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Zeal without Burnout Hardcover – March 1, 2016
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Books like this are a needed resource for the weary pastor. Christopher Ash draws on years of personal experience and rich biblical wisdom to provide ministers with a tremendously encouraging resource to persevere and thrive in the ministry. This is a book all pastors need to read and take to heart for the sake of their church and for the sake of the fruitfulness of their ministry.
-- R. Albert Mohler - President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Many pastors are familiar with the weariness that accompanies ministry. Like a wise and gentle friend, Christopher Ash provides us with encouragement and practical help so we can sustain zeal and avoid burnout. While this book is a gift to pastors in particular, everyone who reads it will benefit.
-- C.J. Mahaney - Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville
This book is blessedly humbling and helpful. It's full of honest testimony concerning this thing called burnout. I'm grateful to learn from this testimony and from the biblical wisdom that enfolds it. Christopher Ash has given us a call to zeal without burnout - but rather with humility to trust our all-sufficient God who has provided for us in his Son.
-- Kathleen Nielson - Author, speaker and Director of Women's Initiatives for The Gospel Coalition
Exceptionally wise, practical, and important. Pastors aren't the only ones who are prone to burnout. Women's ministry leaders, pastor's wives, and cross-cultural workers, take up and read! Sit down with a friend so you can discuss "Zeal Without Burnout" together. It will give you a whole new appreciation for who our great God is, and who he has designed us to be.
-- Gloria Furman - pastor's wife, mom of 4, author of The Pastor's Wife and Missional Motherhood
Reading Zeal without Burnout by Christopher Ash is like sitting across from a godly father and friend who loves you enough to look you in the eyes and tell you that you that the world is not going to come apart at the seams if you take some time off to take care of yourself. Anyone who worships the god of productivity and therefore has forgotten how to take a break will benefit from this book.
-- Nancy Guthrie - Bible teacher and author of the Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series
This book is for everyone not just people in ministry because we all live very busy lives and are susceptible to burnout. In Zeal without Burnout, Christopher Ash speaks plainly, wisely and encouragingly. He does so because he has been there. If you want to take a first step by asking whether you are on your way towards or in the midst of burnout, this book will help you. His advise is grounded in a basic understanding of our humanity and our limitations. He then gives practical guidance in light of those limitations. As I read through this easy to read book, I found myself evaluating my own life and found comfort as I recognized my limitations and took to heart his advise. I will be recommending this book to everyone!
-- Timothy Lane - Author and President of the Institute for Pastoral Care
This book will not require much of your time investment cover to cover, but careful digestion of its biblical wisdom will reap dividends a hundred fold and then some. Whatever your temperament, I don't think any Christian worker can afford not to read it.
-- Adrian Reynolds - Director of Ministry, The Proclamation Trust, UK
Christopher's exposition of the simple truth that "God is God and we are dust" liberates, humbles and strengthens with practical and pastoral wisdom. Read this if you are feeling weary and be refreshed in God's grace. Read this even if you are feeling energetic because prevention is better than cure!
-- Denesh Divyanathan - Founding Pastor of The Crossing Church (Singapore) & President of Project Timothy (Singapore).
There are far too many victims of burnout in pastoral ministry. I was very nearly one of them and almost had to pull out after just four years. Christopher Ash's wise counsel, learnt from scripture and through long, and sometimes bitter, experience, would have helped me enormously in those early years and is still what I need today.
-- Vaughan Roberts - Rector of St Ebbe's Oxford and Director of The Proclamation Trust
As a pastor of 12 years and no longer young, I praise God for Christopher Ash's self-disclosing cry that we are but dust! We live moment by moment as frail beings given health and strength by our sovereign Father, but those are limited by his grace so that we never forget that he is God, not us, and that we desperately and constantly are constructed so as to need him. May this book help us end the corporate church conspiracy to seem stronger than we are, even omnipotent, and leave us content to keep being wisely weak and daily dependent until Jesus returns.
-- Dr. Andrew Nicholls - Medical Doctor and Church Pastor
This is a brutally honest but profoundly joyful little book. Packed with personal testimony and Biblical insight we are gently reminded of the dangers of behaving like we are God. It is humbling, refreshing and will be a great help to many who want to keep going to the finish line.
-- Jonty Allcock - Author and lead pastor at The Globe Church, London
I m so grateful (and relieved!) that someone of Christopher s experience has written so candidly about burnout. Interspersed with several others testimonies, this is a very real, down-to-earth but always wise book. There s straight-talking but a soft heart, compassion for the broken alongside a desire for healthier expectations for normal ministry. My only frustration: it left me wanting more!
-- Mark Meynell - Associate Director (Europe), Langham Preaching, Langham Partnership
I need this book, and I suspect I'm not alone. As a friend and former colleague of Christopher, I have seen first hand his zeal for the Lord. And I have also seen how that can lead to near burnout. Full of biblical and applied wisdom, this book will rescue many a minister and ministry.
-- Robin Weekes - Minister, Emmanuel Church Wimbledon
It's something we all want - zeal without burnout - and here is a book to help us. Christopher explores the dynamic between a life given to Christ and serving Him in a ministry job. The personal stories make it accessible, practical and at times touching. A great read for any team even before you go through busy times.
-- Nat Schluter - Principal, Johannesburg Bible College
In this marvelous and much-needed book, Christopher Ash manages to warn, encourage, expose and comfort in equal measure. Every page is humane, penetrating, rich, wise and above all, gospel-saturated. This book came to me as a word in season from a humble brother (and the other brothers and sisters who shared their stories), and I am sure God will use it to do the same for many, many others.
-- Gary Millar - Principal, Queensland Theological College, Australia
About the Author
Christopher Ash is a pastor and author. He was Director of the Proclamation Trust's Cornhill Training Course from 2004-2015. He is married to Carolyn and they have four children and three grandchildren.
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Top customer reviews
Path: Ash explains four truths about us as humans which cause us to redirect our focus. He then gives a warning, an encouragement, and a delight. There is an appendix which explains burnout from more of a physical point of view.
Sources: Personal testimonies, Biblical examples, and gospel truths.
Agreement: I appreciated this short book on burnout. It was very revealing of some of my heart issues which have led me closer and closer to this cliff.
Personal App: Am I assuming that I am the savior?
Favorite Quote: There’s always more we can do in ministry, but God is not asking “Can you do more?”. He is asking “Do you love me?”
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:
Is in ministry
Is watching someone walking into this pit
Other books along this theme would be:
Hughes, Kent and Barbara. Liberating Ministry Form the Success Syndrome. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1987.
Tripp, Paul David. Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. 1 edition. Crossway Books, 2012.
The book is short – just over 120 pages – and I was able to read the whole book in about an hour and a half. It is sprinkled with stories from various Christians who have wrestled with the specter and symptoms of burnout. The heart of the book are the “Seven Keys” which are made of up four “needs” (we need sleep, we need Sabbath rest, we need friends, and we need inward renewal) followed by a warning, an encouragement, and a delight. The book is simple and much that is shared is simply Biblical common-sense. But it is the very common-sense approach that Ash takes which makes this book profoundly helpful. At its most basic level, Ash’s book can be boiled down to what he calls, “A Neglected Truth”: we are mortal creatures. As Ash puts it, “The foundation of all I have to say is that you and I are dust. We need to know that and never to forget it. You and I are embodied creatures; we are dust” (pg. 35). From this truth flows the recognition that we need rest, sleep, friends and renewal. What drives ministerial burnout is the faulty belief that we are somehow indispensable. We proudly assume that God needs our sacrifice, our gifts, or our personalities to build His kingdom. Ash graciously shatters that thinking. I found myself humbled and encouraged by this book. It stands as a needed warning against my own pride and offers a helpful balance so that I can faithfully sacrifice without foolishly rushing into burnout. This is a book to read and to share; enjoy and be blessed!
I would like to thank the good folks over at Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a free review copy of this book. I was not obligated to provide a positive review.
Longtime British pastor and author Christopher Ash gives us his latest offering in an all-too-brief look at the topic of ministry burnout. In his Zeal without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice, Ash’s stated aim “is to help us discern the difference between sacrifice and foolish heroism, and so to guard against needless burnout” (26).
Some enter ministry with a temporary zeal that is untethered to biblical depth and maturity. Possibly catering to shallow notions of “doing great things for God,” many pastors build numbers, venues, and events that become akin to the old circus act of spinning plates. When this happens, it’s only a matter of time before something crashes. Ash speaks pointedly to this tendency:
The problem is that we do not sacrifice alone. It may sound heroic, even romantic, to burn out for Jesus. The reality is that others are implicated in our crashes. A spouse, children, ministry colleagues, prayer partners and faithful friends, all are drawn in to supporting us and propping us up when we collapse (24).
A Brief Overview
In the introduction, Ash tips the reader to the fact this book is only making a start: “This is a very personal book; and I trust it is a biblical book. But it is far from being a comprehensive or expert treatment of the subject” (14). The author reveals his personal interest in that “[a]t least twice I have come to the edge of burnout. By the grace of God, I have been enabled to step back from the brink” (15). Ash writes for a potentially broad audience yet pastors seem to be the main focus. “I write for all zealous followers of Jesus. Perhaps especially for pastors and Christian leaders” (14).
The main thrust of the book is centered around what Ash believes is a neglected truth. “The foundation of all I have to say is that you and I are dust” (35). He then considers seven ideas or principles that flow from it. The first four are needs we have that God does not share. He says these needs are sleep, Sabbaths, friends, and food (41). He devotes a chapter to each of these. However, “food” becomes “Inward Renewal” in chapter 4 with no explanation for the change in terminology.
The final three keys are “A Warning: Beware Celebrity!; An Encouragement: It’s Worth It; and A Delight: Rejoice in Grace but Not Gifts.” At times, these points feel forced, but reading charitably I believe he offers a number of basic insights that will prove helpful to many. Also, scattered throughout the book are six testimonies, or what are called “Stories,” which follow the main chapters (Roy’s Story, Ben’s, Carrie’s, Allison’s, and Dennis’s). While these stories did offer some real-life insight, at times they introduced some confusing aspects to the author’s point which I detail below.
A Final Thought
There are a number of typographical mistakes, punctuation marks, and various fragmented thoughts that need additional polish. Most significantly, the table of contents pagination greatly departs from what the reader finds throughout most of the book.
There were numerous times I wanted Ash to flesh out in more detail his point, but one suspects the book’s brevity hindered such expansion. I would love to hear the author enlarge on many of these themes which were quite limited in a book of this size.
The most unsettled question of this book is ironically its main focus—what is burnout? How does one make sense of “burnout” if its definition remains elusive? There are numerous places where “burnout” is referenced as an “illness” (55, 82) or generally associated with “nervous disease” (58). The subjective nature of the term is evidenced in “Dennis’s Story” where he states, “Burnout can be defined in many ways, but that’s how it looked in my situation” (90).
Adding to this confusion is a final chapter by Dr. Steve Midgley, “What Exactly is Burnout?” He states, “Burnout isn’t a medical diagnosis” (117), yet throughout the book it is assumed to be marginally a medical issue since the language of “illness” is employed. Midgley walks the reader through a very brief explanation of burnout which he, wrongly I believe, associates with “the stress response curve” (119). There are numerous problems with introducing such confusing analysis at the end of this book. Mentioning one, Midgley’s evaluation is entirely couched in behavioral terms based on outward physical stimuli such as stress, lack of sleep, etc.
Midgley makes no attempt to engage biblical data or to consider that outward actions are responses of the heart. He’s right in saying that we should not immediately assume “some sort of spiritual weakness” (120), but does this mean we should assume the presence of a disease or another malady? Reading Midgley’s chapter does not resolve the issue or the question at the heart of this book. In fact, one still wonders after reading this final chapter, “What Exactly is Burnout?”
Despite these limitations, Ash does effectively place a flag in the ground calling for believers to give this more attention. To that end, I think his various pastoral insights on “burnout” open the way for others to address the subject with greater clarity. The ground is plowed here for future work on this subject. We still await a healthy treatment balancing Paul’s concern that we “take pains” with ministerial labors yet also “persevere in these things” (1 Tim 4:15–16). Until then, this little book from Christopher Ash will encourage many pastors walking the often-difficult trails of pastoral ministry.
A must-read for pastors and leaders, because the risk is high for burnout. A call to endure for the long haul, trusting in Christ and being okay with being weak.