It is a feeling that still haunts me. Around this time 2 years ago, I was about to experience burnout. But I didn’t know it. Based on the trajectories I had setup, I’m not sure reading this book would have stopped it at that point, but it couldn’t have hurt.
This is a deceptively simple book. In Zeal Without Burnout, Christopher Ash offers just what the subtitle promises: seven keys to a lifelong ministry and sustainable sacrifice. They are:
- We need sleep
- We need Sabbath rests
- We need friends
- We need inward renewal
- Beware of being on a platform
- Beware of discouragement
- Pursue in ministry because joy motivates you
Nothing here is necessarily revolutionary. However, Ash puts them in a framework that includes many personal stories (almost one per chapter), as well as some opening material that distinguishes between sacrifice and burnout. He then offers a big neglected truth (we are creatures of dust), before offering his four practical implications of that truth (see 1-4 above) and then three motivational questions to ask yourself. After working through those, there is a postscript from a medical doctor explaining burnout and then some suggested readings.
While the first four items above should not be surprising, they are things those of us in ministry need to remember regularly. When I experienced burnout almost two summers ago I think it was primarily because of lack of sleep, lack of true Sabbath rest (I had been taking a day off, but not really resting), lack of quality friendships (or at least spending time with friends I had) and lack of regular inward renewal (wasn’t really doing a quiet time to speak of). As a result, I hit a wall at the end of the semester and basically had generalized anxiety disorder for most of the summer and didn’t really come out of it until early the following year. I survived, but I certainly don’t want to feel that way again any time soon (or ever really).
All that to say, this book is worth putting on your shelf (after you’ve read it) if you’re in ministry. As the subtitle suggests, these keys are not for ministry in general, but are kind of back-end suggestions (or principles) for how your ministry and level of service can be zealous but sustainable. Some forms of zeal can be maintained in their intensity for a short period of time. But, eventually, like me, you might hit a wall, and spend a summer wondering how you’re ever gonna move on and get back to your normal self.
Christopher Ash, Zeal Without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Service. Epsom, Surrey, UK: The Good Book Company, March 2016. 112 pp. Hardcover, $12.99.
Read an excerpt
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Thanks to The Good Book Company for the review copy!