No Harmony without the Second Chair Violin!

Paul Clark

“A non-serving Christian” is a contradiction in terms.“ (Rick Warren)

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” (1 Corinthians 3, 6-7)

“Real Servants view ministry as an opportunity, not an obligation.” (Carl Stephens)

A reporter one time asked the world-famous conductor Leonard Bernstein, “What is the most difficult instrument to play?” Without stopping to think he replied: “Second Violin: I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm . . . now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”

I have had the privilege personally knowing many gifted pastors and leaders who through their God given callings have been a great blessing to their church and community as well as to the body of Christ as a whole. But when we talk about exemplary leadership we often do not think of those figuratively speaking who are playing second or third violin.

I’ve known Rick Flood for almost 27 years who started out as a 21-year-old intern at Compelled Church that was being planted in Michigan by my friend Nate Elarton. It’s hard to believe that Rick has been supporting Nate as an assistant (now executive) pastor all these years in various capacities. As the church has developed and grown over time, so has Rick grown in his leadership influence and still today has a close working and friendship relationship with Nate.

Rick states: “Serving this long with Nate in one place is a huge blessing. In this type of supportive role one of the greatest things that has to happen is for me to understand the leader’s heart, vision and purpose. This means seeing and knowing what God has called Nate to do. Can I follow the vision?  Do I understand what my part is which then allows me to give my life for it.

Here longevity is key because in any working leadership relationship there is a dual role and unity is so valuable. This has helped Nate and I to stay in unity because we have been together so long and we know each other so well, even though our personalities are quite different. Nate always says: “let’s go, let’s go and I always say hold on, let’s think about this.”  

 There have been times where our direction and working together has needed to be realigned and reevaluated. This is not always easy but at some point, the Lord has always helped us to come together and accomplish that which he has purposed for Compelled Church. I am blessed not only to serve along with my pastor but that our families are very close and we have seen our kids grow up together due to our long-term relationship This is for both of us very wholesome, which results in strengthening our ministry to the Compelled Church family. 

 I have never felt a call to become a lead pastor. I have learned to understand my giftings and strengths where I function best through my personality in a supportive role which makes me feel at ease. At the same time, I must be careful not just being comfortable, and need to be open to wherever the Lord might lead. I have been made aware several times in the past of churches who are looking for a pastor. I never say no, but always say I will commit this possible opportunity to the Lord. I always want to be willing to go but I am quite happy to stay where I am since I love what I am doing at Compelled Church.”    

Nate Elarton writes: “There is no greater gift God can give a lead pastor than an executive pastor who is content, gifted, and called to serve the church in this role.  Systems, staffing, support, and loyalty from the executive pastor strengthen the church and the senior pastor to be able to focus on mission and vision.  Pastor Rick has done this at Compelled.  For 26years he has been called to the number two chair, work behind the scenes, and does it with joy and effectiveness.  What a gift he is to my life and to the Kingdom of God.”

In contrast to Rick, recently I spoke with someone who for many years was a highly motivated active worker on the leadership team of his church. Then, over a period of time the leadership of the church, decided to go in a different direction concerning vision and style. Sad to say, since that time over three years now, this brother left the church and does not go to church anymore except watching church service online.

I explained to him this is not helpful for moving forward in spiritual development. He response took me back: “I’ve been in church all my life and I don’t feel a need to attend anymore.” He genuinely felt he alone knew what was better for his church. The church he once loved, continues to develop and go forward in ministry without him.

Chuck Swindol writes: “I’ve found over the years that the most important virtue to be formed in me by God’s gracious Spirit is a spirit of genuine humility. This means, it’s the absence of self-promotion, or insisting on having my way, or that my voice be heard and revered above the voices of others.”

Most of my life as church planter I have led various local churches. I was as some would say “with or without joking” the boss.  Of course, I understand leadership as serving others and it is definitely not about the title or position. The times when I experienced the most effective and fruitful ministry were the time when I was supported and surrounded by a group of motivated workers who clearly understood their leadership responsibilities. These workers and leaders made me and the church look good. I might be seen in front of the church every Sunday morning, but without such a dedicated doing the work of the Lord, my title, position and reputation would be worthless.

We don’t become indispensable by jockeying for power or claiming our rights, but by humbly and intentionally serving in the church and on the team, God has called us to. We are called to commit to a local church where we can use our spiritual gifts to love and serve each other and build up the church in love.

As the apostle Paul states: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

PS If interested to hear my entire interview with Rick, send me email and I will send you entire audio file.

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