1. Just because people are happy to be generous, it doesn’t mean that they’re happy to be stolen from. I might be happy for you to come in to my house and join me for a meal, I may give you permission to let yourself in and make a sandwich, but I’m probably not happy for you to climb in through a window, unannounced, and cook yourself dinner. It is rude to presume. Ask!
2. It is deceitful to try to make yourself look cleverer than you are. Would your church’s AGM video have the same wow factor if your people knew that the script wasn’t yours at all? Are you pretending that it is your creativity and your amazing vision for the future, when... it isn’t. Would that change the way your people see you? Would you be embarrassed if someone posted the original and your rip off side by side online and it went viral for all your church members and peers to see? Yes? Then by doing it you were trying to deceive people about your own cleverness. No? Then why the heck didn’t you put a note on the video/sermon/document attributing the ideas to the people they came from?
3. Ideas that people publish in church growth books are fair game in a way that artistic interpretation of those ideas aren’t. You might say, “There’s nothing new under the sun. In what church x does, I can see the direct ideas of church growth books a, b and c. In fact, some of their vision ideas came directly from those books. I just took what they had already taken.” Um. No. By buying the book, some proceeds of the ideas are going to the creators. But you should still attribute the ideas - just tell your people which books you have been reading and say that you’ve gotten ideas from them.
I don’t think that God is too impressed when we steal other people's ideas and pass them off as our own. I propose that we put a couple of simple things in place to discourage it.
- Come up with a standard way of attributing ideas. If you use the materials of others, at the end of your video (or whatever) you have to print: “Creative content courtesy of St Peter’s Orthodox church www.stpoc.org.au/stolenvideo” For non-video content, credits could be printed in the notice sheet or something and certainly on the church’s website.
- Set up a website exposing church intellectual property theft. www.youstoleourwork.com . It sounds harsh, but our hearts are sinful and having consequences for ungodly behaviour helps us to be godly.