Pastors today face tremendous pressure, heavy burdens, and stress overload. They’re constantly pressured to improve in the A-B-C’s of church success: Attendance, Buildings, and Cash. Their church’s growth is measured by how many people attend their services, how big their buildings are, and how much money they can raise for their ministry.
Many pastors we talk with feel there just aren’t enough hours in the day to complete their work and care for the people who need their help. It’s tempting for them to keep working faster and longer to try to get it all done. Their lives become hurried and pressured. Other leaders and caregivers face similar challenges with ministry stress.
Dallas Willard’s Thoughts on Jesus’ Easy Yoke
Recently at the Knowing Christ Today conference one of the subjects that Dallas Willard spoke on was Jesus’ easy yoke for pastors. Recall that Jesus says to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
I’ve read and meditated on Jesus’ easy yoke so many times, but I never tire of hearing about it! Here are my notes, along with some of my comments, on what Dallas Willard had to say about Jesus’ easy yoke for pastors and all kinds of people. (My quotes from Dallas Willard below are not a perfect transcript. I can only write so fast! So my interpretations are included in my notes.)
Dallas introduced the subject of Jesus’ easy yoke for pastors:
One of the lies in our culture today is, “It’s hard to follow Christ.” No, it’s the easy way! The transformation of the self is what leads to the blessed life and this is what Jesus is after. The person with the easiest, strongest life is the one who walks in the easy yoke with Christ. The world around us needs us to stand steady in the yoke.
What is the yoke? It refers to two oxen being yoked together to pull the load. The idea here is that we’re pulling Jesus’ load with him. His load is to bring the reign of God into ordinary human life. His message to everyone was, “Re-think your thinking because the kingdom of the heavens is now available to you.” (Matthew 4:17, paraphrase)
The light load only comes when we’re working alongside of Jesus in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus’ Easy Yoke is for You!
Who is the easy yoke of Jesus for? Who was Jesus speaking to when he offered his rhythms of grace? Dallas answered:
You might think Jesus was talking to anyone who is weary. Look at the context. Jesus has been facing great opposition in Matthew 11. Even John the Baptist is questioning him because he’s not living up to his expectations. (If you follow Jesus long enough you’ll get disappointed!) Jesus was rejected again and again because of the dominant view in society that put the stress on outward religious behavior and appearance.
But Jesus prays, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 11:25, MSG) So Jesus was talking to these ordinary people who were carrying a terrible religious burden from the wise and learned religious scholars. Religion wears you out.
Jesus is saying, “Take the yoke of official religion off of you. Take my yoke on you.”
Jesus Doesn’t Push — He Pulls You Along Gently
“In life some things that can be pulled can’t be pushed,” Dallas explained. “Making disciples is a matter of drawing people in by who we are. You can’t push this. A disciple is so ravished by Jesus and life in the Kingdom of God that they want to become like him.”
Jesus is wooing us, “Come to me… I will give you rest… Take my yoke upon you… For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He’s drawing us into his “rhythms of grace” to “live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG).
If we’re living in Jesus’ easy yoke then we won’t push ourselves or others. We won’t force things. We won’t try to make things happen. We won’t hurry. Instead of pushing we’ll be pulled along gently by the Spirit of Jesus.
Dallas concluded his thoughts on Jesus’ easy yoke for pastors by saying:
The easy yoke is lay aside your project and mine and take up Gods project. Our projects are crushing. Often we presume to take up Gods projects.
We need to be like a bowler, let it loose and go, “Hmm! Hmm!”
We do our best but we don’t trust our best. We turn it loose to God. Working harder is not the solution, almost never. We’re working too hard. We don’t leave it to God. This is the constant teaching of Scripture and the great ones for Christ over the centuries. They learn to abandon outcomes to God.
What a joy it is to turn our lives loose to God! To live relaxed and joyful under God’s leadership. This requires training in the yoke with Jesus. This is something we do off the spot, before a trial or challenge hits, so that by working with God’s grace we are transformed on the inside to become a different kind of person. This is secret of the easy yoke.
Update! I share what I learned from Dallas Willard in Your Best Life In Jesus’ Easy Yoke. The book I just published on January 1st, 2016.