Should Christians Take Sermon Notes?

I was thinking recently about Christians taking sermon notes. I’ve never been good at taking notes in general (I can hardly read my hand writing), but I often wonder if people who take notes lose something by not focusing on the message immediately in front of them? Apparently Jonathan Edwards agreed. He writes,

The main benefit that is obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind in the time of it, and not by the effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered

(Quoted in The Salvation of Souls, eds. Richard Bailey and Gregory Wills, p. 11)

What think ye? Was Edwards way off?

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5 Responses to Should Christians Take Sermon Notes?

  1. I believe some may listen better while taking notes, while for others it is distracting. No hard & fast rule here from my perspective.

    • allenmickle says:

      David,

      I agree. I think the emphasis is on the individual person. We discussed this long on Twitter and Facebook and the reality is: each person is different. I am not a note taker. I don’t find it helpful. But for others who do, amen! I think Edwards’ has an interesting point though. I wonder if those who slavishly take notes don’t sometimes lose something “in the moment.”

  2. This is a very interesting point! My church family does take notes, and I can see how that does help them a lot since we do talk about what we learned from the sermon during our Care Group on Sunday night. The notes aren’t pre-printed type of note for you to fill in the blank like some churches do. Our note page are blank with line in them.

    As for me, I am not a note taker since I have to lipread and listen (I am deaf)to my pastor preaching the sermon. I might be dotting down something that I need to look up. Not every one have an excellent memory to keep all the detail in their mind about the sermon. I do underline specific word in my Bible that he had been emphasizing during the sermon.

    On the other hand, if I was sitting next to someone writing a note. I do find it very helpful because sometimes I will miss what he is saying in the sermon then I can glance over and read the notes. My wonderful church family does know me and doesn’t mind that I do. They do help me. That is a great blessing too.

    Most of the time, I am by myself and at the very front row. I just do my best. Then at night for the Care Group, I will be able to ask, or I can ask my paster at the end of the service.

    I can’t say that Jonathan Edwards is way off. Then again, Yes, if they are using their PDA, or iPod, or iPhone to take the notes. I was sitting behind someone sometimes ago and can see that he was playing with his apps and tools on that as well as taking notes. That was too distract for me.

    Hungry to eat His Word,
    ‘Guerite ~ BoldLion

    • allenmickle says:

      Marguerite,

      You bring an interesting perspective as someone who is deaf! I can see how note taking would be hard since you have to be looking at the lips all the time! But I can see how it would be helpful for churches who spend time during the week talking about Sunday’s sermon (I like that!). I think for everyone it is a matter of, “what’s best for them.” I don’t think Edwards’ should have made a blanket statement. Some do better taking notes, others do not. I have never been a big note taker, preferring to get the big picture from sermons (I might jot a note in my Bible if it is really important). I tend to remember things about sermons for quite awhile though so that may be why.

  3. I might not take notes at a Billy Graham Crusade, but I would certianly take notes at a John Piper conference. I prefer taking notes, because it helps my focus on what is being said. I retain more that way and this helps me obey things better. Unfortunately, it is getting harder and harder for me to take notes, because the pastors often are teaching their own thoughts and not expositing God’s word!

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