Sermon Notes

IMG_6290I’ve watched boys writhing in the pews and struggling to pay attention for years, as the preacher plows through the text, turning over the soil of the soul. Sometimes the man behind the music stand or pulpit is me.

Other boys get down on their knees, but not to pray. They face a chair with a pencil up and press their noses down close to a piece of paper or a flyer for some church event or a bulletin or a sketch pad, rendering caricatures of superheroes or Transformers or stock cars. Older boys may read an appropriate novel. Some do their homework, while others game away on a device of some kind.

After a couple of years of being on the receiving end of a pulpit, more often than the delivery side, I’ve taken up a method of recording and remembering that is neither new nor novel: I’ve joined the other boys in the room, who are drawing.

One Sunday, I was squirming in my chair a bit, just like I did when I was eight, and thought to myself, “the other boys are drawing — I always drew in class — maybe I should try that.”IMG_7187 - Version 2

So, I found the mostly blank journal I started in Uganda and decided to fill the next 50 pages with drawings I would complete during sermons. It was a way to adjust to my new role, as well as an experiment to see whether I learned and retained more, while composing a small drawing.

I found that I actually have retained and enjoyed preaching more, while growing in the faith, by drawing. Some compositions are better than others, but that’s not the point.  A few times, I’ve found myself beginning to feel the panic that artists experience, when nothing’s coming to mind: but, then I remind myself that I can always go abstract. Generally, as we read the Biblical text the first time through, I’ll have an image in my mind and put it down on paper.

I try to be careful when adults are sitting nearby — careful not communicate boredom or that I’m hearing God’s Word as background noise or wallpaper. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I find other boys drawing nearby, I like to connect after the service to compare pictures and share insights, both artistic and theological.

11951451_10156267315585314_7333594881163165722_oThe experiment has been a success. Texts are more memorable. I’ve met new friends and fellow Sunday service artists. I may continue illustrating sermons for the rest of my life.


Here is another angle on how to listen to a sermon at The Gospel Coalition.


  1. Eric Fassler said:

    Interesting. To think of how often my friends and I (and many others apparently), were in trouble for doing just this! It makes sense to me though, considering how many people are visual or hands on learners.

    September 25, 2015

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