I recall when my husband and I first got dial-up internet with an email service. Now and then, an email would pop into our inbox. We’d cull through the few emails, respond as needed, and move on.
I also remember when I first established an email address for my writer website. Again, emails trickled in, and I was happy to read each and every word that came my way.
Those days are long gone.
Perhaps they’ve passed for you too. When you start getting a bunch of email, it’s exciting because it means you’re reaching people. Isn’t that what you want your words to do? Don’t you want many readers?
Yes, but that increase in email also means you probably can’t read every word. Or at least you can’t respond personally and extensively to each and every email.
As a person involved in ministry, I feel terrible when someone pours out their heart and soul, telling me their personal story and asking for my help, and I simply can’t answer like I want to. This has been a difficult shift for me. Especially when I know how wonderful it can feel to get a personalized return email from someone you contacted.
But I also know that if I did answer each and every email with the care and attention it deserves, I wouldn’t be able to write more books or even blog posts. I’d spend day after day counseling people one by one through email.
And that’s not the mission God gave me.
Jesus dealt with this same press of needy people. Sometimes He stopped and interacted with them, but sometimes He stepped away so that He could stay focused and pursue His primary mission:
“When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake” (Matthew 8:18).
“And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan” (Matthew 15:39, ESV).
“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:15-16).
Do you feel guilty about the emails sitting in your inbox? About the people who desire or demand your time when you just don’t have it to give?
Yes, we need to let God interrupt our work when He wants something done. But all those emails in our inbox aren’t necessarily God’s calling for us. He has given us a mission of writing, whether in fiction or nonfiction, and that is the primary way we reach people for Him.
When I remember my Lord’s calling above all, I can keep my eyes on where He wants me to work. And I can trust that the Holy Spirit will lead those in need to other resources, because I’m definitely not the only one who can help. We exist in a Body of Christ, and I am just a finger.
In the meantime, I send out canned responses to thank people for their emails, explain what my response policy is, and encourage them to seek local help if they need Christian counseling, mentoring, or pastoring. And then, I write more blog posts and more books, praying these resources will answer some of those questions and help the marriages I long to help.
How do you approach your overflowing email inbox? How do you stay on mission?