A) “Take my yoke upon you and burn bright for me, for even if you burn out you will have eternal rest for your soul. For my yoke is worthy of your best effort and my burden is yours to bear.” B) “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (See Matthew 11:29-30 if you are not sure.)
Take my yoke and learn from me, you can bear the burden easily...” says the Lord. So why are so many of us, especially those of us who are “in the ministry,” struggling so much? Why are there so many former pastors and ministry leaders out there who have quit in discouragement and some who have even fallen away from the Lord? Why is being a pastor or church/ministry leader so hard? Could it be that we have taken on a yoke that was never ours to pull? Could it be that we have taken on burdens that were never ours to bear? Could it be that we are single-handedly carrying burdens that were meant to be shared with others or with God?
Absolutely! We have taken on the yokes of others – what other people want us to do and be – and confused them with the yoke the Lord has placed upon our shoulders. His yoke is easy and His burden is light but the expectations of council members, denominational leaders, and the average person in the pew weigh heavily upon us. We try to please everyone by running here, there, and everywhere and doing this, that, and the other thing while the Lord is patiently waiting for us to listen to Him saying, “Wait a minute, slow down, I didn't call you to do all that other stuff. I called you to be devoted to Me and to partner with Me in proclaiming the Good News and making disciples.”
Let's think about this together. Are you in danger of burning out and quitting because you can't meet all the expectations and carry all the burdens that people have placed upon you? Is your local church weak because it is overburdened with church stuff and other people's expectations that have nothing to do with what the Lord wants the church to do and be? Have the things that were once your passion – sharing the Good News, making disciples, praying for people – become your profession?
In many churches today the work of the ministry is left for the paid professionals while the majority of believers form an approving audience that does its part by putting money in the offering plate and standing up to applaud on Pastor's Appreciation Sunday. Sure, it makes the pastors feel good to be appreciated and supported financially while the audience gets good teaching and weekly encouragement, but is that God's best for everyone concerned? Is it Biblical?
The answer is obviously a resounding “NO!” It's not God's best nor is it Biblical. God's best for everyone in the church is for each person to be in a passionate relationship with Him, not just a few. His best is that everyone would have the opportunity to discover their gifts and talents and then serve Him in ways that bring them joy and fulfillment. God's best is for the congregation to be an army of ambassadors that share the Good News about Jesus with whomever they meet instead of being an audience that is unequipped to talk to an acquaintance about Jesus or pray for a co-worker.
"His yoke is easy and His burden is light but the expectations of council members, denominational leaders, and the average person in the pew weigh heavily upon us."
Many churches today are weak and many church leaders are overburdened because we have taken what should be a passion of all believers – serving God – and made it a profession for a few. The light and easy yoke of serving Jesus becomes a heavy burden of church stuff and people's expectations when we exalt ourselves as professionals and ignore the giftings of those in our congregation.
As we get ready to go to prayer, let me ask you this, “Do you do what you do in church because you have to do it in order to get a paycheck or to please people? Or do you do it because you get to, because it is a joy and a privilege to serve God and His people?”
Your answer to that question will guide your prayer time today. If you do it because you have to, then confess that to the Lord and ask Him to help you sort out what He wants you to do and what burdens others are putting upon you so that you can make the necessary changes. If you consider it a great privilege and joy to serve, then rejoice in the Lord, thanking Him that His burden is light and praying that others would be able to enter into that special place of serving the Lord with joy.
Let's Pray Together: Lord, You know me better than I know myself. I need You to help me sort out which burdens are from You and which ones are from others. Help me to know which burdens are mine to carry with Your help and which ones I should pass on to other people or simply reject as not from You. Give me grace to be able to move into that special place where serving You is a joy and a privilege…. (continue praying as you feel led…)
Related Resources: Slow Church: While many people have lamented the industrialization of the food industry and started the "slow food" movement to stand against fast food restaurants and dehumanizing corporate strategies, the "slow church" movement still has a ways to go in terms of popularity and standing against the industrialization of church and Christianity. It definitely has a lot of truth to offer though. Check out this quote from Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus by C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison: "Many churches, particularly those driven by church growth models, come dangerously close to reducing Christianity to a commodity that can be packaged, marketed and sold. Instead of cultivating a deep, holistic discipleship that touches every aspect of our lives, we've confined the life of faith to Sunday mornings where it can be safe and predictable, or to a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ," which can be managed from the privacy of our home. Following Jesus has been diminished to a privatized faith rather than a lifelong apprenticeship undertaken in the context of Christian community."
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