If you’ve spent anytime in the church, you’ve probably realized that ministry opportunities abound. Once you’ve said yes to once opportunity, the next thing you know there are 100 more opportunities, and each of those wait anxiously for someone (anyone!!) to volunteer for. However, how much work can one person do without burnout? That’s the question Christopher Ash tackles in his book Zeal without Burnout: Seven keys to a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice.
In this book, Ash begins by making a distinction between sacrifice and burnout because the Bible is clear that God calls us to make sacrifices in his name, even though he does not call us to play so close to the edge in our lives that we are no good for serving him. This is where the sustainable sacrifice in the subtitle comes from. Romans 12:1 calls us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, and that is something that we are supposed to do. Yet, somehow, in Christian service, sacrifice tends to be equated with working yourself to death or nervous breakdown.
After some discussion and reminders, Ash presents seven keys to remember as we move ahead in ministry. These are simple reminders, but if we’re burned out, we definitely need to stick with simple. For example, one of the reminders is that we need sleep and God does not. This brings some of my favorite discussion in the whole book as Ash presents Psalm 127:2 as a reminder that when we’re toiling and toiling and forgoing sleep for work and worry that we’re not trusting God. I have some times in my life when I could stand convicted.
Throughout the way, Ash also presents examples from pastors and ministry workers who have suffered full-blown burnout and shares how they came to that point and what it took for them to recover. These precious stories of the people who have sacrificed health and well-being to overworking themselves in ministry add so much to the impact of the book. I have learned much just from the stories.
This is a book that is short, and that’s a good thing because when you are suffering from burnout, the last thing you want to do is to suffer through a long book. I gleaned a lot from it’s pages, including how often I take pride in “all that I’m doing” for Jesus. I’ve found myself simplifying over the past year or so because of my personal struggles with near burnout, and this book was a welcome reminder of why the simplification for a “long term and low key” ministry opportunity and style of homeschooling are important.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.