Evaluating Outlines

The outline of a sermon is important.  Even though it may not always show clearly to the listeners, it must be clear to you the preacher.  So when you have an outline, how can you evaluate it to make sure it is a good one?

1. Look for the unity of the sermon.  When all pieces (points or movements) in an outline are considered, the whole idea should be adequately covered and supported.  At the same time, the whole biblical text should be adequately covered.  This should be saying the same thing since both the outline and the idea should take into account the entire text.

2. Look for the order of the sermon.  The elements of an outline should move forward in an order that makes sense, and often in the order of the text (although this is not a requirement).

3. Look for proportion in the sermon.  This does not mean that every point has to cover the same number of verses, but the points should be proportional to their relative weight in the sermon.  Often the points will be roughly equal in importance and length.  At other times you may have two or three briefer points  and one more major point.  In this case a briefer point should be clearly briefer in the outline.  Is briefer a word?

4. Look for progress in the sermon.  Each point or movement should convey the message forward.  Listeners do not enjoy the feeling of standing still or moving backwards in a message.  This is similar to point 2 above, but also different.  Order has to make sense.  Progress has to be felt.

Outlining is not about jumping through a homiletical hoop.  It is about accurately reflecting your thought, the structure of the message, in a visible form.  With the outline in hand, you can then evaluate not only an outline, but the message itself.

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