BiblicalPreaching.Net has an interesting post up on the use of commentaries in your preaching. You can find the link to the Biblical Preaching Post here. Mead, the author of the article, notes that preachers should recognize that the commentary was written to an audience that probably doesn’t look like your congregation. In addition, the discussion can be quite complex.
Mead, in the same article, gives two important principles for using commentaries. Number 1, Only quote exceptionally valuable sections. And number 2, don’t feel as though you need to reference every quote.
Sermon Is Not A Lecture
All of Mead’s points can be summarized in this simple point: “The sermon is not a Lecture on Religious Topics to an Academic audience.” I have attempted to state this in many different ways over the life of this website. Preachers are not trying to merely inform the hearer. The preacher is being a vehicle to usher the people into an encounter with the Most High God.
Now I do not wish to belittle the use of commentaries. I think they can be helpful in the preparation process, but go to the commentaries AFTER you have squeezed all out of the text you can get from reading the scripture and comparing the scripture with other scriptures. However, in Presentation, quoting commentaries will often detract from the message.
What About Giving A Reference
As for referencing where you got the information. I do think we should be careful not to take credit for ideas that we got from somewhere else. Just give a quick statement that “in my reading this thought came through powerfully.” Or you might say, “One of my favorite authors said….” I do think it is important to reference other folks, but realize that this is not a theological paper.
Using commentaries can be helpful to preachers. I emphasize again, IN PREPARATION. However, IN PRESENTATION, we must recognize that the commentary was not meant to be a sermon manual.