I think there is a myth among preachers and among listeners, a myth that may be distracting energy from and dissipating the potential impact of the preaching event. It is the myth of the importance of conveying a memorable outline. It goes something like this:
Everybody knows that good preaching will offer a memorable outline of the points of the message, a set of “hooks to hang your thoughts on,” as it were. With this memorability, listeners will be able to go away and recall the message later in the week, thereby being changed by an encounter with God’s Word throughout the week. In fact, this is so important, why not project the outline on the screen – it seems silly not to.
A couple of quick challenges, then I’ll suggest what may be lost in this pursuit of memorability.
A. How often do those who actually write down the outline go on to review and benefit from it, let alone those who walk out of church with just their memories to rely on?
B. How often do preachers actually make their points applicational so that remembering the outline will be life changing, rather than offering labels or titles for content that functions essentially as a set of poor commentary headings?
Now I know that this post is throwing a couple of grenades into a pretty sacred space for many preachers. Let me offer a token caveat – if a text yields a clear, memorable and applicational sequence of points, praise the Lord and preach it!
I do believe every sermon should have an outline. I am not promoting confused preaching. But I think the outline is really the servant of the preacher. The outline is for my sake, not theirs. There are other things that are much more important for them to feel the impact of and walk away with.
Next time I will finish the post by suggesting various aspects of preaching that may be being undermined by this memorable outline myth. And I won’t wait until Monday, I’ll post it tomorrow.