The single most important thing a preacher does… and is called by God to do… is preach The Word. Every Sunday God charges him to step behind the sacred desk and deliver a word to that particular congregation. In doing this, the preacher is to: 1) Glorify God, and 2) Build up the Body of Christ. Consequently, there is no substitute for study and prayer.
But sadly, some preacher succumb to other church expectations (Visiting an inordinate amount of time, being the consummate administrator, etc). Since they devote their time to things other than what Scripture communicates, some take short-cuts in preparing messages. Many faithful preachers call it cheating.
How do some preachers cheat? They steal messages from other preachers and pass them off as their own. They take a book written by faithful Christian authors and use the chapters as messages in a series. They go to sermon websites and download the manuscripts to deliver on Sunday. I have personally listened to preachers give illustrations I read in books, but they insert themselves as who it happened to. That’s cheating. Nothing is lost in delivery if the offending preacher would just give verbal credit for what he says! But too many don’t.
Several years ago a preacher in Alabama’s largest city was terminated for cheating, as has also happened often elsewhere (Click, click, click). In the interest of full disclosure, I admit I have used thoughts from other preachers… and I gave them verbal credit in the message. I have used other preachers illustrations, and gave them verbal credit in the message. But for the most part (I’m guessing 98%), the messages I deliver are my own. They may not be as “good” as some other preachers… but they are mine. As a friend of mine said to me once, “I may not be able to preach the Gospel better than others, but no one can preach a better Gospel than I do.”
If any preachers are reading this, know that God’s people are smart. They listen to the same preachers you do. They read books. They have the internet… and they check on you. Remember the command “Thou Shalt Not Steal” is about more than money. Seek God and study His Word. The Holy Spirit WILL give you what HE wants you to say.