Sermon Outlining and Genre
Differing biblical genre (types of biblical literature) will need to be investigated differently as it relates to sermon outlining for preaching purposes. The studious preacher will desire to learn to conduct structural/syntactical analyses of epistolary and poetic literature. An example of this approach based upon Philippians 4:4-7 is as follows:
The value of this approach is that, once mastered, the preacher easily can see the natural divisions and movements of the text. As he separates dominant from subordinate statements the natural outline is revealed. This approach takes some practice but once the preacher is comfortable with it his preparation time can be greatly reduced. Epistolary and poetic literature as a general rule contain direct teaching that easily can be observed.
Narrative literature typically is not approached as syntactically as epistolary or poetic literature and its teaching are generally indirect. Although several approaches to narrative can be taken, an easy and useful way is simply to look for the natural movements of the story. It is like saying, “this happened, then that happened, then this happened, and then this happened.” An example is Mark 6:1-6:
Movement 1 – no homilectical significance
1Jesus went out from there and came into His hometown; and His disciples followed Him.
Movement 2 – The definite reality of unbelief
2When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? 3“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.
Movement 3 – The divine response to unbelief
4Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.”
Movement 4 – The devastating result of unbelief
5And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.
Movement 5- The disconcerting remembrance of unbelief
6And He wondered at their unbelief. And He was going around the villages teaching.
The movements are labeled in such a way that the preacher can translate them into a workable life-application outline once the exegetical work is concluded.
As the Bible calls God’s children and His church to unity, it makes sense that unity be a driving principle of sermon construction and development. If the preacher uses plural outline unifiers, transitional sentences, and life-application outlines; he can ensure that his message will remain unified and on track.
For more detail and insights consider purchasing Crossing the Homiletical Bridge.
Tony Guthrie, PhD.
 For a discussion of syntactical outlining see Hershael W. York and Bert Decker’s Preaching with Bold Assurance: A Solid and Enduring Approach to Engaging Exposition, (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publshers, 2003), chapter 5. See also Walter Kaiser Jr’s Toward and Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998) chapter 8.
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