In law practice, there is something called the ‘second chair.’ This person accompanies the lead attorney to a deposition or court room but sits silently. He is expected to know the case, to be familiar with the documents and issues at hand, and to offer support as necessary, without overshadowing. It appears to be a passive role, but in reality, the second chair is there to monitor the details, to gather information as a second set of eyes, to catch the things that might slip by the one who is actively in charge of the case. Just about every person in that ‘second chair’ probably hopes one day to become the lead, to gain partnership, or perhaps to have her own practice. No one, however, should under-estimate the value and importance of those who sit in the second chair.
In Colossians, Paul writes to a church that is being tested by ‘fake news preachers’ and those who would turn the Gospel of Christ into an empty philosophy of life. As far as we know, Paul was never in Colosse. This letter is different than the others in that it is addressed to a church he had not founded. He references a ‘second chair’ person – Epaphras. His name only appears three times in the New Testament, twice in this letter, and once in Philemon. We know nothing about him except that he was a fellow prisoner with Paul and the founder of the Colossian fellowship. The Gospel is “as vigorous in you now as when you learned it from our friend and close associate Epaphras. He is one reliable worker for Christ! I could always depend on him.” (Colossians 1:7, The Message)
Paul’s renowned ministry included many ‘second chairs;’ Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and Epaphras among them. There is also the infamous Demas, another obscure individual who worked alongside of Paul, but at the critical moment, abandoned him earning this timeless memorial-“Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica.” (2 Timothy 4:10, NLT)
How well do you work in the second chair? Are you willing to do your best without recognition, without title, without a place on the letterhead?
A good leader knows that those who surround him are critical and, like Paul, shares real and affirming praise. But still, those who work from the second chair are eclipsed, usually silent, and mostly invisible. If a person craves glory, or wants to make a name for himself, that position can be terribly difficult. It is a doubly sad thing to work from that place for a person who fails to value the contribution and who takes credit for the work,, failing to share, even in private, a word of appreciation.
Too often in conversation people refer to Faith Discovery Church, which I am privileged to serve, as ‘your church.’ Because I have a visible role at the front each Sunday, it is easy to assume that FDC is mine. But, how wrong that is. Like every Christian church, FDC is first a fellowship headed by Christ Jesus. The work of our congregation is mostly done by others, those in so-called ‘second chairs’ who teach, sing, play, pray, give, care, and organize – in positions that are critical to the full work of the church. I am deeply grateful for each one and hopefully, as appropriately as I am able, share thankfulness and affirmation for service well done. The wonderful fact is that no one is forgotten by God! He sees, knows, and will reward ALL for faithfulness.
Sitting in a second chair?
Serve well, for Christ. The eternal rewards will be rich even if the temporal ones are not so great.
Here is a word from the Word, spoken to the disciples who were fighting over their individual importance. “So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.” (Matthew 20:25-28, The Message)
Let’s serve well, faithfully, and for the One who served us at great cost to Himself.