How To Take Great Sermon Notes

How To Take Great Sermon Notes September 20, 2015


Seriously. Just put your pencil down and listen with all your heart. Why? Because taking scrupulous notes doesn’t actually correspond with what a biblical sermon is. Note-taking isn’t really appropriate. Let me explain…

A sermon is emphatically not a lecture; thus, we shouldn’t listen to the two the same way. During a lecture, it’s normal to listen for new or important information, organize it, record it, and review it later. But a sermon is not information; it’s confrontation—confrontation with the glory of God, the peril of your soul, and the provision of the gospel.

Perhaps it would help to clarify that preaching is a means, not an end. Biblical preachers do not aim to preach the Bible per se. They preach the Bible to the end that their listeners will understand and receive Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Once people realize what preaching is at its essence, they know instinctively that their main duty  and first response as listeners is not to take notes. That would be like visitors to the Grand Canyon responding to all that breathtaking grandeur by whipping out a pad and jotting down their observations: “Big. Wide. Deep. In a word, grand. Note to self: looks dangerous near the edge.” That’s no way to respond! We know instinctively that the best way to respond to the Grand Canyon is to gasp with wonder, be overwhelmed by beauty, and fill your soul with delight. Likewise with preaching—the aim is to create a sense of God’s glory and inspire an immediate response of praise, repentance, hope, surrender, witness, faith, joy, or love. 

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century, said it best: “I have often discouraged the taking of notes while I am preaching. The first and primary object of preaching is not only to give information. It is, as Edwards says, to produce an impression. It is the impression at the time that matters, even more than what you can remember subsequently.”

What we most need is an impression, as Paul put it, of Christ’s glory. In and of itself, THAT will change us: “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18)