During the last week on staff at my sending church, I had lunch with a co-worker who’s been deeply involved in church planting for over a decade. It was one of the final times I’d have a chance to sit close and absorb his wisdom. Among his parting advice, one piece stood out: “Distractions abound; keep the main things the main things.”

At first, it was a throw-away line to me. But now, it’s a vitally important reminder.

What Are the Main Things?

As we approach the second anniversary of our church plant, I’ve often reflected on the secondary tasks that creep in and subvert the main things. In a church-planting context, no one has a job description. It’s all hands on deck all the time. We all do what needs to get done. In any given week, we may be dealing with banks, scheduling volunteers, inputting data into church management software, taking out the trash, cleaning the children’s ministry items, buying communion supplies, meeting with local community leadership, negotiating terms on meeting spaces, and more. All this is important work.

But these secondary tasks distract from prayer, evangelism, sermon preparation, counseling, leadership development, personal soul care, and directing the church. As church planters and pastors, these are the primary works we’re called to do. The advice rings again in my ears, “Distractions abound; keep the main things the main things.”

This year, I’ve spent a lot of time in 2 Timothy. Paul’s letter to his young protégé has a constant theme of suffering in our high and holy calling to lead God’s people. Paul greatly emphasizes the “main things,” and one particular command is especially poignant: “ . . . do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). Evangelism is one of the “main things” for all church planters. After all, we planted churches because we believe the local church is one of the most effective ways to see God supernaturally bring people to salvation. Evangelism is not peripheral to the work of planting churches; it’s central.Evangelism is not peripheral to the work of planting churches; it’s central. Click To Tweet

Action With Humility

As someone who has to fight to keep evangelism one of the main things, let me offer three encouragements and a warning.

1. Pray. In evangelism, we’re trying to share the good news of Jesus with not-yet believers. We hope to convince them to repent and follow him. The Bible affirms that apart from Jesus, all are hopeless, helpless, and dead in their sins and trespasses (Eph. 2:1), that salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:8; 62:1; Rev. 7:10), and that the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16). This all sounds essentially supernatural to me. If we’re going to be about the work of evangelism, we must pray for hearts that are faithful to it and pray for fruit to come of it, by the hand of God (Zech. 4:6).

2. Do. Notice in 2 Timothy 4:5 Paul simply says, “do the work.” It requires effort, focus, and resolve. It requires that we, in fact, attempt evangelism. We must be willing to step out, risking relationships and situations to share the good news. In Acts 29, we love participating in culture; I hope our participation is marked by bringing the good news to the culture around us. Take risks and do the work of an evangelist.

3. Hope. Our zeal for evangelism can’t be based on pessimism. Evangelism, at its core, is a hopeful, optimistic venture. God is at work. God does. God will bring fruit. Those are rock-solid promises. So, when praying for and doing the work of evangelism, let us not do so in a defensive posture. We have every reason to be full of hope.

Few things produce pride like evangelistic success, and few things cause despair like evangelistic failure. This is why Paul was intentional in the surrounding advice to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:5). First, Paul says, “be sober-minded.” Stay humble, aware, and faithful. Next, Paul says, “endure suffering.” Biblical teaching and calling people to the exclusivity of Jesus will lead to suffering. Endure it well. And finally, Paul says, “fulfill your ministry.”

Remember, “Distractions abound; keep the main things the main things,” and trust God with the results. When praying for, doing, and being hopeful in evangelism, don’t get too high or too low. Be faithful. And God—who is faithful even when we are faithless (2 Tim. 2:13)—will produce the fruit.

May our churches be marked by evangelistic zeal that grows, bears fruit, and multiplies to the ends of the earth. Click To TweetIn today’s ministry world, pastors are expected to do many things. As we plant, lead, and multiply our churches, let’s keep my former colleague’s advice in mind. Let’s remind each other that evangelism is one of the main things. May our churches be marked by evangelistic zeal that grows, bears fruit, and multiplies to the ends of the earth.

Travis Cunningham
Written by: Travis Cunningham on August 24, 2021

Travis Cunningham (MDiv, Western Seminary) and his wife, Katy, have two kids. Born and raised in Rancho Cucamonga, he has had a vision of planting a gospel movement in his hometown that spreads across Southern California and to the ends of the earth. He has spent time ministering in both Oregon and Texas, most recently as a minister at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas.