Playing Second Fiddle

I recall a conversation with an older saint whom I had learned to respect and admire.  Close to retirement, I sat with him in his office where he was an executive in a successful company.  Our discussion was about leadership, and specifically how to be a leader when you’re not actually in charge.  The main comment I remember from him that day was, “Mark, maybe you should be the one to write a book about leading from behind, or leading as a second in command.  It could be titled, Playing Second Fiddle.”

The reference is to the violinist that sits next to the Concert Master in an orchestra.  He or she sits in the second chair, since the first chair is inhabited by the Concert Master who in many ways is a key leader of the orchestra.  What many people don’t realize is that this violinist in the second chair must be an amazing musician that is often called upon to fill the shoes of the Concert Master in a moment’s notice.  And even in the regular workings of the orchestra the second chair plays a vital role within the structure of the organization.

Those of us who find ourselves in the role of planning and leading worship find ourselves in exactly this same position.  Although we are not “in charge” of the overall organization, we are in a significant leadership position that requires unique abilities to both lead and follow simultaneously.  Having been called by God to fill many positions of this type, I have found a number of important ideas that can help us as we seek to fulfill that calling.

First, we must remember that the primary nature of the church is spiritual and that Christ is the head of the body, rather than the pastor or the board (Colossians 1:18).  With Christ as the head, God has placed members of the body in specific places for His purposes (1 Corinthians 12:18).  In the optimal situation the leadership in the church moves and flows with this giftedness so that those with the gifts are leading in those areas of service.

I have worked with many pastors over the years, both as a staff person and as a consultant, and their gifts and abilities have differed widely.  Many have the heart of a shepherd and enjoy nothing more than knowing the sheep, talking with them and caring for them.  Others are more focused on delivering well-crafted sermons that spring from hours in the study.  Still others are more about vision-casting and growth of the congregation.

And that leads to the second point – the pastor does not have all of the gifts.  In fact, your gifts are needed to supplement and come alongside the pastor so that God’s vision and planning for the body of Christ can be fulfilled.  This is the basis for what Paul teaches regarding the functioning of the body (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4).  As we develop our gifts for service, God begins to put the pieces together like a giant puzzle.  There are specific pieces for specific places, just as He determined.  As we work together in this way we will see the beauty of God’s plan come to fruition.

That being said, you might think that I am undermining the leadership or authority of the pastor.  I do not intend to do so, and I encourage you to read Bob Kauflin’s articles on pastoral relationships that have many thoughtful pieces of advice for those who are leading under the authority of another pastor (“Who’s in Charge Here” and “How Do I support My Pastor When we Disagree?”).  It’s obviously important to recognize a certain hierarchy of authority, since this is a concept that Paul notes is built into creation itself (1 Corinthians 11:3).  It is also clear in the exercise of spiritual authority in many of the stories from the early church, such as we see when the Apostles appoint deacons to help with the care of the Christian community (Acts 6:1-6).

A third point, which is often overlooked, is that each local congregation takes on the personality of the pastor that is leading it.  In other words, as the pastor teaches and leads the people of a local church, that organization begins to reflect the particular traits of that pastor.  Is that pastor focused on caring and really interested in knowing people deeply?  There you will find a congregation of caring and loving people.  Is that pastor intent on teaching solid doctrine and theology as a foundation for the Christian life?  There you will find a congregation of theologically astute people.  Does the pastor have a strong, outgoing persona – or a contrite and gentle one?  The congregation will reflect those as well.

I’m not suggesting that a “caring” church has no deep theology.  Nor that a congregation who knows theology does not care for people.  I’m simply noting that the personal traits of the leader will rub off on the entire organization, and as a result will reflect those traits on a larger scale.  This reality means that we can see how a church will behave, and as those coming alongside a pastor we have the opportunity to know how we might fit into that ministry.  Rather than fighting against these trends, we will be better able to adapt to them as time goes on.

When we really think about it, each and every leader in the church is important and our ability to lead – even from second chair – is vital to the effectiveness of the church in the proclaiming of truth and the gospel.  Although we often refer to the church as an organization, or a team, God compares it an organism when He calls it a body.  It lives and moves and breathes and grows from day to day and year to year.  May we enjoy our contribution in that living organism no matter what part we might play – even if it’s second chair!



(Original Post on February 27, 2013 at the Worldview Church:

Posted on October 21, 2013, in Corporate Worship, Leadership, Worship Leader and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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