20 Ways To Outline A Sermon

by Colin Adams on May 16, 2012 · 5 comments

in Articles

A good outline can strengthen a sermon, providing clarity, progression and climax for those who hear it. Speaking personally, however, I find outlining an extremely exacting discipline. As a result, it has been profitable for me to study men who are most adept in this area – men like Charles Spurgeon, John Stott and Warren Wiersbe.

Emerging from that study, here is a list which I have compiled and that I sometimes refer to. It helps me think creatively about my sermon structure. Please note that most of the specific examples are borrowed from some of the above preachers.

1.  Quote directly from text

‘To live is Christ’.  ‘To die is gain’

2.  Single word headings of similar length, or sound

Unity.  Diversity.  Maturity

Preparation.  Lamentation.  Celebration. Denunciation

3. Use pictures in the text

A lonely garden. A costly cup. A hypocritical kiss. A useless sword. A crowing cock

4.  Same first word(s) but differing endings

The law is not greater than the promise. The law is not contrary to the promise. The law cannot do what the promise can do

The Spirit enables us to: fulfil the law of love, overcome the flesh, produce fruit

Beware of: hypocrisy, covetousness, worrying, carelessness

5. Put application in the headings

Remember what God is to you. Remember what God does for you. Remember what God does through you.

We must love Christ supremely. We must obey him universally. We must glorify him completely.

6. Questions

Are the dead raised? When are the dead raised? Why are the dead raised?

7. Groups

The preacher. The persecutor. The believer.

8. Obligation outline  – ________must be________

Leaders must be humble in accepting their responsibilities. Followers must be careful in selecting their leaders.  Evildoers must be certain of sin’s consequences.

9.  Say what the author does in his argument (especially useful for epistles)

He defended his right to receive support. He defended his right to refuse support.

He explains his authority. He expresses his anxiety. He exposes his adversaries.

He explains their adoption. He seeks their affection. He laments their regression.

10. Say what happened to the person in the text (especially useful for narrative)

God honored him.  God humbled him. God helped him.

Teaching the Jews. Helping the Gentiles. Warning the Disciples.

11. Alliteration

A clear conscience. A compassionate heart. A conquering faith.

Grace, goodness, glory.

The servant’s identity. The servant’s authority. The servant’s sympathy.

12. . Pairs

Profitable and unprofitable servants. Wise and foolish witnesses. Obedient and disobedient servants.

13. . Contrasts

Death-Life. Tablets of stone-human hearts. Fading glory-increasing glory.

14. . How to

How to use spiritual authority. How to wage spiritual warfare.

15. Twin parallel heading

The slave – you lose your liberty. The debtor – you lost your wealth.  The runner – you lose your opportunity.

16. From this to that

From failure to success. From sickness to health. From guilt to forgiveness

17.  Follow the chronology or some other marker in the text

The 3rd hour. The 6th hour. The 9th hour.

18.  Paradoxes

The two shall be one. Adults shall be children. First shall be last.

19. Headings that are precise, but pay little attention to corresponding with one another stylistically (D.A Carson seems to often preach this way)

Paul wants this prayer to be offered with earnestness, urgency and persistence.

Paul solicits prayer for himself , in connection with his own ministry.

For Paul, prayer for his ministry envisions further ministry.

Finally, it is important to learn that some of Paul’s prayers were not answered as he would have liked.

20. Don’t have a defined outline!

 

 

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

paul dare May 17, 2012 at 5:56 pm

These are great! I’m reading David Murray’s “How Sermon’s Work” on my Kindle right now and he goes through things like this.

The new site looks fantastic! Great work! Important work!!

Reply

Tim White June 29, 2012 at 1:20 am

Thank you for giving us ways to add variety to our preaching. If God is the God of infinite variety our preaching should reflect Him. Tim White

Reply

Funny Sermon Stories February 4, 2013 at 2:12 am

Twenty great tips that I needed desperately! Thank you so much! I needed this help!

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