AN EASY YOKE
"Come to me, everyone who is weary from carrying a heavy burden, and I will give you rest. Put your neck into my yoke and be taught by me,
for then you will find repose for your soul. I am gentle and gracious; my yoke fits well, and my burden is light."
Perhaps no myth is so prevalent in the church as the idea that the ministry is a difficult profession, wearying to the soul and exhausting to the body. That is not how Jesus saw it. He called his yoke comfortable, and his burden light! The operative word is no doubt "his". The yoke that is easy is "his". The burden that is light is "his". There is nothing in the work Christ gives a pastor to do that could ravage him or her emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually. The things that destroy us do not come from the Lord’s appointment; they arise from the cargoes we either pack ourselves or allow others to stow on us.
When we do what God has called us to do, we have full access to his enabling grace and strength. When we take up extraneous burdens, we are on our own. To carry those loads, we have nothing more to draw upon than personal wisdom and ability. People who labour with such scant resources will surely find their work toilsome, sapping their vitality, wrecking their health, deadening their spirits.
Of course, the gospel does demand from its workers extraordinary sacrifices. The Master’s service can bring nakedness, cold, hunger, violence, even death. Yet those sufferings are external to Christian ministry. They are a price we are willing to pay to glorify the name of our God. They may hurt us, but the gospel cannot, for in the task of God itself there is nothing to ulcerate a man’s stomach. Preaching Christ cannot block your arteries, or shatter your nerves, or bankrupt your finances! Those disasters are the consequences of things we do outside the divine purpose, carrying burdens God never gave us.
The mistake is common enough, as the following statistics show –
- In the United States, the average time a pastor remains in the ministry is only six years - which means, of course, that many pastors last only a few months.
- In Australia a comparable statistic shows that 50% of pastors have abandoned the ministry within five years of their ordination.
- Ralph Mahoney has said that out of every 100 people called to the ministry, only 10 finally get ordained; and out of that ten only one survives for a lifetime of service.
- Rowland Croucher has said that in Australia there are about 10,000 clergy serving the various churches, plus another 10,000 who for various reasons have forsaken the ministry.
Even if those figures are only approximately correct they still represent an appalling tragedy, a measureless loss to the church and to the gospel. Yet those crushed pastors all began their ministry with at least some sense of divine vocation. No one joins the clergy just looking for a job, or even for a career. Almost any other profession offers either better pay or better conditions. Even when men and women enter seminary with no higher goal than to serve humanity, there is still something noble about their choice, some echo of a call of God. Yet five or six years after their ordination, or even less, many pastors find their call dead, their joy dissipated, their love threadbare. Disillusioned, despairing, unhappy, their dream destroyed, they walk away from the pulpit, sometimes also from the church, and sometimes even from Christ.
Even among those who are still serving Christ, there remain pastors for whom the ministry has become arduous, fatiguing drudgery. It drains away their strength, leaving them frustrated, hurt, despondent.
What has gone wrong?
I think we must blame ourselves. We have adopted a false model of ministry, and we have imposed upon each other a set of destructive expectations. This book is an attempt to correct those faults and to offer a positive model for all who want to serve Christ well by building his church in his way.