Monday, October 17, 2011

Note or Not Note

A friend thinks that each Sunday morning we should collect all the notes that people take during the sermon and read them.  He suggests we would find a wide diversity--between note-takers, and between note-takers and preacher.

A related issue is this: should the faithful take notes of the sermon?  I know there are some that take issue with the practice, but I can only guess as to why. 
  • The word was meant to be heard? 
  • Note-taking channels the impact of the preached word away from our heart onto the paper; so while we feel like we're attending to the word, we're actually protecting ourselves from it?
  • While we're writing down one thing, we're missing the next?

I find note-taking helpful.  It helps me to focus on what the preacher is saying.  Some preachers I can follow without notes.  They think like I do.  Their sermons progress in a logical, outline-like fashion that proceeds directly from a primary Scripture text.  I have no problem attending to such sermons.

Others' preaching takes different forms, and in some of those cases, attending is not always easy.  Taking notes helps me to stay on task mentally.

(Incidentally, listening to the preached word with ears, mind, and humble heart is worship.  The worship doesn't end when the music ends or the "Amen" is spoken.  During the preaching, the worship should continue: the preacher worships as he preaches and the congregants worship as they humbly and expectantly attend to the preaching.)

Note-taking also aids my memory.  I'm more likely to remember key points of the sermon if I write them down.  And this is true even if I throw my notes away the next day (which is often the case).  Instead of hearing the preached word and thinking about it, in note-taking I am hearing it, writing it down, reading what I wrote down, and thinking about it.  Note-taking reinforces certain points.

Further, I keep some outlines out on my desk or in my Bible for a few weeks before they hit the trash.  This occurs when an especial point really hits home, and I want to review it and think about it for a longer period of time.

Some Sundays I intentionally don't take sermons, in order to break up any rut in my attending to a sermon. 

Should the faithful take notes during the preaching of the word?  I don't think there's any "should" about it.  You can if you like; it's not a moral issue.  Note-taking is not obligatory.  What is obligatory is reverent attending to the preaching of God's word.


j.scantlin said...

Note or Not Note

Intro, friend thinks collect notes

I. Should the faithful take notes of the sermon?

A. No
1) word to be heard
2) paper avoidance
3) hear faster than write

B. Helpful
1) focus and worship
2) memory and reinforcement
3) review and consider longer

II. No "should" about it

A. Break from routine
B. Not a moral issue
C. Attend to the preaching

Anonymous said...


Dear Kent, When listening to a speaker, it seems to be a proven fact that people retain something of what they hear. (I remember some of the sermon evangelist Billy Graham delivered at the Indiana State Fair Coliseum in 1959 when I came to Christ. I took no notes.) While in college, I learned a simple little pattern that seems to be true for memory purposes:
PEOPLE REMEMBER BETTER IN THE FOLLOWING ORDER -- 1. What they HEAR; 2. What they SEE; 3. What they SAY; 4. What they DO. So, when a speaker presents his sermon or speech, he first of all, should tell the people. Next, he should use some kind of a visual illustration to example his point or points. (Hand jesters and more are considered fine.) The he should get the people to talk about it such as in a responsive reading or in a group affirmation of a "yes" or a "no" or of whatever is required for the occasion. And finally, the preacher, teacher, or speaker can bring the group or congregation to a decision that very day, during the convocation or service. This entails doing something such as in note taking or in prayer, having the listeners to confirm to God their decision to follow the aim of what is preached, taught or presented by a speaker. And Christians have an extra and far greater assistance as well: The Holy Spirit Who reminds us of the teachings of the life of Christ in order for Him to bring about change for the good in the Church. Jesus said of Him: John 16:15
All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that HE [the Holy Spirit] shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you." Thus, whenever the Scriptures or the principles of the Word of God are in someway truthfully presented, seem to be etched into the heart, soul or memory some how by the Lord Himself in order to produce a change for which the Scriptures in case have been written. --Dad

Anonymous said...

Hi Kent,

If you hadn't figured out from the pictures I was emailing... I'm in N'Djamena right now where we have better internet access.

I was looking at your blog, but I don't think I can comment from here. So, here's my opinion/habits on notes:

I like notes (sermon and otherwise). But, I must admit that I don't always take "typical" notes....

Sometimes I doodle -- the motion helps me pay attention if I'm tired.

I write down quotes that I like -- these later get collected into notebooks that I consider little treasure troves.

I note questions and topics that I want to study later.

I especially note books mentioned that I'd like to read later.

Fortunately I move often enough that I have to sort through and throw out old notes before too long. It's a chore I rather enjoy. Sorting through old notes not only refreshes my memory, it often makes me think about subjects in a whole new way.