BEFORE material can be organized in a logical manner, you need to have an objective in mind. Is your objective simply to inform others about a particular subject—a belief, an attitude, a quality, a type of conduct, or a way of life? Do you hope to prove or disprove a certain idea? Is your aim to build appreciation for something or to motivate to action? Whether you will be presenting your material to an individual or to a larger audience, to do so effectively, you need to consider what they already know about the subject and what their attitude toward it is. After you have done this, outline your material in a way that will help you achieve your objective.
Regarding the ministry of Saul (Paul) in Damascus, Acts 9:22 reports that he “was confounding the Jews that dwelt in Damascus as he proved logically that this is the Christ.” What did that logical proof include? As indicated by the record of Paul’s later ministry in Antioch and Thessalonica, he first built on the fact that the Jews accepted the Hebrew Scriptures and that they professed to believe what these say about the Messiah. Then, from those Scriptures, Paul selected portions that dealt with the life and ministry of the Messiah. He quoted these and compared them with what actually occurred in connection with Jesus. Finally, he drew the obvious conclusion, namely, that Jesus is the Christ, or Messiah. (Acts 13:16-41; 17:2, 3) If you too present Bible truth in a logical manner, it can have a persuasive effect on others.
Organizing the Presentation. Material can be arranged in a variety of ways that are logical. If you find it advantageous, you might use a combination of methods. Consider a few of the possibilities.
Topical arrangement. This involves organizing your material into sections, each of which contributes to your objective. The sections may be main points that are important to an understanding of your subject. They may be distinct arguments that prove or disprove something. Certain points, while related to the subject, might be added or deleted, depending on your audience or your objective.
Consider an example of topical arrangement. A short presentation regarding the name of God might include (1) why it is important to know God by name, (2) what God’s name is, and (3) how we can honor that name.
Much can be learned about topical arrangement of material by examining publications that are designed by “the faithful and discreet slave” for use at home Bible studies. (Matt. 24:45) These publications usually include a number of subjects, or topics, that can help students get an overall view of basic Bible truths. Larger publications use subheadings to divide each chapter. Each topic prepares the student for material that follows and contributes to the overall picture.
Cause and effect. Reasoning from cause to effect is another method of presenting information in a logical way.
If you are talking to a group or to individuals who need to consider more carefully the outcome of something that they are doing or that they plan to do, this approach could be effective. Proverbs chapter 7 provides an excellent example of this. It vividly describes how an inexperienced young man who is “in want of heart” (the cause) gets involved with a prostitute and suffers bitter consequences (the effect).—Prov. 7:7.
To give added emphasis, you might contrast the bad results experienced by those who fail to walk in Jehovah’s ways with the good results experienced by those who do listen to Jehovah. Moved by Jehovah’s spirit, Moses made such a contrast when he spoke to the nation of Israel before they entered the Promised Land.—Deut., chap. 28.
In some instances, it is better to begin your discussion by identifying a situation (the effect) and then present evidence that points to the contributing factors (the cause). This frequently involves a problem-and-solution format.
Problem and solution. In the field ministry, when you discuss a problem that is of concern to people and show that there is a satisfying solution, this may encourage a person to listen. The problem may be one that you raise or something that the other person brings up.
Such a problem may be the fact that people grow old and die, the prevalence of crime, or the existence of widespread injustice. No extensive discussion is needed to show that there is such a problem, for it is obvious. Simply begin with a reference to the problem, and then present the solution set out in the Bible.
On the other hand, the problem may be quite personal, involving the challenges faced by a single parent, discouragement because of serious illness, or the hardship that a person is experiencing because of unloving treatment at the hands of another person. To accomplish the greatest good, you must first be a good listener. The Bible provides valuable information on all these problems. But it needs to be used with discernment. If your discussion is truly going to benefit the other person, you need to be realistic. Make clear whether you are discussing a permanent solution, short-term relief, or simply how to cope with a situation that is not going to change in this system of things. In other words, be sure that the Scriptural reasoning that you offer is sufficient to support the conclusion that you draw from it. Otherwise, the solution to which you point may not seem logical at all to the other person.
Chronological order. Some material lends itself to a presentation according to time sequence. For example, in the book of Exodus, the Ten Plagues are presented in the order in which they occurred. In Hebrews chapter 11, the apostle Paul’s listing of men and women of exemplary faith follows a chronological pattern.
If you relate events from the past in chronological order, this may help your audience to understand how certain circumstances developed. This applies to modern-day history as well as events from Bible times. Thus you may be combining chronological sequence with cause-and-effect reasoning. If you plan to outline the events that the Bible shows are to occur in the future, a chronological presentation will probably be the easiest for your audience to follow and remember.
Using a chronological approach does not mean that you must always start at the beginning. In some cases, it may be more effective to introduce a narrative at a dramatic point in the story. When relating an experience, for example, you may choose to tell about an occasion when someone’s integrity to God was put to the test. Having aroused interest with that part of the narrative, you could state in chronological order the details that led up to it.
Using Only Relevant Material. No matter how you organize your material, be careful to use only what is relevant. The theme of your talk should have a bearing on your selection. The makeup of your audience should also be considered. For one audience a particular point may be vital, whereas for another group it may be superfluous. You must also be sure that all your material will contribute to accomplishing your objective. Otherwise, your presentation, while perhaps interesting, may lose its effectiveness.
When doing research, you may find a lot of interesting material that is related to your subject. How much of it should you use? If you overwhelm the audience with too much, you may defeat your purpose. A few main ideas that are well developed will be remembered more readily than a multitude of ideas presented in a rapid-fire manner. This does not mean that interesting sidelights should never be included. But do not let them becloud your objective. Note how such details were discreetly included in the Bible at Mark 7:3, 4 and John 4:1-3, 7-9.
As you progress from one point to the next, be careful not to do it so abruptly that your audience loses the train of thought. In order for the ideas to work together effectively, you may need to provide a bridge from one idea to another. The bridge may be a clause or it may be a complete sentence that shows the relationship between the ideas. In many languages, simple connective words or phrases can be used to show the relation of a new idea to what precedes it.
Using only relevant material and arranging it in logical order will help you accomplish your objective.