When God Is Grey, And plagiarism Isn’t

by | Sep 9, 2022 | Sexual Intimacy | 17 comments

God is Grey and Plagiarism with Josh Howerton

One of the big things I believe is that we should hold Christians to higher standards than those who do not claim Christ. 

We don’t get to say, “well, I don’t have to follow the rules because after all, I’m doing this for Jesus.” We don’t get to say, “because I’m spreading the gospel, I don’t need to be honest, be ethical in my business practices, or treat other people well.” 

The end does not justify the means.

In fact, our righteousness should EXCEED that of the teachers of the law (leaders of the people who didn’t really understand God).

That’s why I believe that pastors shouldn’t plagiarize. 

Yesterday in my podcast I gave some examples of what looks like plagiarism to me in Josh Howerton’s sermon at Lakepointe Church, a Dallas area megachurch, on March 27, 2022.

I fleshed this out a little more on Facebook:


I want to say, too, there are two separate issues here. One is: Do the pastors who are plagiarize mind if you take their stuff? To me, that’s the more minor issue. The bigger issue is this one: What false sense of self are you giving to your congregation when you say super smart things and pass them off as your own? It’s the false sense, the image management, that you are doing in front of your congregation. That’s the biggest issue, as we talk about in today’s podcast. It’s not really whether or not the pastors you stole from minded. It’s the image of yourself you’re painting for others.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Facebook (in the comment thread)

It’s important that we’re honest and that we operate with integrity.

My daughter made this video explanation of the plagiarism, just of Andy Stanley’s book, that summarizes much of it (though not how he quoted Furtick, Driscoll, and Warren). It’s a little tongue in cheek, but, hey, it’s Generation Z!

do you know your favourite book's healthy sexuality score?


Can we talk about God is Grey?

Just as I hold those who preach Christ to a high standard, I DON’T hold those who do not claim to be orthodox Christians to the same standard. But I still want to dialogue with them and engage with them, especially if they are seeking and are questioning and are honestly interested in a discussion.

And so I will talk to those who don’t believe as I do, and I will try to tailor my message so that I’m true to what I believe, but also honoring where they’re coming from. It’s a fine line, and I may not always get it right. But I do try.

But I think we need to treat each other with honor and dignity, and listen to them, even if they’re not where we are. We need dialogue!

And so I was really honoured to be asked on the God is Grey channel for a convo. I may not have done it perfectly, but I did try! And I really, really appreciated the chance to share with this audience, many of whom have been seriously traumatized by evangelical spaces and have now left them.


So there you go–two things to watch today!

One is quick, and one is much more in-depth.

But let me say this: If Christians want to have sway with those who have left the faith, or are questioning their faith, or who are trying to figure out their faith, then we are going to have to operate with the highest integrity. We are going to have to be loving, but we are also going to have to have great integrity, or else we will reinforce everything they already think about us.

Many who watch God is Grey’s channel are much further along the deconverting road than the host is (Brenda does love Jesus and is still seeking and is eager to see where she lands, as she says herself), and they need to know that Jesus is still safe.

So we have to operate with integrity.

I hope the church realizes this, and changes.

What do you think? Has our integrity been lost? What can we do to hold pastors to a higher standard? How do we hold ourselves to a higher standard? Let’s talk in the comments!



Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Laura

    We MUST hold pastors and those in church leadership to a higher standard according to James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (NIV). Well, pastors are like teachers, so they need to be held to a higher standard by not leading their flock astray, display honesty and integrity (this means NOT plagiarizing), etc. At least most of the pastors I’ve had have shown integrity in the sense that they do credit other people in their sermons.

    Awhile back, I did watch your interview with God is Grey. I found it very interesting and I think it’s a great witness that people with different faith walks can talk to each other and learn from each other. My views align more with yours (Sheila and team) than God is Grey, but I have learned from her and can understand what she’s been through.

  2. Mara R

    Listened to yesterday’s podcast. Yes it was good.
    Looking forward to listening to the God is Grey podcast when I get time.

    One of the saddest Facebook interactions I’ve ever had was under a young man’s post. I had him in Sunday School when he was younger and now he is atheist.

    I tried to start a meaningful conversation with him. However, a mutual acquaintance jumped in with his “Are you saved or not. If not, you’re going to hell” preaching. When I tried to tone down his rhetoric he turned on me and virtually got into my face and questioned whether I had given my heart to Jesus and wanted me to declare self-righteous things like him.

    My heart broke. The young man didn’t choose atheism out of ignorance. He chose it out of a reaction to watching the hypocrisy of his family and church. Getting in is face and shouting hellfire and brimstone would accomplish nothing.

    But dialogue might.

    But our dialogue was shut down by clumsy, self-righteous Christianese delivered by an ignorant oaf who needed to just shut the heck up.

    So I really am looking forward to this podcast.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly, Mara! We need to keep dialogue. And Jesus asked so many questions. He listened. Why can’t we?

    • Tim

      I happened to be reading 1 Peter before. I think your (Mara’s) friend needs to as well.

      “always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you.” (1Pe 3:15-16, NET)

  3. lady lavender

    It isn’t just those voices we hear across the pulpit that need to be held accountable to their words but also musicians. My husband and I have countless times recognized secular music that has just been dressed up with “Christian” lyrics added to it and some of the rhythms changed ever so slightly, just enough that they likely won’t be accused of copywriter infringement. Each time it causes me to question the Christian artists’ integrity.

    • Laura

      In my hometown, there’s a small music group from my church that put out several CDs of pop tunes with the lyrics changed. One song is from the tune of Willie Nelson’s song “On the Road Again.” I hope they got permission to do that.

  4. Scary Ary

    Re: having a dialogue and tailoring your message, a couple years back my best friend and I had a big Moment™ in our conversation where we realized, when we expressed differing opinions, we didn’t feel fully “heard” unless we got the other person to agree. We both had to realize we were wrong in our thinking and accept that, sometimes, two women pursuing Christ were still going to come to very different conclusions.

    I think this might be one of the areas where the church has bought into the secular world. It’s a little cliche to say “nobody knows how to debate these days,” but I really believe we’ve decided, as a culture, an exchange of ideas has to end with a loser and a winner. And when the church sees itself as a position of moral authority, well of course they’re going to try to come out of every exchange of ideas as “the winner—“ and of course they’ll do whatever it takes to get there. Shouting? Belittling? Bullying? Plagiarism? It doesn’t matter if the ends justify the means.

    I see this as another opportunity where your work, Shelia, and the work of the people who support you, can be a sort of grassroots movement: holding true to your own beliefs while also meeting people where they are, like you said. Exchanging ideas with compassion isn’t common practice, inside or outside the church. And if a group of faithful Christians come together to make that change, I think it could have a significant impact. I’m hopeful. Cautiously hopeful, but hopeful nonetheless.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly, Scary Ary! That’s a great way of putting it. I hope that this does start something where we are able to talk to each other.

    • Laura

      “two women pursuing Christ were still going to come to very different conclusions.”

      This here is a great reminder for myself. You can be a Christian, but that does not mean you have to think the exact same way as every other Christian on this planet. For example, I have a friend who believes in complementarianism (she probably does not know what that word means, but she adheres to those beliefs) and I believe in egalitarianism. However, I rarely expressed that because she is strong about her opinions. We were both single at the same time for many years until she got married five years ago and I was in a relationship at that time. Now that she’s married and she and her husband lead a marriage ministry at their church, she often wants me to attend their weekly meetings. Single people are welcome, but from the stuff they post on their Facebook page (Dave and Ashley Willis, articles about submission, etc.), I just cannot get involved. Sure, I might want to marry someday, but I don’t want complementarianism teachings shoved down my throat. I silently (and questioningly) tolerated that narrative for years even after I left a controlling, abusive marriage. It’s hard to express to someone how harmful those teachings were for me. They may not be harmful for her and with the strong personality my friend has, I doubt that she and her husband follow comp to a complete T. I’m sure they practice egalitarianism more, but because this is a church ministry, she probably feels she has to teach things a specific way and there’s not room to express that it’s okay for husbands and wives to be equals who come to decisions together.

      I also need to remind myself that next time I get together with her (next week) to give her grace and know that she’s been taught these teachings her whole life. I did not grow up with those teachings.

      • Scary Ary

        Hey Laura, I’m proud of you for leaving an abusive marriage and identifying the harmful teachings, and I’m proud of you for having compassion for your friend too. It sounds like you’re doing exactly what Sheila talks about in meeting your friend where she is (her upbringing, personality, etc.), and if/when there’s an opportunity, I pray your friend can have the same compassion for you.

  5. Stefanie

    I think you did really good on the God is Grey podcast. I think it’s also funny how personal experience plays such a large role in where you land with God. You’ve followed “God’s rules” and experienced a little bit of “heaven touching earth” as Brenda called it. Brenda also said she got a taste of it with that one relationship. I don’t think it’s going to happen for me and my husband. And kids complicate things. If I didn’t have 3 kids under 5, it would be a different story right now. But any decision I make is going to have consequences on them. And then sometimes I think, “So what! My kids will have to go to therapy one day? God didn’t see fit to make sure I didn’t have to go to therapy. If he’s my Heavenly Father and he treats me this way, then I’m just following my father’s example.” I feel bad for my kids. But I think what Brenda said about her mom was interesting. My mom is actually a boomer, and she went through the hippie free live movement before finding God through Billy Graham. So how much of her parenting was a reaction to her trauma? And how much of my parenting is a reaction to my trauma? I’m far from figuring out what is “true” ( if that’s even a thing), but from listening to other stories, it seems to be somewhere in between purity culture and hookup culture.

    • Stefanie

      *Free love movement

    • Kristen

      You raise excellent points about reactionary parenting. That’s one of the many reasons I don’t want children. I’ve been so hurt and damaged by purity culture and evangelicalism that I’m not sure I could parent children without swinging to the other extreme, whatever that extreme happens to be. The last thing I want to do is traumatize another generation.

  6. Kristen

    I was thrilled when I saw that you had done an interview with Brenda! I enjoyed that podcast so much. It’s clear that you both have differing views on certain things (which I already knew from following you both for a few years now), but the fact that you were willing to set that aside long enough to have a conversation about theology that is absolutely doing damage to so many people (myself definitely included) showed me, as I already knew, that you truly do care about people in the “lower” places. Thank you for being willing to have that conversation with Brenda. It meant a lot.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad!

  7. A2bBethany

    This again making me realize the gift of growing up, best friends with pentecostals. My family is calvinist….but they were able to separate salvation from the whole host of differing beliefs. I learned the value of being able to be friends, in Spite of giant differing churches. We even visited the others church one time! Lol ……. couldn’t hardly find a bigger gap than die hard pentecostals and primitive Baptists. But to this day, maybe 20 yrs later, still best friends with the husband who’s now a widower.
    I’ve never seen different beliefs as an obstacle, even to marriage. Because my mom never really embraced Calvinism like my dad did. And my aunt married an atheist but still took her kids to the church on Sundays.

  8. C

    Regarding those who made comments about church music–I have noticed this in my church also. I doubt that the appropriate permissions are sought out to use the music in this way. In my church the music director changed the Green Day song “When September Ends” to “When December Ends”—I guess he thought he would change it into a Christmas song. I was livid.

    I have to wonder if in some churches there is so much talk about marriage, gender roles, modesty etc. that we are crowding out other important messages. I used to read a homeschooling blog and the blog author was selling her reproductions of something that was clearly someone else’s intellectual property.

    Plagiarism is one form of stealing. I’ve met more than one Christian that seems fuzzy on the concept of theft. Honestly mind boggling to me.


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