In all honesty, a post like this can be counterproductive. I’ve argued for two posts that there should be some theological methodology for taking notes and that there are some goals while taking notes. In this post, I want to point out that none of this is really necessary and that might wind up cancelling the previous two posts.
Here’s why: we moderns tend to think that if something isn’t necessary then it isn’t really important and might not even be helpful. We Evangelicals happily point out that liturgy isn’t necessary and then often condemn liturgical churches while ignoring our own liturgies (Open in Prayer; Make announcements; sing three songs; introduce the speaker with a benediction; Prayer before speaking; the message; Close in Prayer). I’ve seen the same thing done to sports, movies, exercise, and voting.
And then, things that we want people to do, we underscore as “necessary” and add a guarantee to the thing (ie: note-taking is guaranteed to increase your love for the Lord). So here are 8 reasons why note-taking isn’t necessary.
Note-taking is not a guarantee to Spirituality. I don’t care how many notes you take; or how often you take them; or how big your digital files of notes are—none of them promise that you will grow in Christ.
Note-taking is not a guaranteed mark of maturity. I’ve been taking notes since I was in High School and the main reason then was to stay awake while someone was preaching. Indeed, it is still a great way for me to stay awake. Think about that next time you see me clacking away on the keyboard during a service.
Note-taking is not the fast track for bearing fruit. Sure, note-taking might be a practice in discernment but that doesn’t make it the reward of discernment.
Note-taking can be distracting. You might distract yourself when you’re focusing on how you’re taking notes, and you might very well distract others who are near you: typing is sort of loud!
Note-taking has the danger of pride-inducement. Let’s be honest here: anything we do has the danger of pride-inducement. Preaching, teaching, writing on a blog, not-taking-notes, and taking notes. Moreso when you look around and see no one taking notes…
Note-taking can be a useless endeavor. The only good that might come out of it is if you die, someone else might get them and learn something. That being the case, we should try to do Something with our notes. Maybe start a blog. Or print them out and hand them to your local elders / pastors. Or (crazy talk) study them.
Note-taking won’t increase your love for the Lord. Oh it might help, but so would looking at a sunrise, or going on walks through the park, or visiting an art-show at the Museum, or listening to Mozart. No, note-taking isn’t an additive thing. As I said in my first post, it is closer to an expressive thing. I take copious outlined notes because I love God and what He has said in Scripture; others jot down notes because they love God and what He has said in Scripture; and yet others give rapt mental attention because they love God and what He has said in Scripture.
Note-taking isn’t for everybody. Yeah, there, I said it. Now I’ll have seventy-five percent of my readership (three of you) walk off agreeing that you don’t have to take notes. Go back a couple millenniums and you’d find a culture that was so deeply oral that listening was note-taking and examination would come later. Some people just can’t take notes and need to focus on smaller bits to the capacity of their mind (like kids). Others might draw the message after the fact and you realize that their brains were engaged. For most of us, I think that note-taking is the way to go. We do it with school, our jobs, and even our spouses before we go shopping—why exclude this helpful tool within the walls of the church? Even so, some people just can’t.
(Crossposted at Digital Sojourner)