One More Way to Outline a Sermon

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Adrian Rogers outlined sermons using four phrases:

  • Hey You! (Get the audience’s attention)
  • Look! (Examine the Scriptures)
  • See! (Explain the passage)
  • Do! (Make application)

Andy Stanley is famous for one-point preaching, but really breaks his messages into five movements:

  • Me (How do I struggle with this?)
  • We (How do we all struggle with this?)
  • God (What does the Bible say about this?)
  • You (What should you do about this?)
  • We (How can we all live this out together?)

And I’m not sure who came up with it, but another well-known system is:

  • Hook (Get attention)
  • Book (Examine the Word)
  • Look (Expound the passage)
  • Took (Make an appeal)

The Puritans jumped right into point one of 27ish as they preached for several hours and there are plenty of other outlining methods as well. I’ve changed my system several times over the years, which I think is important to keep us out of a rut. Lately, I’ve been outlining my messages around three movements..

WHERE WE ARE

In the first part of the message, I speak about the problem or issue that the message addresses, hopefully in a way that motivates my hearers to identify with the problem personally as in, “Oh yeah, I struggle with that too!”

WHAT GOD SAYS

In the middle part (the longer part), I dig into the passage, or sometimes several passages, that address the issue, provide a historical context and expound on the meaning. Sometimes there are three or for “points” here, but not always.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Finally, I move to how we need to live out the solution that God’s Word has provided. I try to be as concrete as possible such as challenging people to go sign up for a ministry, buy a particular book, talk to their next door neighbor, etc.

I’ll probably tweak and change it up again soon, but for now, this system works quite well for me right now.


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About Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.


  • Ed Cook

    I use “What?” (what does the text say?) “So what?” (what does it mean?) “Now what?” (what does it call us to do?) -e.

  • Gunnar Ahlquist

    An outline I sometimes use, that I got from Paul Scott Wilson, is:
    Problem in our world
    Problem in the Word
    God’s solution in the Word
    God’s solution in our world

  • Alan Rothlisberger

    Hook Book Look Took … I learned in 1975 came from Lawrence O. Richards

  • http://www.kreartur.com/ Artur Wiebe

    Thank you for this article! I often use this the structure für preparing the sermon and it’s goal (cf. Pestalozzi “Learning by head, hand and heart”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Heinrich_Pestalozzi)
    - Head – something to think
    - Heart – something to feel
    - Hand – something to do
    - Feet – something to go

  • Randy

    I think you’re overthinking things bud. 3 alliterated points, throw in a poem and a heart-tugging story (that doesn’t have to be true as long as it’s powerful) and BAM. You’re done.

    • huh?

      you mad bro?

      • http://www.startupengine.org/ Barry Welch

        Randy has a solid point, no need to tease. There are audiences and situations for which simple approaches are the best. For a brilliant example of using a simple approach, watch old Zig Zigglar videos and bask in the wisdom of the simple pitch.

  • nathancreitz

    There’s another one that I learned in seminary and I find it helpful at times:
    Interest (Grab attention)

    Need (Surface the underlying need or problem)
    Satisfaction (Point to Scripture)
    Visualization (Captivating illustration of how the need is satisfied)
    Action (Appeal to find satisfaction and hope in Christ)

    • Andy

      That’s Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. The 6th stage would be Rebuttal, other people may say (x), but this is why my point or solution is best.

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