Ministry is hard! It is tiresome, demanding, never-ending work that requires a great deal of sacrifice. If you are in ministry or have been in ministry you know exactly what I am talking about. But all too often the journey in ministry brings an unexpected detour due to burnout. For folks in ministry, the passion (or zeal) that brought them to ministry is what drives them towards burnout. In his new book Zeal Without Burnout, Christopher Ash sheds light on the reasons why ministers burnout and ways to remedy the problem before it occurs.
Throughout the book, Ash gives seven keys to warding against burnout in ministry. Each of these seven brutally reminds us that we finite creatures and are not God. In fact, we are in desperate need of the Lord each and every day!
First, we need sleep. God wired human beings for the need to sleep. This daily rhythm of rest allows us to cease from work and recharge. Sleep not only allows the body to rest, but it rests the mind. While we sleep our brains process what we experienced that day. Sleep most importantly reminds us that while we rest God continues to work.
Second, we need Sabbath rest. Sabbath rest is a weekly rhythm of rest where we take an entire day off from our typical work. For most ministers this will not be on Sunday, but another day during the week. This is a time to enjoy the Lord through any means that truly allows us to rest. People rest differently. Some rest while reading or journaling, while others rest by hiking or playing a sport. The important principle is to cease from work and allow the Lord to work while we rest.
Third, we need friendship (or community). This is an important support system that allows us to share our burdens and enjoy the Lord together. Without friends, we become isolated and can feel like we are going at it alone. I must confess that I struggle with this.
Fourth, we need inward renewal. Every day we need a time set aside where we pray and read Scripture. By doing this we are feeding ourselves. The majority of the work of ministry is pouring into others. If we aren’t allowing the Lord to pour into us then we will dry up and be of no use to others.
Fifth, we need to warned against the celebrity mentality. Our society celebrates and worships fame. Unfortunately, this same mentality has crept into the church. All too often ministers fall into the trap of celebrity, which becomes their demise. In the end, it devastates their ministry even leading becoming disqualified for ministry service.
Sixth, we need encouragement. It cannot be said enough, the ministry is difficult! Ministry leaders desperately need encouragement. The biggest encouragement that people in ministry need is that it is worth it. Many who are in ministry have left their family, a comfortable career, or hometown to follow their calling. Unfortunately, many times it is difficult to see how ministry is worth the sacrifice.
Lastly, we need to be reminded of the joy of ministry. Most people who enter the ministry do so because they express a calling from the Lord. Yet, life has a way knocking you down and taking away the joy out of engaging in ministry. The Lord wants us to serve Him out of delight, not duty. This is a wonderful reminder that encourages me in my service to the Lord.
Encouraging and Needed Perspective for Ministry
Zeal Without Burnout was a highly encouraging and easy book to read. One of my favorite quotes comes from the end of the book. Ash says, “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.” These very powerful words speak truth to the heart of a minister on the edge of burnout. We must remember that the Lord has called us to serve Him not because He needs us, but only because He chooses to work through us. This puts into perspective the need for rest in the midst of the demands of ministry.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is currently in ministry, as well as to those considering ministry. It is a wonderful resource on a needed topic! If you are in ministry you must learn how to balance the demands of the job with rest and replenishment. This resource will help you work through that without throwing in the towel.