I’m so thankful that Christopher Ash wrote Zeal without Burnout. It’s a much-needed book, and I’m confident many ministers will be just as encouraged by reading it as I have been. Ash possesses a keen awareness of the unique challenges of ministry, and using his years of ministry experience and anecdotes shared by others, Ash paints a portrait of faithful, healthy, and sustainable ministry.
Ministry pulls people in many different directions. Often, we have great zeal in accomplishing things for the kingdom. We see so many worthwhile things to do, we often overextend, and that can leave us exhausted—or worse: burned out. I know that I’ve attempted to counteract that tendency with a focus on greater “productivity.” Perhaps if I become more efficient with my time, I can write sermons more quickly, meet with more people, and generate more fruit. This line of thought presupposes that ministry can be measured empirically. Ash writes,
Gospel ministry is ministry in a messed-up world. And there is grace in the disruption, for it humbles me; it shows me afresh my total dependence upon God.
So you and I cannot plan for fruit; neither can we measure it. The stuff we can measure is the unimportant stuff: church budgets, church buildings, pastors’ reputations, numbers, numbers, numbers—even professions of faith.
But the really important stuff—changed hearts—cannot be measured. God in his grace sometimes gives us a glimpse, an encouragement, some evidence of grace. But it can’t be measured. You pray for someone and they don’t change. Who knows but they may change years later under someone else’s ministry (I planted, but Apollos watered). Or the fruit may come after you die. I don’t know; you don’t know. But we do know that in the Lord Jesus our labour is not in vain. (pp. 99–100)
Ash doesn’t urge us to greater “productivity,” he calls us to greater effectiveness through biblical fidelity. Ministry is not about being productive. The body of Christ isn’t a factory, and we aren’t producing changed lives. We simply can’t measure things the way we would in many businesses. Instead, we must strive to be effective. The true measure of ministerial effectivity is faithfulness to Christ. And by his grace, we can have zeal without burnout (Col 1:28–29).