Preachers have three kinds of outlines in their arsenal. The outlines relate to each and progress from one to the other in sequence. These outlines are:
(1) The Exegetical Outline
This is the first outline that you will need to build. You will answer one simple question: what does the text say? This will help you come to grips with what the Scriptures clearly reveal to us already. This is arguably the most important outline because it forms the foundation for the other two. A flimsy exegetical outline will produce a flimsy theological and homiletical outline. Therefore, you will probably spend the most time building this particular skeleton. If you’ve done your hermeneutical homework, forming this outline shouldn’t be too difficult. In this step, be as accurate as possible to what the text is saying.
(2) The Theological Outline
This is the second outline that you will need to build. With the exegetical outline in hand, look for truths that transcend time. These are known as timeless truths (duh, preacher boy!). A helpful question to ask is this: what does the text say about God and/or about people? In this step, a preacher needs to draw out the Biblical principles that applied back then and are still applicable today. The theological outline forms the bridge between the exegetical and the homiletical outlines.
(3) The Homiletical Outline
This is the last outline that you will need to build. With the timeless truths in hand, apply them directly to your audience today. A helpful question to ask is this: what does the text say for us to do? The homiletical outline forms the final skeleton for your sermon. Therefore, it includes both the exegetical and the theological outlines as its sub-points. This is also the outline that you will show to your audience.
In the next article, I will show an example of the three kinds of outlines.