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Outlining & Arrangement

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Outlining provides structure for the truth to be related.


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?

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