Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Active Worship: Reduced To Taking Sermon Notes?

Eric Carpenter at A Pilgrim's Progress posts Expositional Listeners? in questioning a concept Thabiti Anyabwile writes about in a book of his, What Is A Healthy Church Member.  He quotes Anyabwile's and comments:

"The first and most important mark of a healthy church is expositional preaching."  Anyabwile goes on to say that in response to this a healthy church member should be what he refers to as an "Expositional Listener."
Now, my purpose here is not to criticize Anyabwile.  I don't need to.  The concept of an expositional listener has been widely taught throughout my church experience.  What has also been frequently taught, as an extension of listening, is active note-taking of the sermon.  I agree with Carpenter that a church building full of passive listeners is not the model given to us in the bible, and that the model given to us of active participation from all the members for mutual edification is not often practiced.  In fact, I've only experienced such a thing twice in my life.

But why not extend it just one step further and claim that "expositional listening" of "expositional sermons" is best achieved through "expositional note-taking?"  Note-taking is an extension of listening, as I've been taught, so the note-taking would be expositional, right?  Is that the high point of our week?  Where does the bible admonish us to take good notes to glorify God?


  1. There is nothing wrong with note taking or listening to someone expose the Word of God. There is something terribly wrong if that is all we do with it. These practices fall far short of God's instructions:
    1. Teach and admonish one another Col. 3:16
    2. Speak to one another with songs hymns, etc Eph. 5:18-20
    3. Preparing in advance to spur one another on to love and good works. Heb. 10:24,25
    4. Coming prepared to offer a song, a teaching, a testimony, even interrupting another speaker. 1 Cor. 14
    This is deep involvement and participation in mutuality. There is no way this can happen with a pulpit and pews facing one way with 100 people in the room expecting one man to juice them spiritually.

    Once you are convinced of doing what these scriptures say, the big challenge is to:
    1. Convince the saints around you to make this a priority over tradition and it's comfort zone.
    2. If they reject you, find other saints around you who have moved beyond bogus traditions. God is the great networker.

  2. If one wants to take notes, there is no reason to forbid, but I doubt that the early Christians took notes (no paper, no ball point pens,...). But more important are the verses Tim mentions.
    In Col. 3:16 we can let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. This must be more than memorization. To me "dwell richly" implies the word is living in us accomplishes actions such as warming our heart and touching our conscience.Then out of this living indwelling we have something with which to teach and admonish one another.
    In Eph. 5 we can be filled in spirit; another aspect of life rather than merely of knowledge. Then we speak to one another mutually in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs. Being filled also causes us to sing to God in our hearts (per these verses) but also singing to God causes us to be filled (per my experience, which does not have the authority of the verses).
    Yes, this requires commitment on our part but this is what our Lord has presented to us.