Why I Took Notes at Ligonier

I took my laptop with me to the Ligonier National Conference this weekend. That additional folder in my system now has eleven new files, each one named for the various talks on tough questions Christians face.

Lately I’ve grown a little lax about note taking for sermons. I’ve gotten lazy, to be perfectly honest.

But then on the airplane coming back from Idaho recently I read Ken Ramey’s no nonsense little book called Expository Listening. The author pastors a Bible Church in Texas. He observed some time ago the plethora of resources written about expository preaching as compared to the paucity of books for the help of those on the receiving end. He decided to do something about it. The result is a book worth every serious Christian’s reading.

Two quotes in the book smacked me right between my eyes. The first comes from the Puritan Thomas Watson about the accountability that accrues to our account whenever we hear a sermon:

You must give an account for every sermon you hear. . . . The judge to whom we must give an account is God. . . how should we observe every word preached, remembering the account! Let all this make us shake off distraction and drowsiness in hearing, and have our ears chained to the word (p. 102).

I shudder to think how many sermons I’ve heard over the course of my Christian life, let alone the ones I’ve preached! This weekend I just heard another eleven! Every time we sit under the preaching of the word the light of God’s truth gets brighter in our lives. Those charged with being doers of the word and not hearers only (James 1:22) can ill afford to get distracted and drowsy in the matter of attending to the preaching of God’s word.

How grateful I was for this practical and timely reminder from Ramey about note taking under the heading of worshiping with your whole heart on the Lord’s Day:

Take notes: This is one of the simplest ways to increase the impact of a sermon on your life. It helps you stay focused, and it is more likely that you will remember the key points. Don’t try to transcribe the entire sermon. Just write down the main points and the principles you most want to remember. This will serve as something tangible to take home and reflect on and discuss with others the truths taught in the sermon and how you plan to put them into practice in your life (p. 46).

I can’t tell you how much more I think I got out of this year’s Ligonier Conference as a result of that counsel. It helped keep my ears chained to the word. I trust my eternal judgment will go substantially better as a result.

Anybody for taking notes on Prov. 23:12-28 tomorrow?

4 responses

  1. Thanks PC, good advice! Years ago I heard John MacArthur give a message on something similar and the simplicity and obviousness of one of his applications hit me like a ton of bricks. He said that we can improve our ability to worship on Sunday mornings and to focus on and absorb each message by simply making sure we get to bed at a decent hour and get a goods night sleep. You’d think that’s obvious, but not for a rock head like me! MacArthur said he tries not to plan Saturday evening events in light of this principle.

  2. Indeed. Ramey also covers the same point. Little wonder in that he’s a Master’s Seminary grad! Thanks for the comment, bro.

  3. I agree about the note taking. For a few months, I brought my netbook into church and took notes diligently. I too got lazy and quit. I have found over the last few years that I am a auditory learner. My new attempt to be more diligent towards expository listening is to subscribe to OGC’s podcast. I download a app to my phone that pulls the sermons each week, which makes it easy to take advantage of any idle time to re-listen to previous week’s lessons. I have found that it takes me 2 to 3 times to committ a sermon to anything past short-term memory.

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