Subtitled, "Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice".
I can hear my pastor's voice as he said it to me. "You'll take nine months off. Six is too little. A year is too long." It didn't even occur to me to question it. I knew things couldn't carry on as they had been, and so I complied. "If you come back to this church you will come back with a clearly defined list of responsibilities." was the remark from another Christian leader.
It had happened. Shallow and easy-going, level-headed, not given to displays of emotion, all of a sudden I was burnt-out and depressed. I'd shouted at the church council and had started having panic attacks, among other symptoms too painful to mention. It was time to stop and recover.
In "Zeal without Burnout", Christopher Ash has given us a wonderful book. It is timely, sane, wise, sensible, gentle, clear, straightforward, caring and gracious. If I could give it six stars I would. It really is that good.
He gives us seven keys to a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice. "It is better to burn up than to rust up", goes the old saying. Maybe, but what if there is a way of doing neither, but rather of burning calmly, brightly and continuously without being used up prematurely? How to achieve a life of sustainable sacrifice?
Ash's "seven keys" are:
1. Sleep, 2. Sabbath rests, 3. Friends, 4. Inward renewal, 5. A warning, 6. An encouragement, 7. A delight.
The book is punctuated by testimonies of people who have experienced burnout. I appreciated these but I didn't need them. I could supply plenty of those from my friends and colleagues. And my own. But they helped to illustrate the sneaky way that burnout and depression have of catching the most unlikely victim unawares.
Would a timely reading of this book have prevented my own burnout? Honestly I don't think so. I think the path of service I was on would have led inexorably to some kind of crisis, one way or another, and maybe my own crisis was the best thing to happen in those circumstances.
But I think that this book would be an excellent gift for those starting out in ministry, especially if some caring friend took the trouble to read through it with them, taking time to discuss ways to establish good patterns of service early on. Much good could come from that, and much heartache could be avoided.
An excellent book. I've read a few on burnout over the past couple of years... And honestly, I think this is the best.