I wonder how pervasive an issue this is in the LCMS. Sadly, I am personally aware of it within our ranks. Sermons have been published for centuries, and sermons have been lifted and preached whole-cloth for just as long. The internet simply makes it easier. There are many websites that simply function as homiletical take-a-penny-leave-a-penny dishes, providing packaged preaching for anyone with a credit card and a mouse to take and use. Many are available at no cost. It’s a candy store out there.
As I see it, the concerns are multiple.
1. Plagiarism is claiming someone else’s work as one’s own. It is a matter of lying and stealing.
2. To preach another’s sermon is an abdication of the vocation to which the Lord has called a man. It is to act as the hired hand who cares nothing for the sheep, not as the undershepherd of the flock.
3. To preach another’s sermon necessarily stems from either laziness or spiritual poverty, or a mix of the two. Accountability is required.
4. Plagiarism does violence to the pastor/congregation relationship, as well as to the relationships between brother pastors.
5. Preaching another’s sermon throws wide the gate to whatever faulty theology/anthropology the author holds. It is theologically irresponsible.
6. Preaching a sermon written for God’s people in one place to hear does not take into consideration the unique situation of the hearers of the body of Christ in the second place.
7. Preaching a sermon written by another is to steal from one’s congregation. The offerings of the congregation go, in part, to pay the pastor to do the work for which he has been called. He is called to be pastor, not merely preacher (speaker of another’s homiletical work).
This list is not exhaustive.
It’s district convention season. My guess is that this, like internet pornography, is a bigger problem than we’d like to imagine or address, yet likewise dirty enough that we’d rather live in ignorance about it. Yet as I read through overtures and resolutions, I see none resolving that our pastors maintain integrity in the pulpit. Perhaps such measures are greatly needed.