Preaching - Lesson 5

Outlining & Arrangement

Outlining provides structure for the truth to be related.

Bryan Chapell
Lesson 5
Watching Now
Outlining & Arrangement

Outlining and Arranging

Purpose of this lesson: The basic features of good outlining.


• Outlining provides structure for the truth to be related.

• Why do sermons on the same passage sound different? Because even though we’re always dealing with the same raw material, but “the purpose for which the builder is building,” and the “needs of the people for which he is building,” result in a different product.

• Exegetical outline: raw material.

• Homiletical outline: fruit of exegeting the text and exegeting our people

Expository messages are obligated to provide the truth of the passage, but not necessarily the pattern of the passage.

• Example from Luke 18:1-8.

• In a written medium, main propositions come first.

• In a oral medium, main propositions come last.

• This means that we may have to adjust the order of the points we make because we’re speaking.

• Example from Ephesians 3. Paul starts a thought, has a 12 verse parenthesis, and then resumes a thought. Wouldn’t we adjust because of this structure? Yes.

• Nevertheless, most of the time we’ll follow the pattern.

I. An outline is a logical path for the mind

A. It has steps to follow

B. First purpose: clarifying parts of the sermon for the audience’s mind and ear.

C. Second purpose: clarifying parts of the sermon in preacher’s mind and eye (taking visual cues from outlines when we’re speaking).

D. This shows

1. Credibility: we understand the text and can explain it.

2. Compassion: we care enough to order it so that it makes sense

II. 5 qualities of a good homiletical outline

A. Unity: All the parts support one idea

B. Brevity: All the parts are concise

C. Parallelism: Word order between points is similar

1. Example: Christ’s word demands honor. Christ’s word demands obedience. Christ’s word demands love.

2. Modifiers line up. Nouns and verbs line up.

3. Parallelism with a keyword change is an auditory cue that says, “here’s another major idea.”

D. Proportion: the main points are roughly the same length

E. Progression: the thought should move forward with each component: In an exegetical outline, we will often notice the same idea repeated. To be progressive means that we will group these ideas together so that we don’t repeat ourselves.

III. Types of homiletical outlines

A. Logical

1. Shows the development of thought

2. Example: trust God because his nature is loving. Trust God because his nature is all knowing (he loves and knows what will happen). Trust God because his is all powerful (not just loving and omniscient, but actually able to act).

B. Sequential

1. The chronological development of a passage

2. Example: Because God offers salvation we must come to Christ. Because God offers salvation we must abide in Christ. Because God offers salvation we must testify of Christ.

3. The chronology of the Christian life.

C. Picturesque/Imagistic

1. Take people through a picture/image

2. “I am the ____” vine, light of the world, bread of life. Jesus used images.

IV. Things to include in an outline

A. Some indication of introduction/conclusion

B. Proposition (what the sermon is about)

C. Developmental features

1. Sub-points: the development of the logic of the main point. Developments of principle. Neither illustration nor application are sub-points

2. Illustrations

3. Applications

D. Transitions

V. Developmental principles for good homiletical outlines

A. Let your purpose dictate the number of main points

1. Three point outline: commonly structured as developmental. This idea leads to this idea, and that leads to a culminating idea.

2. Two point outline: balanced. Two things are in tension. Earthy and heavenly. Without this tension, people think it’s incomplete. The implied third point is the tension.

3. Four (or more) outline: Summative/additive/catalog. A group of ideas together that give a picture of the overall idea. Each have equal weight.

B. Principles of subordination: You cannot have a standalone sub-point. If there’s only one sub-point, then it’s heard to compete or confuse the main point.

C. Keep the text evident in the outline

1. Use the words of the text (vocab) in the outline. This won’t always be possible, but aim for it.

2. Tie main points and sub-points to relevant verses. “Look with me in verse ____” “In verse ____ it says.” State the truth, place the truth, prove the truth.

D. Create consistent visual markers in your outline

1. Chapell’s example: draw a circle around illustrations, other shapes around other components.

2. Use what works for you, to allow you to maintain eye contact with people.

E. Number, rather than alphabetize, main points and sub-points

F. Place components on the same place on the page: Instead of having text that runs over pages, place main points at the top of the page every time they appear.

VI. Three cautions for homiletical outlines

A. Take out the “nots”: Don’t state main points negatively. Instead of saying, “do not,” say “avoid”

B. Take out the “bes”: Find an active verb

C. Use alliteration with caution: A powerful communication tool. But it can be problematic because you may twist the meaning of the text, and people may get tired of it.

VII. The bottom line for homiletical outlines: FORM

A. F. Faithful to the text

B. O. Obvious from the text

C. R. Relevant to a fallen condition focus

D. M. Does it move toward a climax?

All Lessons
Class Resources
  • The power of God is inherent in the Word. The power of the Word is manifested in Christ and applied in expository preaching.

  • In expository preaching, unity is accomplished when the elements of a passage are legitimately shown to support a single major idea that is the theme of a sermon.

  • Tools and rules for selecting and interpreting texts.

  • The process of constructing a sermon that communicates the meaning of the text as well as its application.

  • Outlining provides structure for the truth to be related.

  • A proposition is a theme statement covering the content of all the main points and including the introduction as well as an indication of what the rest of the message will be about.

  • Harmonizing the propositions and main points helps the listener follow the development of the ideas in your sermon.

  • The first five minutes of your sermon are important for getting people interested enough to listen to the rest.

  • Exposition is shedding some ordinary light on the path that leads to truth in God's Word.

  • In order to understand the basic subdivisions of your sermon in expository development, it is important to it is helpful to see what the specific members of your sermon's body looks like in standard development.

  • The conclusion is the high point of the message and requires careful craftsmanship.

  • The three types of sermons are topical, textual, and expositional.

  • "Explanation" is a central component in an exposition sermon. The purpose of "explanation" is to answer the question, "What does this text mean?"

  • Using illustrations can make sermons more effective because they help people remember the main points and are effective motivating people.

  • How to create and use illustrations in expository preaching.

  • How to create and use illustrations in expository preaching.

  • Without application, meaning is hidden. Application is essential to full exposition.

  • Without application, meaning is hidden. Application is essential to full exposition.

  • It is helpful to understand how sermon components and listener involvement can be knit together through the use of effective transitions and "pulpit dialogue."

  • Materials you can take into the pulpit when you preach can include notes, outlines and manuscripts.

  • Using your voice and gestures to communicate energy and enthusiasm with sincerity makes your communication powerful.

  • You can deliver your message more effectively by considering how you dress in a way that identifies with your congregation.

  • Changing formally worded outlines to fundamentally reduced outlines can help you make your main points concise and memorable.

  • Reading the Bible meaningfully and referring to the text often while you are preaching helps you demonstrate that the Word takes priority in your preaching. Preaching is a redemptive and a supernatural event that depends on the conviction and illumination of the Holy Spirit.

  • We are fallen creatures in a fallen condition and God's redemptive work is making us whole in ways we cannot by ourselves. Just as every scripture echoes our incompleteness, it also in some manner signals the Savior's work which makes us whole.

  • Using "redemptive lenses" to preach the whole Bible emphasizes the person and work of Christ as revealed in all Scripture. This is different than teaching that our relationship with God is based on our own efforts to be "good."

  • The ultimate goal of a sermon is not simply proclaiming more duty or doctrine, but promoting a more dear relationship with God (i.e., love).

  • One way to learn how to apply redemptive principles to a sermon is by listening to a master preacher do so and then evaluate his message.


Dr. Bryan Chapell explores the unifying principle of grace that binds all Scripture together. He outlines and demonstrates the principles and practice of sermon-crafting and delivery to illuminate the message of grace in each passage, and to submit it to God's Spirit for the transformation of lives through preaching. Dr. Chapell is making these recorded lectures available for you to access at no charge on BiblicalTraining.org. However, there is no personal interaction with Dr. Chapell in this format. The assignments and activities described are for classes that he teaches in person. We left the descriptions in for your benefit, but we do not offer personal or group interaction to participate in these activities. 

Dr. Chapell is helped in this course by Zachary W. Eswine, Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program (BSW, Ball State University; MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary; PhD, Regent University). Dr. Eswine served as senior pastor of Grace Church of the Western Reserve in Hudson, Ohio, for six years before joining Covenant Seminary's faculty in 2001. He has served as a campus minister with the Navigators, as a church youth director, and as a chaplain-evangelist in retirement facilities. Since arriving at the Seminary, Dr. Eswine has also served as interim pastor for Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky, as advisory pastor for the Chinese Gospel Church of St. Louis, and as interim pastor for Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in St. Louis. He has taught New Testament in Ukraine and served as a short-term missionary in the Caribbean. Dr. Eswine is a gifted preacher and has authored the book Kindled Fire: How the Methods of C. H. Spurgeon Can Help Your Preaching and numerous articles on homiletics. In addition, as an accomplished musician and songwriter, he has recorded three collections of original songs.

Philosophy and Goals of the Course

1. "Prep and Del" is an introduction to the basics of sermon construction and delivery. This is not primarily a course on the theology of preaching, but rather is a practical introduction to the tools, structures, and concepts that help preachers learn to put a sermon together. 

2. Because this course is introductory, certain standards of sermon construction are taught that I hope you will consider "foundational" rather than universal. There is not only one "right way" to preach. However, mastering the methods of this course will help you develop the tools needed for many kinds of future sermons. Students from many backgrounds and preaching traditions have found these tools helpful even as they prepare for other styles in the future. Other methods and styles will be taught and encouraged in future semesters.

3. In Dr. Chapell's seminary class, you would be asked to present some short oral assignments to the class in order to: a) begin integrating the information presented in lectures; b) begin honing your preaching skills; c) and, remove some of the intimidation of your first preaching experience next semester.

(At this time, we do not provide personal interaction to evaluate your progress. We included the suggested assignments and activities to give you direction as you apply the principles you are learning to your own sermon preparation and delivery.)