Friday, February 5, 2010

Speaking of Intellectual Property

The full story is available at: WFAA Channel 8 News.

The conspiracy minded among you, knowing what I blogged about yesterday, are going to think that I have sources at WFAA tipping me off about their stories. The rest of you will realize that I'm not nearly that important or well-connected.

But it just so happens that on the day I opine about intellectual property, our local DFW news station runs an investigative exposé about rock-star-preacher phenom Ed Young Jr. Although the bulk of the story has more to do with his $8.4 million private jet about which staff members are allegedly lying to the congregation and Jr's alleged $1.24 million annual compensation package, there is a section of the video which deals with the concept of intellectual property as it applies to preachers.

Of course, it would be irresponsible for me to link in this video while ignoring the main thrust of the story. I'll be glad to opine thusly:

  1. I do not believe that it is inherently immoral for a pastor to fly around in a private jet, although I doubt that it is wise for a pastor to live so far above the means of those in his flock. I'll concede that most of the ways for a pastor to live in that kind of opulence are situations fraught with temptation to sin that few people could overcome. Nevertheless, I ought to remember that my salary (approximately 1/20 of Jr's) appears luxurious and ostentatious to every pastor for whom I have preached in Cuba. Some humility on my part is called for here.

  2. I'm not clear enough in my own understanding of a theology of intellectual property (see immediately previous post) to have any strong foundation for weighing in on the appropriateness of Jr's turning church work product into personal largesse. He did write the sermons, after all (if you can call it creative genius to conclude that standing by a bed and talking about taking sex to a "whole 'nuther level" will attract the curious). I'm betting that the vast preponderance of his church members are OK with Jr's selling his sermons and "expertise" online for tidy sums.

  3. What does seem clearly worthy of rebuke, if true, is the allegation that the staff has been hiding from the congregation a corporate jet that the congregation has purchased and which furtively has been employed to take Jr's family to the Bahamas and to Mexico/Belize. Ed is (in)famous for having attacked congregationalism, alleging that every time the congregation votes they make the wrong decision. I'm betting that they would have disagreed with his situation on this one, too, had they known about it (presuming that the allegations are true, which they might not be).

    My congregation knows my salary to the penny. They know what I get for mileage and expenses. They can come in, sit down, and peruse the checkbook itself (and we have no credit cards or any other way for church money to be expended). We have utter, 100% transparency. I'm a fan of that.

    As far as our financial dealings with the church go, the church ought to be fully in the know. A pastor ought to be playing the role of Peter, not the role of Ananias.


Josh c said...

Interesting issue regarding the intellectual property discussion. The church where I serve as a youth pastor has a fairly clear description in our congregation-approved staff manual that essentially declares any work done on "church time" including sermons, writings, books, etc. Are essentially the property of the church. I perhaps thought that was more common than it may be.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

I don't know if you have seen it or not but Brother Jeremy Roberts has a piece on Intellectual Property. (I do not worry about this issue because my sermons would never hold up in a court of law as "intellectual") :)

Seriously, how does the churches handle various issues such as the pastor selling his sermons? We just have a pay-at-cost practice at our church.


Bob Cleveland said...

It would seem to me that intellectual property developed on someone else's payroll belongs to the entity paying the person to develop it. That's easy to figure out with a W-2 guy writing a computer program, but not as easy where you have a preacher writing a sermon.

I'm sure there's case law somewhere, but I'm equally sure a pastor would want to excel at avoiding even the appearance of evil. Particularly one knocking down 6 or 7 figures.

For a few years, my salary ran into 6 figures. Mine, Peg's, the 2 sons, Mom, and the cat.

Bart Barber said...



I see one major problem with the whole "on the church's time" schema—telling the difference between the church's time and my own. Without descending into the sort of poor-pastor-pity-party that sometimes ensues, suffice it to say that church situations hesitate not at all to invade non-church time (whatever that is), try as a pastor might to protect time for family. Any sense of a hard-and-fast line between time on-the-job and time off-the-job vanished for me years ago. If I find a moment that I can love my wife and encourage my kids at 1:45 on Tuesday, I take it. And for the past two nights I have been in various hospitals in the region while my kids were being put to bed by Tracy.

Dave Miller said...

I have an agreement with the church that my sermons and anything I write remain my intellectual property. However, the policy also states that the church can use them without cost in perpetuity.

Here's the thing - if I do not own the rights, when I go to another church and teach something I taught in the previous church, who owns the material?

(All this assumes that anyone wants to buy anything I preach or write - not a big problem so far).

But, Josh C, if you do not have an agreement such as I have, the church owns the intellectual property under the "works for hire" principle.

Dave Miller said...

by the way, that story made me ill.

Tim A. Blankenship said...

Bart, I say a hearty "Amen" to what you say. The congregational knowledge is needed to keep a pastor in check.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Dave Miller,

I have an agreement with the church that my sermons and anything I write remain my intellectual property. I presume that you have that in writing. As I understand it, if that was not negotiated in writing with you, or the church has it in writing in their policies, then all you do is the property of the church.

If you do have that in writing, that is something I have been looking for, for sometime. Could you email me a copy?


Chris Johnson said...


There are two principles that should be heeded when we preach the word….

As Paul has stated, we should also agree that….

1 Corinthians 9:16-19 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. (17) For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. (18) What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. (19) For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.

There is no excuse for charging for the gospel,…so in the life the church there is no defense for using intellectual property for gain.

The same principle is echoed in the fellowship we see early on in the Luke’s account of the Apostles…..

Acts 2:42-45 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (43) Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. (44) And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; (45) and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

If an organization or a business venture of your own outside of the church expresses an interest in your skill to write and communicate; wanting to sell property to the open public, that is quite another matter altogether. But in the midst of the church, there are no lines of intellectual delineation that can steer clear of ultimate selfishness.

Mr. Young demonstrates that quite well….


Dave Miller said...

Tim, this is the policy that we adopted. It is written and in our policy manual.

"David Miller shall be granted copyright ownership to all material, in form, content, and creative content, developed by him during his tenure at Southern Hills Baptist Church. The church shall have the right to use the pastor’s image and materials in its ministries without payment of royalties during his tenure. Materials developed for use in the church may be produced and used without royalties even after the pastor’s tenure ends."

Basically, I get ownership of the intellectual property, but the church has unlimited right to use those properties developed while I was employed here without any payment other than my salary.

These policies have been reviewed by a lawyer who raised no red flags about it.

Tim G said...

Well done. And might I add that your practice of financial issues at church are RIGHT ON! May all Pastors operate in such a manner!

Joe Blackmon said...

See, here's the deal--the only, and I repeat only, reason a pastor wouldn't want financial information fully disclosed is if there is something they don't want you to see. For instance, if a church senior pastor led a church to move from congregational rule to being elder led, hand picked the new elders, and didn't publish financial reports it probably has something to do with them not wanting the average joe to know what their salary is.

bapticus hereticus said...

Private jet. $1.2M salary. $240K housing allowance. Attorney for personal assistant and business partner. Church as personal cash cow. I reckon the gospel is a pretty good commodity these days for the minister charged with being the Chief Executive Orator.

Blessed are the feet of him that brings the good news.

A pair of Berluti Rapiécés Reprisés at $1,830, perhaps? A must for those wanting to be “noticed from the ground […] up.”

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Dave,

Thanks. Would it be okay to use that policy elsewhere?