The Outline

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 2 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Teaching On Preaching)

There are two things that the preacher sees as he delivers his message. He sees first his people and second, his outline. Only one of these can he control-the outline. Sometimes the people Will inspire him as he speaks; sometimes they will not. So the only predictable thing that catches his eye as he speaks is his Outline. Hence, it is vital that the outline do the purpose that it is intended to do. Different preachers use different types of outlines.

One day I was sitting talking to Mrs. Billy Sunday, whom we affectionately called 'Ma" Sunday. She was telling me about Billy Sunday. I asked her what kind of outlines he had. She told me that each letter in his outline was an inch tall. I asked her why, thinking perhaps that he had poor vision. She told me that his letters were so big because: (1) He seldom came near the pulpit, and as he would run by he glanced at his outline. The letters had to be big in order for him to read them while running by (2) The big letters made him speak louder. In other words, the fact that the letters were written an inch high put him in the shouting mood, and he liked to preach With enthusiasm and a loud voice.

For 22 years I traveled extensively with Dr. John R. Rice and shared pulpits across America with him. Over 2200 times he and I have sat on the same platform together and preached on the same program. Dr. Rice did not use old outlines. He would use sermons that were old, but right before each sermon he would outline his message again! It would be the same outline that he had used many times and the same sermon that he often preached, but he always outlined it again just before preaching it. We were in Ohio together. I was noticing just before the service that he was outlining his sermon. I asked him why he did that. He replied that it helped him to keep his mind on the sermon and to remember the outline if he wrote it down right before preaching it. It made it fresher in his mind.

Some great preachers use simple outlines of less than one page. Some use many pages of outline. I am thinking of one of America's greatest preachers whose sermons sometimes have thirty pages of outline. My sermons are usually from two to four pages of outlines. They are not usually typewritten but rather are written in longhand.

This is the most important paragraph in this chapter. It deals with the purpose of an outline. AN OUTLINE IS PRIMARILY TO PUT THE SPEAKER IN THE SAME FRAME OF MIND WHILE PREACHING AS HE WAS WHILE PREPARING AND STUDYING. A preacher goes to his study. He prepares his message. The Bible begins to burn in his heart. His message baptizes him with its truth. He is lifted to the heavenly places. He cannot wait until the time comes for its delivery so he can share with the congregation the great truths and great experiences he enjoyed while walking with God in his study Then the sermon time comes. He stands to speak. The truth does not seem nearly as sweet; the Scripture no longer burns in his soul; he is disappointed and that sermon that he had so anticipated preaching becomes drudgery instead of delight. What has happened? He has failed to transfer the spirit of his study to the pulpit. He has failed to realize that the only tool he has while he is in the pulpit to remind him of the ecstasy of the study is his outline. Because of this, the outline and its purpose is not only to capture the truths that the preacher learned in study but the spirit and joy with which he learned them. The outline is to remind him not only of what he learned but how he learned it. It is to carry him back to the same joy and thrill of preparation and transfer it to the delivery. His failure was caused by his unawareness of the purpose of his outline. He thought that the outline was simply to remind him of what he learned. This it did. He did not realize that the outline was supposed to remind him of the spirit he felt while he was learning it. So the outline fulfilled the purpose that the preacher had for it, but its purpose was not large enough.

When the preacher looks at his outline from behind the pulpit, it should remind him of the great truths he has learned, but it also should remind him of the heavenly places in which he walked while he learned those truths so that he may not only transfer the truths he learned alone to the people but he may transfer the heavenly places in which he walked while he learned those truths.

With that in mind we will examine the outline.

1. The first thing at the top of the outline should "grab" the preacher. It must get his attention. The first part of the sermon is not primarily for the preacher to get the people's attention but for the preacher to get his own attention. If the pastor can get his own attention, the people will listen. People love to listen to someone who is listening to himself, someone who is caught up in his message and is totally involved in the truth he is presenting. If he can get his own attention, the attention of the people will come. This is the reason I rarely use humor in the introduction of a sermon. Now I may use it in the introductory remarks before I begin the sermon, but once the sermon is begun I rarely use humor in the introduction. I want to use something that will lift me out of myself and totally involve me in the sermon. It is important that my mind not be on two things. It should not be on the sermon and also wondering how I am doing. It should not be on the sermon and wondering if the lady in the middle section is going to carry her baby out or sit there with him during the entire service. I must be totally lost and involved in the message. If I get involved and the people know it, they will get involved.

In my sermon "Is There Not a Cause?" I begin as follows: "Several years ago I was on an airplane flying to the south. It was a flight with a stopover in Lexington, Kentucky On the one-hour flight between Chicago and Lexington, I looked across the aisle and saw a familiar face. I turned and spoke to him and asked, 'Sir, aren't you Adolph Rupp?' He replied in a beautiful southern drawl, 'Yes, suh, I am Mr. Rupp.' (Adolph Rupp was for many years the coach of the University of Kentucky basketball team. During his career his teams won more basketball games than those of any other college coach in history.) I said, 'Mr. Rupp, I have been for a long time a fan of yours. My name is Jack Hyles.' He replied, "Yes, suh. I have read of you. You pastor that large Baptist church near Chicago.' For almost an hour we talked together in a delightful and stimulating exchange of ideas. We landed in Lexington and said goodbye. I got off the plane to take a walk and go to the washroom. I was washing my hands at the lavatory when I looked over and saw that Mr. Rupp was washing his hands at the lavatory next to mine. I said, 'Mr. Rupp, could I ask you a question? I understand that you will soon retire because of the mandatory retirement at the age of 70.' A tear invaded his eye as he said, 'Yes, sub. Soon I will have to retire.' I asked, 'Mr. Rupp, what do you plan to do when you retire?' A tear escaped his eye as he replied, 'Sub, I guess I'll just die.' Several months later Mr. Rupp retired. Not long after his retirement I picked up the sports page of the Chicago Tribune to see the big headlines which read, 'ADOLPH RUPP IS DEAD!' Why did he die? He died because he had lost his cause-that thing for which he got up in the morning, that thing that lifted him above himself that made him forget himself, that pulled him out of himself in which he lost himself-it had been removed. He had lost his cause!"

That is the introduction to my sermon, "Is There Not a Cause?" Now it may or may not be a good introduction as the reader sees it, but it is the kind of introduction that gets my attention. By the time I finish that introduction, I am ready to preach on the subject, "Is There Not a Cause?"

In my sermon, "Others," I get my attention as follows: "Many years ago in the city of London, England, the Salvation Army was conducting its annual convention. The giant auditorium was filled with delegates, but for the first time in the history of the Army its founder and leader, General Booth, was unable to attend. He was old, nearly blind and in poor health. Gloom spread across the floor of the convention as the delegates realized that for the first time they would conduct their annual convention without the presence of their leader and founder. Someone suggested that General Booth send a message to be read at the opening session. This he agreed to do. When the moderator engaged his gavel to the podium he said, 'Ladies and Gentlemen, as I call to order the annual convention of the Salvation Army, I regret to inform you that our leader and founder, General Booth, is for the first time unable to attend. He has, however, agreed to send a message to be read at this time, as follows: Dear Delegates of the Salvation Army Convention: Others. Signed, General Booth."

Now, this may not get the attention of my congregation, but this illustration always gets my attention. When I use it, I am ready to preach. It puts me in the right frame of mind, captures me and loses me in my sermon.

In my sermon, "The Lust of the Holy Spirit," I begin as follows: "Months ago in the city of Seattle, Washington, I was enjoying a time of Fellowship at a luncheon of Christian workers. After the luncheon there was a question-answer session where the pastors and full-time workers were allowed to interrogate me. One pastor asked this question, 'Dr. Hyles, what in your opinion are the four spiritual highlights of your life?' Now normally I would not answer a question that involved such a lengthy answer, but for some reason that day I did answer that question. I said, 'The first spiritual highlight in my life took place in August of 1937 when I, as a little lad nearly 11 years of age with bare feet and ragged clothes, received Christ as my Saviour. The second great highlight of my life took place on New Year's Eve just before the dawn of 1944 when as a timid, introverted teenager I felt the call of God to preach the Gospel, and now for these many years I have been proclaiming the message around the nation and around the world and, yes, around the block. The third great highlight of my life took place on the grave of my father after he had died a drunkard's death. I returned to the grave and threw myself face down upon the dirt that covered it and stayed there until God did a work in me. I believed then and believe now that that was the first time in my life I was filled with the Holy Spirit. The fourth great event of my life took place when I was a young preacher. I was pastoring a little country church in east Texas. It was 6:05 in the morning. I was standing in an empty auditorium preaching from behind the pulpit on my morning broadcast called, 'The Old-Time Religion Broadcast.' I was speaking that morning on the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Up until that moment, however, I had never spoken to the Holy Spirit. I had never told Him I loved Him; I had never asked Him to guide me. I knew He lived in me. I knew Romans 8:9; I Corinthians 6:19, 20, etc., so theoretically I knew the truth, but practically I had never experienced fellowship with the Holy Spirit. That morning, suddenly for the first time in my life, the Holy Spirit became more than an influence; He became a Person to me! I began to tremble while I was speaking. When I finished the broadcast I knelt behind the microphone and apologized to the Holy Spirit for neglecting Him through the years and told Him that I would never do so again. I got on my knees beside my little car that morning and told the Holy Spirit to guide me what route to take home for breakfast. After breakfast I begged Him to lead me to know what route to take back to the office and from that happy day until this, I have never neglected the Holy Spirit in my life, even for one entire day I always talk to Him, tell Him I love Him and seek His guidance."

Now this introduction may or may not capture the attention of the audience, but it captures my attention, and once my attention is captured, the audience will listen.

2. Do not worry about how many points there are in the outline. I am basically a one-point outliner, but I know some great preachers who are not. Dr. John Rice had many points. An example of this is his famous sermon, "The Sevenfold Sin of Not Winning Souls." My good friend Dr. Bob Gray uses points and sub-points. That wonderful soul winner, Dr. Jim Vineyard, often has as many as 25 points. The important thing is that you fit it to yourself with whatever you are comfortable.

3. Use different type outlines as far as writing is concerned. For example, if I preach on Heaven, I make the Outline orderly and beautiful. I may type it or print it very carefully or write it with the best of script. This is because Heaven is orderly and beautiful. If I preach on Hell, I will scribble the outline and make it messy If I preach a hard sermon, I will often use a bold magic marker to remind me that I am to be bold.

If I preach a soft sermon, I will use a fine-line pen.

If I preach a commencement address, I will make an immaculate outline.

If I preach a sermon in which I want to become excited, and in order to remind myself that I was excited in my study, I will underline the main points or capitalize them. Bear in mind, the purpose of this outline is to carry the spirit that I had in the study to the pulpit. If I was excited in the study, something in the outline should remind me of that excitement. If I was tender in the study, something of the outline should remind me of the tenderness. If I wept in the study, something in the outline Should remind me of how I felt at the time I prepared my message and my heart.

When I have an illustration in my outline, I write the abbreviation, "Ill." to remind me that this is an illustration.

If I have an especially good idea that I want to set apart in my outline, I will put a circle around it.

I always put a bold line between points. This line is very bold to let me know that one part of the sermon is ending and another part is beginning.

When listing things, I always number them. This makes it easier for me to keep my place in the list.

When I want to whisper in my message, I use tiny writing. When I want to shout, I use bold print. Bear in mind that the purpose for the outline is to transfer the spirit of the study to the pulpit. It is so much easier to get excited when alone with God and His Word than it is when standing in front of hundreds or maybe thousands of people. This is not being hypocritical or mechanical; it is being honest. You prepared the contents of your message in the study; your outline is to remind you of what you learned. You prepared your heart in the study; the outline should remind you of what you felt, and it should help you to feel that same sweet fervency that you felt when you were alone with God in the study

When using familiar illustrations, I just put a word or two that remind me of them and circle them in my outline. For example, I have mentioned so many times in my sermons the death of my drunken father, I will just write the words, "Dad's death," and put a circle around them in the outline. I often use the illustration of the Sunday school departmental superintendent who told me when I was five years of age that Jesus loved me. Her name was Mrs. Bethel. When I put that in my outline, I simply write the words, "Mrs. Bethel," and encircle them.

I also write out my text at the top of my outline and encircle it. This is not just the reference but the very words of the text so I can refer to them easily and remember them readily

If I am using a one-point sermon, I will write down that point several times throughout the outline so as to remind me to keep emphasizing and repeating that single point that I am trying to stress.

4. I use an 8 ˝ x 11 piece of paper for my outline. I fold it and place it in my Bible. This covers two pages. In other words, when the Bible is open, the page to the left and to the right are covered with outline. Then I draw a bold magic marker line down the center to be sure that the pages are divided in my mind.

5. Let your outline tell you how you felt as you prepared it. If while I was studying, I wept over a certain truth, I may preface that truth in my outline with a statement like this, "Nothing moves me to tears faster."

If I was unusually excited about a truth in my study, I may put in my outline a preface to that truth like this-"Thank God I can still get excited about If something irritated me in my study, such as some sin that is so prevalent, I may preface that statement with, "Nothing upsets me more than.

If I get happy in my study and want to laugh because of the goodness of God, I may remind myself in the outline that I laughed at that particular point.

If at a certain time in my study I was overcome with thanksgiving, I may put in the outline something like this: "Thank God...."

I simply want to deliver to my people from the pulpit what God delivered to me in the study I want them to feel what I felt. I want them to be thrilled as I was thrilled, to be moved as I was moved, to weep as I wept, to rejoice as I rejoiced, and to share with me the ecstasy of the experience that I had of walking with God as He gave me His message for my people.

6. Wait until you are moved and have entered into the heavenly places before you make your outline. No outline should be made coldly, but only after God has moved the heart of the preacher. If you make your outline on the mountaintop, you will identify it from the pulpit with the mountaintop.

Hypocrisy is twofold: If you express something you do not feel, that is hypocrisy Likewise, if you feel something you do not express, that is hypocrisy Not only should the sermon transfer the facts learned in the study but the emotions enjoyed in the study The outline can remind you of both; it should call to your mind what you learned and to your heart how you felt so that you may accurately transfer the feeling of your heart when you became acquainted with the truth to the people so that they may have the same feeling when they become acquainted with the same truth.

7. Outline your sermon no earlier than 48 hours before it is preached. If you do this, it will be fresher and it will be easier for the outline to fulfill its purpose.

8. If using an old outline, read and reread it right before preaching. As mentioned elsewhere in this manuscript, Dr. John Rice always re-outlined his messages right before preaching. This is a good idea. However, if this is not done, it certainly is wise for the preacher to read and reread his outline so that it may be fresh in his mind when he walks in the pulpit.

9. Use ditto marks in a list. Suppose, for example, that in the outline you are listing some things for which you are thanking God. Do not write for each thing the words, "I thank God." Write the words, "I thank God," for the first one and put ditto marks under those three words down through the outline. This will make the outline a little bit less messy and less confusing while you are preaching.

10. Write yourself instructions on your outline. Suppose you have a certain Scripture in your outline that you feel the people should read with you. Then beside the Scripture write some words, like, "Read in unison," or "Entire congregation to read." Suppose that there is a Scripture that you want the congregation to quote with you. You may forget that while you are preaching. Write it down in the outline.

There may be a Scripture that you want to look up and read to the people. Make yourself a note like this: "Look it up." In other words, if there are certain things that in the study you feel the Lord is leading you to do while you preach, make a note of them. To be sure, while a person is preaching the Lord may lead him to do certain things, but it is my feeling that the Lord can lead better while you are on your face before God in the study than while you are on your feet before your people in the pulpit. This is not to say that God does not lead in the pulpit. It is simply to say that God also leads in the study

11. It is often good to use verses that outline themselves. There are some verses that just form an outline, such as these: II Chronicles 7:14, "If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." John 14:12, "Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father." John 5:24, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, bath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Psalm 1:1-3, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."

Each of these verses outlines itself. For example, look at the outline in II Chronicles 7:14.

I. The people's part.

1. Humble themselves.

2. Pray

3. Seek God's face.

4. Turn from their wicked ways.

II. God's promises.

1. He will forgive their sins.

2. He will heal their land.

The same is true with Psalm 1:1-3. Notice the natural outline.

I. Man's part.

1. Walk not in the counsel of the ungodly

2. Do not stand in the way of sinners.

3. Do not sit in the seat of the scornful.

4. Delight in the law of the Lord.

5. Meditate in the Bible day and night.

II. God's promises to that man.

I. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of waters.

2. His leaf also shall not wither.

3. Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Now go through John 5:24; John 3:16; and Romans 8:28 and let them outline themselves. Before doing so please note that the purpose of these Scriptures is to try to get God to act. That means the outline should emphasize what man can do in order to propel God's action.

Years ago a very old man was a member of our church, and he passed away I was called to his bedside. The last words the old man said before his spirit was taken to the presence of his Saviour were these: "Thank you, Preacher, for walking with God all these years and telling me on Sunday what God said." This cannot be done unless the walking with God while we are alone is transferred to the pulpit while we stand in front of the people. The only things we have that will transfer the spirit of the study to the pulpit are the memory and the outline. The memory is often clouded by circum- stances in the service, but the outline can be and should be a reminder of the heavenly walk that we enjoyed with God during our hours of preparation and research. for the outline to remind us of that walk is not critical; but to deliver with a cold heart and dry eyes the message that was received through tears and a burning may be!

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Billy Sunday (1862-1935)

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