Homiletics of Expository Preaching and Teaching–Part 1 Organization of Expository Preaching Outlines

In a previous blog called Bible Study 101–Part 2:  Key Terms for Reading, Interpreting, and Teaching the Bible, I discussed the importance of hermeneutics and exegesis in expository preaching and teaching.  Equally important is homiletics which involves the organization and presentation of the message or lesson.  Our focus today involves initial thoughts about and the general organization of expository outlines.

Initial Thoughts about Expository Outlines

Proper homiletics are essential regardless of whether you preach or teach the Bible.  How often have you walked away from an enjoyable sermon or lesson but found it difficult to remember or share key aspects and application?  Unfortunately, believers can undervalue proper homiletics by “leaving it to the Holy Spirit” to direct their approach.  While I would never completely dismiss this assertion, I argue that God is a God of order who expects us to prepare as best we can while also not being a stumbling block to listeners by being disorganized.  
Even a casual reading of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount or Peter’s address to the church in Acts reveal a logical, methodical, and comprehensive approach to presenting their arguments.  Simply put, expository preaching and teaching should not be an exercise based on a stream of conscious approach.
Organization of Expository Outlines

I find George Zemek’s observations about homiletics especially helpful:  “Based upon the God-breathed phenomena of a passage, every effort must be made to protect the text’s freedom of speech. From the sermon title, to the introduction, proposition, body, and conclusion, the text’s voice must never be muffled.” 1  It’s in this same spirit that I will review general principles regarding outlines.

Purpose of an Outline

An outline helps the presenter provide an easy-to-follow, intentional, organized, and clear organization of ideas for both themselves and their audience.   In this sense, outlines are amoral.  Even our Bibles contain numbered chapters and verses along with italicized subtitles separating sections of scripture.  These preferences were not part of the original Bible manuscripts but are included for our benefit to help provide a logical organization for our reading. 
Benefits and Structure of an Outline

Unlike an essay which contains fully developed paragraphs, an outline primarily consists of short sentences that help trigor main ideas that the presenter will address.  This helps presenters stay on track and maintain good eye contact.  Each aspect of an outline may be likened to highway markers that indicate the number of miles left before drivers reach their destination.

Three Parts of an Outline
A traditional outline consists of three main parts:  introduction, body, and conclusion.  The introduction informs the audience about the overall subject and specific focus of the presentation (thesis).  The body includes evidence (examples) and rationale (analysis) that support the thesis.  The conclusion summarizes the thesis and rationales and includes a call to action.

For the sermon or lesson outline, the introduction includes the thesis based on the central theme or topic of the scripture verses,  the body includes evidence and exegesis of scripture (including application), and the conclusion includes a summary of the thesis and a call to salvation, repentance, etc.
In other words, an outline’s structure helps a presenter say:  “Here’s what I’m going to talk about, I’m going to talk about what I said I’d talk about, I’m going to remind you about the things I talked about, and I’m going to challenge you to act upon what I talked about.”  

Closing Thoughts

To be clear, proper homiletics is based on proper hermeneutics and exegesis.  In many ways, these three concepts occur simultaneously.  In the next blog, I will go deeper by describing how and why we should create certain types and formats of outlines for expository preaching and teaching.

1   Zemek, George J. “Grammatical Analysis and Expository Preaching.” Rediscovering Expository Preaching.  Edited by John MacArthur.  Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992. 159–160. Print.

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