My 4 Step Method for Outlining Sermons

sermon prep Apr 07, 2015

Recently I received a question from a reader regarding how I outline my sermons and what I use for notes while I preach. I want to share his question and my answer with you. He wrote:

Good morning Lane,

First off want to thank you for all of the work put into the blog and podcasts. I’ve personally found a lot of the content very helpful. I preach on close to a monthly basis and am a volunteer youth leader, so I teach youth on a monthly basis as well. I was interested in learning more about your method of outlining your sermon. I’ve been following a manuscript method because that’s how I’ve learned, however I find I never really stay on it and have a difficult time finding my place afterward. So my question is, what do you find to be the most useful outlining method? What do you take into the pulpit with you? Also, do you have an example of your outline you preach from? Thanks!

I appreciate this question because I am always curious when I watch...

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If Christ Didn’t Rise, Preaching is a Waste of Time

easter sermon prep Mar 31, 2015

This Sunday is one of the biggest days of the year for churches. More people will attend church this weekend than any other time except maybe Christmas. Those of us preparing sermons for this Sunday know the pressure that Easter brings. Lots of people will be there who usually do not come. It will be a packed house, and we feel it.

But let’s not lose site of the main thing. When it comes to the things we preachers do… proclaiming the word of God, inviting people to follow Christ, communicating life-changing truths… If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, none of it matters. But if he did rise, it’s all that matters.

The Apostle Paul said it this way:

…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. …your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. …If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:14-19 (ESV)

If Christ...

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My 7-Step Survival Guide to Preaching Multiple Services

My church has three Sunday morning services. As I reflect on what it takes to preach three times in a day, I have put some things into practice that help me preach at my best at every service.

 The biggest challenge for me is maintaining and sustaining energy for all three services. I arrive at the church at 8:00 am and hit the ground running with the first service beginning at 9:15 am. The second service is at 11:00 am and the third is at 12:45 pm. By the time the 12:45 service is over I have been going hard all day – preaching, talking to people, and pouring myself out. It can be a long day. A great day, but a long one.

Preaching is such an energizing activity for me. I’m sure it is for you too. I’ll have these huge adrenaline highs while I’m preaching, then I come off the high just in time to preach again which brings me back up. I repeat this process for the next service, then I go home and collapse.

But the people at the second service...

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What do YOU Want in a Preaching Book?

sermon development Mar 10, 2015

This week I want to hear from you.

I am writing a book on preaching, and before I go any further with it I want to make sure it is the best it can be. The way I know it’s the best it can be is if YOU would read it. I want to share my vision for the book with you. Then, I want to hear from you to find out what you would like to see in it.

What the book is not. Before I get into what the book will be I want to share what it isn’t.  This book is not:

  •  a seminary textbook on preaching. I love my preaching text books from seminary but I have no desire to write one.
  • a preaching theory book. This book will be drop dead practical. It will only present theories to the extent they can be put into use.
  • a book of sermons or sample illustrations. It will be more “how to” than a resource of examples.

What the book is. I want to share the basic plan of my book with you and get your feedback. This plan may change, and I am...

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5 Ways to Overcome Nerves Before You Preach

sermon prep Mar 03, 2015

Nothing is more exhilarating than preaching! It’s like nothing else to get in front of a group of people, open the Word of God and point people to Jesus. I absolutely love to preach and help other preachers communicate better. But I still get nervous sometimes before I preach. Maybe you do too. A few months ago I was standing next to my wife just before my sermon. She took my hand which was freezing cold, leaned over and whispered, “Are you nervous? Your hand is freezing.” I nodded, “Yep.”

When I get up and start talking I’m completely fine. God calms my nerves, puts me at ease and gives me a confidence that can only come from him. Perhaps the pre-sermon nerves might be a way to keep me dependent upon his Spirit’s power. I am always motivated to pray like crazy before every sermon. There are three things that make me nervous before I preach. Perhaps you can relate to these:

What Makes Me Nervous Before a Sermon

1. I don’t...

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The Preacher’s Guide to Preparing Sermons in a Team

sermon prep Feb 24, 2015

This was originally posted on Preaching Donkey as a 3-part series. I’m re-posting it today because the practice of team preparation has been so instrumental in my own preaching experience. If you are not yet using a team to prepare I hope to convince you to get started. It changes everything! I would love to hear from you in the comments. Thanks for reading.

Preachers do weird things. One weird thing we do is prepare our sermons alone. Every week you have to get up in front of a group of people and say words. Those words have to be engaging, powerful, motivating, encouraging, accurate, practical and spiritual all at the same time.

Every. Single. Week.

And you prepare alone. All by yourself. I think this started with Moses. He went up on a mountain and heard from God. He came down and told the people, “This is what God said.” We’ve never really changed the model. Preachers have been preparing sermons alone ever since.

I used to prepare my sermons alone....

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Pastors: 4 Things You Wish People Understood about You

church leadership Feb 17, 2015

“What do you do for a living?”

This seems like a simple question. When normal people are asked this at a party or in some other social setting by a person they’ve just met it is an invitation to more conversation. There’s any number of acceptable answers:

“I’m a consultant.”  or “I work for a defense contractor.” 0r “I’m a web developer.”

When I’m asked the question, “What do you do for a living?” I know that what comes out of my mouth next, “I’m a pastor,” will produce one of the following outcomes:

1) It will kill the conversation immediately. We could be having a great conversation, even laughing, and then as soon as I come out with my man-of-the-cloth-ness, it’s over. They find a reason to be done talking to me.

2) The person I’m talking to will become the most religious person I’ve ever met. They’ll...

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3 Things that Must be Clear Before your Sermon is Ready to Preach

A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.“~C.H. Spurgeon

With each sermon you preach, you should be absolutely crystal clear what you want your people to take away from it. If you are murky about how they’ll be able to use your message, then you can be sure they’ll be clueless. Not to mention that they’ll pick up on your uncertainty and check out because their time is valuable and you have chosen to waste it.

As preachers who want to communicate well, clarity must be a top priority in every sermon. But it’s easy, and sometimes necessary, to focus a most of your prep time on your content and not your listeners. This makes it so crucial to think through how your listeners will receive and use your message. I want to give you three simple tests that will help you ensure that your sermon is ready to go in terms of its impact on your listeners and their ability to apply it.

This is drop-dead simple, and it’s meant to be. At this point in your prep...

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4 Things Competing for Your People’s Attention During Your Sermon

sermon prep Jan 27, 2015

It’s more important than ever before to work on gaining and keeping the attention of your listeners while you preach. Capturing and maintaining attention is one of the most difficult things a communicator must do. But I don’t think this difficulty has much to do with attention span. Some will say that it’s just because people have shorter attention spans than a generation ago. While attention spans may be shorter, this doesn’t tell the whole story. I do believe shorter sermons are almost always better, but what makes them better has more to do with how it makes the preacher deliver a better sermon when he has less time to waste with filler, rambling, and incoherence.

The reason we have to work harder to gain and keep attention has to do with what competes for the attention of our people every time we preach. Our listeners are so distracted, and we need to know what we’re up against. Some of these distractions are new, and...

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Five Ways to Overcome Preaching Distractions

sermon development Jan 13, 2015
There are many things that distract you while you preach. Distractions can easily interrupt your flow, make you lose your train of thought and potentially derail your message. It’s important to prepare for potential distractions ahead of time. All preaching distractions fall into one of two categories: internal or external.

Internal Distractions. These exist inside your head. Your mind goes a million miles an hour while you preach. You think about a lot of things in the moment:
-you can’t decide what your next word is going to be
-you wonder how your message is coming across
-you’re not sure if you’ve adequately made your point
-you realize you’re not actually living out what you’re preaching
-you think about the argument you had that morning with your wife
-you’re concerned someone might be thinking you’re preaching about them
-you realized you’ve talked yourself into a corner
-you wonder if everyone is bored and all of this goes...
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