Later, I was also influenced by the other school that discourages taking notes. Note taking, this school argues, distracts one from engaging the sermon wholeheartedly. The main argument is that the Holy Spirit ministers to the whole person - the heart, the mind, the soul, the spirit - during the preaching. Note taking address only the mind, and by focusing on writing down cognitive ideas, one fails to allow the Holy Spirit to touch the deeper self, which is the center of our emotions, desires, dreams, and aspiration, for supernatural transformation.
So where does this debate lead us? Let me make a few reflections:
- The key is reflecting for the meaning in life. Whether it is extensive note taking or hearing the sermon with undivided attention, the ONE THING that matters the most, according to a research done by the Willow Creek Institute, is whether the person is able to reflect on the message and discover new meanings in life. The message has to be chewed on, digested, internalized, appropriated. We all know how quickly we can forget the sermon we recently heard. So whichever side you take on this debate, make sure you continue to reflect and engage with the message in the following week. [Note: Our pastors work hard to design the homework in such a way that allows the biblical story to interact with our own stories. That's why we also include a "taking it home" section to ensure that we hit it home and have ways to apply it in our lives.]
- Gaining biblical knowledge is also important. Do not underestimate the importance of learning biblical data. Biblical data provides the basic building blocks to understand the grand Story of God. Without those building blocks, we are infants in our faith and are tossed around "by the different winds of doctrines". This is especially true if you are a newer believer or seeker. That's why each homework also includes a "digging deeper" section, which takes us into a related passage each week to expand our biblical knowledge and insights.
- Each person's learning style and spiritual journey is different. So think of the sermon outline and homework as a tool to help you reflect deeper. Use additional tools that suit your style to enhance your learning and reflection (ex. Study Bible, another translation, bible dictionary etc.). The video sermon is available online for those who want to review it during the week. We can also take the sermon homework with us on the YouVersion mobile app so we can reflect on the message on the go.
- Don't forget about community. Pastor John wrote an excellent article on "the Power of Groups" two weeks ago on this point. We grow better when we are surrounded by other believers who also want to grow. We also pray together and ask God to empower us in our growth. Simply put, talk about what you learn with a friend or a spouse. Better yet, join a connection group.
Let's grow in this journey together.