Over the last several years I’ve heard a lot more talk among pastors on the topic of burnout. I confess to you that I tend to be less convinced by all of the stats and stories. However, after a few conversations with some trusted brothers who work hard for the Lord, I’ve become more open to listening and even learning from those who are raising this issue. Therefore, it was good providence that Christopher Ash just published a book entitled Zeal without Burnout. The subtitle sums up the aim: seven keys to a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice.
We can’t argue with the facts. Thousands of people leave Christian ministry every month. They have not lost their love for Christ or desire to serve him. But, for one reason or another, they are exhausted and simply cannot carry on. Ash has worked hard in ministry for a number of years and has himself been running on fumes when wisdom told him to pull over and fuel up. Therefore, he is qualified and uniquely burdened to write this book.
The book is a quick read, but like so many books, it leaves some presents unwrapped. The more we think, evaluate, and apply—we begin to open and better esteem the gift given.
The format is laid out to not overwork us (appropriate). The chapters are short, to the point, full of helpful considerations, and followed by a short narrative. In fact there are several stories of individuals whom have experienced the type of exhaustion and burnout described in the book.
After a brief forward by Alistair Begg, (which was also helpful), Ash begins to talk through what it means to be a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:2). He posits that a “sustainable sacrifice” is perhaps more to the heart of the idea. He calls this “the sort of self-giving living that God enables us to go on giving day after day” (p. 26). I found his distinction helpful in terms of making his point for the book.
The remaining chapters are what you would expect in a book like this—this does not diminish its helpfulness however! We need to be reminded of these things. The chapters include reminders about the need for sleep, Sabbath rests, friends, and inward renewal. Again, Ash writes from his experience. His pastoral words are good to hear and consider.
While I remain skeptical about this seemingly new phenomenon called ministry burnout, I am compelled to listen, learn, and evaluate from good brothers like Christopher Ash. He has served pastors and church leaders well by writing down his thoughts and framing this encouragement to a lifelong ministry of a sustainable sacrifice.