Joel Rainey is the Director of Missions at Mid-Maryland Baptist Association, an adjunct professor at Capital Bible Seminary and blogs at Themelios (Twitter – @joelrainey). This post was originally published at his site.
Nearly three years ago at this time, my wife and I were in China getting ready to meet our little girl–now over 4 years old–and complete all the in-country and American citizenship paperwork that would both make her our daughter, and an American citizen. We landed in Beijing, and spent two days touring the city while the Chinese government finalized all the details for our pending adoption.
While on tour, our guide warned us to look out for swindlers on the street who would try to sell us everything from fake Rolex watches to event tickets that had long-expired. “When they start to walk in your direction” he said, “just start waving your hand and shaking your head, and whatever you do, just keep walking away, and don’t even make eye contact. These people are nothing but mosquitoes!“
I later learned what he meant by comparing them to a blood-sucking insect. Not only will they rob you blind and take your money, but they will also take you energy and attention off of what you are there to do–in our case, to enjoy the beauty of ancient China, and bring our daughter home.
As I think about that experience, it makes me wonder how many pastors (or leaders in any other profession) are sidetracked nearly every day by a different kind of mosquito. When someone comes to you with a concern or complaint, your shepherd’s heart goes out to them, and because you love them, you want to see them walk away satisfied. But sometimes, all that happens is that you end up in a perpetual “back and forth” with someone whose mind is unlikely to change, and who is not nearly as interested in dialogue and understanding as they are their own agenda.
My office gets its share of these people as well. In fact, over the last week, we’ve had quite a persistent little devil that is demanding our attention regarding an issue that he thinks is of eternal importance. Our collective response–based on my own orders to our staff–has been absolute silence.
Is this because I have no heart? Not at all. Its because after 21 years in ministry, I’ve seen his ilk many times, and I simply don’t have time for him, nor will I waste staff and other resources entrusted to us by our churches to address his concerns, which I can almost guarantee will never be alleviated. Over the years, we’ve had several folks like this try to get us sidetracked from time to time.
So Pastor, if you are wondering how to deal with your own “mosquitoes,” let me encourage you to follow my lead, as its expressed in the following open letter:
To Whom It May Concern,
Every day, our office is inundated with phone calls, emails, social media, and various other kinds of correspondence. My own personal email count averages more than 100 each day, and that doesn’t include those that are screened by my staff. Because this level of communication can sometimes be overwhelming for an office our size, and because we give priority to those who are members of churches that are in our network it sometimes takes us a bit to respond to you if you are reaching out to us from outside that network. If you have experienced a delay in our response, I hope you will understand and bear with us. Thank you for your patience.
However, there may be a few of you out there who never get a response from us, and I suppose we at least owe you an explanation for why your letter ended up in the trash, why your phone calls were never returned, why your email landed in our spam box, or your social media messages were blocked. What follows is an attempt to explain why you never heard from us:
-To the “purpose-driven hater” who believes Rick Warren is the antiChrist, and wonders why we no longer take your call and haven’t answered your letters………
-To the Fundamentalist who leaves nasty messages about our contemporary churches, and wonders why we don’t call back to explain ourselves………
-To the denominational purist who demands to know if any of our churches also cooperate with Acts29, and wonders why we haven’t met those demands…….
-To the angry anti-Reformed guy who wonders why I don’t respond to his attempts to start a twitter direct message conversation that will identify all the evil Calvinists in this Association………
-To the group that wonders why our office refuses to hawk your“we support Israel no matter what even if they carpet bomb Turkey unprovoked” wares on our churches………
-To the out-of-state “Christian organization” leaders who question my Patriotism because, as a follower of Jesus, I’m public about hanging out with my Muslim friends, and wonders why I haven’t responded to defend said accusation……..
-To the prophecy nut who wonders why we won’t dis-fellowship churches in our Association who don’t agree fully with his own views of end time events, and can’t understand why I won’t respond to his emails.. . . .
-To anyone else I’ve missed who made the mistake of calling amissions mobilization entity in order to nit-pick a theological or political point of view and wonders why we haven’t been willing to be distracted enough by you to even respond…….
…its because I have better things to do with my time. And honestly, you do too!