It is almost safe to start reading again (rant-wise). Today I'm going to write about the damage that un-replied to emails cause. Yes, I'm guilty of this at times, too.
I'm going to take actual cases, but disguise the locations and suspects.
Case 1: You send an email with a proposal (or invitation) for an event with Christian unity as the aim. The majority of the emails are met with silence. A few say they have prior commitments. A different few just say 'No' and give no reason. Some of the emails bounce because the faith communities they were sent to haven't updated their website contact details in ages.
Damage: It is going to be a long time before the proposal/invitation sender tries again. How demoralising to think that the desire for Christian unity is so feeble! Even discounting for denominational prejudice and concerns about email attachments and going straight to junk folders, it is still demoralising.
Case 2: You send an email with ideas for a different way of running a regular prayer meeting. Silence. Several weeks later you send a follow-up reminder saying that this desire to try something a bit different is still strong. Silence.
Damage: Ignoring someone isn't going to make them go away. If you don't want to put a response in print, you pick up the phone or set up a face to face meeting. Of all the options silence damages the trust relationship the most. No's, No because's, Yes's, Maybe's, Let me pray about that's, at least acknowledge that the message has been heard and let the petitioner know where they stand. Anything but silence at least invites further conversation or negotiation.
Case 3: You send an email to someone you wish to keep in contact with, and include a genuine question that you really want the answer to and which has the potential to open up greater dialogue – which maybe will lead to being able to ask the burning question you have. You get a short response, but the question has been ignored.
Damage: It is hard to escape the conclusion that the person doesn't really want to keep in contact, or has been told not to. At the very least, your email didn't get read properly, and you read properly the emails of the people you care about.
Case 4: You have a burning idea, and you'd like to find out whether someone else shares that idea or whether maybe God has been putting a similar burden on their hearts. Not wanting to prejudice anything, because you want to hear straight from them before sharing your own stuff, you send a message expressing a desire to catch up over coffee and chat about what they've seen God doing recently. The response is either a No, or silence.
Damage: Without this first step of discernment, nothing can happen. God might be leading them a totally different way, and that's OK, as long as you get to find out. You pray for them and hope that everything works out for them. Maybe there's someone else who has the same burden. But if God has been stirring in their lives and you don’t connect, then all those maybes and possibilities become never-evers. And if you follow up at decent intervals with the same connection request, and it gets either continued silence or knocked back, all of those dreams and ideas die. Stepping out of the comfort zone and trying to do the same with someone else is going to be that much harder too.
Case 5: You have had an ongoing exchange of ideas and then the other person says, 'I'm going to shelve this'.
Damage: If the other person doesn't want to push through the areas of conflict and spend the time necessary to listen, dialogue and find resolution, then you are in no man's land. You know that if the other person considered you worthwhile enough, that they'd commit to working through things and not leaving them unresolved. No one likes to feel that kind of pain.
And the hardest part? That these good, God-loving and God-fearing people treat their brothers and sisters in Christ like this -.so much for loving each other.
We have to do better.
If we took Luke 6:30 seriously, 'Give to everyone who asks', we'd acknowledge that asking anything is difficult for most of us, and that it takes real courage to do so. Most of the time we do not know the full story behind the asking, nor the true need behind the asking. We'll only discover it if we take the first step to respond.
So please reply to emails, always, in ways that keep the communication channels open.
If you do, who knows what amazingly good things God might initiate through them.