Here’s a common dilemma. Every week, you sit in the congregation and take notes during the pastor’s sermon at church. As the sermon unfolds, you write down important insights, quotes, cross-references and personal revelations. You feverishly try to make sure you capture everything important – to ensure that you retain this life-giving knowledge.
After the service, you take your sermon notes home where they sit in your junk pile for 3 months before you eventually throw them away.Then, after the service, you take your sermon notes home where they sit in your junk pile for 3 months before you eventually throw them away.
So what do we do we do with our sermon notes? If we’re going to throw them away, why even write down notes in the first place? Is there a better approach possible?
First, let’s look at some personal reasons this matters followed by some practical advice on what to do with your sermon notes.
WHY THIS MATTERS FOR YOU
It’s important that we remember the things we’ve learned. If you recall, one of the main issues throughout the Old Testament is that the Israelites kept forgetting what God had shown them… which usually ended with the Israelites being made slaves or wandering in the desert. Not great.
Do you want to grow in your faith? Then, do the work of “remembering”. Deuteronomy 8 tells us to, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way.” Taking sermon notes and having a place where we record them helps us to remember.
WHY THIS MATTERS FOR YOUR FAMILY
When you die, what do you want to leave behind? How can use the simple practice of taking sermon notes to impact future generations?
They are holding both the Bible and your personal life journey in their hands.Whether you are young or old when it happens, one day you will die. Imagine that after your death your family comes to sort through your belongings. They come across your Bible and they remember all that God did in and through your life.
Imagine that your family opens the Bible to see countless pages of notes. Every page they turn offers new commentary on the passages taken from hundreds or thousands of sermons – all written in your handwriting. They are reading the most important things you learned in your life. They are holding both the Bible and your personal life journey in their hands. Your family begins to pass down your Bible through generations, where God continues to use the truths you’ve scrawled in the margins to encourage and mold your family.
Imagine that you had a Bible from a deeply loved family member that contained decades of their sermon notes. How would that affect you?A good way to understand the impact that this could have is to switch the roles. Imagine that you had a Bible from your father, mother, grandparents or great-grandparents that contained decades of their sermon notes. Imagine their handwriting, their insights and their struggles alongside God’s timeless words. How would this affect you? What an incredible gift this would be for you. You can give this gift to your family.
Take notes during the sermon.
It will help you consider and focus on what is being said. If we hear the truth, write down the truth and then write it down again, there is a higher chance that the truth of God will settle deeper into our mind and heart.
Store them in your Bible until you’re ready to copy them.
Simple enough. Just tuck your notes into your Bible until you have 15-20 minutes to copy them over.
Use a Journal Bible.
Several years ago, I discovered that Crossway published Journal Bibles. (You can see a Journal Bible here.) These Bibles contain the full text of scripture but with extra-wide lined margins to leave room to take notes or journal. (I bought this one in the hopes that the leather cover will help it outlast my lifetime.) The picture above is of my Journal Bible.
Use a fine point pen.
Even though Journal Bibles offer more room for notes, you will still need to be attentive to space. For this reason, you need a fine point pen in order to fit more words onto each line. I use an Ultra Fine Point Pen from Pilot.
Read the passage again.
Before I begin copying notes, I try to read through the entire passage again. It is helpful to consider the passage a second time after listening to the sermon. I pray and ask God to draw out truths that I need to know at that moment in time.
Record the notes into your Bible.
Typically, I write down the chapter and verse (“1:35” for example) and then I will begin my notes pertaining to that section. I usually make a small bullet point to make my notes easier to read and reference later. You can see an example in the photo above.
This practice will help you – and future generations – to remember the gospel for years to come.