Using Used Outlines – Part 2

Continuing the list of suggestions for the pressured preacher who feels he has to use used outlines in order to be ready to preach . . .

4. Don’t move on too quickly.  Most sermons take too long to finish, but then are finished with too soon.  While I’m not advocating preaching longer for most preachers, I would say that once the sermon is done, it may well not be done, and might bear the weight of another visit next time.  Doubling up exegetical work by preaching the same passage more than once is worth considering.

5. Don’t pressure yourself.  There are several problems with borrowing sermon outlines.  One is that you might borrow junk and therefore offer junk to your listeners (it is amazing how much poor preaching is offered through the internet!)  On the other hand, you might get into the habit of borrowing a standard you find intimidating and can therefore never live up to.  Don’t pressure yourself.  Your listeners will appreciate a simpler sermon that is truly owned, they don’t need you to pretend to be him (whoever he is).

6. Don’t starve yourself.  Another issue with borrowing sermon outlines is that you are cutting yourself off from one of the greatest delights of preaching – the wrestling with a text so that it marks your life.  Even if you can’t give 20 hours a week to a sermon (few can), you will do much better to have wrestled for two hours than none.

7. Generate time from elsewhere.  Do you create a powerpoint when you preach?  Don’t bother, save the time.  The powerpoint may or may not be helpful, but if it is powerpoint time or passage time, it should be passage time every time.  Do you spend half an hour picking songs for the service?  Ask someone else to do that.  Do you search the internet for pithy introductory anecdotes?  Save the time and get into the Word.  Do you scratch your head for illustrations?  Look at the text more carefully and describe the images or story in the passage.

More thoughts and ideas?

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3 thoughts on “Using Used Outlines – Part 2

  1. I understand the pressure of coming up with something to preach every week in additional to our many other responsibilities. Feeding our congregation with canned food occasionally is inevitable, but consistently depending on can food will not bring up healthy Christians. It’s much better to drink from a sputtered tap of fresh water than gush from a stagnant pool. Our call as a minister is “to give them food at the proper time.” So draw our water from the Word directly.

    Borrowing outlines sometimes is like plagiarizing and pretending something that we are not. And it’s a matter of time our congregation will find that out. I have seen preachers that are so inconsistent in their philosophy of preaching as reflected in their (approaches and methods of how they treat the text of the) sermons. This leads me to think that they are borrowing somebody’s outline each week. When we form a habit of borrowing outlines, we tend to borrow outline of the same form (template, format) instead of letting the text forms our sermons.

    I agree with Peter that our congregation appreciates a simpler sermon that is truly owned. So aim small, aim authentic, aim genuine and aim application. That’s being a bi-vocational has the advantage. You know the world and experience the work week better than most preachers do. Sometime our sermons don’t have to stand out with creative exegesis or come up with fresh meaning. Once we have established the message is from the text, all we have to do is to focus on how the congregation would apply the passage in their daily life. What does it look like to those who understand and agree with what this passage says? How can we, as a congregation, reflect our obedience to this text? Spend some time in fleshing out the message may at ease your pressure of coming up with something “solid” every time.

  2. Great advise Peter!!! It is such a blessing to have confidence that the Lord will provide for His people through our own wrestling with the text. I must say that it can be scary at first to step out on our own and in faith believe that what we have personally been blessed with will bless his people. If the text has touched our hearts it will minister to hearts:)

  3. Bi-vo pastor for five years, here. A couple of pieces of advice have helped me greatly.

    1. For an expository sermon, there are really, only, ever, two points in the “outline.” They are

    ONE: What does this passage teach us? and

    TWO: How should we apply that teaching to our lives?

    2. Bryan Chappell’s ideas on discerning the Fallen Creature Focus in each passage, and then how God’s grace addresses that focus, has been helpful in sharpening my sense of direction in sermon preparation.

    3. Chappell also recommends “doing the last first” in preparation. Meaning, early in the process, figure out the application, and maybe even write out a paragraph of conclusion that incorporates it. Then the process is a simplified issue of drawing the straight line between exegesis and this conclusion. Eliminates a lot of rabbit trails, both in the preparation and in the preaching.

    4. Another wise preacher went completely against conventional wisdom by confessing that he consults commentaries he trusts fairly early in the process, where most recommend that as a latter step, after you’ve already done the expository legwork and meditation, etc. That may be something to think about.

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