Bible Study Is Better When You Take Notes

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

One of the keys to Bible study, seriously trying to learn what the Bible teaches, is to take notes. This is a primary difference, for example, between reading the Bible and actually studying it. Taking notes isn't just so you'll remember it later. The very act of writing requires you to formulate your thoughts clearly. Writing forces you to recognize fuzzy thinking for what it is and push beyond it. Write down what you're learning because it helps you understand it better.

A Three-Ring Binder Approach

I recommend that you begin a notebook in which to record your observations or research. Forty years ago I began taking notes on 8-1/2" x 11" binder paper. In the left margin I would record the date. In the top right corner I would record the book, chapter, and verses of the passage I was studying. This made it easy to file my notes in scripture order. I began with a single 3-ring binder, but now my binders fill a five-foot bookshelf. I look back at some of my early insights and am reminded of how the Holy Spirit has taught me over the years. Start small, but take notes in a way that can be expanded easily.

Journaling

Another approach is to get a bound book that you can take notes in -- a kind of journal. (I've tried that, too.) Journaling has great value, but a bound notebook that contains many topics is difficult to organize or index in such a way that you can find your notes on a particular verse in the future. That's why I really like the binder paper approach.

Taking Notes on Your Computer

You could also take notes on a computer, naming the files in such a way that you can find them again or search an entire folder for a word or phrase. It's probably a good idea to print out your notes when you're finished and file them. Back them up, too, since computers have a way of crashing occasionally. You wouldn't want your labor of years of study to be lost because your computer had a bad day.

I am so glad I began the habit of note-taking as part of my Bible study. Now when I study a passage again, I can go back to my notes. This way I can quickly review what I learned the last time I studied it and what I need to explore next.

For Bible teachers, small group leaders, and preachers, such a notebook of previous studies becomes especially valuable. But taking notes isn't important just because you might need them to carry out a ministry. Taking notes helps you as an individual probe the scriptures carefully and systematically. And in doing so, you are seeking more than spiritual understanding. You are seeking God himself.

 

Dr. Ralph F. Wilson has pioneered Bible study on the Internet since 1996 with his JesusWalk® Bible Study series (www.jesuswalk.com). The site offers more than a more than a dozen no-cost interactive online Bible studies, plus books and DVDs designed for personal and group study.

Copyright © 1985-2014, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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