I spend a lot of time speaking about Jesus in front of people for my job. Because of this, I spend a lot of time looking at the faces of people listening to me speak about Jesus. You think you’re just another face in the crowd. You are, and I see you. If you’ve ever wondered what you look like when you’re listening (or not listening), I’ve put together this list to give you a quick insight. Perhaps you’ll find yourself in one of the following categories:

The Encourager

This is one of the best people preach to. The encourager maintains eye contact and an encouraging smile throughout the entire sermon, except for those moments when you say something even slightly profound. Then they look serious, nod their head and say “Mmmm.” That sound is like honey to the ears of a preacher. If the church is a bit more Pentecostal they’ll say “Amen” or stand up and wave their Bible saying “That’s good.” It’s magical. If you can be any person when listening to a sermon, be this person.

The Passive Angry Person

There are plenty of people who have naturally angry faces (sometimes referred to as RBF). They might be very happy, thinking encouraging thoughts, but they look like you just publically endorsed the Klu Klux Klan or threatened to murder a puppy. It’s good to know about these people before you speak so that you don’t start crying in the middle of your talk because you think that you’ve mortally offended them.

The Active Angry Person

This person may or may not have an RBF, but when you’re preaching it’s pretty obvious that they aren’t happy. You preach on. You think through what you’re saying. You hope at least they’re angry at something true you said, not something dumb. They will throw you off your game then throw you off a bridge, or more likely, send you an angry email when they get home.

The Sleeper

There is often one or two people who fall asleep. You see their eyes roll up into the back of their head, their mouth drops open and they’re off in the land of nod. These people should make me worried, but I have been in their position many times. I’ve fallen asleep listening to some of the greatest preachers in the world. I’ve also fallen asleep listening to myself preach. So I don’t mind. God “grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalm 127:2). Sleep well and be blessed, tired friend.

The Bored Person

To be honest, this is most people. At least, this is how most people look. Resting bored face. They may be mentally interacting with the subject, they may be thinking about the nutritional value of popcorn.

The Gatekeeper

This person may have all sorts of looks on their face. What’s important is that there are normally one of two people who are the power brokers. Maybe they are your boss, or they are the pastor of the group you’re speaking to. You spend all your time looking at them. If they’re happy, you’re happy. If they’re unhappy, you’re worried. Hopefully, they don’t have a naturally angry face, or you’ll be 5 minutes into your message and sure you’re never going to get invited to speak again. You may panic and start changing your message on the fly.  You may start profusely complimenting them to make them like you. You may make promises you can’t keep like offering your first-born child in marriage. Best not to worry too much about these people till after you finish, then worry about if they’ll let you preach again.

The Love of My Life

When I was single there were often times when the woman I was interested in was in the crowd. I would always be keeping an eye out to see if she looked interested, inspired, bored, or overwhelmingly in love. These days, my wife is often in the congregation. I like to keep an eye out for her for the same reasons, generally, she at least doesn’t look bored, though sometimes she knits. Also, I look to her because she’ll let me know with a horrified look if I’ve mixed up Jesus and Satan, which has definitely been helpful once or twice.

Now that I have a wife, I’m pleased I no longer have single women trying to seduce me as I preach. That was terribly distracting. That was a joke – that never happened.

They are the people I see when I’m speaking. Which one are you? Or are you someone new and different?