The second chair was a comfortable one for me.
I’m not referring to the comfort of upholstery or cushions or size. My role as an "assistant to the senior pastor" - 2nd chair - of two different churches suited me very well.
My experience taught me that the second chair doesn’t have to be second class or place. It can be a significant place for a season or a lifetime.
Delegated responsibilities and the accompanying authority allowed me a fair bit of freedom to serve autonomously under a safe covering. My scope of ministry included leading overseas missions trips, a choir tour through the Eastern United States, a call-in radio program on Saturday afternoons out of Champlain, NY, hosting city-wide concerts as well as a youth ministry, Sunday School, young adults and preaching once a month.
Not having “the buck” stop with me was comfortably acceptable.
My second chair roles lasted fourteen years. Then I felt "the nudge.”
It came only hours after our senior pastor and friend informed me that he would need to go on permanent disability. Months earlier he had cut back to part-time hours because of health reasons. He entrusted me with the role of associate pastor at the time.
Now, he was not just stepping back he was stepping out. And I was stepping into the role of interim pastor. That’s when I felt the nudge. “Would you be the next senior pastor of this church?” The Lord’s query was very clear. I don’t often profess to hear God “speak” but this time the message was very clear. Very. Clear.
The Board of the church initiated a search for a full-time senior pastor. They drafted a list of candidates. My name was not on the list. They knew this role was out of my “comfort zone.” Months passed. Thirty-two leaders were approached. Each declined the opportunity. During the process the remaining members of the pastoral staff resigned and left for other callings. I was the “last man” standing.
Then the Board asked me if I would consider becoming the senior pastor. “Yes.” The rapidity of the response was quite astounding. I’m inclined to pray, consult, discuss and mull over significant decisions. But I had felt “the nudge.” Yes came clearly. Time to sit up and step away from the comfort zone of the second chair.
Our church is congregationally governed – they “elect” their senior pastors. On Sunday May 14, 1994 the vote was held. I was elected as their 21st senior pastor.
The past twenty-three years have been anything but comfortable and everything that is extraordinary.
We’ve been through an intense relocation process, building a new $18 million facility, our church family has increased six fold and become a multi-cultural, come-as-you-are, risk-taking, compassionate community with a vision to see a personal relationship with Jesus grow in everyone, everyday. Recently we began construction on a new addition featuring increased classroom spaces and a 500-seat multi-purpose venue that will allow for a second onsite congregation.
I'm thankful I got nudged out of my comfort zone - or comfortable chair - and into my destiny.
Robert (Bob) W. Jones is a recovering perfectionist, who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and drinks Iced Tea. His office walls are adorned with his sons’ framed football jerseys, and his library shelves, with soul food. He writes to inspire people to be real, grow an authentic faith in Jesus, enjoy healthy relationships and discover their life purpose.