The Public Nature of Pastoring and the Inescapable Reality You Always Represent Your Church

“. . . because you’re the pastor.”

Most pastors have heard the end of this sentence at some point. Perhaps you bristled at hearing it. Maybe your feelings were justified, depending on what preceded the phrase. But there’s truth in “because you’re the pastor.” The call to shepherd a church is a call to shepherd a community. People expect you to represent your church. And you should. If you’re a pastor, you’re also a statesman—there’s no way around it.  

I use the term “statesman” not in a political sense, but pastors are statesmen in that they must realize they always represent their churches. That hat never comes off.

You live in a fishbowl. You’re constantly—and justifiably—being observed. If it grates you whenever someone stops you in the grocery store, then get over yourself. You’re the chief servant of your church, and you don’t get the luxury of telling people, “Leave me alone.” Are there times to withdraw? Yes. Jesus took time to be alone with God. Do some people place too much scrutiny on you (or worse, your family)? Of course. But projecting the abuses of some on the rest of your people is short-sighted. Complaining about the fishbowl does nothing for you or your church.

Your opinions affect your church. You’re entitled to them but know they will reflect on your church. I find it humorous to read disclaimers on some pastors’ social media bios: “These thoughts are my personal opinions. They are not necessarily the opinions of my church.” Yeah, right. If you say something foolish, mean, heretical, or illegal, it will reflect poorly on you and your church. Before you speak out, ask, “Will this hurt or help my congregation?” You always represent the bride of Christ, especially the local church you shepherd.

You’ll never be part of the crowd. By design, pastors are set apart. It’s one of the toughest aspects of ministry. Leading a church can be quite lonely. You’re never “just one of the friends.” Since you represent your church unlike anyone else, you must always consider that your words carry more weight. Quite frankly, it’s viewed differently if you tell a crass joke or cross the line of decency.

Pastors are public figures. It’s an inescapable reality. Is it fair? Not really. Your calling as a pastor is not based on being treated fairly. You must embrace the fact that you are a figurehead—in your church and community.

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Posted on February 8, 2023

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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  • RevMikeyMac says on

    Thanks for the reminder, although I didn’t need it.

    That’s because my wife – my “Holy Spirit Junior” – reminds me when needed (and it is needed – from time to time…).

  • Whether clergy believe it, our profession (vocation) is as a public figure. No matter what, especially in the day and age of Google searches, people can and will find out who you are and what you do. There is a special trust applied to clergy and an expectation (maybe wrongly) that they are not human. But that doesn’t change the fact – whatever happens will reflect on our profession.

    About the only thing that trumps me being a clergy is me being a retired Navy Officer. Thankfully, both professions have the same issue – one is never out of uniform, even when you are out of uniform. Everything is attributed to (in my case) Commander Ferguson – even though I retired in 2007.

    The other side of the coin, the commonality between being a pastor and an officer is I am accountable for things that are not specifically my actions. In the Navy you can lose your job because of what someone else who reports to you does. If something goes wrong in the church – it is the pastor’s burden to bear not the individual.

  • I’ve seen firsthand the damage done when the pastor won’t reign in his political opinions. The church I currently attend is known as the church that’s anti gay, anti Democrat, anti anything liberal, and so on. It’s embarrassing but the pastor doesn’t see it as a problem.

    I see it as a huge impediment to growth, and if I’m being honest I struggle inviting people to my church out of fear of what they might hear. Actually, it’s gotten to the point that I don’t look forward to attending services. It escapes my why some people think ignorance is a badge to be proud of.

    • Probably more troubling, from a pastor’s perspective, is your last paragraph. If you are unwilling to invite people to join you in church and you don’t look forward to attending services, why go? You clearly don’t see the disconnect between the message of the gospel and the message of the church.

      Free advice (worth every penny of what it costs you), if you wouldn’t be willing to have your parents sit with you in church you probably shouldn’t be in that church.