We read in Ezra 7:10 that Ezra “set his heart to seek the Torah of Yahweh, to practice
it, and to teach His statues and ordinances in Israel.” As teachers and preachers, our
goal is to “seek” to understand the message God has placed in the biblical text and
then to teach His truth and the relevant application to His people. The following are
suggestions on how to create an outline of the biblical text which reflects the message
which the Spirit of God placed there for us. We are creating a textual, expository
outline, not a topical outline which is often used to “proof text” the thoughts and ideas
of the preacher rather than the divinely imbedded message.

1.  Select your text. Your text may be as short as a verse or as long as a paragraph.
You want to select a text which presents one basic thought or message.

2. Read the text. Read it again. Read it again and again. Let your mind and heart
meditate on the text several days before you go any further with your attempt to outline.

3. Begin studying the words and meaning of the text. You may want to do some initial
word studies to begin to get at the divinely intended message.

4. Look for purpose statements, commands and conclusions. Such statements often
reflect the emphasis of a particular text.

5. Consider the grammar of the text. Does the grammar emphasize a particular point or

6. Use the grammar and syntax (relationship of words and phrases) to determine the
structure of the text. Understanding the divinely intended structure will help you create
an outline that reflects the divinely imbedded message.

7. Determine the big idea of the text. What is being emphasized? Is there something to
believe, something to shun, or something to do?

8. Create an outline that reflects the message of the text. Use major points and sub-
points in your outline.

9. Use chapter and verse references to support each point in your outline. If you can’t
trace your point to a verse in the text, it shouldn’t be in your outline.

10. The outline you have created becomes the skeleton of your message. Add the flesh
and muscle to your message in the exposition.

11. Look for ways to improve your outline. Your initial work may require modification
and clarification as you continue your study and preparation to present the message.
How to Create a Teaching/Preaching Outline
That Reflects the Message of the Text

J. Carl Laney