A Surprising & Stress-Free Way To Write Sermon Outlines

I think most people underestimate the preparation preachers go through before presenting at the pulpit each week.

The pressure of preaching powerful sermons and writing sermon outlines that stick week in and week out can be a daunting task.

Some church leaders and preachers can find writing good sermon outlines especially difficult.

This is why many pastors today look for shortcuts when writing their sermon outlines.

Here are 3 of the most common:

1. Copycat Style Preaching

Desperate for inspiration, preachers can steal other preacher’s sermons, sometimes even word for word, from Christian TV, YouTube etc.

2. Ikea Style Preaching

Instead of coming up with their own sermon outlines, some pastors might visit websites like Ministry Pass or buy Bibles with done-for-you sermons.

3. Recycled Preaching

Rather than seeking a fresh word for now, preachers with a bit of experience can go to their drawer of already preached sermons to polish up old content.

Instead of serving fresh hot bread, they serve the stale crusts of yesteryear.

Why do some do this?

Most preachers don’t underestimate the power of preaching preparation, it’s just that, well…as we’ve already said, the pressure to come up with fresh sermons every week can be overwhelming (especially if you’re a bi-vocational pastor).

Other, seemingly more urgent things just eat away at your time…

And before you know it, it’s Saturday and your cup is empty.

Have you ever found yourself in this predicament?

There is a solution.

Why Shortcut Preachers Are (Sort Of) On The Right Track

Pastors who look for sermon prep shortcuts have at least recognised that they are insufficient for the task.

It’s not up to us to come up with profound, pioneering new ideas and concepts each week so don’t put yourself under that pressure.

It’s just that these shortcut preachers have they’ve tried to cover up their insufficiency in a self-sufficient way, namely, with shortcuts.

If you’ve woken up to the fact that you are insufficient for preaching (and I hope you have), you need to turn to what is sufficient for the task of preaching:

The Bible.

I know I may be stating the obvious here but stay with me…

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Expository Preaching: When Sermon Outlines Are Automatically Generated

Maybe I shouldn’t use the word automatically…

I mean, there’s still some digging involved but once you get this, your sermon prep becomes much easier in the long run.

Determine you will do your own work in the text and the Bible will do all the heavy lifting for you.

Not to mention, you’ll be all the more confident knowing you’re preaching the Word of God and nothing else.

The Bible is all-sufficient – the text already has everything you need for your best sermon yet.

The very heart of expository preaching is simply saying what the Bible says.

“The expository preacher doesn’t write his sermon. He discovers it.”

90% of preachers preach topical sermons, that is, they choose what to say and then use the Bible to support their points.

Isn’t it much better to reverse the process so you find out what the Bible says and then form your points around that?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

5 Ways Expository Preaching Makes Writing Sermon Outlines Easier

How exactly does the expository preacher “discover” his sermon?

He studies the passage expecting it to provide him with these basic sermon building blocks:

1. What Specific Issue Is The Scripture Addressing?

If you try to come up with your own issues to preach on, you risk preaching your own agenda, subject to the ever-changing whims of you and your church congregation.

Preaching expository sermons saves you from preaching an unbalanced Gospel; going through the scripture texts enables you to cover a broad number of issues over a year’s preaching schedule.

2. The Text Writes Your Sermon Outline

An expository sermon gets its main idea, its main points and its subheadings directly from the Scriptures. You will preach the Word, the whole Word and nothing but the Word.

The preacher becomes a bondservant of the text, working according to the thought of the inspired, original author.

3. The Text Supplies Your Theology Lesson

When we preach, one of our goals should be to present the passage within the context of the Bible.

Each passage contains a word or phrase that points to a broader topic and, if you take your cues from the text, any side points you make will be relevant to your passage and your sermon outline.

4. The Text Gives You Your Gospel Presentation

Let the text prompt you regarding what angle to take on the gospel.

This way you will preach it with detail and nuance since each passage provides a unique contribution to the gospel message.

5. The Text Is Packed With Ample Sermon Illustrations

To give you an example, recently I was looking at James 1:16-27, the famous “be doers of the word” passage.

I was surprised by how many ready-made sermon illustrations were ready and waiting in that passage.

These illustrations come from:

  • Astronomy (“lights…no variation or shadow due to change,” 1:17)
  • Childbirth (“brought forth,” 1:18)
  • Agriculture (“first fruits,” 1:18)
  • Agriculture again (“implanted,” 1:20)
  • Cosmetology (the word as a mirror, 1:23-24)
  • Husbandry (“bridled,” 1:26)
  • Clothing (“unstained,” 1:27).

The Bible is rich and overflowing; every passage is packed full of sermon goodness.

Why would we struggle to write our own sermon outlines or copy someone else’s when we can go straight to the source?

For more sermon illustration ideas and stories you can use in your preaching, take a look at 7 Remarkable Stories You Can Use in Your Sermons.

Expository Preaching Lets God’s Word Take The Wheel

What makes expository preaching the best and most honourable way to preach is that it puts God’s Word in the driving seat from start to finish.

Your only job as a preacher then, is to be faithful to the content and message of the Word.

This glorifies God because it gives him all the credit for whatever good the sermon does.

It glorifies God because it makes the preacher a servant of God, rather than making the sermon a servant of the preacher.

“The Word of God is more than enough to accomplish the work of God in the people of God.”

Learning how to preach expository sermons will definitely make writing great sermon outlines a lot easier and a whole lot less stressful.

As most preachers preach weak topical sermons, writing your sermon outlines this way will not only make life easier, but it will automatically rank you in the top 10% of preachers.

Want To Preach Better Sermons Every Sunday?

As pastors and preachers, we spend most of our working days (and nights) pouring ourselves into others but very rarely take the time to pour into ourselves.

In a recent study, they found a massive 90% of unchurched people choose a church based on the pastor’s preaching.

That means the single biggest factor in growing your weekly attendance is the ability to deliver memorable and engaging sermons week after week.

And investing in yourself as a preacher is the best thing you can do to unlock the growth potential of your church.

That’s why we’re on the hunt for the best preaching courses out there.

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5 thoughts on “A Surprising & Stress-Free Way To Write Sermon Outlines”

  1. How do you fell about ‘right division’ ?. It’s ok to preach from the bible – but what are you preaching and where is your materiel if you have not recognised the Apostle Paul’s new revelation , not revealed to Christians before he wrote about it AD 6os ? and never revealed to man before , Eph’ 1 and Col 3 . Do you think John’s Revelation was the last book of the Bible written , or was it Paul with the new revelation he received and concerned to deliver ?. Eph 3:9 .

    • I think you might be thinking a little too much. As a student of the Word be confident in preaching from any part of the Bible.

  2. Am peter kofi adzaho ,from Ghana,a minister of God in Christ Jesus, Who has Blessed us with all spiritual blessing in heavenly place. It my prayer according to psalms 90:17. My the lord of our God, establish the works of our hand in Christ Jesus.

  3. Greetings in Jesus name.I have truly grown spiritualy by reading the article.I’m a born again christian,a secretary at Kapchesimbol A.I.C. in Kenya.Our Church is a small and quite slow in growth.Kindly be our partner in prayer and all other neccessary duties that promotes growth.

    • Great to meet you James, praise God for what He’s doing through you in Kenya! Be encouraged, small and steady growth and making disciples is better than having hundreds of Sunday attenders but no disciples.

      In the church plant here in Thailand we are the same – right now we are focusing on building relationships, starting small groups and teaching and training them to be leaders. It takes a long time at the beginning but it’s worth it in the long-run! Bless you!


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