Podcast Episode 18 | 12 min
Outlining Your Sermon
Tips for finding the right structure for your sermon.
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Matt Woodley: This is Monday Morning Preacher, a podcast for those who want to learn the craft of preaching. I’m Matt Woodley, editor of PreachingToday.com, and I’ve been a preacher for over a quarter of a century. That’s 25 years.
Kevin Miller: Wow, thanks for working out the math for us on that, Matt.
MW: That was my scintillating and I think very sarcastic guest host, Kevin Miller.
KM: Well, you can try to fire me but the people demand I be here to keep you in check.
MW: They would beat down the doors and drag me away. So about preaching, I mentioned that fact that I’ve been preaching about 25 years because I am still learning lots of new stuff about the amazing craft and calling of preaching.
KM: Yeah, me too.
MW: For instance, I was re-reading a sermon of mine from 12 years ago and it was based on Mark 8:34-38, where Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me,” and my outline went like this. Point number one, Jesus confronts the myth of comfort. Point number two, Jesus confronts the myth of safety. Point number three, Jesus confronts the myth of control. Conclusion, Come to Jesus for true joy.
KM: Are you looking for feedback on that outline?
MW: No. We did a podcast on feedback but that’s for other preachers, not for me. Actually, yes, that’s why I brought it up, because I don’t like it, so what’s wrong with it, Kevin?
KM: Well, I do like how clear it is. That’s awesome.
MW: One point for clarity.
KM: Yes. It does feel a little bit like the Jesus part of the outline gets tacked on at the end, so maybe something simpler since you’re essentially offering a problem solution dynamic. Maybe point one is our problem, point two is Jesus’ solution. So point one, we have these myths that make us feel good but ultimately they cause us to lose what’s most important.
KM: And the solution, point two, is you follow Jesus and gain what’s most important.
MW: Where were you 12 years ago when I really needed you?
KM: Where was I? I was working here at Christianity Today, laboring in obscurity.
MW: So today we’re going to talk about the fine art of outlining your sermon. There are a few fundamental points about outlines. First of all, any outline is almost always better than no outline. I have heard sermons that had absolutely no structure. It is like a human body without bones.
KM: It’s a bad mental image.
MW: So get thee a structure. Second, keep that structure as simple as possible given your text and your big idea. That’s your goal. I’ve heard outlines with three points, and then they had like three sub points, and then in the conclusion the preacher tried to smuggle in another point, and I thought, Ah, way too complicated. So keep thy structure simple.
Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan He is also the co-founder and vice president of the Gospel Coalition. You can find more sermons by Dr. Keller at http://www.gospelinlife.com/.