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By Rev. Jaya Kumar
[Principal, Sielmat Bible College, Manipur]

One of the greatest challenges one face as a pastor is maintaining a proper balance in his priorities. Pastor has several roles to play in order to remain faithful to his calling He must be a student of God's Word. He must be a man of prayer. He must give leadership to the church. He must work hard to preach and teach the Word so that the people under his care are continually being formed by it into the image of Christ. He must do the work of an evangelist and he must give himself to personal work with individual members, so on and so forth.

There are many priorities a pastor can adopt from Synoptic Gospels as a model for his ministry. Jesus Himself practiced most of them and set as models for today's shepherds. In this article an attempt is made to present a few of them.In my opinion the first priority should be the total devotion to God. Next, growing in godliness, followed by obedience, leading and Guiding, Healing and Restoring, Nurturting and Sustaining and finally Integrity in Money matters. Mainly concentrating on the Scriptures I like to draw some of the insights which may help me and other pastors in their pastoral journey.

1. Devotion to God
1.1. Prayer

One of the priorities of the pastor to keep his devotion to God is Prayer. Matthew records in chapter 6:5-8, what Jesus talks about the model prayer. After a comment on hypocrites in verse five, He says in verse six "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Here Jesus is emphasizing on honest prayer in sincere manner. This is also an admonition for private prayer. Our prayers should project towards the Father who sees, listens, answers and rewards openly. Here is an advice for forsaking any display of religion that is done only for man's approval. As a pastor one needs to be careful when one prays in the Church and public places not to yield to this temptation. In Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4; we read of "The Lords Prayer". It is good to practice daily as an outline for personal worship, intercession, petition, warfare, and praise. Many a times as we practice in our home from my childhood days saying together the Lords prayer in closing of daily devotion, I did not mean anything serious about this prayer. Jesus taught His disciples the whole concept of devotion in this short prayer. I understood only when I really had a passion for Jesus and His service.

1.2. Balancing Devotion and Duty
Luke 10: 38-42 ; we read of Mary and Martha worship and serve the Lord. They are sisters of which Martha appears to be elder, for v.38 speaks of Martha's recieving Jesus into her house and her complain later against Mary's choice to be with Jesus, speaks of keeping balance for our duty and devotion to the Lord. Usually we set the Lord's work as a priority and go on striving hard, having no time to spend with Him in prayer and also meditating the word. Here is a lesson for us to prefer Mary's place, learning at the feet of the Lord, and serve like Martha whom He commended.
1.3.Patience,Persistenceand Perseverance in Prayer
Luke 18:1-8, we read of the parable of persistent widow, which tells us to practice patience,to be persistent, and persevere in prayer. The readiness of God to effect justice lies in contrast to the reluctance of the judge who only dispences justice out of exasperation with the nuisance of the widow's persistence. [1] The point of contrast is in the fact of God's willingness and readiness. We are not widows but members of Christs own body- His bride. So we can expect the just judge, the Father to bring us redress when we pray. We are told here that not to grow weary in waiting for the Lord, but to persevere in faith. One of the qualities a pastor needs to develop is to be patient when prayers are not answered immediately.

In Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; 1.4. Love towards God.
Luke 10:25-28, though Luke's context differs from Matthew and Mark; it speaks of total Love for God. He can empower any one to Love rightly himself or herself and their neighbours. Another way we can keep our devotion towards God is to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. Also love our neighbors as ourselves. Unless we have a total devotion and love to God, we cannot love others also. God has given us this quality to possess and love Him continuously and His children, who were created in His own image. As His children He expects every one to Love Him and others as himself/ herself. In short devotion is a matter of developing an intimate relationship with the living God and drawing near to His heart.
2. Growing in Godliness:
The second priority for pastoral ministry is Godliness."Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but fulfill." Matt 5:17; Jesus' ministry fulfilled the Law; it did not abolish it. Jesus has come and demonstrated the desirability of personal godliness, and gave the Holy Spirit to live this life through us. As a result, we have the hope of experiencing the very life of God. Jesus' life and teaching gave us instruction in how to live a Godly life. Though godliness never earns access to heaven from earth, through godly living we discover the blessing of heaven on earth. Jesus answered pharisees and scribes regarding the tradition of elders (Matt 15:1-9; Mark 7: 1-13). Jesus quotes from Isaiah 29: 13 in charging the pharisees with setting aside God's word by their traditions. Jesus dismissed their worship because their hearts were not aligned with their lips.Praises and true faith emanate from the mouth as well as from the depths of the heart. We are called to genuine praise and worship, so we have to praise Him in truth and in holiness, by recognizing the dangers of religious traditions. If a pastor fails to be godly, it is difficult to be a witness for Him, particularly in cross cultural situation.

3. Obedience

Obeying the Father was supremely important to Jesus. Obedience is the response of faith to any instruction from God. Mary, mother of Jesus submitted herself to God (Lk1:38). Another priority we find here is to adopt Mary's attitude, and submit all plans and future to God's will. God reveals His will in different ways, as He did in the Old Testament, even in Mary's life. When He revealed His will in our life through circumstances, from His Word or any method He chooses, our response is to obey. When we obey to His will it will result in successful Christian living and accomplishing His will in our l ives. This should be one of the priorities for the Pastor.

4. Leading and Guiding
Another priority in pastoral ministry is leading and guiding his people. As Hunter puts it, "In the poor pasture land of Palestine shepherding was an arduous and dangerous task.The shepherd walked at the head of the flock seeking and guiding it to good grazing, water and shade, and watching out for wild beasts and robbers."[2]

Jesus spoke the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew 18: 12-13; the care and concern of a shephered not only illustrate God's love, but serve as examples of the mutual care and nurture that we should practice. It is the duty of the pastor to restore strugglers to the flock. Pastoral care in personal crisis situations, for example, sudden death, suicide attempts, loss of job, loss of properties in different ways, political or social oppression is needed to be attended in time and to give all moral and spiritual support. However, in different culture and set up usually it is difficult to make any difference in leading the people. Nevertheless it is not impossible.

5. Healing and Restoring
One of the remarkable things in Jesus' ministry we find is healing. Gospels records several incidents. Luke as a physician, Mark and Matthew also records some of the healings Jesus performed. In Luke 4:38-39 healing of Peter's mother-in-law is recorded. In the following verses He healed many after the Sabbath's Sun set. In Jesus' day, there may not be much advance e commanded to teach our congregations to practice the same? In Andhra Pradesh one pastor who believes and teaches not to go to hospitals for any ailment, lost his son due to simple fever. He started breathing on the body for half a day expecting his spirit will returned. It never happened.

At the same time there is a healing center in Guntur, where healing prayers, preaching and worship services are conducted every Monday, I heard people testifying of many healings including AIDS. In this situation as a pastor what will be my priority? Jesus healed as a part of His ministry and taught people in every occasion on Kingdom of God and determined by His word and faith. Pastor can be a healer for broken hearted, people who are depressed, who are facing various problems, he can find a solutions and encouragement from the Word of the Lord, and heal as per their need. Healing, not necessarily of the physical ailment.

6. Nurturing and Sustaining
Pastors another priority is nurturing and sustaining. Jesus feeding the five thousand (Mk 6:30-44) is one of the examples. Jesus taught the mysteries of the Kingdom of God to meet the spirtual need of the people and at the same time He met the physical need by providing food. Our concern for the people today is just not preaching on Sunday. We live with people who has all varieties of problems. To make them grow in every area is a task and priority pastor need to take up. Clinebell has some of the useful information in this regard. He has been committed to a form of counseling which he described as 'Growth Counseling'. He points six interdependent dimensions within which it is necessary for growth to occur. He says that the pastor should be the facilitator for growth. This is done through a process of nurture, which combines carrying with confrontation.[3] I agree with Clinebell. Many a times when we facilitate things which we knowwill help to grow are not readily accepted by the people .We have to confront by nurturing them,so that we can achieve our goals.
7. Integrity in handling Money
Money must be handled carefully and used wisely to keep up our devotion and integrity toward God. Many passages in synoptic Gospels speaks about wealth. Matthew 6:19-24; Luke 12:33, 34; speaks of the storing treasures. We are warned to put our treasures where our heart will be, not to misplace our affections and loyalty because of personal possessions. Here is an encouragement to give the money for the Lords work as well as for the poor. It is better not to treasure any thing in this world.. There are people who keep their security in their wealth and possessions and even pastors are blamed for this and also misuse of the Church's money. As pastors is it possible to live above reproach, when many eyes are concentrating on us and our needs are not met with the income we receive? Yet, we are called to live above reproach and free from financial attachments to live for His glory and His work. He will supply our needs.

In conclusion, for a pastor keeping devotion to God in Prayer is essential. Balancing devotion and duty is another priority and make pastor accountable to the job He has entrusted. Unless he grows in Godliness and in obedince, he cannot be a model for his congregation. He has the responsibilities the Master has entrusted him to lead and guide, heal and restore, nurture and sustain. Besides all the important priority is dealing with money matters. If integrity fails it matters a lot. Pastors are called to be models for Jesus. Keeping the priorities for doing His will in the given situation brings honour and Glory to Him.
[1] Quoted from the helps of Spirit Filled Life Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982) p.1551.

[2] Rodney J.Hunter, Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990) p.828.

[3] Howard Clinebell, Growth Counseling (Nashville: Abingdon, 1979), Pp.17-18.

Clinebell, Howard. Growth Counseling. Nashville: Abingdon, 1979.

Hereford W. Jack (ed.,). Spirit Filled Life Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982

Hunter, J.Rodney. Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling. Nashville: Abingdon, 1990.

Life Application Bible, NIV Study Bible,The New Interpreter’s Bible also referred.
Source: Sielmat Bible College

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