When it comes to getting the most out of the Sunday morning sermon, there are varying opinions. The most stark contrast is the subject of taking notes during the sermon. Some feel that you should come to church with nothing more than your Bible. They say you don’t need anything distracting you from the preaching of God’s Word. Yet, others say the best way to listen to a sermon is by taking notes.
This week and next we will look at arguments for both sides. To start, we’ll argue against taking notes during your pastor’s sermon.
The Nature of a Sermon
Before we look at the topic of taking notes, we need to address the nature of a sermon and its place in worship.
After prayers have been prayed and songs sung, the pastor gets up, opens his Bible, and speaks. He talks anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the church’s expectations. The words spoken explain the meaning of the Bible, teach you about God, and challenge you to live holy before the Lord. This is a typical Sunday and what we’ve come to expect.
Yet, too many of us treat the sermon like a lecture one would attend during college. Yes, in some respects, it is lecture-like. But, it is also much more than a lecture. Each week, the pastor gets in the pulpit and proclaims the Word of God. Something unique happens. Through the words of the pastor, God speaks directly to you.
It is with this in mind that we turn to the subject of taking notes during such a time.Through the words of the pastor, God speaks directly to you. Click To Tweet
Arguments Against Taking Notes
Because the sermon is such an important time during worship, here are some reasons why you should avoid taking notes during this time.
1. The Object is Hearing God
When we come to church on Sundays our number one objective is to worship the Lord. A significant part of our worship takes place when the pastor steps up to the pulpit. During this time, our focus should be on hearing the voice of God. This is not God speaking audibly. Rather, we hear the words of the Bible and our pastor as they pierce our hearts.
Again, a sermon is more than a lecture. Therefore, our goal is not merely getting information and head knowledge as we listen. Instead, we ought to listen with intent. The Lord seeks to mature us through the preached Word. The sermon is more than bullet points to be written down in a notebook; it is a prophetic proclamation from God directly to your soul.
2. You Miss Things
During the sermon, if our focus is on scribbling notes, we are bound to miss the moment. What is “the moment,” you ask? It’s the point in the sermon where God wants to speak something life changing to you. But you miss it because you’re too busy writing down the previous thing the pastor said. I’ve been guilty of this on many occasions. I’ll be writing a note I think is important, hear something more, but hurry to finish my note, only to miss it altogether. And going back to listen to the MP3 doesn’t help, I missed the moment where those words were meant to hit me just right. The moment is gone.
When this happens, you miss the word meant for your heart & not your head.When you take notes during the sermon it's easy to miss the moment & word that God has just for you. Click To Tweet
3. You’re Not Engaging
Preaching is not one directional. While the pastor has spent hours preparing his sermon, how that sermon gets delivered is facilitated in large part by congregational participation. This does not mean the pastor is looking for shouts of “Amen!” or “Hallelujah!” mid-sermon, albeit appropriate at times. While the shouts are bonus, he is expecting you to be engaged and make eye contact. If you’re looking down the entire sermon, how does he know you’re not just bored or doodling? Eye contact shows you’re actively listening and understanding what’s being said.
As an aside, let’s briefly talk about phone use during the sermon. The preached word is meant for the people in that room at that specific time. If you’re focused on tweeting or posting quotables to Facebook, how engaged are you in worship? Likewise with recording video and taking pictures. How focused are you on what’s being said or sung if you’re fiddling with your phone? Listen, be engaged, and don’t get distracted.
4. What’s Your Purpose?
Lastly, what’s your purpose for taking notes during service? Are you looking to fill notebooks with information that you will never look at again? Or, are you legitimately using it as a tool for concentration and better listening? Be honest with yourself about your motivations. While a sermon can and should educate, that is not its primary purpose. Its purpose is to move you to a changed life.If you’re taking notes during the sermon solely for head knowledge, please stop. Click To Tweet
Leave Your Notebook at Home
Take time this week and seriously consider your reasons for taking notes at church. Why do you do it? What benefits do you gain? What are you missing in the process?
Next time you go to church, only take your Bible with you, especially if you’re used to taking notes. See if there’s a difference in your ability to hear from God during the sermon. Were you more focused or less focused than previous weeks? Then continue for an entire month and see if your findings remain the same. You might find that your worship is elevated by removing the need to take notes.
Next week’s tip will look at the opposite side, the benefits of taking notes at church.
Weekly Study Prompts
Read, meditate, and journal on the following passages this week.
- Monday – Genesis 27-28
- Tuesday – Genesis 29:1-30:24
- Wednesday – Genesis 31-32
- Thursday – Genesis 33; 35
- Friday – Genesis 37
- Memory verses: 2 Corinthians 10:12; 1 John 3:18