10 Types of Sermon Hearer

I’ve been preaching in different churches for 20 years now. I’ve come to recognise certain types of hearer.

The Amener

An Amen is said when a point of truth or relevance is uttered. The more selective Ameners will issue only 2-3 per sermon; the more liberal will say the word every few minutes. A point of particular agreement may result in a louder, more emphatic pronunciation of the word, perhaps with a sideways look at the spouse or deacon to whom the preacher’s remark is surely intended. Unfortunately, the Amen is often inserted ahead of comments the preacher intended to be ironic, but the Amener is not easily discouraged.

The Nodder

A milder, generally more British version of the Amener. Good points are rewarded with a gentle nod; less pleasing points are quietly ignored. When the preacher’s on a roll, repeatedly riding the Nodder’s favourite hobby horse, the nodding becomes little jerkier and an agreeing ‘mmm’ sound may be heard emanating from the lips. 

The Scribbler

Writing so many notes, she must know short-hand. Is she recording points verbatim? What are these notes even for? Will they ever be consulted? As the note taking continues apace, even when little of substance is being said, the preacher many conclude some rather detailed doodlings are being produced. Or the next day’s shopping list. Or the number of times the preacher uses certain phrases, like ‘friends’ or ‘the good Lord’.

The Flicker

Always turning the pages of his Bible. Looking up proof-texts? Being a good Berean? Or restlessly seeking a more interesting Bible story with which to kill the remaining ten minutes of the preacher’s tedious exposition. Or trying to find that verse about sharpening iron but can’t quite put their finger on it? 

The Scowler

Has the preacher just uttered heresy? Been too liberal? Too fundamentalist? Mispronounced a word? Who knows. The scowl might be the wearer’s natural look (I fall into this category) or he might be a fellow preacher who feels a trick has been missed. Thankfully, he’ll make a point of putting the preacher right afterwards and removing all doubt. 

The Grinner

Broad smile fixed on the face throughout. Initially, it’s rather encouraging, but the smile never fades even when a point is not being made or some banality temporality lighted upon. One suspects the preacher could proclaim the death of God or the inaugural speech of an Islamic republic, and still they’d offer an innocuous and anodyne beam.

The Despairer

Sometimes found in reformed churches, these folk have heads in hands as they listen to every word, each one a personal denunciation of their own depravity and sinfulness. An urgent referral to the Samaritans is not needed after all, as they often prove rather grateful and appreciative after the meeting. 

The Glazer

This one’s eyes are so glazed, he could make a living supplying Safestyle UK. No reaction, no response. The preacher is sometimes tempted to go over and check for a pulse. Either unsaved and unmoved by the Spirit, or converted but taking seriously the phrase ‘joy inexpressible’. This one certainly doesn’t massage the preacher’s pride; this hearer is a revival barometer- should ever he offer the slightest reaction, revival is surely come.

The Anointee

This one believes the preacher’s spiritual power can be absorbed and received. Mid-sermon, a palm will be raised in the preacher’s direction, eyes closed, head gently rocking. This preacher has ‘the anointing’, and one-to-one prayer will certainly be sought after the message. 

The Distractor

A bee has entered the room and buzzes up and down a pane. This listener follows its course carefully. Someone coughs. Around they turn to see who it is. A tractor rumbles by; the neck strains to see what it looks like. Halfway through the sermon, they wonder if so-and-so is here: around they look to answer their question. They check to see if their phone is on silent. While there, they check the weather forecast. In comes another bee.


”Faith comes by hearing”.


Image by Couleur from Pixabay