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Editor's Note: Since the following story appeared in the January/February print issue of CT, we've received questions from readers asking what they or their pastors should do about their sermons. We've also consulted with our in-house ...

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charles carter

February 07, 2014  12:34pm

The creator of the sermon owns the work until he signs away his rights.

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Brian Tubbs

February 04, 2014  9:36pm

This discussion is quite interesting, but I must take exception to the premise (seemingly advocated by several posters here) that it's inherently sinful for a pastor to make money by writing books. There is NOTHING wrong with a pastor or ANY Christian writing books or articles -- and getting paid for them. Greed and covetousness are condemned in Scripture -- not the earning of money.

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Curtis Griesel

February 04, 2014  12:00pm

God owns the sermon. It is God's word. The most appropriate way to disseminate a sermon would be to assert the "share alike" copyright, sometimes called "copyleft". That way, anyone else can share or derive work from the sermon, as long as they also give it away for free. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ Contrary to what the article asserts, a sermon does not exist to line the pockets of the author. A sermon exists to share God's word.

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Alan Freeman

February 04, 2014  10:24am

My Dear Friends, we seem to be making quite an issue about who may or may not own a sermon. I preach with the help of and on behalf of the Lord. All I have to say or write about any topic is done with the help and inspiration of the Lord. I can therefore not make any claim to it. In my eyes the answer is quite straight forward. All material belongs to the Lord. We are just using it and doing his work and following in his footsteps.

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Alan Beagley

February 04, 2014  9:47am

Douglas Quenzer: How do you reason that pastors are self-employed? (In the USA ministers are "self-employed" only as far as Social Security is concerned.) Does the church of which you are the pastor give you a W-2 (assuming that you are in the USA)? Then the church is treating you as an employee, and no doubt the IRS does too. Or are you an "independent contractor" and get a 1099? Even in that case your sermons probably are still considered a "work for hire" and are the property of the church. Or is the church not reporting the money it pays you, and you are not reporting it as income? What happens when the congregation of which one is minister disbands? If the congregation's property then belongs to the denomination or presbytery or district or diocese, etc., does that mean that that body now owns the sermons as well? Arguing that the sermons belong to God doesn't solve anything. The money or car or parsonage that a minister's church provides all belong to God too, as does the money that anyone else gets from working as a janitor or as a CEO. But there are still tax and other laws that apply to the situation.

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JOHN TURNER

February 03, 2014  2:33pm

I am one of two founder-employee-executives of a religious non-profit organization. I have written a book in the space and on equipment that the organization was leasing for my use, and on time for which the organization was paying me. If the book makes money, that money will rightfully go to the organization. That's okay with me because it will help the organization pay my salary and benefits. This agreement was in place and approved by the IRS and the Board of Directors of the organization before I ever had a specific plan to write a book. The organization's accounting firm likes this approach and helps keep us on track with it. All matters that the Board decides in which the IRS takes an interest are decided in my absence. This is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but I believe that it works well because of a high level of trust between the Board and me. We are in this together for a common cause.

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Douglas Quenzer

February 03, 2014  2:30pm

Here is the problem. I am a pastor and have preached thousands of sermons. The question is, "What is church time and what is your own time?" Pastors are self-employed and do not have "office hours." Many of my sermons were written on my own computer, outside the church, at home, using my own resources, etc. If you invent something out of your garage, you keep that as intellectual property. The other thing is that most of my sermons are written in points not prose. I ad lib quite a bit. And what if I move out of that church. Does that mean I can't take those sermons with me? Of course I can take them. The only thing that the church would have rights to would be recordings of those sermons given in that particular church. At that point it is clearly the property of the church.

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editor UNITYINCHRIST.COM

February 03, 2014  2:04pm

Has anyone considered, that if the pastor of a church is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and he's speaking under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that it is Jesus Christ who literally owns the rights to that sermon, and it is given for the edification of the Body of Christ, and should not be copyrighted or charged for, for the making of a profit. Some day, some of these money-hungry fools will have to pay up, paying Jesus Christ for the money they took that was not their own. Now I can see why a church denomination may wish to copyright the sermons their pastors preach, to protect those sermons from being used by unscrupulous people from other churches, especially for their own gain, which is a form of stealing (and again, stealing from whom? the Holy Spirit). A denomination has to protect itself and it's intellectual property. But there is a fine balance between this, and choking the promulgation of the Word of God to the world, in the Church's proclamation of the Gospel.

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Linda Zarra

February 03, 2014  1:02pm

If the church body was obeying God and following what the Bible teaches, instead of following man's teachings, this would be a moot point. If you understand the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which Jesus CLEARLY states that He HATES in the Book of Revelation TWO TIMES - then you would realize that sermons are NOT the will of God!!! When the church comes together, ALL believers are to contribute- pew-sitting was not God's intention. The doctrine of the Nicolaitans concerned the hierarchy that the present day church practices-which is against God's will!!! I have heard numerous complaints from the pulpit that 20% of the people do 80% of the work- and why would that be? Because the Holy Spirit is stifled, that's why!!! In organic churches- also known as home churches- each individual believer is encouraged to let the Holy Spirit work through them. Thus,100% of the born again believers do the work that God has placed in their hearts!!! Jesus Christ is alive in those churches.

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Jason Whittington

February 03, 2014  12:41pm

"Freely you have received, so freely give." God owns it.

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marvin woodworth

February 03, 2014  12:34pm

I am not surprised that this question has arisen. This comes from looking at the issue in a material and physical sense and not spiritually. Truth be told the sermons, songs etc. all "creations" of pastors and musicians and whoever else, belong to God. We are simply stewards of these things. If the pastor. whom God inspired to preach, finds that these works produce income, then he/she is the steward of that blessing and should prayerfully discover how it should be used. That churches and pastors/musicians should get themselves involved in a struggle over these things is degrading to the church as a whole and most likely sinful in the eyes of God.

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mark williams

February 03, 2014  12:10pm

What if you get a 1099?

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Teresa Benson

January 10, 2014  4:49pm

I'm surprised that pastors expect their sermons to be their own, given that they are paid to produce the work. Ask any of us who create things in the corporate world: if we make it while we're employed there (even on our "own time"), the IP, copyright, or patent is the property of the company. Everyone understands that, it's a basic principle. And if we try to create something similar after we leave, or create something they suspect we hatched while in their employ, our former employers will still come after us for those rights. Why would preachers be an exception? Especially those whose job duties allow them to spend large amounts of time each week creating those sermons.

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