Pastor right to ask an editor for help
Afriend of mine is a Korean pastor who struggles with the English language. She knows I have worked as an editor and so a while ago, she began sending me sermons to review and “fix up” the awkward language. She has now applied for a ministerial position in B.C. and has to write a sermon, which she then has to post to YouTube. She wants me to edit this one, but I feel conflicted. It’s one thing to fix up her writing for a regular Sunday sermon and another to do so for a job application. It feels fraudulent. What do you think?
My first reaction was like yours: this seems shady. A person applying for a job ought to do so on the basis of his or her own skills; leaning on you feels like cheating. But we’re both wrong. Back when I was preaching, I regularly ran sermons by colleagues before actually preaching them. I counted on others to point out things that were poorly stated or might be subject to misinterpretation. And many times — many, many times — those colleagues saved me from sounding like an incoherent twit the following Sunday.
Now that I write newspaper columns, I send the draft each week to my most long-suffering critic (my wife, Nancy) before filing with the Star. Once filed, Star editors give it another go to patch up blunders and blatant bone-headery. That process saves you, dear readers, from discovering my frequently fractured phraseology — or spelling errors.
For those of us who write, relying on editors is not “fraudulent,” it’s a sign that we understand our own limitations and count on others to rescue us.
Your pastor friend has obviously realized that her command of the Queen’s English leaves much to be desired. Maybe her congregation was critical of her preaching (the sample you sent me was pretty awful). Or maybe she just came to that realization herself — my English is OK, but there were Sundays when, halfway through the sermon, I realized that even I didn’t know what I was talking about. Or care.
Either way, she realized that she needed help, sought it and got it. That’s a perfectly appropriate thing to do; indeed, it’s commendable. Preaching isn’t about showing off skills; it’s about doing what’s necessary to expound spiritual insight in comprehensible, interesting ways.
This would be different if she didn’t seek help on a regular basis and just wanted you to do this one party-piece. If her regular practice were to preach cold turkey, then doing something different for an audition would, indeed, be fraudulent — a disservice to the B.C. congregation and ultimately to herself. She’d be setting herself up for failure and exposing herself to criticism that the sample misrepresented her typical standard of work.
But aslong as this is a normal part of how she does her job, there’s no problem with helping her out. Presumably, if she gets the position, she’ll find another editor when she moves to B.C. Or, perhaps more likely, you’ll still be getting her sermon by email every Friday night. Send your questions to email@example.com