How to Take Sermon Notes

How to Take Sermon Notes

Before we start in on the ‘how’ let’s take a few moments to consider the ‘why’ because this is a subject on which our fellow Christians have different views. We’ll begin, as we always must, with the Word of God.

‘And he said to them, “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole of creation.” Mark16:15

The Bible doesn’t use the word ‘sermon’, the ‘sermon on the mount’ was a name given to Christ’s preaching later on, but what is made clear many times in the Bible is the importance of preaching.

‘For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom and eloquence, less the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.’ Corinthians 1:17

‘Hearing a sermon is not like hearing a lecture. It is a meeting with the living Christ.’ Ray Ortlund. I think we would all agree that a sermon is an act of worship, not only for the congregation but for the preacher as well. For some Christians a sermon is a proclamation of faith which speaks to us in our hearts, and therefore some they are uncomfortable with note taking during sermons. I respect that point of view, but there is also a strong argument in favor of note taking during a sermon.

‘And he said to him “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37

If we are to love God with our mind we must be active listeners, we must engage with the sermon, not let it wash over us like elevator music, and taking notes is an excellent way to do this. When you make notes you focus on what is being said. Writing down notes also enables you to reflect on the sermon, to go back to the scripture and to develop your understanding of God’s word. If you go to church every week, that’s a lot of sermons that you’re going to hear: making notes will enable you not just to revisit that sermon during the following week, but it will enable you to reflect on your spiritual journey over the course of months and years.

You might feel that taking notes is not for you but there’s nothing disrespectful about it and if you haven’t tried it you may just find that it’s an activity which helps you draw closer to God, which is only thing all of us desire. So, that brings us to the ‘how’ and although there are no strict rules on this, clearly some ways of taking notes are more useful than others. I guess the big ‘don’t’ is, don’t try and write everything down; even if you know shorthand, there’s little point in transcribing every word your preacher says, you may as well ask for a transcript of the sermon. The point of note taking is to develop your active listening, to follow the structure of an argument and identify key points, to keep your focus on the Word of God and sift out what Saint Paul calls ‘wisdom and eloquence’. Make a note of scriptural references, make a note of insights, and make a note of how God is speaking to you directly through this sermon. Don’t worry if you don’t feel that you are very good at this to begin with, it’s a skill that will develop and God will guide you.

I’m old fashioned, I like a pencil and a notebook, but maybe you feel more at ease making notes on your phone. The thing is your phone is a world of distraction, having your sermon notes all in one separate place, where you can revisit them, seems to me much more useful. The ‘going back’ thing is really important, if you’re just going to scribble a bunch of stuff down and then forget about it, what’s the point? Make a note of the date and the preacher and leave plenty of space so that you annotate your responses as you look back over them. Christian journals are a great tool for seeing how God is at work in your life and making sermon notes as part of your journaling can be a powerful way to bring you closer to God. So, if you’ve not done so before, go on, give it a try.


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