Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice
“…I think it is a mistake to consider renewal by the Holy Spirit as separate from renewal in our embodied well-being, our bodies, our emotions, our affections and our thoughts. Times of quiet, enjoyment of beauty, the experience of refreshing exercise, stimulating sport, wonderful music, wholesome reading and conversation, can at their best be God’s hand-maidens to spiritual refreshment, as they are combined with hearing afresh the promises of God in the gospel.”
Christopher Ash has written a concise and genuinely powerful book that ruthlessly drives home the truth that we need rest. It is, frankly, remarkable the degree to which we pay lip-service to this. Rest is something that other, slightly weaker people need. Zeal without Burnout is a strong rebuke to this, correctly unmasking the underlying attitude as pride. Instead, Ash reminds us with page after page of Scripture-soaked common sense that we are dust. Driving ourselves into the ground for the sake of so-called “gospel work” is to show to others how indispensable we are, and rarely to show how indispensable Jesus is. It is the Christian equivalent of virtue-signalling.
Having driven home our fragility as creatures, and amidst interwoven, sobering autobiographies of burnout victims, Ash introduces us to seven keys for how to live a life of sustainable sacrifice. Four of these keys take the form “we need x, and God does not”, covering sleep, Sabbath rests, friendship and inward renewal. The final three are a warning of Christian celebrity, an encouragement that zeal is worth it, and an exhortation to rejoice that our names are written in heaven through grace (Luke 10), rather than to rejoice in our gifts.
Again and again as I turned the pages I caught myself thinking “well yes, I know”. Again and again I was convicted that this could not be the case, as my own walk with Jesus simply did not reflect this. The significance of Zeal without Burnout is therefore in showing us the hypocrisy of our “believing” that rest is a wonderful thing. Ash sets us free to enjoy our ministry and to repeat to one another, as he and his wife do, that “there is only one Saviour of the world; and it’s not you, and it’s not me.” I wholeheartedly recommend this book to all who find themselves in full-time paid ministry, or surrounded by a culture of praising hard work.