I’ve been pondering this thought lately…
How is it, that after many years, many a Christian feels exhausted and in need of a break from involvement with church?
I do not mean for bio/psycho health or other unforeseen reasons, but spiritually need a break. Many of us confess that we are “spiritually/emotionally burnt out” and have given up on the idea of any meaningful commitment to belonging to a Jesus community that gathers regularly for worship (Maybe some of us haven’t totally given up yet, but inside we have and are just keeping up appearances?).
Jesus’ kind of church
Surely this kind of church experience doesn’t line up with the church Jesus is building:
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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 11:28-30 NLT
Yes Jesus, being yoked with you is not burdensome, but that’s not the problem, it’s the church that wears us out!
Therein lies a problem. When Jesus gives us “his yoke” to take upon ourselves, it includes his body, the church. Therefore it must be possible for the church to be an expression of this yoke that Jesus offers?
The nature of Christ’s church
Perhaps Jesus’ words in Matthew 11 can shed some light on at least one aspect of the essential nature of church that he is building.
The church (among many other things) is a safe place where the weary can find rest for their souls…
A community where we can run the marathon race of life together and “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Heb 12:1-2 NIV).
That is, a community
- where we get to “carry each other’s burdens” (Gal 6:2), giving one another the gift of rest.
- where we confess our sins to one another and thereby cease pretending and performing… and are not judged if we are not quite ready to go there yet.
- where love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet 4:8) and we no longer keep “a record of wrong” and therefore are not being silently evaluated by whether we are ticking all the right “church expectation boxes”
A community where it is not about us and what we have to do, but rather a community that is centred on Jesus and what he has done, is doing and will do, in the power of His Spirit and for the Glory of our Father!
The Church should be good news to the weary
The good news is that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lets us rest in his presence (Ps 23), he is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27– 28) — the Lord of Rest! And the church that he is building is a community of rest in his finished work (Heb 4:1-11). This means our churches need not be a place of frantic activity and striving, but green pastures and still waters where we join Jesus in his rest and celebrate together in joy for what he has done!
Sure, much more can be said about the nature and mission of the church, and the gathered church needs some hands-on organising, but for the sake of this thought, may the church at least be known as an embodied Psalm 23 Community, a safe place of rest in the shadow of one another under the Good Shepherd’s care.
Grace and Peace