Yesterday evening, while discussing the reports that in our nation, ninety percent of Southern Baptist churches have plateaued, are declining, or growing at a pace slower than their community, my friend and Pastor shared these words of encouragement to us from Jesus.
“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.” Matthew 11:29
There is something very simple, yet often overlooked in these very well known words. To “take a yoke upon” implies submission. It means there is work to be done, so his rest is not for the sluggard. Interestingly, in the days of this text, no two yokes were the same as each was custom-made to fit the ox bearing its weight. A good day’s labor required just the right yoke.
The disciple’s life is a life of servitude, but there is rest in the yoke Jesus offers because his yoke takes our eyes off of the distractions of a hurried and busy life, reminding: 1. Activity can replace authenticity. 2. Events can replace enthusiasm. 3. Our planning can replace our praying.
There is rest for our souls awaiting when we sit at his feet, “Learn from me.”
I have thought often today about my friend’s words, and especially of the words of our Lord. I have no answers for why the decline and even less of how to fix it. I’m pretty sure though that an honest assessment of my own heart leaves me knowing where I need to spend much time; listening, learning, and laboring with a fitted yoke.