John R. W. Stott gave this advice on constructing the sermon outline in chapter six in Between Two Worlds: There must be structure to subordinate our material to the theme of the sermon. One danger is a too prominent outline like the protruding skeleton of a starving prisoner of war. Double or triple alliteration of main points is an example. Another danger is artificiality of outline.
After you have determined what is the one action the passage is demanding, you will phrase that one demand into the proposition. You can read the two posts on propositions entitled “Proposition: The Sermon Reduced to One Sentence,” Part 1 and 2.
Next fill out the How/Why work sheet (See below). Having studied your passage, list the steps how the proposition can be preformed found in the text, which will fall under the How section. Then list the reasons why the proposition should be preformed found in the text which will fall under the Why section.
________ _______ _______ _______
Subject Ought Word Active Verb Object
Select either the reasons or the steps which better develop the proposition in your text.
When writing out your main divisions the following instructions should be followed.
1) Main divisions should be comprehensive i.e., cover all the verses in that main division.
2) Main divisions should be parallel. See letter c).
a) Not necessarily alliterated
b) Alliteration sometimes sounds artificial and force. Alliteration can blur the true meaning.
c) If you chose reasons for developing your proposition, then your main divisions will begin with “Because” as in the example below and this will make your divisions parallel. If you chose steps for developing your proposition, then your main divisions will begin with “By” and be paralleled.
3) Main divisions should be mutually exclusive (a unit in itself and not overlapping another point)
4) Main divisions should be phrased with force (like the proposition)
a) Action verb and not a state of being verb
b) Active voice not the passive
c) Affirmative and not negative
The following is an example from Ephesians 1:4-14.
Proposition: We must praise God for His salvation blessings.
Interrogative sentence: Why must we praise God for His salvation blessings?
Transition sentence: We must praise God for His salvation blessings for the following reasons:
I. Because God the Father choose us (Eph. 1:4-6)
II. Because God the Son redeemed us (Eph. 1:7-12)
III. Because God the Holy Spirit sealed us (Eph. 1:13-14)
A. The Sealing of the Holy Spirit happens after we hear God’s Word (v. 13a)
B. The Sealing of the Holy Spirit takes place when we believe (v. 13b)
C. The Sealing of the Holy Spirit guarantees our future redemption (v. 14a)
D. The Sealing of the Holy Spirit should cause us to praise God (v. 14b)
(These sub-points do not need to be stated as sub-points in your preaching. Just cover them in as you preach through these verses or your people will get lost in the outline. Do not have too many sub-divisions of sub-divisions)
In the next post, I will start my discussion on Step 5: Develop the sermon outline. Step 5 will take allot of time on the four rhetorical processes: Explanation, Argumentation, Illustration, and Application.