What people see when they look at pastors


‘They’re watching’  Not in a creepy sense, I hope, but every Sunday, every meeting, every conversation, you are being watched.



Because you are supposed to be a model of being a mature Christian.  People learn from you how they are supposed to be Christians.  Paul told Titus, ‘Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works.’ (Tit. 2:7), and he told Timothy, ‘Let no-one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity’ (1 Tim. 4:12).

In other words, you can preach your socks off, but your life had better line up with your teaching.

Now here’s the thing.  I recently spent a morning at a meeting with the pastor of a humongous church, which he had grown from scratch.  And he was describing how he spent his working week –  and I guess the rest of us were keen to learn from his example.  How had he done this?  What went into his week? Here are his stats:   70% of his work week went on preparing for Sunday, and the remaining 30% teaching his staff.  That is all.

Now, part of me is in awe of his iron discipline.  And a nagging voice would point out what I fritter or waste time on which could actually be better done by others leaving me to my key tasks.  Another voice would point out that his strategy, which has grown this church from scratch, obviously works.  So I’m uneasy about criticising.

But still – that is all?

You see, what would his church learn from him?  if they copied his example, he would hear the following comments:

– I spend all my time with Christians; I don’t have any non-Christian friends

– I’m so busy with church stuff; I don’t have time for evangelism

In other words, he models that evangelism is something we talk about but never do, and he has only himself to blame if that becomes the pattern of the Christians in his church.  Because they’re watching him.

Now, you and I may never grow a megachurch.  And if you have, you won’t be wasting your time reading blogposts by someone who hasn’t. But it’s still worth wondering what people see when they look at us when we’re not up front, but we’re still on display.

Think it through

  • Do you hear these two comments in your church?

     – I spend all my time with Christians; I don’t have any non-Christian friends

– I’m so busy with church stuff; I don’t have time for evangelism

  • Is there any way that your example reinforces the problem?

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9 comments on “What people see when they look at pastors”

  1. One of the disciplines I learnt in China was that my whole life was on display to the world. I had a babysitter at home who was friends with my secretary at work who was friends with the people I taught at church. My sitting room was a common room for younger mission team members. In addition I had to assume that all my phone calls and internet use were monitored. If I had an argument at home it was likely that people in my church would know about it.
    What I learnt from all this was the need to live a unified Christian life and not to be a double minded man (James). The way I use my time, the way I speak to my kids, the sites I use on the internet are all part of my witness.
    Of course it is normally necessary to have boundaries to protect family life from the prying eyes of the fish bowl of ministry. It is not fair for my kids decision to read Harry Potter to become a debate for every parent in church. But the general point stands.
    How does our use of time testify to the glory of God? How is our use of the internet a good witness to family and friends? My aim is to live a transparent life where those I am teaching can see me somewhat warts and all. It holds me to an account and others can learn from my struggles with sin.
    Its a good point Chris and its got me thinking.

    1. Yes – I’m being challenged at the moment about how several pastors I admire are never on their own – they always have someone else with them, so that they are consistently modelling discipleship.

  2. Ouch again. I’m thinking through what the time I spend out in evenings also communicates to other as an example about how I value my wife and children. I have been quite struck by speaking to adults who were brought up by a ministers, one says, “I never knew my Dad until I was in my 30’s”. The other still resents the time, “he was not there.”. I’m not sure who said it, or whether I’ve made this up myself, but I keep thinking, “Don’t sacrifice your children to the idol of Christian ministry.” Is that a fair thought or not?

    1. Ravi Zacharias: You must live by example. You must live by integrity. Your children must be able to rise up & speak with confidence about your life. ‪#‎family‬
      Our kids watch us 24hrs per day. Of course we need to prioritise our time with them. Most important though is that they don’t grow up thinking our faith is just hypocritical talk.

  3. Whether we know it or not, the ‘camera’ is always on us. So we had better modeled what is good.

    As for spending time with only Christians, I believe our calling extends more than than. How can our light shine, except there is darkness to expose? Jesus our greatest model spent time with both saints and sinners. We just have to know what we are doing like He did.

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