Quoting someone to extensively in a sermon can be a distraction. But quoting and learning from the heroes of the faith can be reaping the fruit of that which God has cultivated in His Church through the ministry of His Word.
As a pastor, your people do not want you to plagiarize--indeed we ourselves do not want to lie, cheat and steal. We must not plagiarize. Give credit where credit is due. A laborer is worthy of his hire. If we learn from the exegesis, preaching and ministry of another, we must give credit. If we quote we must cite.
However, if we too frequently quote someone else you are considered a cheat or a hack who has somehow not walked with God. If you cite the influence of Luther’s theology of the cross, Calvin’s doctrine of God’s Word, or you account being moved to zeal and worship through Athanasius treatise on the Incarnation, suddenly you can be treated as if you had not actually handled God’s Word for yourself.
It is a most peculiar frustration, a Catch-22. Do no plagiarize but do not acknowledge too much that we all stand on the shoulders of the greats. If a hero of church history influenced you too much somehow God has not caused the growth--you have not walked with God but with men, so we are told.
The reality is that godly men handling God’s Word can stir you to godly thoughts. Anyone who has been moved be preaching knows this. They can drive you to the Word. They can show you things in the Word that have their authority and basis for belief arising from the Word and not man. Nevertheless the Spirit used a man to open you to the treasures of His Word.
Yet most want pastors to have original thought. Some do not want a pastor too dependent upon the past. It is considered that if the pastor has learned from the greats, he is not all that great nor very godly having walked with men instead of God--so the thinking goes. To have a pastor and preacher find something new and unique that he quotes from no man--now that is godliness. It is considered that “God has spoken directly to Him.” This is personal but history is impersonal.
To the contrary: originality is a wrench in the toolbox of heretics. It is a noose for the most horrendous of wranglers. Originality can be a sign of pride, of a puffed up heart. It can be the sign of a weak mind that is crafty and scheming rather than a resolute mind who walks with God and amongst the heroes of the faith. Am I so bold as to think that I will have insight, knowledge and a “voice” that God has given to no man before me? Am I so arrogant to think I can craft a theology that is independent of the great men of God and so equally independent of the very Word of Life that enlivened them?
As pastor must never be dead, feeding of the scraps of history that have fallen to the floor. But a good and godly pastor should know his place at the table. He is dining on the meat of God’s Word all the while knowing the delight of table fellowship with men who have done the same. Sometimes our best thoughts into the Word of God are stirred by the Spirit when we are standing on the shoulders of giants.