Author: Ron Graham
By far the simplest approach to sermon building is to think of your sermon outline as a list.
Although few of us are obsessed by lists, we all make them —lists of chores, ingredients, ideas, excuses, instructions, and all sorts of things.
We know that pigs, chooks and goats can go on a list of farmyard animals, but rhubarb can't. We would recognise the message "eggs, macaroni, stockings and lightbulbs" as a shopping list. But "pogo stick, corrugated iron, aardvark and kisses" would not make a list, unless someone could show the connection.
What gives a string of words the right to be called a list? The items all belong to one specific set of things. A list is an enumeration of the members of a set. Or in plain English, a list has a specific theme to which each item answers.
Now let's apply all this theory to the practical problem of sermon outlining. You say to yourself, “I’ll preach on prayer”. You must be more specific. “I’ll preach on the benefits of prayer”. Or “I’ll preach on beautiful prayers in the Bible”. Or “I’ll preach on the proper attitudes toward prayer”. The generic theme prayer does not suggest a list of anything. But the specific theme does. It would not be difficult to make a list of benefits, or beautiful examples, or proper attitudes. And such a list would make a most effective outline.
In most cases you should make this rule: ONE LESSON ONE LIST. That one list, of course, might have a couple of associated or contrasting elements such as "right and wrong ways to pray".
There's a magic box to help you with list outlining. It's the List Outline Generator (LOG). You think of any generic theme such as Prayer, the Holy Spirit, Heaven, Love, or whatever. Then you cast your eyes over the LOG. Certain words will suggest themselves as a specific theme to turn your generic theme into a list outline. We'll introduce you to this in a later lesson.