There are many ways to outline a passage. Perhaps that is one of the most challenging tasks for anyone preparing a sermon. Can you relate?
I know that for me, exegeting the text and acquiring background information is the easy part. After all, that’s what seminaries teach us.
However, coming up with an outline and figuring out the flow of my sermon can be quite challenging at times. I often get stuck here.
I’d like to share a template for your preacher’s toolbox, a possible way that I found to be a lifesaver in moments when I get stuck. You may even find yourself using this in your next sermon outline.
Remember, this outline may not work for all passages but it does work for many.
The sermon outline template: Problem, Solution, Application.
- Problem. The first point deals with the problem or issue that the text is dealing with. Whether you are in Paul’s epistles or in Old Testament poetry, many times the text deals with a problem. It may be disobedience, selfishness, pride, etc.
Ask yourself what the problem is in the text. It’s usually found in the negative form.
- Solution. Typically, when a passage deals with a problem it also provides a solution.
There is always a way out of a problem with God. Communicate the solution from the text to your audience. This is what will bring people hope.
- Application. Now it’s time to get practical. How do we apply the solution in our context. For example, if the solution is to trust God or to seek God, how does that look in your situation?
If our application consists of simply saying “trust God,” or “seek God,” we may not be helping people as much as we would like. These are abstract ideas that need to be presented to our audience in a concrete way. You can find more application ideas here.
One example for “trust God,” could be by encouraging people not to worry so meticulously about finding the perfect time to have children. Notice how concrete and specific that was.
Now, let’s practice using a few passages:
Text: Fear of the Lord is a life-giving fountain; it offers escape from the snares of death. Proverbs 14:27 (NLT)
I. Problem: Life is Full of Death Traps (27b)
II. Solution: Obeying God Avoids Death Traps (27a)
III. Application: Memorize Scripture
Here’s another example.
(This is a passage telling Joseph’s story where his brothers ask for forgiveness and He responds by explaining that what they meant for evil God meant meant for good.)
Text: Forgiveness in Genesis 50:15-21
I. Problem: Forgiving Those Who Sin against Us is Difficult (15:18)
II. Solution: Faith in God’s Sovereignty Enables Us to Forgive (19-20)
III. Application: Activate Your Faith (21)
This week, call a person who has mistreated you and tell them that you forgive them.
I hope this helps you and gives you yet another way to approach a text. It’s really simple but can be effective because it’s an easy outline for your audience to follow and remember.
Question: Is there an outline template that you typically use? Leave a comment below.