Thursday, February 12, 2009

Simple Reminder on Outlining Sermons

I was teaching the Biblical Hermeneutics class in Hillsboro that I am currently teaching for Genesis Training Center and this week was discussing something that is image pretty basic in sermon outlining, but still helpful: 

There are basically two ways of outlining the progress of thought in a passage:  Parallel Outlines and Progressive Outlines.

Parallel outlines are those where the sub points are all “parallel” to one another.  They are facts or statements about the thesis statement.  The sub points can often be found by turning the thesis statement into a question.   (The outline examples come from Dr. Mark Strauss of Bethel Seminary).

Scripture: Phil. 1:12-18

Thesis statement: In spite of Paul’s imprisonment, the gospel is advancing.

Question: In what ways is the gospel advancing in spite of Paul’s imprisonment?


  1. Through Paul’s testimony to the palace guard (v. 13)
  2. Through the courage given to others to proclaim it (v. 14)
  3. Despite the false motives of some (vv. 15-16)
  4. Conclusion: the most important thing is that Christ is preached. (v. 18)

The other method is a Progressive Outline.  This is where the author is (usually) making an argument and you note the development of the “progress” of the argument:

Scripture: Romans 12:1-2

Thesis statement: In light of God’s free gift of salvation, Paul calls believers to present themselves as living sacrifices in God’s service.


  1. The command to present your body as a living sacrifice (v. 1a)
  2. The reason to present your body as a living sacrifice (v. 1b)
  3. The means of presenting your body as a living sacrifice (v. 2a)
  4. The result of presenting your body as a living sacrifice (2:b)

The same Progressive Outline works in preaching a biblical narrative:

Scripture: Mark 2:13-17 (call of Levi)

Thesis Statement: Mark presents Jesus mission as not directed to the self righteous, but to sinners who recognize their need of salvation.

  1. The call of Levi
  2. The meal in Levi’s home
  3.      i. The challenge by the religious leaders: why does Jesus eat with sinners?
  4.     ii. Jesus’ response:
  5. The proverb-only sick people need a doctor
  6. The application-the son of man came to call sinners

Outlining a passage is a HUGE step in the development of the sermon. 

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