As ministers, we are ethically obligated to protect the privacy of struggling people in our congregations. At what point does it become acceptable to refer to someone as a sermon illustration?Several of his readers have commented, but here are my two cents.
I actually was quoted in one of my senior pastor's sermons. It was not a story of my sordid past (which I don't actually have.) My pastor did a sermon series on Calvinism. I thought it was a bad idea. This topic can divide churches and makes little practical difference in your daily christian walk. I told my pastor so in response to an email he had sent. He liked some of my thoughts so much he actually quoted me. He did so anonymously and with my permission, even though what I had said was not in confidence.
Now things will probably get murkier if the person is dead or if you are pastoring a different church. Then maybe you can avoid asking for permission if you change the names to protect the innocent. Maybe.