One summer, I was taking my boys on a ministry trip with me, and we were beyond excited. For all that we did to prepare for the trip, I ran out of time to handle one important thing: my truck. It had been acting funny that week but I thought it wouldn’t be a significant issue, and I simply had too many other pressing things to address.
About halfway to the airport, my truck gradually lost the ability to accelerate while we were on the interstate. As my two 9-year-old sons began to inform me of what was going on and how I should handle it, I got real concerned real quick. Thankfully, through a series of crazy events, I was able to get us to safety and get my truck in the shop. As we ran across highways, got a rental car, and ran onto the airplane with mere moments remaining, I was absolutely amazed we made it to the trip.
The trip was important – I had the opportunity to preach at a camp that week. The gospel needed to be proclaimed. Gospel proclamation is the primary purpose of my life (Acts 20:24). But I almost couldn’t do the primary thing because I neglected the secondary things.
Too often in life we miss opportunities to do the primary thing because we have neglected the secondary things.
In his book, Ready for Anything, David Allen writes:
Too many personal-productivity disasters these days come from a lack of handling things of “secondary” importance. Do you ever get the sense that you don’t have time to deal with the secondary things because you have to deal with so many consistently demanding fires and crises? Well, guess where most of those fires and crises come from? Correct – from secondary things that were ignored because of all the fires and crises. This syndrome does not self-correct – it self-perpetuates (21).
The early church experienced the same thing. The apostles were approached with a secondary issue of the daily appropriation of food, and yet they didn’t want the primary issue (the Word and prayer) to be neglected in the days to come, so they handled the issue prayerfully and administratively. By taking some time and focus to come up with a good system led by some solid leaders, the investment of time in that moment allowed them more moments in the future for ministry (Acts 6:1-7).
I often used that story of how pastors don’t need to deal with certain issues in the church. In reality, the story is about how they actually did need to deal with all the issues in the church by leading with diligence and wisdom.
They dealt with the secondary issues so that they could focus on the primary issue.
I have learned how to put up a smokescreen in church when it comes to primary issues. As a pastor, it is an easy way to avoid second-tier issues. I can make the case that I don’t need to “waste time” on anything that isn’t the primary agenda, but what I often don’t realize is the danger of neglect. Failing to address small things now often causes them to turn into big things later.
By claiming I am only focusing on the primary issues, I might sound godly and wise, but sometimes I am being negligent and lazy.
More than just ministry, this applies to so many areas:
- Home Maintenance
In each of those areas, there are the most critical pieces that must be addressed, but I also want to encourage you that if you don’t take care of the secondary issues, they often become the primary ones when you least expect it.
By failing to take care of my truck, I almost missed the opportunity to preach. In the same way, I am learning that sometimes pastors and churches need to hone in on the secondary issues to clear the path and prepare for ministry work for the primary ways in the days to come.
If you lead or serve a church, do you know what the primary issue is? Are you aware of the secondary issues that need to be addressed or else they will hinder you from that primary issue in the future? Be zealous for every good work (Titus 2:14). Maybe it is time to sharpen the ax before you wear yourself out trying to cut down a forest without prepared tools in your hands.
Don’t miss out on the great opportunities for which you were primarily called because you neglect the secondary issues for which you are still responsible.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.