Do You Know How Important It Is To Secure Your Email? (Part 1)

You can secure your Gmail account from hacks in a matter of minutes. But you won’t. Not unless you grant me five minutes to convince you. If you do, I will share a real story to explain in layman’s terms what you avoid. Hint: One of your most prized commodities as a planter. As a bonus, we will traverse from Gmail to Gospel by the end of this nerd nugget.

(Note: This also applies to similar email accounts other than Google’s Gmail.)

Here’s a snapshot. Securing your account adds another level of authentication to your profile so that a not-so-friendly stranger in south Florida does not pretend to be you.

Why Should You Care

I know what you are thinking. “Dude, does that happen…especially to a lowly church planter?
Or maybe, you are acting chill. You shrug, “If somebody wants to read through my sad email exchanges about childcare issues and the temperature in the cafetorium last Sunday, go for it. I could frankly use the help.

To the first response above, or rather, question…Yes, it does happen. Though you feel lowly and meek, do not assume your lack of status equates to your inbox wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Unfortunately, we live in an age where having an email account and a pulse is enough to warrant a sniff from a prowling identity hound. No angelic choir or shining star needed. Sorry to burst your Jason Bourne fantasy. You can be found.

To the second response, turn down the volume on the hipster, sustainable, bamboo headphones and think about your email for a second. Your archive of old emails is Coloma, California to a wide-eyed panhandler in the 1850’s. There’s gold in them there mailboxes.

How It Happened to a Friend

I have a good friend who runs a small non-profit organization in a small town in a small state. (The state ranks down in the 30’s among the 50 in the U.S.) My friend noticed some strange email activity. About that time, her phone buzzed. It was the bank. They caught some peculiar activity on her business credit card. They sourced the problem. Turns out, the culprit was her email. Sure enough, some of her old emails housed account information. Yes, they were scattered about like puzzle pieces on Great Aunt Opal’s formal dining table. And someone—not Great Aunt Opal, the jigsaw puzzle Jedi—pieced together the account information from them. Next, this someone went on a little shopping spree. (Again, not Great Aunt Opal. She remains a saintly simile for illustrative purposes only.)

My friend contacted me seeking help pursuant her enjoyable conversation with the bank. I dawned my Sherlock Holmes hat and dusted off the magnifying glass. After a little digging, I pinpointed some Gmail logins originating from south Florida. Next, I turned my attention to her skin color. Wintery white. I thusly deduced from her pigmentation she had not been to south Florida in the past week. For the record, Florida ranks #4 on the state population list, and among the top 3 for hackers.

On a related note, I was once informed by a Visa representative that the majority of hacks originate in Florida, California, and New York. In fact, I was told, Visa puts an immediate clamp down on cards issued outside those states that then shows activity originating from one of the three. Indeed, they had done so with my Visa card on several occasions, faster than campus police put a boot on a car parked in a faculty spot.

What Did it ‘Cost’ My Friend?

Not to be punny, but it cost her a lot. Two work days going back and forth with the bank. Another work day changing passwords across her internet landscape. A month filled with pesky notices from various online subscriptions tied to the compromised card. You know, the ones you don’t think about until your card fails to make good on the $7.99 monthly charge. You get the picture. NOT what you want to pile onto the already frantic and underresourced life of a planter or pastor. I am talking about the “hint” leaked at the beginning of this article.The answer is time! Time is one of your most prized commodities as a planter. (And ‘time’ works hand-and-hand with ‘focus.’)

What Does All This Mean?

First, Florida, California and New York need the gospel, so consider planting there. Second, you are not immune, even if you feel like you live below the poverty line as a church planter. Third, taking a few minutes to add another layer of security is worth it.

An Easy Fix

Thankfully, there is an easy solution. The gospel offers security for our souls. Gmail offers security for our emails. Next week, I will show you how. In the meantime, keep your head on a swivel for California, Florida, and New York. And if you are freaked out, take the edge off with some good-humored “seh-kur-ity”, brought to you by the security expert Bon Qui Qui.

Confession

I make fun of hipster planters with sustainable, bamboo, over-the-ear headphones. I don’t get the long keychain thing dangling out of the pocket. Back in my day, we made fun of janitors. Now I am supposed to believe their keychain is a thing of envy. I just can’t get there. Ok…I jest, joke and jab. What good is a hipster planter if not for the casual amusement of old farts like me? In all seriousness, a failure to secure your email is not inherently sinful. However, it is the potential symptom of a subtle lack of responsibility. If we are aware of the danger, and we have an easy solution, and we choose to ignore it anyway, we have room to mature as men and leaders. This would be akin to neglecting some responsibilities as a husband or father. You know how we leave the ‘honey-do’ untouched. Or we neglect to organize key information for our wife in the event of an emergency. Egregious? Probably not. Disqualifying? Doubtful. Meaningless and harmless? False.

Good News

If this article exposes a pattern of ignoring the small things, Jesus brings good news. He is Lord of the large things—like sin, death and hell—and Master of the minor details—like planning to ensure the table is set for passover hours before his betrayal (Luke 22:7–13). He both, ‘sees the big picture’ and ‘dives into the details.’ He knows us fully and intimately—including the hairs on our head or the lack thereof. The great news is, when it comes to his finished work on the cross as our substitute, he left no stone unturned. There is no ‘minor sin pattern’ or ‘bad habit of ignoring the small things’ that lies outside the reach of his outstretched arms. How tempting it would be, hours removed from the horrors of his betrayal and crucifixion, to shirk the responsibility of preparing for passover. I am certian his disciples would understand a ‘thrown together’ passover after they witnessed the unfolding of the passion events. But Jesus made no excuse. He never concocted a pardon or requested a mulligan. If taking a few steps to secure his email better situated him to serve his disciples, I have no doubt he would have. He would have counted the cost. Considered the avoidable loss of time. He would have chosen outward service over inward convenience. He always has. He loves us that much. And for me, it is in these small cracks and crevices, where the spotlight rarely shines, that I often find myself amazed at his beautiful obedience and drawn into worship. What a man. What a hero. What a Savior.

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