Review of “Zeal Without Burnout” by Christopher Ash (The Good Book Company: UK, 2016) by Rev. Robert Arendale
Whether one is called to full-time vocational ministry, or one is a faithful layperson seeking to serve the Lord in the local church to the best of his or her ability, we all know something of ministerial (or spiritual) burnout. We all know what it feels like to be worn out spiritually. Simply put, service in Christ’s church is hard! For this reason, I am so thankful for Christopher Ash’s book, “Zeal Without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice.” The book begins with an encouraging Foreward by Alistair Begg, and then proceeds with two introductory chapters followed by Ash’s Seven Keys. He begins by distinguishing ‘sacrifice’ from ‘burnout.’ He writes, “There is a difference between godly sacrifice and needless burnout.” He continues, “My reason for writing this book is to help us discern the difference between sacrifice and foolish heroism, and so to guard against needless burnout” (pp. 18-19 of IBook edition). Ash follows his chapter on a ‘crucial distinction’ with a chapter outlining a ‘neglected truth.’ It is this neglected truth that shapes the remainder of the book. As he states, “The foundation of all I have to say is that you and I are dust” (26). Or to put it another way, we are not God. Although at times we think we are God, or at least we imply that we are God by our mentality … God is God and we are not! Ash’s seven keys flow from this foundational truth: we need sleep and God does not; we need Sabbath rests and God does not; we need friends and God does not; we need inward renewal and God does not. These four chapters are then followed by a warning against a celebrity mentality; an encouragement to the great joy that we receive in serving our Savior and King; and a reminder that we should take ultimate delight in God’s amazing grace to us as opposed to our gifts and successes. Finally, the book is interspersed with individual stories of burnout and renewal adding a personal touch. I could not recommend this book highly enough. Service in the church is a marathon and not a sprint. And this short book is a needed reminder as to how to run the marathon well!