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.