"Most people understand that verbal footnoting is cumbersome," Lischer said. "Christianity is not as focused on issues of copyright as other sectors in academics."
There is an attitude among Christians that "what's mine is yours," that you don't necessarily need to footnote Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream," he said.
"It's the nature of preaching. It's like singing a song. You don't just sing it once to never sing it again," Lischer said. "It's not so much cheating as it's demonstrating a continuity with people who came before."
Congregations might also be more willing to forgive a pastor who has plagiarized than they might have been in the past, said Ron Cook, a professor at Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary who has served on the board of directors of the Baptist Center for Ethics.