May 29, 2017

Leaving The Second Chair Behind by Bob Jones

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.


  1. I enjoyed this. I expect that you brought your former second chair freedom with you to the new position. Oh, the buck would still stop with you, but you'd discovered some of the things that could happen when the reins aren't too tight and the goal is to serve God. So often, the times that I've best served God have been when I hadn't sought a particular way in which to do it, but when I was open to, and received, not just a nudge, but a push into something different. It continues to happen. Patricia Anne Elford, retired Presbyterian minister. (does one ever retire as a minister?)

    1. Thank you Patricia for reading and commenting. Lots of empathy in your words. I love your name handle - "still waters and dancing wings". Retired? You're right...once a minister always a minister.

  2. "...anything but comfortable, and everything that is extraordinary.'" I like that. It's a good definition of following Christ. Not always, but often. And God is always faithful.
    Pam M.

    1. Thank you Pam for taking the time to comment. Feeling uncomfortable about taking so long to reply to you.

  3. Through my sister, Joan, and her daughter Billie-Jo, I have seen you serve in your present role as senior pastor. No doubt, heading up a mega church and dealing with people as individuals would keep the elastic band taut, but when God calls us, he also prepares us. May God continue to bless you in this ministry, Pastor Bob.

    1. Billie-Jo is a wonder. Its a privilege to be her pastor. While "mega" is a way to describe a large number of people in one congregation, I try to be a pastor to each one. Oh, I know the experts say that is impossible and will lead to burnout but I give it my best attempt to be personal and to pray. To love and encourage as the opportunities present themselves. Joan was a remarkable woman. Reading your writings shows me you two shared a lot in common.


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