Is copying your work plagiarism?

Readers Question / Comment - Is copying your work plagiarism?

Hi, You bible study is so uplifting to my life, and i thank God for this. I base most of my sermons around your teachings and i am always so inspired when i go through any of the subjects you treat. I realise that if i go through all the teachings, i will be able to read most part of the bible. My goal is to read through every subject. In due time i am going to partner with your ministry. Please explain to me what plagiarism is because i have this guilty feeling that i am using someone else's ideas in my preaching. Pray for me and our tiny church that is so hungry for Gods will.
Yours in Christ,

JPN Reply:

Hey Andrew,

thanks for the email and I'm pleased that you've enjoyed the studies and are using them to help others. The Google definition of plagiarism is 'the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.'  In terms of speaking in church (which you are doing) I see it that we are one body and if you have seen something that has spoken to you and want to pass it on to your church... great. Probably all preachers use illustrations or insights that they have received/heard somewhere else. If it was something that you are doing a lot then it is right to acknowledge the source. You would have seen many quotes in my studies and messages from authors that I glean from and enjoy like J Vernon McGee, William MacDonald, A.C Gaebelin etc... If I am adding a quote I state where I have got things from. But there are other times when I will read something that I like, and I'll ponder and meditate upon it and it will open up more thoughts/verses and gets developed and suddenly it becomes your own, even if it was someone else's initial thought that put you on that track. It is likely you do that with my studies - you think about them, see where God is leading you with them and add to them.

For written studies, especially online, if it is a direct quote or substantial thought from another site then it is right to provide a link back to the original source page to say where you got it. As an example, I've had people quote extensively and repeatedly and in some cases almost take entire studies from this site and pass it off as their own work. This isn't right - which their own conscience would (or at least should) be telling them. So a simple link back is fine in these cases.

Anyway, in terms of you and your small church I'll leave all that up to you and God. But just to restate, I'm pleased that you like the studies and want to use them to help others. I'll also say that God looks at your heart, and mine. He knows if we are seeking our own glory and want to be seen as some spiritual hot shot, or whether we are passing on the points we have enjoyed not to claim credit for them ourselves but simply to encourage, challenge or bless others.

God bless the work you are doing with your little church. The church I go to is small as well. Zech 4:10. Whether it is small or large is of little consequence. All that is important is that God's approval is upon it.

All the best