Saturday, January 28, 2006


The theme of loneliness in the second chair has struck me several times in the last couple of weeks. It was a theme that we sort of stumbled into as we were interviewing different leaders for the book, and I continue to hear it in other conversations.

No doubt about it, the second chair can be a very lonely place to serve. It’s often hard to share frustrations, fears, or even dreams with your first chair, and it may not be appropriate to talk freely with those you supervise or with lay leaders (if you’re on the church staff). So who can you talk to?

I’ve been blessed to share the second chair with someone who is a good friend and a trusted advisor (Roger), but I know that my situation is more the exception than the rule. If you’re not this fortunate, where should you turn? In addition to Roger, I’ve found rich community with many others outside my church. Some are second chair leaders and some are just close friends, but the time with them is a great antidote to loneliness. Is your second chair a lonely place? What are you doing to overcome it?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Listening for the Most Important Things

Have you ever had one of those days in the second chair when all you were doing was jumping from one meeting to the next and dealing with problem after problem? As a result, you might find yourself at the end of a day wondering what contribution you made that day. If this persists, you can find yourself frustrated, burned out, and wandering through a maze of emotion and confusion about how effective you are in ministry.

This can be a difficult place for those of us in the second chair. It can also be a place where we commit to going deeper to see what God might be saying to us. For me, I believe that God wants me to listen more intently for the most important things.

I don't always listen well in my meetings, as I am often thinking about the next meeting, the emails and phone calls that keep hitting my blackberry, and the struggle of balancing the demands of the second chair. In the last week, I have had to reschedule three appointments because my pastor called me into meetings that I had to be attend. This is a struggle, as I don't always get to handle my calendar proactively. Instead, I find myself reacting to get it all done and the pressure to get it all done makes it difficult to listen to what is really being said.

What is really being said is the key component of what second chair leaders in the church must discern. If we miss what is really being said, we can't advise the first chair, coach our subordinates, properly pray for the spiritual needs of those in our congregation, or see the whole picture clearly. The wide gets confused with the deep and the counsel or assitance that we should be able to give loses its potency because we haven't truly identified the issue--the deep spiritual issue.

I must confess, I haven't been hearing the eternal issues as clearly as I should becuase the noise of the temporal screams out at me for attention. So, in a meeting today (no blackberry in attendance) I jotted this thought: So bombared w/the temporal you can't see or hear the spiritual.

Guilty as charged, but thankful for the Grace of my loving Jesus and the still small voice of his Spirit.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Pastor, Boss, and Friend

How about a little more tension in the second chair? Clayton asked me to stick my thoughts out there about the relationship to the first chair and the tension of my boss being my pastor, and my pastor being my boss. More than that, what happens when he is my friend, too?

First, I want to be friends. I am so relational, that friendship is the basis for a good working relationship. So, I work at sharing stories, asking him how he is doing, and making sure that we can enjoy a meal together and talk about how we were shocked that Peyton Manning and his colts lost to the Steelers. But, we don't hang out when we are away from the office.

As pastor, he and his wife have been there for the birth of my two kids, welcomed me to my new home with a plant, celebrated my graduation from seminary with a surprise party, and have visited my wife in the hospital when she had foot surgery. I have been able to share my burdens with him, my failures, and have even wept with him. All of this over eight and a half years.

As boss, wow, he has kicked my butt a time or two! We have had our disagreements, heated discussions, and he has called me on the carpet when I have been insubordinate. We don't always see ministry the same, as he and I are from two different generations. Also, he has given me substantial raises, given me substantial promotions from youth pastor to associate pastor, and has given me the opportunity to co-preach/teach with him every week, as we rotate between our two campuses.

Barry Landrum is a good friend, good boss, and a great pastor. He doesn't always listen to me, doesn't understand some of my ideas, and we frustrate each other at times.

I guess the question is how do I seperate it all or keep it all together with him as my friend, my pastor, and my boss? I hope these concluding thoughts help! I would also love to hear your thoughts on the matter of you and your pastor/boss/friend.

Initially and for the longest time, he was boss! This was our first relationship and it is the easiest relationship to carry out, as I am the follower and he is the leader. In this relationship, he says jump, and I say, how high? If this is where you stay with your first chair, you are in trouble. A BIG key to your success is this relationship and I think it is best when you can work your way through this part of the boss/pastor/friend tension. I say this because if all he or she is is a boss, and all you are is an employee, you are held at arms length. If this is where you sit, you will find yourself frustrated because you won't be able to impact the organization as a whole. Remember the definition of a second chair leader? Someone in a subordinate role whose influence with others adds value to the entire organization. At arms length, you can't add value to him or her and thus you will find it hard to add value to the entire organization.

As relational and opionated as I am, I pushed the friendship thing. He received it as well, and I believe that when he saw potential in me and a desire to work hard, he pushed the friendship thing too. We have fun discussing theology, how he feels about John Piper today, how he will feel about Piper tomorrow, and sharing stories about life and things we find funny. We chase rabbits and joke a lot as a team. This keeps things light, especially when the intensity turns up. I like bringing levity and a little sarcasm to the table when it will lighten things up just a touch.

Through our time together and my life experiences, he has become a great pastor to me and my family. We like his preaching ministry as well. He has done this part of it. He has cared enough about Julee and me that he has come to the hospital to visit us and pray with us. He treats us like anyone else in the congregation, as this is a tremendous strength of my pastor. I too have returned the favor, checking on him when he has had a procedure or two, calling him the night before for prayer, etc.

But I think the best thing that I can say is that I don't seperate these roles and look for weaknesses in how he has or hasn't been my friend, boss, or pastor. I could easily pick him apart for any of these if I wanted to. He could do the same and question my motives if he were insecure or perceived me as a threat.

He is boss/pastor/friend all of the time, and like a smooth luxury car, we are able to shift in and out of these different gears with ease and comfort. This is how it should be and I am grateful to say that it is what I get to experience most of the time.

Yet, I am no fool. This is a relationship, and every relationship is a two way street. So, I must do my part, and I am very proactive about my part, because I have been called to serve him. Servants don't stand around waiting to be told what to do. If you do, I wouldn't call you a servant as much as I would a responder. Servants initiate, anticipate, and seek to assist. So, in my relationship, I anticipate, initiate, and assist as an employee, congregant, and friend. In doing so, I have found it well received and appreciated.

Again, please let me remind you, this takes time. I have been where I am for almost nine years with the same first chair. That is a long time to meet, discuss, listen, and respond. Take your time. Don't be overly critical, and do your part of the relationship to ensure growth.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Sharing Your Leader's Burden

This idea of sharing my leader's burden has been floating around in my mind the last few weeks. We have just gone through a process of evaluating why our numbers have fallen off in our attendance at our two campuses. We are further realizing the need for further spiritual transformation as we feel like our people are not renewed, are entangled in the world, and need to be called to repentance. Much of this evaluation was forced onto us by our pastor, as he called our staff to prayer and laid upon us the burden of this situation.

Like it or not, he laid upon us his burden. Most of the second chair leaders on our team didn't like it at first. They thought his rationale for getting us to this place was misplaced. They didn't identify with his burden and couldn't understand this tension. For me, I completely understood where he was coming from, but didn't completely share his burden, because it wasn't as "alarming" for me as it was for him.

In this process, my team of second chair leaders began to discuss and pray about how we might share his burden. We struggled to fully understand it, and much of the way we approached the understanding was clearly a generational difference. With many younger second chairs following an older first chair, there is often disagreement and misunderstanding. Nevertheless, we began to pray that God would help us to carry his burden.

God did!

As we approached this with this spirit, our leader could see that we genuinely wanted what was best for the church, and we were willing to go with him into battle and deal with whatever it was that needed to be dealt with. This gave him a confidence in our counsel, helped him feel like he was not alone, and gave him a place to rest his burden as he grew weary.

I am reminded here of the story of Moses, Aaron, Hur, and Joshua as Joshua went out to fight the Amelekites (Exodus 17:10-13). It states:

10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
These guys carried Moses' burden. They did this because they were following a leader who had a burden for the safety, health, and survival of Israel. One went into battle, risking his own life, while the other two propped up their first chair before the Lord.
One of the things that God continually impresses upon me is that I don't feel what my first chair leader feels. I am not burdened like my senior leader, because I am not the senior leader. I can't fully grasp or understand the burden. But I can ask the Lord to give me what I need to help carry his burden. And when I do, and when the team does, God is glorified and the first chair is strengthened.