Prophetic note-taking.

by K.W. Leslie, 25 July

So you’re in church, someone’s preaching a sermon, and you’re taking notes. You do take notes, right?

Oh you don’t? Well start taking notes!

Some churches include a blank page in their bulletin for note-taking… although some churches stopped producing bulletins during the 2020 pandemic, so that’s not always an option anymore. I used to take a notebook to church with me. Nowadays I use Google Documents on my phone.

You don’t have to write down every single thing the preacher says, or every single thing they put on their PowerPoint slides, or deduce and reconstruct their entire sermon outline. You can try, for fun. But I’ve found pretty much the only things you wanna write down are the things you’ll want to remember later:

  • Profound things they said which you’ll want to meditate upon.
  • Profound scriptures they quoted which you’ll want to memorize.
  • Stuff you’ll want to fact-check. It sounds like good stuff… but is it true?

As a result you won’t have an entire page of notes. Maybe three or four important points. More, if the sermon’s full of a lot of good stuff. Less, if you spend the entire sermon trying to “find the pony.” (I explain what I mean by that elsewhere.) But in general you shouldn’t wind up with full notebooks full of stuff which you’ll never find the time to go back to… like all the notebooks I used to fill when I was a teenager.

Oh, and the fourth thing you oughta include in your notes: Anything the Holy Spirit tells you.

This is why I titled this article, “Prophetic note-taking.” This is the prophetic part. You’re paying attention to the sermonizer… and I would hope you’re also keeping an ear open for the Spirit. ’Cause he’s gonna make comments during the sermon. Ideas are gonna pop into your head which relate to God. (And sometimes they won’t even have anything to do with the sermon. Not that this matters.) Whenever this happens, write ’em down.

“So wait: Every stray idea that pops into my head is the Holy Spirit?” No. Honestly, many of those ideas will be your bright ideas. And some of them won’t actually be all that bright. In fact they might be really stupid. But sometimes, sometimes… one of them is a God-idea. And you’d better keep those!

Definitely stuff to meditate upon.

As usual, how you know these clever ideas are God-ideas, is you confirm ’em. Bounce the idea off fellow Christians—particularly those Christians whom you know hear from God.

Make sure these ideas aren’t contrary to the scriptures. Make sure they’re the sort of ideas which produce good fruit in those who carry ’em out—and not impatience, divisiveness, anger, and the worst in people.

Yep, not every one of these ideas will be God-ideas. But when they are, they’re definitely stuff to think about. Stuff to apply to your life. Stuff to remember. Whereas you notice all those people who don’t take notes during a sermon? I guarantee you more than half of them will have no memory of this sermon by the next time they attend a church service. Even if that next service is Wednesday night! You’ll have to jog their memory. It’ll be gone. And along with all the stuff the preacher said… all the stuff God said, assuming they were even listening.

When God sees you trying to heed him, and writing it down and going over it later, he’s gonna tell you more stuff. Gradually, more and more of your sermon notes are gonna come from the Holy Spirit himself.

Most of those God-ideas will be for you, and only you. Stuff for you alone to carry out. Don’t get the idea every prophecy is for other people; they’re only for other people when the Spirit says, “Hey, tell this other person…” or “You need to tell my people….” Messages for others will be obvious. But the bulk of the time, work on yourself.

And encourage your fellow Christians to take prophetic notes! Compare notes. Don’t be harsh—“Oh, this one is so not God.” But go ahead and be skeptical: Too many Christians, in the pursuit of prophecy, are too willing to swallow anything, or claim everything is a God-thing when no it’s not.

Okay, there’s your homework for the year. Do it for the very next sermon you hear. (And if you don’t wanna wait till Sunday morning, go find a sermon on YouTube or something. So it’s not live; the Spirit always is.)