belief.

    With that, even though he is just an interim, this is his third time as an interim pastor sent by our conference superintendent. A concern I have is that he could continue doing this for the foreseeable future.
  9. It was simply because of one of his sermons that he plagiarized. It was a teaching I had never heard before and, while I don't think there is anything clear saying it is right or wrong, I felt his insistence of the teaching was a little misguided. So I decided to look online to see what I was missing or if others had this particular view. The first result I came across was the one he plagiarized. As I started reading it, it felt very familiar. That's what caused me to go grab the CD and listen to it again...then realizing I could just read along with it. So I guess you could say it was luck? The next one I looked at I was only able to find because of him using the same person's material. I just put in her name and a phrase from the sermon and it came up. Another phrase from the same sermon with her name brought up another published material from her that he had combined with the other one.
  10. When I read of stories such as these I am reminded of Revelation 18 where we are called out of Babylon so that we don't partake of her sins...

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Elizabeth O and in_HIS_hands say Amen and like this.
  11. OK, now you are saying that he is actually teaching something which is contrary to the Scriptures. That is a totally different concern. You are very right in that the "prodical son" did in fact repent.

    The prodigal son initiated his repentance by “coming to himself” (Lk. 15:17). This
    indeed is the starting point of true repentance; without making this first step, no one
    arrives at repentance. How can we repent if we do not come to know our sins? How can
    we discover our sins if we do not bring to mind all our deeds?

    How can we examine our thoughts if we do not collect our thoughts and thoroughly search ourselves?
    The prodigal son distanced his mind from sinful thoughts and confined it to the contemplation and examination of himself. When he examined his state, that is, his thoughts, his words, and his actions, he immediately noticed all his sins. He quickly understood Whom he had saddened and from Whom he had been separated; from what height he had fallen and into what depth he had been submerged.

    He saw the filth of his transgressions and he sensed the stench of his sins; he perceived the deprivation of divine grace and the destruction of his soul. “Having come to himself,” he remembered his innocent and virtuous original state, and he recalled the glory, honor,and divine wealth enjoyed in abundance by all them who serve God and reside with Him. “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough to spare, and I perish with hunger!” (Lk. 15:17).

    My advice now would be to ask for a meeting with the deacons/elders and present your concern again. If nothing happens then, you have the option of talking this to the church probably at a business meeting or a called "special meeting", or you can simply walk away knowing that you did what the Bible told you to do.
    mikec711 and in_HIS_hands say Amen and like this.
  12. I agree brother. I spent many years in seminary and college to be able to do sermon outlines and in depth studies.
    Now, with the internet all one has to do is google "Christian Sermons" and boom...........there are thousands available.

    What that does is give the one using that resource a sermon to copy and use, but he is only reading it and has not actually believed it.
    That means his heart is not into the sermon and there is no relative application for the people listening to him.

    This is sad but true and it is actually a Bible doctrine to be following!!

    2 Tim. 3:5..........
    "having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people."
    in_HIS_hands likes this.
  13. That is really sad! I keep saying it but there are many ppl preaching the Gospel and they have not been called to preach/teach on that level - to a congregation, for this responsibility is so heavy on someone and needs a character that has submitted to Almighty God (I'm remembering how many times Jesus had to say to Peter; Feed my Sheep - John 21:15-16; so they don't just do things like this.

    Perhaps you may want to bring up your latest findings again to the correct board of elders etc, but be careful you don't turn this into a "pastor-hunt", as you do seem like you are really searching for stuff to keep proving him wrong. Do the 'right' thing for the 'right' reasons!
    in_HIS_hands and Elizabeth O say Amen and like this.
  14. Pray about it. Like others said, he is interim pastor. Focus on finding the right pastor rather than trying to spend too much effort on what the interim pastor is doing.
    in_HIS_hands likes this.
  15. It's in my original message but I kind of glossed over it. Pretty much in the original post I mentioned that a sermon didn't sit well with me and that it seemed contrary to scripture. After another sermon I looked into it to see if others were saying the same thing and/or if I was missing something. I should have made that more clear in the first post. Sorry.
    The youth pastor made another attempt to meet with them and they pretty much said just deal with it. They aren't interested in dealing with this at all. We are getting a few men and women together tomorrow night to pray about this issue and see what the Spirit leads us to do. I would appreciate any of you reading this to be praying for our church, our pastor, and our next move. Thank you!
  16. G'day to you 'in_HIS_hands'.

    The parable that you mention has many facets that could be explored. I'd say that overall the parable is about reconciliation.
    But when we look closely at this parable we don't find that the son repented of his rejection of his father, or of his reckless attitude. He only felt remorse for his poverty.
    I know other respected commentators would disagree here and that is OK.
    But perhaps the preacher wanted to focus on repentance for the right reason. The son could repent because he was hungry and cold, (sorry now that things have gone sour) or he could repent because he recognized that his father's life style and training of his sons was the right way to live. Then too perhaps one could see that the son realized that he had lost his position as a family member.
    Ask yourself:
    Would you hold up the son as a model of repentance?
    Would you critique the son's motivation for returning home?
    Had there never been a drought would the son have given his dad a second thought?

    There are a whole lot of things a preacher might focus on with this parable but whatever the focus, there needs to be a take home lesson.
    One thing to note in studying this parable is that the father, seeing his wayward son approaching rushes out to embrace him and welcome him back verse 20.
    The son's speech was not necessary as the father seems to be more interested in celebrating his son's return than listening to carefully choreographed speeches.

    What was the take home lesson of this sermon? You don't say.
    Maybe you need to cut this guy a bit of slack, I don't know, you are there we are not, I just want to encourage you to look at the take home lessons rather that who wrote what.
    Critiquing sermons is a big subject that requires a lot of training not just in theology, but also in exegesis, exposition and hermeneutics.

    A closing thought...
    Rom 14:4. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
    Blessed4JC and Elizabeth O say Amen and like this.
  17. This is a problem not just of pastors but many who call themselves christians. They think they're doing just fine with cheating instead of the promptings of the Holy Spirit. These are nothing more than wolves in sheep's clothing. A false soldier never wins the war because they never follow orders. With buildings on every corner, I visit none of them as the Spirit hasn't lead me there. In fact the Lord wishes people would stop attending these false buildings and return to the word of God and learn His will and be shepherds.
    Blessed4JC likes this.
  18. Excellent advice.
  19. Thank you for your response. It is very well appreciated. I'll attempt to answer these questions to the best of my ability.

    Would I hold him up as a model of repentance? Yes. I believe many of us hit rock bottom before we return to God. It is in our most trying moments that we finally realize we cannot do it alone. The son, realizing that he could not make it, knew that he could do better as a servant in his father's house than he could on his own. He came to his senses and realized it would be better to do so than to continue living in rejection of his father.

    Would I critique his motivation for returning home? I called out to the Lord when I was in the pit of despair. My life was a train wreck. I was living with my girlfriend at the time and she had just informed me she was having an abortion because she did not want to be inconvenienced. I was drinking too much. I was constantly in debt. I was cussing at people left and right. I could barely make ends meet. But you know what? I called out to God in prayer and said something along the lines of "Hey...I know I can do better. I've been living a life of sin. I need you to help me." Nothing special about that prayer. Simply me calling out to God. The funny thing is that, like the prodigal, God saw me coming. How do I know? Because when I got home I had received an invitation in the mail to a church gathering. It was there that I began attending church on a regular basis. But you know something...those words weren't needed for that invitation to arrive. However, God placed the need to invite me to church on someone's heart before I was coming to Him. My words weren't necessary. God knew I was going to humble myself. Just as the father in this parable knew that his son was humbling himself in his return. The words weren't needed. In this parable, the son humbles himself ("when he came to himself") and returns to his father. I believe that his father embraced him knowing his heart just as our Father embraces us when we repent. Moreover, our Father does not wait for us to make all of our necessary changes before He embraces us. His loves and His word sculpts us to be more like Christ over time.

    If there hadn't been a drought would he have given his son a second thought? Probably not. If my live in girlfriend hadn't had an abortion would I have given God a second thought? Doubtful. Maybe much later...just as the son may have much later.

    Take home lesson? Nothing. He simply told the story and his originally written by someone else. The whole sermon was plagiarized...just as another of his sermons for sure was. Of the few sermons I've actually listened 100% to, he simply tells a story...elaborating a little more than what is in the Bible. But does little to offer a challenge. Does little to offer growth. And when he explains anything (as with the prodigal here) it is to say something completely contrary to what most commentators and scholars have said, as well as contrary to what is believed to be correct by the people within our denomination.

    As for cutting him some slack...I tried to. I originally accepted that I misunderstood his sermon. After the next one I felt strongly something was off. When I looked into it to see if others teach the same, I found word for word his sermon by someone else...except written and published earlier. Someone of whom he carried a book by on a regular basis.
  20. #20 calvin, Apr 16, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2016
    Thank you for sharing your testimony.
    It is really great to see how the Lord deals with people at there own individual level of need.
    I'll not take up time here with my own, other than to say that the Lord reached out to me at a time in my life when I had no conscious need of Him.
    Our testimony is always unique to to our own situation. But praise the Lord...we have a personal testimony to experience and share!

    (In Jesus' day...." you have heard it said...but I say to you...")
    I have had it said of at least one of my sermons that "that message needs to be preached again" Well then, if it was worth repeating, would that be plagiarism?
    Would I care? If I have a message that can minister to someone, then I don't care if it comes by another's lips, what I would marvel at and praise the Lord for is that someone was ministered to and be humbled that I was privileged to have contributed.
    There seems to be a really strong feeling with you about plagiarism, but if, and I stress if, this interim pastor believed that a sermon had a worthwhile message why would it not be worth repeating?

    Yes, I suppose so..........thinking as always only of himself.
    If a child of mine were to come to me with the same attitude, it would break my heart.
    I would rejoice that the child had returned and I would have unconditional love in my heart, but to be told that they were not to be treated as a child, but as a mere servant
    is a glaring denial and rejection of any filial relationship.

    Personally, I would not be inclined to focus on the son's reaction to the famine if I were going to preach on this parable, but that is me.
    You and others have focussed on the son "coming to himself" as a sign of humbling himself, as a sign of repentance, but consider for a moment that all he is thinking about is "himself".......still. Isn't that what he has been doing right from the beginning of the parable? How then is that a change of attitude? I suggest that it is not; it is only a recognition of his change in circumstances and a mapping out of a plan of action to better his position.
    Now is that really repentance?

    I agree that it would be a fair thing to follow up with his recognition of has sin against God and dishonouring his father, but perhaps the preacher wanted to focus on his selfishness. I don't know, I'm just playing the person's advocate here.
    Maybe he secretly thought that like Jacob, he could cheat his brother out of his inheritance when their father was old and dying. That would be going beyond the bounds of the parable and in reality I would not go there.....I'm just suggesting that there might be fair grounds for having a view that is not 'main stream'.
    I would probably want to focus more on the father's unconditional love, and strangely enough, the other brother’s denial of a filial relationship to himself and the wayward brother.
    As I have said I would not want to focus on that part of the parable, and I don't think that Jesus meant us to tear His parable apart like this. There are other greater (IMO) spiritual gems to be marvelled at than the son and his repentance or other...but that is me:)

    from your OP;
    To my way of thinking, an added sentence here and there requires that the work was proof read first.

    So, here is what is coming across to me. A preacher can not preach something different from mainstream thinking as defined be the majority of commentators.
    (In Jesus' day...." you have heard it said...but I say to you...")
    You have very strong opinions about this fellow's worth even though you seem to differ from the majority opinion of your church leadership.
    Something to consider...
    1Pe 5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

    Wisdom on an issue of ethics:
    A blameless attitude and a righteous heart are inseparable friends.
    Wwinnie likes this.

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