How Not To Use This Site

Title: How Not To Use This Site
Category: Ethical Issues
Subject: Sermon Web Sites


Dr. J. Mike Minnix
Founder and Editor,


Most people with any knowledge of a personal computer, and any experience with the internet, can move through a web page with ease, even if they have never seen it before. PastorLife is a simple site and does not require great expertise to navigate; however, there are some things that all of us need to learn about What Not To Do With A Website. That is the purpose of this article.

Some pastors have gotten into trouble using the Internet. Their emails, use of pornography, and other misuse of the computer have cost some pastors their dignity, careers and families. But others pastors have also been caught doing something that may have seemed benign at the time but resulted is dismissal from their pastorates. What was their mistake? The mistake was that they took sermon material directly from the Internet to the pulpit, and presented it without giving any reference to the original author of the material. A Georgia Baptist pastor was recently dismissed from his church when a member discovered that he was reading verbatim the sermon material from an Internet site during his Sunday morning message without giving credit to the author. The pastor of a mega-church in the Charlotte area was dismissed a few years ago for reading sermons from the internet word-for-word!

The following is a list of DO NOTS when using PastorLife.

1. DO NOT use material from this site word-for-word in your sermon without crediting the author.

You should not be ashamed to quote other people while preaching. It is a sign of study and preparation to reference others when preaching God's Word. Some years ago I heard Billy Graham while attending a meeting with about 500 North Carolina pastors. Dr. Graham humbly stated he was sure some of the men in the audience could do a better job preaching to the pastors than he, but he proceeded to share a message with us. It was almost 20 years ago and I cannot remember his exact words, but they went something like this, "I get a lot of my sermons from pastor friends of mine. I use them in my preparation and in my crusades. I want to share a message with you today from a North Carolina pastor friend. You may want to write this down because it is a great outline that I am sure you can preach in your churches." He then spoke on the question, 'Is Anything Too Hard For God?'" The outline went like this:

There is no Place Too Hard For God to Bless

There is no Prayer Too Hard for God to Answer

There is no Problem Too Hard for God to Solve

There is no Person Too Hard for God to Save

Dr. Graham went to say that we had his permission and that of the author to use that sermon as our own. Of course, when someone tells you that, you certainly have that freedom. But, a layperson in the local church may not understand that preachers often share sermon material, outlines, ideas, etc., in order to help each other with the difficult process of proclaiming God's Word. For that reason, it is always a good idea to reference any outline or quote that is in the public record. If Dr. Graham was not ashamed to share how he obtained some of his material, surely we should not be either. The one thing Billy Graham did not do, is get up and preach the sermon as if he orginated the outline. A good preacher can always take an idea, pray it through, study it thoroughly and improve it for use in his own pulpit. When the outline is changed, personal illustrations are added and the pastor's own words are used, the sermon is no longer belongs to someone else - it is the product of the pastor in his local church. That is the best way to use this site!

2. DO NOT start searching for sermon material before you have an idea of what God wants you to say to your people.

A pastor needs to pray and seek God for a Bible text, or spiritual theme, before looking at material. Don't misunderstand, all preachers are wise to browse sermon material from others from time-to-time, to look for ideas and to see what others are doing. But when you are preparing a message, you must have a word from God first! There are those times when circumstances make it impossible to study as one would like. Two funerals, a wedding, several counseling sessions, some sick church members and a number of meetings in a given week can put a preacher in a difficult situation. Almost all preachers have faced that situation at one time or another. There is a time when you just have to get on the web or call a friend to find a sermon in a pinch. The best preachers in the world have done that at times. But, that must not be the habit of the preacher's life.

3. DO NOT tell a borrowed story using the first person pronoun.

One preacher got into trouble in his church by telling a story that actually happened to someone else but sharing it as if it happened to him. How did that get him into trouble? He told the story in the first person though it never actually happened to him. It is okay to quote someone in the first person, as long as you preface the story by letting your audience know you are quoting someone else, but one must never take a real life incident from someone else and tell it as if it was his own experience.

4. DO NOT stop learning to preach better sermons.

Reading the sermons of others can help us all develop into better preachers of the Gospel. If the disciples were not rebuked when they asked Jesus to teach them to pray, we should not be hesitant to learn more about the great work of preaching. Use this site to enhance your own calling and gift to preach rather than just using it to find a quick illustration or outline for your next sermon.

5. DO NOT publish material from others without giving them credit.

Do not print material from a web site in your newsletter, magazines or books without giving credit for the author or place where you found it. If you are like me, you have heard so many things that you can easily repeat something without having any idea where you first heard it. I must admit that I find myself doing that often and added those things to my sermons in the pulpit and online. It is possible to say or write something you have read or heard without realizing it. But printing entire paragraphs verbatim from a source without giving due credit is not a mistake, it is a crime.

6. DO NOT hestitate to let us know if you see something that needs a proper reference.

We do not claim to know the source of all the material on this site. If you see anything amiss on our site, we will do everything possible to give proper credit to the original author. We are not perfect. There are mistakes, errors, and weaknesses in what we are trying to do. This is not an academic site, but a practical one. We want to assist pastors and ministers by providing an online library of sermons, illustrations, articles, commentaries, etc., for your use. We consider our site much like that of a pastor's file draw. You open it up and find an assortment of ideas to be considered for your ministry. It is our prayer that it helps you, honors Christ, disciples His people, and leads many people to faith in Jesus Christ.

7. DO NOT hide your own ideas and sermons in your private files.

Share your material with others. We invite you to submit your sermons, illustrations and other material for possible publishing on If you get help on this site, consider giving some help to others. After all, all good things come down from above, so we should freely share them with those who are in the minister of holding forth the Word of Life.


PastorLife exists becaue God put in my heart when I was in my first pastorate back in 1969 that one day I was to use what He gives me to assist other pastors. I love preachers and I know after almost 50 years of preaching how dry the well can get at times. I pray that this website helps you, especially when you are in a pinch. Note that everything on this site is free of cost to you, and the preachers who have shared their material with us have done so without asking for any payment. I thank God for all of them. If you wish to make a donation to, you can do so by clicking the Donation Button on the front page and using PayPal to assist us. We totally depend on gifts to continue this ministry. No one is paid a salary for making this site available. God bless you as you preach God's Word!