The Sermon Outline Trap

Can I mention another thing that annoys me? It’s my blog, so, yes, I’m going to mention it.

Sermon outlines.

A sermon outline is like I gave two days ago.

Point 1 – Every Christian is tempted/tested

* * State

* Educate – what is testing

* Illustrate – testing is like a crucible, heating up the metal to remove the impurities. Without it the ore is dull and lifeless. Try not to Osteen here.

Point 2 – The testing is for proving.

* * State

* Educate- why are we tested

* Illustrate – to prove us. some kind of sad story about a kitten learning how to walk or something useless goes here.

Point 3 – The Lord provides a way out of the temptation.

* * State

* Educate – how we can pass the test

* Illustrate thy word have I hidden in my heart


That’s all I need to get me going.

So, there’s entire books of “!0,000 sermon outlines!”

When I went to school, an outline was…






b. etc.

Here’s part of a sermon outline I have in Quickverse.

I. The Temptation of Jesus (4:1-11)

A. The first temptation (vv. 3-4). Satan appealed to the body, the desires of the flesh. There was no sin in being hungry. Yet Satan suggested that, if Christ were God’s Son, He should not let Him hunger. Satan always wants us to think that God is “holding out on us” (see Gen. 3:5). The suggestion is, “God must not love you. If He did, He would take better care of you!” For Christ to use His divine powers out of the will of God would be defeat. He always did what pleased God (John 8:29).

That’s not an outline. That’s a canned sermon.

I’ve looked for sermon outlines before, when in a hurry and no time to write a sermon. I spent 20 minutes looking, and stopped.

Nobody gives you sermon outlines, they give you canned sermons.

I will not preach someone else’s sermon. You should not either. It’s stealing. Even if you bought Warren Wiersbe’s outlines, if you present the above without telling anyone you didn’t write it, you’re stealing from your congregation.

What are the odds of two people in your church dying in the same week? Really good, actually. If they made sermon outlines that REALLY WERE OUTLINES, it could really save the day. You could have a completely ugly Sunday with only a hurried glimpse in your Bible, a quick prayer, and up to read Scripture and simply explain it.

If they had collections of REAL OUTLINES, it could help you an hour before to write a quick, but honest sermon.

Even then I have a hard time with it. It feels dishonest. ESPECIALLY since almost every collection of outlines I’ve seen have been, well, canned sermons!

Here’s an actual sermon outline, the way they USED to be done.

1. Falling through Temptation—Psa. 95:8; Heb. 3:8; Luke 8:13. God’s testings are for our tempering, and not for our tripping.

2. Praying against Temptation—Matt. 6:13; 26:41. God never leads us to sin in His tryings, but He does test that we may triumph—James 1:13, 14.

3. Enduring in Temptation—Luke 4:13; James 1:12; Luke 22:28. To stand the strain and the pain shows there is metal and material in us.

4. Delivered from Temptation—Rev. 3:10. He keeps out of the crucible sometimes, and certainly keeps the temper under control.

5. Succour in Temptation—1 Cor. 10:13; Heb. 2:18; 4:15. Satan may hedge us in, but he cannot roof us in.

6. Taken out of Temptation—2 Peter 2:9. His eye is watching, His heart is loving, and his hand is ready to rescue.

7. Christ our Example in Temptation—Luke 4:2, etc. Led by the Spirit, and equipped by His Word and armour, we are, trusting in the Lord, victors.

F. E. Marsh, 1000 Bible Study Outlines: Study Helps and Sermon Outlines, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1970), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 379.

You’ve got enough wiggle room there to say, “Hm… that’s a lot. Let me cut this out. I think emphasizing this one part is more in line with what my congregation needs to hear.”

By that time, it’s pretty much your sermon. I can recall hearing my Pastor once preach an Adrian Rogers sermon. He took an outline like ethe Wiersbe example above, and pretty much just fleshed it out. I’ve worked his job, I understand why. But I’m urging you, as a Pastor, to NOT do it.

Using an outline like the Marsh one is still somewhat iffy. The Wiersbe one is just too tempting to plagiarise and pass off as your own. I’ve got outlines by him, Mark Scott, by Warren Wiersbe, and by Spiros Zodhiates, and goodness knows, quite a few others.

I’m afraid to look at them. I must have gotten 25 books of sermon outlines in my Quickverse that basically are canned sermons.

Now, a good way to use them is THIS…

We’re working on Matthew 4:1-11, right? That’s our sermon for the last 8 days or so (in reality, you have 5 days. Get it done). You can open one and see, “how did Wiersbe approach this?” I got an idea from that, but that was it. I didn’t look too long or deeply in it. Just a quick read. In that format, it;s like glancing in a commentary or a Bible handbook.

I’ve taken notes on how David Cloud approached a subject. I’ve taken notes from Marc Monte. As a matter of fact, I’ve preached in a Southern Baptist pulpit, and quoted Marc Monte and David Cloud right from the pulpit!

To my astonied (you. um… looked up that word in your King James dictionary, right? Astonied, (10) astonished, surprised or startled (Ezra 9:3; Daniel 5:9;) ) nobody in the congregation came up to me later and said, “Hey, I looked up that guy you quoted!”

Do not steal your sermons is my point. Write them yourself. If you could look at the Weirsbe sample above and not simply parrot that, feel free to get his outlines. But I’m betting that it’s nearly impossible. Even the Marsh outline I gave is kind of iffy, unless you use it as a starting point and spend the time ripping it apart.

Use them as commentary. But do not simply parrot their sermon and use your own words.

Thou shalt not steal.


Author: philipdean2013

Seminary graduate with a Ba. in Theology/Pastoral Studies, Happily married, Independent Baptist. I can't keep silent about what I see going on in Christianity any longer! Apostasy reigns around us, churches are sliding into worldiness, a whitewashed Gospel is preached everywhere... "Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Jeremiah 6:16 (KJV) So, I'm speaking out. ...Why aren't you???

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