Imagine the folly of a policeman taking a witness statement, and instead of making notes, he nods his head, occasionally glancing around, distracted by activity in the distance whilst all the while reassuring the poor victim that they will remember the details – and that any important information will not be overlooked or forgotten when the case comes to court. In a year’s time.
Clearly, such an irresponsible approach to the gathering and recording of important information, facts and words would be unacceptable.
You can see where this is going. There are five reasons that I want to suggest to you that you need to take sermons seriously by making notes. They are all flawed arguments in one way or another but I think you will sense the importance of this encouragement to you personally. And that is all it is, an encouragement. You don’t have to pursue this, but I think you will be in the benefit of it if you do.
1. What works for you?
Of course, I am speaking to those who are not already convinced note-takers. If making notes of sermons doesn’t work for you, then what does?
For your own sake, you have to answer the question both seriously and honestly. Probing a little further, how are you reminding yourself of truths that impacted you 3 or 4 years ago? What were those five things in Romans 9 that gripped your heart? Why were they so important? Have you grown in God since then? How do you know? Some people consider themselves to have eidetic memory, but most of us go about our every day business forgetting what has happened with no notes to trigger our memories or assist our recall.
2. You may not be taking preaching seriously.
It could be that if you are not taking notes, that you are yet to be convinced that sermons are an essential and important part of the Christian ongoing experience. Is it your conviction that the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart? (Hebrews 4:12) This is what is coming into action when you hear sermons and it may well be that the best response to God’s grace is to make a careful note of what you hear, so that with a willing-heart, you can obey it.
3. Getting approval
The awesome news of the Gospel means that there’s nothing you need to do to gain God’s approval, but there is one thing you are encouraged to do, and it is will vastly increase your confidence in God and the veracity of His Word. As you listen to sermons you are thinking, processing, meditating on God’s eternal, inerrant, infallible, sufficient and clear word. The encouragement is, do your utmost to present yourself to God as one approved a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15) This really is something to be ambitious for. Take notes and let the Word of God get under your skin, embedded in your heart and renewing your mind. Everyone loves John 3:16, but Colossians 3:16 is vibrant with promise too; “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
4. It’s worth doing
As Christians, we are to be known for our love for God, and a real love for God will produce a love for His Word – and what we hear, we want to remember. We are living in a time when Biblical illiteracy is on the rise. We want to continually grow in our knowledge, understanding, and application of God’s Word. This is why opening our Bible and making notes as we listen to the preaching of the Word is so important—it will help you to see what the preacher sees in the text, which will inevitably help you learn how to read the Bible well. Your notes become a reference point for you. Paul commended the Bereans (Acts 17:11) because they checked to see if what he was saying was in fact Biblical. Additionally, Paul commended the Thessalonians for the way they received the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13). What sermons should I make notes of? Make notes of the sermons you want to remember – the rest you will forget!
There is a very good reason for making notes and it is about context. Ask yourself what the central theme is that seems to be running through the messages you have heard over the last few years. You can guess, but having the notes to hand means you know. It becomes easier to connect the dots. How seriously are you looking to God to speak to you?
It’s a bit like expecting God to speak to you in dreams, but ignoring them when you have them! During these last few years with the international trouble we have seen, the crisis in the economics, the evil actions of Islamic State do you notice something that God has been teaching us about putting our confidence in Him, about not being anxious, walking in faith and obedience, etc.
What God says to you now, may very well be what He has been saying and encouraging you in for some time now. The context for what God does in the next few years, may well be seen in the past. Now what was it, oh dear, I didn’t make any notes….
I use a few resources for taking notes. My Moleskin notebooks, Evernote, Simplenote, Simplemind+ and Memo. I have included a few of my sermon notes as an example for you! Let me know what really works for you!