Zeal without Burnout by Christopher Ash
Slogging through 70-80 hour work weeks, feeling the weight of disapproval from the congregants, getting not much in the way of rest, all these things lead to spiritual burnout for pastors. Yet, as Christopher Ash begins his book called Zeal without Burnout, he writes, “For many of us there is a different path. One that combines passionate zeal for Jesus with plodding faithfully on year after year. I want to write about this path (14).” Having twice come to the edge of burnout in ministry, Christopher is no stranger to these issues.
One of the first sections of the book is devoted to sacrifice. Ash writes, “There is a difference between godly sacrifice and needless burnout…You and I came from dust and our bodies will return to dust. At no point in our lives in this age are we far away from reverting to dust. We are very fragile (24, 37).” To sacrifice in a sustainable way we need to be keenly aware of our limitedness and fragility. Sleep, Sabbath, friends and food are all things we need but that God does not. Constantly bearing witness to ourselves about our fragility and dust(ness) is healthy and a sobering reminder that we tire and wear out, that are bodies are not meant for 24 hour work mode.
The celebrity of ministry can be a major cause of burnout for many. In fact, the mere exponential growth of some congregations can produce an amazing amount of pride in some, but also the feeling of success. After Denis told his story about celebrity burnout, he offered four things that might help others; focus on the Lord’s definition of success, seek help from a mature Christian friend, share the load, and don’t neglect you spiritual, physical, and mental health (93). The size of our congregations can’t bring out the reason why we do ministry nor sustain our bodies. Rather, loving God and the people in church involves breaking away from a lone ranger mentality.
This is a truly great book, one which people in ministry and in the culture should read.
Thanks to Cross Focused Reviews and the goodbook company for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.