As I write this, the pundits are all agog about whom the presumptive Republican presidential nominee will choose as his running mate. We do this little dance every four years, of course, even though there's little evidence that vice presidential candidates make a big difference one way or another.
Why is that? Because it's the number two spot. It's playing second fiddle, and doing so to men (always men thus far) who usually prefer to be soloists. The plight of vice presidents in politics vividly illustrates the excessive importance we have placed on the senior role. Our society has fallen for the lie that everything rises and falls on the leadership of the boss, and that other roles, even the second-in-command, pale in comparison. And it is particularly frustrating to see churches do this. There is no senior pastor role in the Bible. The New Testament is wonderfully confusing about leadership structures in the Church... I say "wonderfully" because I believe that the intent was to give great flexibility about how we organize ourselves, rather than requiring every church to fit a particular organizational model.
But one thing is clear, from Acts to the epistles: Leadership in the early church was shared. Spiritual gifts and natural abilities complemented each other. There was one Spirit and one Lord... one Leader, in other words... to whom everyone played second fiddle. He was center stage, and everyone else had a supporting role. That Leader said, "Follow me." And while he invited some into roles of great trust and sacrifice, He never appointed a president, a senior pastor, a CEO, or a Chairman of the Board. He gathered his friends and sent them out on mission... together.
The titles we carry may not in themselves be problematic (I am called both "president" and "senior pastor" in the two ministries I help lead) but the attitude with which we approach them makes all the difference in the world. Dietrich Bonhoeffer made this argument nearly 80 years ago, when he warned German Christians about their over-enthusiasm for the politician who called himself "Leader." It's a healthy and timeless caution for both leaders and followers.
So let us gladly play second fiddle in the orchestra of God for, surprisingly, there are a limitless number of such seats available. And let us then together follow the lead of our conductor, the only Leader who truly dazzles us with grace-filled artistry.