If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall (1 Corinthians 10:12, NLT).
Last weekend, I read that another pastor of a large church who has had an influence on my life was charged with immorality and spiritual abuse.
My heart is grieved.
This news caused me to think of other American church leaders who have stumbled. One was a leader of church growth conferences (and I attended several of his conferences); another was an author of Christian apologetics (and I’ve read all of his books); and one led a dynamic ministry that influenced a generation in Biblical purity and spirituality (and I still have the notebook from his conference).
On and on this “biting the dust” litany goes, as I can list other pastors, teachers, evangelists, and church leaders who have fallen from faithfulness.
“Why?” I ask.
I’m now reading a book from another pastor of a large church, and he explains the difficulty he experienced leading a large church . . .
It hits me like a freight train: In America, you can be a success as a pastor and a failure as an apprentice of Jesus; you can gain a church and lose your soul.
Worldly success is never a guarantee of a deep relationship with Jesus. In fact, following the worldly ways in which churches have been taught to build growth today almost guarantees burnout and stumbling with pastors and leaders.
The Bible says to follow Jesus, and we will find rest.
Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28, NLT).
Early in my career as a pastor, I went to every church growth conference I could find. I learned how to grow a church from 200 to 1,000, studied how to write mission and vision statements, read books on branding and promoting your product (church), and hired consultants for my church to help implement and fund best practices.
Whew! A lot of work. What I didn’t learn from any of the conferences was how to find rest in Jesus.
In my thoughts this week, I also considered another miscue happening today.
As I listen to pastors and church leaders attempting to find peace in ministry, I hear talk about casting burdens, going on sabbaticals, and reading the latest book on the unhurried pastor’s life.
Again, it’s a good direction, but it doesn’t guarantee a deep relationship with Jesus. Just because we discuss and listen to podcasts and go on a retreat doesn’t mean we learn to reset our hearts for Christ.
To find rest, to keep from biting the dust, let’s understand what Jesus actually said . . .
Come to me!
Then Jesus says . . .
Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light (Matthew 11:29-30).
After coming to Jesus, we must take His yoke. This means we give up control of our lives to follow Him. Often, conferences and even attempts to find rest are just a disguised plan to follow the latest trend on how to succeed in life.
Both the quest for church growth and rest can become idolatry.
Let’s review what Jesus taught . . .
Come to me – Step One. Take my yoke – Step Two.
These are the first two steps toward rest. Sometimes, the burden of His yoke seems heavy, but with Jesus, nothing is that difficult.
Humility — submitting to the yoke of Jesus — allows Him to turn our dust into life.