Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fifth: Refining

Continuing in our study of preparing a sermon, we are at the place were we want to refine our outline to something preachable and memorable. This is something that comes with practice. And even with practice, some preaching outlines are just better than others. When you are preparing two or three sermons per week, sometimes you have to go forward with something good when, if you could spend some more time on it, it could be great. This does not negate the sermon. After all, it is God who speaks to the person's heart and it is God who promises His words will not return void. The purpose of intense preparation is not to do God's work; it is so that there will not be any hurdles in the way of the person who needs to hear the message. If we ramble, if we have disjointed thoughts, if we are unprepared, it can be a hindrance to hearing the message. Yes...God can and does work through those sermons that are confusing and are hard to follow. But how much more could He work through us if we have spend the time preparing.

But I digress...the point of this post is discuss refining our outline to make it a bit more teachable than its current condition.

First, when I begin refining I have been reading the passage and looking over all my previous notes. I have spent a lot of time with the text and beginning to formulate what needs to be taught through the passage. So, to refine the outline, I begin to look at different outlines other preachers have used.

One source that is easy to use is Here is what I looked at when considering the 1 Timothy 1:3-11 passages.

SermonCentral outline 1

SermonCentral outline 2

These were OK but they were not what I was looking for. It should also be noted that I do not use these outlines. I use them as sermon seeds. Which brings to mind another resource I look to for refining outlines: This site usually has some good helps, but not for our passage in 1 Timothy.

Here is a list of outlines from the commentaries, from the Internet, and anywhere else I can pick someone's brain for some sermon seeds.

The issue with most of these are that they are exegetical outlines or theological outlines and not homiletical outlines. That is fine because the commentaries are not about having homiletical outlines, but they are an outline of the passage. This is why preaching from a commentary doesn't work. It was not made for that purpose. The idea of a sermon is to move from the exegetical (a statement of what the text says), through the theological (the truth pulled from that passage), to the homiletical (a statement which teaches that idea). Let me give an example of an entire passage.

A commentary would have more an exegetical outline. It is just an outline of how the passage flows. Here is an exegetical outline for Hosea 14:

I. Exhortation for Future Grace
          A. The Prophet’s Call to Repent (14:1-3)
          B. Yahweh’s Promise (14:4-8)
Garrett, NAC

A theological outline states theological truths but not in teachable principles. They just state the truth. This could be used as a sermon but may provide dry content and your audience may not leave remembering what your preached. Here is a possible theological outline for Hosea 14.
I. The Effect of Genuine Repentance 14:1-9
          A. The need for repentance (1)
          B. The attitude for genuine repentance (2-4)
          C. The results of genuine repentance (5-9)
Hunt, Old Testament Outline

This is more of a teachable outline. The words "We" or "you" appear more frequently, there is an attempt to make the main points memorable (notice the repetition of "repent"), and the flow of the passage is still faithful to the text (refer to the outlines above). Here is homiletical outline for Hosea 14.
I. We have a need to repent. (1-3)
          A. Accept responsibility for your sin. (1)
          B. Make an honest confession of your sin. (2)
          C. Let go of false gods. (3)
II. God is faithful when we repent. (4-8)
          A. God Will Revive Us. (4)
          B. God Will Restore Us. (5-7)
          C. God Will Remind Us that He Sustains Us. (8)
III. We must make the choice to repent. (9)
          A. There are Two Ways in life.
          B. It is a matter of the will.

Again, this is not essential to make sermon. And, again, I do not want to convey the idea sermon creation is solely an intellectual exercise. This entire process is to be bathed in prayer. However, there are little things we can do to help our audience catch the idea of the text and have it keep with them.

Here is progress on our 1 Timothy 1:3-11 passage. I have attempted to show the progress of thought in the order in which I thought through the outline. These are in red. The underlined points are the statements which I settled on for the time being. Refining the outline takes time, which means it is harder to do the night before the sermon is to be preached.

It hard to describe how ideas come. All I can say is that I have a small book I essentially take everywhere with me. In this notebook, I had the outline written down and prayed over it, scratched out, rewrote, thought out, etc. for at least a week. I thought about the audience of this sermon and what they may need to gain from this passage. I thought about what would help me remember the outline best. I thought, worked, and wrestled. The document link above shows that progress. To see the outline in its present form without the extra commentary and word studies, click Here.

This is still not ready to preach but it is getting closer. And it will not be THE perfect sermon nor the IDEAL sermon, but it is shaping up to be something that will preach.

Diagram -> Outlining -> Excursus -> Word Studies -> Commentaries -> Excursus -> Refining -> Illustrations -> Practice -> Preaching