A Point on Points

As you outline your message you will probably have some points.  My suggestion is to write full sentences that are applicationally/relevantly focused on the listeners (rather than historical/biblical summary statements).

But, you may say, I like to preach the point inductively and arrive at the application toward the end of the point.  Of course, that is the normal approach.  My suggestion should not therefore be dismissed.  Why?

1. Because a brief taste of relevance early in the point will increase the listener’s motivation to listen. You can quickly go back to the text and develop things from there, ending up with a more focused applicational element.  Just like in a message, though, if your point starts historical and takes a while to feel relevant, listeners may not be with you once you get there.

2. Because what you write as your point in your outline does not have to be stated at that point in the message. It is a common fallacy that a sermon has to follow its outline so that every line is said in order.  The “point” can be the target toward which that section of the message progresses.  The advantage of this approach is that you preach with a purpose, rather than starting with a historical summary statement and then expanding that, eventually moving on to the next point after a token attempt at applying the text (sometimes not fully thought through).  In a sense, then, your outline point is your fully thought through main idea of that section of the text.  Whether you state that at the outset, or later on, is up to you (perhaps you can choose a marker in your notes to indicate that this shouldn’t be stated up-front).

3. Because the commentary-like summary statement is lacking on several fronts. As I already stated, it leaves you open to fading away before you arrive at the point of connection between the world of the Bible and the world of your listeners (you may not effectively build the bridge).  Furthermore, a commentary-like summary, or a pithy alliterated heading, is not typically a complete thought.  Better to plan a full sentence since thought is transferred by the speaking of ideas, requiring full sentences.  To preach with sub-headings sounds like a read outline and requires the listener to fill in the rest of the thought.  Generally it is not wise to trust the listener to fill in much of anything in a message (not because of their lack of ability, but because you may not have fully gripped their focus so that they desperately want to do part of your job for you!)

Full sentence, relevant points will make your outlines stronger.  They may not make the best 200 word Christian newspaper outlines, but remember, your goal is to preach a sermon.  Let your editor turn it into written language before you go to print, don’t make your listeners translate in order to understand!

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