How to write a sermon outline! Generally speaking, a sermon has three parts – an introduction, a body and a conclusion. The introduction usually introduces the topical of your sermon. If you are going to talk about “How To Nurture a Dynamic Faith”, then your introduction should introduce this topic.
The body of your sermon should simply expand and explain the topic. You may want to look at three ways to nurture a dynamic faith that leads to faithful service in your church and your community. The conclusion should reinforce the main points of your sermon and motivate people to take action so that their faith is dynamic in their service for the Lord.
How To Write A Sermon Outline
So where does the sermon outline fit into the sermon. The sermon outline is simply the outline of the body of your sermon. The sermon outline is the road map that you follow when you expand and explain the topic or main preaching point of your sermon.
I like to break the sermon outline into three parts – the main topic or preaching point, the sub-points and incidental points and the key word or hinge word. By the way, you can construct a sermon outline deductively or inductively. This post (how to write a sermon outline) will refer to the deductive model for sermon outlining.
The Main Preaching Point
The main preaching point of the sermon outline is more than just the topic of your sermon. For example, you may want to preach on the topic of faith – that’s great. However, if you are going to preach on the topic of faith, you will need to look at it from some angle or perspective – How To Nurture a Dynamic Faith or The Benefits of a Dynamic Faith. You many want to preach on the topic of temptation. Then you develop an angle or perspective to temptation that you can preach.
For example, you may look at How To Resist Deadly Temptation or How To Recognize the Subtleties of Deadly Temptation. So when I preach a passage of Scripture, I begin by asking myself: “What is the topic of this passage and from what angle or perspective can I preach this passage?”
Let me give you a couple of examples. In 1 Peter 4:7-11, you will find that the apostle Peter has just told his readers that Jesus could come back at any time. So in light of that truth, Peter asks his readers to live in light of Jesus’ return by being watchful in prayer, fervent in love, hospitable without grumbling and ministering to one another in word and deed. So the main preaching point can be: How to Live in Light of Jesus’ Return or How to Live While Waiting for Jesus’ Return.
In Hebrews 12:1-2, you will find that the writer encourages his readers not to give up on running the race of life that is set before them. You could develop this passage with the main preaching point: How to Run the Race of Life Faithfully for Jesus and this involves determination, inspiration, freedom and focus.
Key Word or Hinge Word
Once you have decided on your main preaching point, you will need to find a key word or hinge word that will help you expand and explain your main preaching point. Let me give you some examples of key words or hinge words that will help you expand and explain your main preaching point.
There are three WAYS to resist deadly temptation in your Christian walk. The first way involves understanding the source of temptation. The second way involves understanding the steps in temptation and the third way involves understanding the solution for temptation. In this example, the key word or hinge word is WAYS. The key word or hinge word helps you swing your sub-point from your main preaching point that has cohesion and sequence, that is, a natural flow in the presentation of your sermon.
There are four MOTIVATIONS to help you run the race of life faithfully for Jesus. The first motivation involves having an attitude of determination. The second motivation involves being inspired by those who have gone before us. The third motivation involves laying aside everything that hinders and the fourth motivation involves looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. In this example, the key word or hinge word is MOTIVATIONS. The key word or hinge word is simply a plural noun that allows you to swing your sub-points from your main preaching point that provides a natural flow in the presentation of your sermon.
Sub-points and Incidental Points
Once you have decided on your main preaching point and your key word or hinge, you will need to expand and explain your main preaching point with sub-points and incidental points. Let me give you a couple of examples.
There are three ways to resist deadly temptation. They involve:
1. Understanding the source of temptation
2. Understanding the steps in temptation
3. Understanding the solution for temptation
Now you may want to expand and explain one of your sub-points. For example, there are three steps in temptation. They are:
A. Entertaining Sin
B. Yielding to Sin
C. Reaping the Consequences of Sin
Full Example of a Sermon Outline
There are three WAYS to resist deadly temptation (James 1:13-18). They involve:
- Understanding the source of temptation (1:13)
- Understanding the steps in temptation (1:14-15)
Three steps in temptation. They are:
- Entertaining Sin
- Yielding to Sin
- Reaping the consequences of sin
Summary Remarks For How To Write A Sermon Outline
When you put all this together, you will have a sermon outline that has cohesion and sequence, that is, you will have a sermon outline that will flow naturally as you present the material to your congregation. How to write a sermon outline involves all of this!
Resources For How To Write A Sermon Outline
I want to briefly and succinctly summarizes four homiletical books that will help you develop the ability to construct sermon outlines as demonstrated above.
1. How To Preach Without Notes by Charles W. Koller.
This is an excellent homiletical book for reference material on how to write a sermon outline. It is an easy book to read and navigate in order to find the particular material you want to study.
There are two chapters that stand out when it comes to writing sermon outlines. In chapter twelve, Koller explains the six structural components of the sermon. They are the topic or the title, the introduction, the main points, the sub-points, the illustrations and the conclusion.
I usually refer to seven structural components of the sermon. I name them as the main preaching point or the topic, the sub-points, the incidental points, the key word of hinge word, the introduction, the illustration and the conclusion. I like to include the “key word” because it is an important part of the sermon outline. The key word or hinge word swings all the sub-points from your main preaching point.
For example, when I preached through the book of 2 Thessalonians, I constructed the following sermon outline for 3:1-5. There are three REASONS why we need to build our trust and confidence in the Lord as we wait for his return. The first reason is because it leads to prayer (3:1-2). The second reason why we need to build our trust and confident in the Lord is because it leads to stability (3:3) and the third reason why we need to build our trust and confident in the Lord is because it leads to spiritual growth (3:4-5). The key word is “reasons” and this key word allows me to swing all the sub-points from the main preaching point.
In chapter two of Koller’s book, he looks at the homiletical devices we use to construct sermons and sermon outlines.The key word is one homiletical device he discusses at length. In How To Prepare Bible Messages, James Braga also explains this important homiletical device.
2. Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson.
This was our class book for homileticals. Robinson was a great teacher and his classes were very informative. While I learned much at seminary, however it was in ministry that I learned how to write sermon outlines. When you prepare two or three sermons per week, you need to know your trade. In theory I understood deductive and inductive paradigms but it wasn’t until I started writing weekly sermons that I understood it in practice. In chapter six of Robinson’s book, he looks that the different ways you can arrange the biblical material. Personally, I have developed my own paradigm for sermon outlining; however, Robinson’s book helped me to understand the difference between deductive, inductive and a bit of both.
Another chapter in Robinson’s book that is great is chapter seven. In this chapter, he explain how to fill out or write content to sermon outlines. He said that sermon outlines serve as skeletons of thought. When we write content to the sermon outline we are adding flesh to the skeleton. It is important to understand this process and Robinson explains it well.
3. Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell.
This is another excellent book on homiletics. There are two chapters that helped me in how to write a sermon outline. Chapter five reveals the process of explanation, especially how to exegete the Scriptures using grammatical outlines and traditional mechanical layouts. Then Chapell looks at how to form that information into order and sequence.
The other chapter that is very helpful is chapter five, which explains the The Fallen Condition Focus (FCF). This is a specific statement that tells your audience what you are going to speak on. Chapell gave a great example in his book. “A FCF of ‘Not Being Faithful To God’ is not nearly so riveting as ‘How Can I Maintain My Integrity When My Boss Has None?'” This chapter is very thought provoking.
4. How To Prepare Bible Messages by James Braga.
This is definitely a how to book on homiletics. This is an older book but it still has great value for sermon preparation and structure. There is some great material in this book if you are wanting to learn how to write a sermon outline that is biblical and from the Scriptures.
Braga said, “Because numerous books have been written on the preparation and delivery of sermons, it my seem superfluous to add another to the extensive literature on the subject. But after nineteen years teaching homiletics in a Bible school, I am convinced of the need of a textbook which applies the principles of homiletics to the construction of discourses in such a manner that the student may learn from the outset how to prepare messages directly from the Bible. I am also impressed with the need in a work of this kind of an adequate number of examples which clearly illustrate the step-by-step processes in building sermons.”
In other words, James Braga stated that his book on homiletics is not only a text book but a practical book. It shows you how to take theory and put it into practice.
After nearly thirty years of preparing and preaching weekly sermons, I can say without a doubt that if you cannot develop a paradigm for writing weekly sermons, then you are in trouble. There are no extensions given on Sunday.