Guidelines for Contributing

Fresher is Better

We all know there's quite a body of sermon illustrations out there that are so old, our grandparents could have heard them from their pastor (and probably did). Nobody wants to hear that stale stuff, and no preachers want to wade through pages and pages of it just to get to something they can use.

Please take pains to avoid posting stories that are so generic they could have taken place anywhere, at any time ("A wife once said to her husband...")  Also, please don't post stories of cutesy things some anonymous child said (like the kid who throws his clip-on tie into the offering plate because he thinks the pastor asked for "ties and offerings"; or, that other ancient one about the kid who thinks God's name is Howard because she misheard the line in the Lord's Prayer as "Howard be thy name").  Unattributed cute-kid stories are almost always as old as the hills, and of little use.  Maybe you haven't heard that particular one before, but your people probably have.

Please Do Post Illustrations Under Multiple Topics

If a quotation or illustration is useful under more than one topic heading, please do post it twice.  Or even several times.  In the future, we may develop some functionality that allows for an easier way of handling this through cross-references, but that's the best we can do for now.  (We're open to suggestions on how to do that, by the way - so, if you can think of a way, please let us know.)

But, Please Don't Do That With Exegetical Material

We're glad to see you post exegetical material and study notes as well, but naturally, with than sort of material, the goal is to get it into the one precise place on the website where others will be looking for it.  Under "Bible Notes and Commentary," we've set up a number of subpages for this purpose, organized according to passages included in the Revised Common Lectionary.   Just find the appropriate book of the Bible in the subpage list, click on the range of verses you're interested in, then branch a new page from that one and copy your exegetical material into it.

(This listing of Bible passages is a work in progress. It's going to take a while to get all the lectionary passages from Years A, B and C listed, so please bear with us.)

Please be sure to read the "How To Post" page, particularly with regard to tricks for listing numerical chapter-and-verse citations in the subject line, so the page listings sort correctly.

WikiPreacher welcomes contributions on Bible passages not in the Lectionary.  You may not always see your text covered by one of the ranges of verses in the list, but don't let that stop you.  Because this is a wiki, you can easily create a new subpage for the passage you're working with. 
Once you've done that, just branch a new page from the one you've just created, and copy your exegetical material into it.

ALWAYS check the passage list first, though, before creating a new Bible-passage subpage.  If all, or a major portion of, the verses you're working with fall into a subpage already on the system, it's much better to branch your new subpage from there, even if the verses don't correspond exactly.  You can use the subject line to indicate which verses you're covering.  Otherwise, we'll end up with stuff scattered all over the place, and folks will have a hard time finding what they need.

Anonymous or Signed, It's Up to You

It's up to you whether or not to sign your name to your contributions.

There are two schools of thought on this question.  One is that it's a good thing for contributors to include their names at the end of their posts.  It builds community, and also helps users discern - as they come to know the names of regular contributors - what's most worth reading.

A second school of thought arises out of the unique nature of wikis.  Because wiki contributors send their work out into the wild world of the internet on a wing and a prayer, knowing that another user can come along and change it, this school of thought says it's better to post anonymously, since your name could end up being attached to something that's only partially your own work.

Think it over.  It's your call.

Truth is Primary

At its most fundamental level, preaching is about telling the truth. From time to time, some sermon illustrations make the rounds that are complete and utter fabrications.  These take on a life of their own, becoming the homiletical equivalent of urban legends - passed on unwittingly, from pastor to pastor.  WikiPreacher believes it's our high and holy responsibility, as servants of God's truth, to put a stop to this sort of nonsense whenever we can.

This is true, for example, of a certain quotation mistakenly attributed to Nelson Mandela that's really by Marianne Williamson ("Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure..."), and of a great many remarks supposedly made by Albert Einstein.  Likewise fabricated is the story of a poor farmboy named Alexander Fleming saving Winston Churchill's father from drowning, after which Fleming - bankrolled by the grateful Churchill family - went on to university and invented penicillin, which later saved Winston from dying of pneumonia. (Some of us,
to our shame, have actually used that anecdote, before we realized it's bogus.)  Equally notorious is an account of the origin of the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," as a secret catechism used by Roman Catholics during the Reformation.  (Yup. Some of us have used that one, too, before we got wiser.)  If a story you hear sounds too good to be true, it may well be.  Check it out first with internet verification authorities, such as the Urban Legend Reference Pages, before using it (and before posting it here).

Wikipedia, with its powerful search function, is also a good place to look.

Alternatively, try Googling some distinctive phrase from the item, and see how many online sermons it turns up in, unattributed.  Just because you see it popping up all over the place in the Google search results doesn't mean it's true.  If it's lacking documentation in every instance, there's a pretty good chance all those preachers have been snookered.

As we become aware of incorrect or misattributed illustrations or quotations, we'll move them to a special section of the site, where they'll become part of an archive of "don't use" material.

Theological Differences

It's bound to happen, sooner or later, that someone of a different theological persuasion will post some material that makes your skin crawl.  We envision WikiPreacher as a "big tent" site, in which participants can agree to disagree about a few topics that provoke fierce debate, for the sake of the Christian unity we enjoy concerning everything else.  If you run across a contribution from someone else that pushes your buttons, please exercise mutual forbearance and just ignore it.

"Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other..." (Colossians 3:13)

Political Differences

Having said that, we are also of the opinion that partisan political rhetoric has no place in the pulpit (with "partisan" defined narrowly as "endorsing a specific candidate or party").  Material addressing the Christian response to political and social issues is fine, but anything endorsing or attacking a particular candidate or political party will be removed.

No Commercial Solicitations, Please

Apart from the Google AdSense ads, this is a non-commercial site.  Please refrain from including any commercial solicitations in material you upload.  Any commercial solicitations will be removed.

Please Cite As Fully As You Can

Remember, back in seminary, when you were writing academic papers?  Remember how important it was to cite your original sources fully - including not just the author's name and the book's title, but also the publisher and page number(s)?  Please do that here, too, whenever possible.  Nobody's suggesting you should do that in your sermons - interrupting the flow to provide the oral equivalent of footnotes - but, here on WikiPreacher, your colleagues will silently thank you for providing  a trail of bread crumbs back to the original work.  (Besides, it helps us all avoid perpetuating homiletical legends - see "Truth Is Primary," above.)

In the case of books, a quick search on will usually turn up the publisher and year of publication within seconds, and you may be surprised how often a Google search will take you right to the actual page in Google Books, where you can spy the page number.

If you can't find the full citation, please don't let that stop you.  Post it anyway.  This being a wiki, maybe someone else will come along and update your entry with the full information.  If you take a few moments to track it down now, it could be of immense help to a colleague later.

A Word About Copyright

Wikipreacher is not a publisher, nor do we intend to compete with publishers.  We love books and hope people will buy more of them.  The material on this site is meant to be used by preachers non-commercially, to enhance their oral presentations.  To that end, we insist that text posted here must fall within the provisions of "fair use" principles associated with United States copyright laws.

Because fair-use law is implemented not according to hard-and-fast standards, but rather by courts interpreting broad legal principles on a case-by-case basis, it can be a little hard for non-experts to know what is permissible and what is not.  Contrary to what some say, there is no maximum word count (such as the 300-word principle once followed by some New York publishers) associated with fair use.

The most important of these principles, for this site, is that directly-quoted texts must comprise only a small portion of the original work.  Quoting a paragraph or two from a 300-page book is not a problem.  Quoting 10 lines from a 12-line poem, on the other hand, is certainly a copyright violation. Please be especially careful about posting material here that comes from copyrighted poems, songs and shorter newspaper or magazine articles.

If such material is already published on a website, it's better to simply post the URL directing other WikiPreacher users to that site, along with a line or two describing what it is.  That way, WikiPreacher avoids getting near any gray area of liability, the other website owners get increased traffic to their site, and everybody's happy.

It is always possible, of course - and, in many cases, more engaging, for rhetorical purposes - to summarize the content of a published source, rather than quoting it directly.  For example, one could refer to Robert Frost's famous 1915 poem, "The Road Not Taken," setting the scene by saying it's about a traveler in a lonely wood, who comes upon a fork in the road - one path well-worn, the other overgrown with foliage.  Reflecting back on the experience, the traveler observes, "I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."  While that quotation is but two lines out of the larger work, Frost's original poem is just 20 lines.  That means the quotation - brief as it is - is actually 10 per cent of the published work.  It's certainly not wise to post a direct quotation much larger than that, but you can get the point across by summarizing what's come before.

Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used - Not Against You, But For the Glory of God

Let's be clear.  Anything you post on WikiPreacher is "for the good of the order" and will be used by colleagues in their own preaching and teaching.  Please don't try, later, to claim copyright ownership of anything you've posted here, unless you've previously copyrighted it in some other published work (and, in which case, have explicitly told us so in your documentation).  Share and share alike - that's the WikiPreacher way.