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Monday, May 2, 2016

"Zeal Without Burnout" (Christopher Ash)

TITLE: Zeal without Burnout
AUTHOR: Christopher Ash
PUBLISHER: Purcellville, VA, The Good Book Company, 2016, (112 pages).

The word "burnout" is a commonly used term to describe people who had worked so hard to the point of physical and spiritual exhaustion. It is also a good reminder to us that even good works and zeal for doing good have their limits. Being human, we are susceptible to false perceptions and flawed expectations. By ensuring that we take steps to take care of ourselves and our souls, we can exercise what Christopher Ash calls "Zeal without burnout."

Christopher Ash is the Director of the Cornhill Training Course, a two-year course from the Proclamation Trust. He is author and has served previously as a pastor and has seen people burn out from their service in Church. Recognizing that there is a better way, he writes this book with a deep concern for ministry workers and those serving passionately week after week. Why do people get discouraged over time? How do we support fellow workers in the Lord? How can one sustain zeal and joy in service? For Ash, there are seven "keys" to ensuring that our zeal in our service will be sustained over the long haul.

Part of the healing process involves recognizing that only God is God; we are dust. The seven keys are meant to keep us grounded in the reality of our human limitations and to keep up uplifted in the understanding of God's truth and love.

Key 1 - Sleep
Key 2 - Sabbath Rest
Key 3 - Friends
Key 4 - Inward Renewal
Key 5 - A Warning not to seek the praises of peopleKey 6 - An Encouragement
Key 7 - A Delight.

Each of these keys come with everyday examples and illustrations about how to get through the day with adequate rest and encouragement. In order to ensure proper sleep, we have to learn to distinguish between social and unsocial hours; and to take steps to end each day well. Sabbath rest is important enough that we need to discipline it into our week. We cannot be wounded up 7 days a week. Once a week, learn to wind down. Friends are essential to help us avoid burnout. Those with spouses are urged to cultivate deeper intimacy with each other. For Inward Renewal, we are reminded to treasure our personal devotional time. If we want to give well, we need to receive well. There is a warning against celebrity inclinations, of people wanting to look good in their ministry. Often, such unhealthy self-expectations can wreak havoc on one's spirituality. Learn to seek God's definition of success and ministry wellness. Being well is not about doing lots of good things in our own ways. It is about doing God's work in God's way. Finally, there is that encouragement to see lives changed for God. The true delight is not about people exercising their gifts but about them living in grace.

Ash ends with some tips on how to sustain our journey of service without burning out. This book is definitely a life-saver for those of us in ministry. Service should not be too burdensome or be allowed to turn into a boring chore. Serving is a joyful endeavour that reflects the life and vitality of the Holy Spirit's work in our lives. If we are ever in the state of burnout, most probably, we have taken our ministry way too seriously. Let me offer three thoughts on this book.

Three Thoughts
First, every ministry worker must take the possibility of burnout seriously. We are not superman. Sometimes, due to vanity or some misguided sense of personal piety, we do things based more on our personal preferences than on biblical principles. Just because a person has never encountered burnout does not mean he/she is immune to it. Burnout can happen at any time, especially when we least expect it. Like maintaining a car, we do not wait until the car breaks down before sending it to the mechanic. We follow a maintenance schedule carefully so that our cars remain in tip-top condition.

Second, learning to rest well is a discipline that needs to be taken seriously. In Genesis, God intentionally takes a day off not because He needs to, but because He is setting an example for the rest of us to follow. He does it for our sake. If we do not learn how to rest, others may think we are always available, especially during times that we are not. When we learn to rest intentionally, we are setting forth an example for the younger believers who look up to us.

Third, if God cares for us, we too must learn to care for our souls. It is no use running our tanks empty to the point of utter dismay and discouragement. A good soldier must be well-fed, well-rested, and well-cared for. Even pastors would need encouragement. The ministry of care-giving must always include ourselves. With this, I am most encouraged by these words by Ash:

"If I never preach another sermon, never lead another church meeting, never give another talk, never have another one-to-one spiritual conversation with anyone, never use my gifts ever again in ministry, my name is still written in heaven. And in that I will rejoice."
“I am — and will never, this side of the resurrection, be more than — a creature of dust. I will rest content in my creaturely weakness; I will use the means God has given me to keep going in this life while I can; I will allow myself time to sleep; I will trust him enough to take a day off each week; I will invest in friendships and not be a proud loner; I will take with gladness the inward refreshment he offers me. I will serve the Lord Jesus with a glad and restful zeal, with all the energy that he works within me; but not with anxious toil, selfish ambition, the desire for the praise of people, and all the other ugly motivations that will destroy my soul. So help me God.”

One more thing. The short list of additional resources at the end of the book is worth looking through.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of The Good Book Company and Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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