Zeal without burnout (book review)

Zeal without burnout: seven keys to a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice
Christopher Ash
The Good Book Company, 2016

zeal without burnout

Christopher Ash is convinced that ‘the best kinds of ministry are, more often than not, long term and low key’. That conviction led to him writing this book to try and help people stop crashing out of ministry due to burnout and stress. To try and separate the physical from the spiritual is the Gnostic heresy, so it’s futile to think you’ll prosper spiritually if your body isn’t getting the rest it needs. God knows we are dust – when he chooses us, he is under no illusions about who he is getting in his team.

At 120 pages, this would be a good book to give to anyone you were concerned was heading in a dangerous direction. It’s easy to read and is peppered with stories of people in a range of different ministries who have experienced burnout. It assures readers that it’s ok to take time off. In fact, Ash says we should rebuke fellow Christians who let slip how hard they’re working and that they haven’t had a proper day off in a while.

Rather than just dealing with the surface issues, Ash also tries to get to the true root of the problem: ‘when our joy comes from our gifts and our successes we will always be under pressure’.

Of course, not everyone in ministry is in danger of burnout. Stress can also be brought about by not properly using the time for work that we do have. Ash writes: ‘One key to a successful day off is six hard working days on!’ – making sure that we work when we work will make it much easier to stop when we stop.

Much of the book is just common sense, but its good to have it all winsomely and attractively presented (even if using a tilde for a hyphen is a bit off~putting). Ash flags up one big cause of burnout when he treats neglect of the Sabbath, though the chapter would be stronger if he treated it as a command rather than just a principle. It’s important to note that this isn’t just a book for this on the edge of a breakdown – the scary thing about many of those whose stories are recounted here is that many of they didn’t realise they were burnt-out or depressed until much later, and even argued against those who told them that they were. Burnout is a growing problem – this little book is one way to help guard against it in ourselves and in those we care about.