“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30, ESV)
The danger for those of us who have grown up in the church is that we can read these words without them sinking in. At least that has been my experience. I have heard them so many times and perhaps have never taken the time to ingest them to absorb the sustenance that they provide.
In so much of my experience of church over the years I have felt a push toward breathless activity, to do more and more. Perhaps I am susceptible to calls to service because I am wired to crave approval of others.
One of the idols that can so easily ensnare me is accomplishment. This idol finds worshippers in the church as easily as it does in the business world. What is dangerous about this idol’s work in the church is that I can convince others that I am doing it for God even though I am really doing it to feed the idol.
The biggest problem with this form of idolatry is that the energy required to keep it all going eventually runs out. Those who are seen as burned out have simply come to the end of their resources and have nothing else to give. They have also come to the realization that the idol gives nothing back to those who worship him.
Certainly, in any social organization, there are things that must be done to keep the organization going. The church is no different. For the church to function on a Sunday morning, there are things that need to be done. People need to serve the congregation for the ministry to run smoothly.
The question then arises, how do we balance rest and service? I think that the answer lies in relationship. If I am doing a work of service in response to a prompting from God then the following are true:
- I am doing it for God’s glory and not my own
- I am responsible to be obedient, but I am not responsible for the outcome
- God’s grace will make up for the imperfection of my service
When these things are true, then I can serve or not serve as God prompts. When these things are true, my stress level goes down because I am not taking on something that is not mine to bear. When these things are true, I am serving in response to my relationship with God and I am not feeding the idol of accomplishment.
Jesus’ yoke is easy and the burden light. If the burden is not light, if service is difficult, then I need to consider that the yoke is not Jesus’ yoke.
Perhaps those who burn out in ministry have been pulling the wagon in the wrong direction.