If you create an outline for your sermons, check to see if they do one of these two things.
First, do the major points in your outline urge your listeners to explore the preaching portion with you? Look at what the following outlines on Luke 22:19-30 (the dispute among Jesus’ disciples concerning which one of them would be considered the greatest):
1. The status we want (v. 24)
2. The status we need (vv. 25-27)
3. The status we’ll enjoy (vv. 28-30)
Notice that the main points are worded to lead us all to discovery. What is the status we want? Well, let’s look at v. 24. What is the status we need? That’s in vv. 25-27, etc. The points are worded in such a way that the sermon is needed to flesh out the answers.
This is my favorite form of outline point: “Find the answer with me.”
Second, do your major points teach all by themselves? Those that practice writing full-sentence outline points know this approach well. Look at an outline on Luke 22:31-38 (Jesus warning Simon Peter about Satan’s attack and His dangerous mission):
1. Satan’s attack (v. 31)
2. Jesus’ protection (v. 32)
3. Our naive overconfidence (vv. 33-34)
4. Our dangerous mission (vv. 35-38)
These main points teach us a vital truth contained within those verses. I find that many outline points are too brief to teach anything. The one above is the shortest I’ve ever used that I still felt accomplished the teaching goal I was looking for. The points are worded in such a way that the sermon is needed to expand their meaning.
This is my second favorite form of outline point: “Flesh out the meaning with me.”
Before Sunday, check to see if your outline is doing either of these two things. If not, you might want to rethink your reason for using an outline. Maybe you only want to create interest or make the points easy to remember (alliteration?). Besides order, unity, and progress, make your major points serve your goal of communicating God’s Word.
Preach well for the sake of God’s reputation in the Church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).