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Writing a sermon is much like building a house. There are 7 stages a message must complete before it is finished.
Step 5: Finish the Build
The fifth step in writing a sermon is finish the build – construct the outline.
In the process of building a home, once the frame goes up and you have picked all the options at the design center, all that is left for you to do is wait while the construction crew finishes putting everything together.
It is very exciting to watch everything come together. Every day something new is finished. Dry wall. Windows. Paint. Tile. Carpet. Everything gets put in place where it belongs and before you know it, you have a completed house!
The outline process of writing a sermon is the same way. You already have Prayer (Step 1), your Foundation of Scripture (Step 2), the Big Idea Framework (Step 3), and a Handful of Illustrations (Step 4). Now it’s time to put all the elements together to resemble an actual sermon.
What should be in the Introduction? Where would this illustration fit best? Do I need an illustration here to clarify this point? What will go in the Conclusion to make this message more memorable?
Move the elements you already have around like puzzle pieces until you find the best fit.
Open your word doc. and begin copying and pasting the various elements you have already collected into it.
If you are a more visual person, you can even write different elements on notecards or sticky notes and arrange them on a table or cork board.
One notecard may be your main passage of Scripture. Another may be a supporting passage. Another may be a personal story. Another may be a video you found. Another may be an application you want to make. If you have multiple points, you may have an individual notecard for each point.
Get the point?
A clear outline is essential to a clear message.
I find that it helps to begin with a basic skeleton of an outline. Different messages require different forms, but based on your style you may have a basic structure you like to follow.
Start with a skeleton outline and add all the elements you have gathered. Then, if you are a manuscript writer like I am, use the fill-in the details.
I like writing a full manuscript to clarify my thoughts, but I preach from a very basic outline. Others preach from a full manuscript. Others prefer just an outline.
Every preacher works a little different. Find what works best for you, but don’t be afraid to experiment a little.
Here are a few different outlines I have seen:
Me, We, God, You, We
Me: Here is a problem I have or have had.
We: Here is how this problem affects all of us.
God: Here is what God says about this problem.
You: So what can you do about this?
We: What if we all did this?
Hook, Look, Book, Took
Hook: Start with a hook that grabs attention / identify a problem.
Look: Look at your life. How does this problem affect you?
Book: What does the book (Bible) have to say?
Took: What have we took away from this? How will we respond?
Three Points and a Poem
Intro: Introduce the message and the key passage of Scripture
Point 1: What is the first point? Illustrate and apply.
Point 2: What is the second point? Illustrate and apply.
Point 3: What is the third point? Illustrate and apply.
Conclusion: Read a poem, or use a powerful illustration to drive the Big Idea home.
Head, Heart, Hands
Head: Intellectual appeal (Scripture and interpretation)
Heart: Emotional appeal (Stories and illustrations)
Hands: Physical appeal (Application and physical response)
Free Message Template
Hopefully some of these general outlines help. In case you need a little more, I have uploaded a message template that I wrote a while back to help some of the staff at my church.
Click here to view and download the basic message template that I use. Hope this helps.
At this point you have prayed to connected to the power source (Step 1). You have studied Scripture to lay the foundation (Step 2). You have found the Big Idea that will be the framework for your message (Step 3). You have picked all the decoration and design (Step 4). You have completed the outline or manuscript (Step 5). But don’t think you are finished yet, there are still two more steps to go. Next up, Step 6 – Quality Control.
[Dale Flynn and his wife, Liz, are Word of Life Local Church Ministries missionaries in Eastern MD. Dale is a Local Church Ministries curriculum editor and is the editor of this Ministering to the Minister E-Transfer national electronic Pastor’s newsletter. The Flynns make their home in Elkton, MD. Questions or comments about this article may be addressed to Dale at: DFlynn@wol.org. ]