Sermon Outlines from Sermon Preachers
Since “preaching” my first sermon in August of 1967, several faithful men have endeavored to help me read, study, learn, and obey the scriptures, and from that education, how to teach and preach this soul-saving gospel to others. In my youth, Dad, Mom, and Grandmother Davis devoted countless hours to teaching me God’s word. Once I began to “give talks,” Dad insisted I spend as much time as possible with the older, wiser, and “seasoned veterans” of preaching. These men (too numerous to mention here) gladly took me “under their wings” and mentored me. While none of them taught me much about “public speaking” (though some of them were pristine in that ability) each insisted upon my study of the scriptures. One preacher would “quiz” me as I took him to his preaching appointments, preach to me at that appointed place, and then quiz me more on the way home! Each one had a “style” unique to his character, and a voice to match. I still treasure those experiences and rejoice in knowing I called these men “friends” in addition to brothers in Christ.
As time marched on, several of these mentors gave generously of their libraries, some bequeathing me their entire religious libraries. I also am blessed to have many of their voices recorded and appreciate the times I can listen to them proclaim God’s word as though they have returned to my presence. Additionally, many of them gave me their personally written outlines of sermon notes. Those have become tremendous treasures to me! I often use them to stimulate thoughts of my own for sermon subjects.
But there’s a “glitch” to these outlines: I can’t duplicate the style of their preaching! Each of these men had their unique way of delivery, their quaint sayings of emphasis, their stance, their voice inflection, their length of discussion, etc. To even attempt copying any of these traits would be a mocking of their abilities, and a poor attempt at that! But what I can do, yea, what I must do is pattern my habits of preaching after them.
One mentor memorized the scriptures but reading a generous portion of the text, then quoting it to himself a few times, would then set out to plow across a field while reciting the text. When he reached the end of the field, he would take his testament, check his accuracy, then recite it again back to the other end of the field. No, I don’t intend to plow the ground, but I do intend to commit to my heart as much of God’s word as possible that I sin not against God! (Ps. 119:11; Col. 3:16). Another mentor refused to have visitors before 1:00 PM as it would interrupt his study time. He rose early every morning, drank one cup of coffee with one piece of toast, then went to his study, closed the door, and refused interruption until noon when he would stop to eat dinner. He did this every day but the Lord’s Day, and even then, rose early to rehearse his thoughts for the sermons. A third purposed to copy every verse of the Bible, scribe a few lines of thought regarding the passage, and then leave a few lines of blank space so that when he would later return to that passage, he had room to add to his thoughts. Before his death, he had copied every verse of the Bible and commented accordingly. The habit I must copy is their diligence in reading, studying, learning, and understanding God’s truth!
Of the hundreds of hand-written outlines from these several mentors, most have additional notes. Some wrote the dates and places where they preached these sermons. Others commented, “Use more time here” on a point or two, and one honestly penned, “not a good sermon!” (Apparently, he didn’t like his work this time!) When I read these outlines, and then study them, I might indeed use the same “bullet points,” but it must become my sermon, or else I’ve not earned the right to call it mine and have robbed the author of his merit. True, as one of those old mentors often said, “Don’t worry about using my thoughts. I got them from Paul.” We must accept we have but one Book from which to find our subject matter and that is the Bible. Our thoughts must agree with God’s, for we can neither add to nor take from His sacred text (Revelation 22:18 – 19).
Oh, how I miss sitting at the feet of these mentors! Their wisdom seemed above that of the common man, and their demeanor was without shame! They held a stately presence in the pulpit, and when in that role of teacher/preacher, refused frivolity of any description! They exuded the highest respect and esteem for God and His word and realized their work in the Kingdom of Christ was not to bring honor and glory to the preacher, but to Christ (Col. 3:17). When someone might say, “Good sermon …” they respectfully said, “Thank you,” and let it stand. One of those mentors had preached a sermon proving the singularity of the Lord’s church (Matthew 16:18 et al). When at the door after services, one man said to him, “I don’t agree with a thing you said tonight!” That brother replied, “That’s your privilege,” as he shook his hand and led him out the door! They never took the glory for themselves, and they never tried to be like or “best” another preacher. They all simply endeavored to be like Christ and preach the truth!
Now, I’ve become a mentor to some. My written work is for their use as they deem it best to use. What help I can give them is free for the asking, provided they realize they must do their own work and improve what material contributions I may share with them to become more effective to their hearers. Perhaps the best advice a mentor ever gave me regarding sermon preparation was this: “Sermonettes, preached by preacherettes, make Christianettes out of the brethren.” That’s why a generous amount of reading, studying, learning, understanding, preparation, practice, and PRAYER must accompany every sermon preached! If not, then it becomes a mundane practice that results in a gain for fame and fortune instead of a gain for eternity with God! Preach the word, brethren, but only the word!