I have always had a strong bent towards capturing and organizing sermon and Bible study materials. I started with a simple indexing system of 4″ X 6″ cards in college (I had quite a collection), and then used various database formats.
My first project involving the internet was the distribution of a Visual Basic software program called Biblekey. (It is outdated now and has been supplanted by the online sermon databases.) My vision was to have various pastors compile their messages into compatible databases which could then be indexed and displayed via the front end program which I wrote. The only hitch to this strategy was that I ended up doing all of the tedious work of the compiling and indexing.
The end product proved extremely useful and Pastor John Kapteyn (a Canadian Presbyterian minister) graciously hosted my material for free on his site, SermonCentral.com, before selling off that property which has since been developed into the largest sermon preparation site in the world. [I prefer SermonAudio.com because it concentrates more on material that aligns with the doctrines of sovereign grace.]
I switched gears and decided to concentrate on developing my own commentaries in Adobe *.pdf format for ease of distribution and use. I chose the name of BibleOutlines.com because I think the Lord has primarily gifted me with an ability to break down the Big Idea of a paragraph into its component parts and to show all of the linkages without losing the impact of the overall Big Idea. That is where I feel I make the most unique contribution and why I do not hesitate to quote extensively from other commentators (after the pattern of Charles Spurgeon in his Treasury of David) for some of the details of interpretation.
WHY WRITE BIBLEOUTLINES.COM
“Truth floats my boat!”
In an age where Bible doctrine and sermons and theology have been saddled with negative connotations, I am driven to elevate the objective truth of God’s Word above the shallowness and limited perspective of our own subjective experiences. The ultimate goal is not warehousing knowledge (which puffs up) but defining the proper boundaries for our love and obedience so that our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ is on His revealed terms. Idolatry is making God after our own image and trying to approach Him on our own terms.
I fear that too many believers today have been sucked into some type of “Bible-lite” context where their spiritual diet consists of junk food rather than steak and potatoes. I am weary of a steady diet of topical messages where the preacher comes up with “Four Points About X” and then strings together the appropriate Scriptural passages to support the observations he wants to hammer home. Usually the speaker is constrained by the limits of his existing knowledge of the Scriptures – that is how he arrived at his observations. Often the various contexts of the passages are ignored or misrepresented in this approach. Inductive study conducted in a systematic fashion that tracks through a book of the Bible paragraph by paragraph has far greater possibilities of opening up new lines of truth and presenting the balanced picture that the author intended.
I subscribe to the case for Expository Preaching that Haddon Robinson sets forth in his excellent book Biblical Preaching:
Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through him to his hearers. . .
Do you, as a preacher, endeavor to bend your thought to the Scriptures, or do you use the Scriptures to support your thoughts? . . . In his approach to a passage, an interpreter must be willing to reexamine his doctrinal convictions and to reject the judgments of his most respected teachers. He must make a U-turn in his own previous understandings of the Bible should these conflict with the concepts of the biblical writer.
It is on just this basis that I can testify to having converted from a traditional church governance structure of a dominant senior pastor supported by other elders to more of a biblical plurality of elder model without one dominant senior pastor. Likewise I have been influenced to embrace in deeper fashion the precious truths of God’s sovereignty and election and His amazing grace at work in our lives.
My area of giftedness as a teacher seems to be in the ability to grasp that one single idea that ties together the entire paragraph so that the parts can all be seen in relation to the whole rather than in isolation. I love to develop the analytical outline that forms the basis for the overall sermon. That outline remains timeless and any preacher can adopt it, embellish it, dig deeper in the area of observations and flavor it with illustrations from his own life and walk with the Lord. Certainly there is no one overall outline that alone does justice to the text; but the Big Idea concept is anchored in the text itself and there are certainly gradations of both accuracy and art in its expression. (i.e. Yes, I am saying that all Big Ideas of a passage are not equal!)
Haddon Robinson captures the importance of this concept is this quote from J. H. Jowett in his Yale lectures on preaching:
I have a conviction that no sermon is ready for preaching, not ready for writing out, until we can express its theme in a short, pregnant sentence as clear as a crystal. I find the getting of that sentence is the hardest, the most exacting, and the most fruitful labour in my study. To compel oneself to fashion that sentence, to dismiss every word that is vague, ragged, ambiguous, to think oneself through to a form of words which defines the theme with scrupulous exactness – this is surely one of the most vital and essential factors in the making of a sermon: and I do not think any sermon ought to be preached or even written, until that sentence has emerged, clear and lucid as a cloudless moon.
By the gift of God’s Spirit, that is what I endeavor to bring to the party. I will never be confused with the top level orators or charismatic communicators. As they describe me at work, I am basically a “wordsmith” – but one that is dedicated to drawing out of the Scriptures the accurate message that God intends to use for our blessing and edification.
Now I can look back and reflect on over 40 years of inductive bible study and sermon preparation. The Search feature in the footer section of each website page allows you to search through the entire site for articles and sermons that would be germane to your topic of interest. Hopefully this comprehensive look at the Scriptures from the Big Idea perspective will enhance your understanding and application of God’s truth.