Recently I was reading a new book Exploring Church History by James P. Eckman. In writing about John Calvin, he says the following:
“Because Geneva was so strategically located, Protestant refugees from all over Catholic Europe flooded into the city. They sat under Calvin’s teaching, and when they returned home, they took his theology with them. This pattern explains the remarkable spread of Calvinism throughout the Western world.
In addition to his amazing preaching and teaching schedule, Calvin also wrote prolifically. He wrote lectures, theological treatises, and commentaries on thirty-three books of the Old Testament and the entire New Testament except Revelation. As Philip Schaff has written, ‘Calvin was the founder of the modern historical-grammatical exegeses of God’s Word' (Schaff, 8:118-119). The reformer likewise carried on a massive correspondence with people all over Europe.
Calvin is often pictured as a disciplined, authoritarian fanatic. This idea is quite inaccurate. He loved life. He loved to play games and frequently visited the homes of his followers. He also spent many hours giving premarital counseling in his church. But it was his participation in the execution of Michael Servetus that contributed most to the image of Calvin as an extremist. (James P. Eckman, Exploring Church History,55).”
You will notice the last phrase in the second paragraph, “The reformer likewise carried on a massive correspondence with people all over Europe.” Here was a man who was writing commentaries, pastoring full time and counseling, He was known for discipling many, caring for the poor, leading a mission movement worldwide, and yet still had time for massive correspondence.
The lack of disciplined personal correspondence may be one of the biggest road blocks in effective ministry in the church and missions today! The majority of pastors, church leaders, mission leaders, missionaries, and executives simply will not and do not answer their personal correspondence whether it is letters, faxes, telephone calls or emails. We all receive massive amounts of general emails and newsletters. It is impossible to read all of these, but there needs to be some discipline and courtesy in responding to personal correspondence that is addressed directly to that person.
Just today I was praying about the situation of not hearing from various organizations, leaders, pastors, and missionaries to help us complete several tasks of purchasing and shipping Study Bibles overseas for ministry, to schedule a conference for needy pastors in the Philippines, answers as to how much is needed for a certain project, and no response from one of seven executives to complete a network of agencies dealing with crisis intervention for the poor and needy. I could go on and on.
Does anyone have thoughts on why there is such a lack of response to personal and important correspondence these days? It seems so strange. It is almost like God’s people have a serious blind spot or there is a ploy of Satan to hold back the effectiveness of the ministry of evangelism, discipleship, and development to the glory of God through such a simple but such an important matter such as disciplined communication. What do you think?