Called and Competent - "Number Two"

We find Aaron's name mentioned more than 300 times in scripture. On 137 of those occasions, it is coupled with the name of Moses. Aaron was clearly subordinate to Moses. He was Number Two. Some commentators would lessen the value of Aaron's role by limiting it to his ability to speak and the fact that he was Moses' brother. That seems to be a harsh evaluation of the one God chose to carry the role of High Priest until He sent His son Jesus to fulfill that role on a divine level. Whatever your Biblical estimation of Aaron and the relationship he shared with Moses, one thing is sure - they were partners. More importantly, God put them together.


Are you called to be an Aaron? That's a tough question, especially if you have the ability and opportunity to be a Moses as senior pastor. (It is far easier to ascend than descend to Number Two.) I believe there are a number of senior pastors who are doing a good job as the senior leader, who would do a great job as a Number Two.

Personally, I have determined my role based on three thoughts. First, make this choice based on the principle of stewardship. I ask and answer the question: "How can I make the greatest impact on the Kingdom?" For example, would my impact be greater as senior pastor of a church of 2,000 or as Number Two in a church of 10,000? I realize that we cannot evaluate God's will so narrowly with numbers. You may be called to be the senior pastor in a smaller church. However, the principle has served me well.

Secondly, think through the issue of gifts and abilities. Although God gives me great ideas and creativity, I am not an entrepreneur by nature. It is unlikely that God will use me to start a movement, plant a church or lead in an apostolic or prophetic way. However, if you drop me in the middle of a work in progress, I can be quite effective. God has given me strong gifts as a builder/developer. How about you, what are your gifts?

Thirdly, always seek God's calling. As I shared in an earlier edition of The Pastor's Coach, I prayed for more than a year asking God for clear direction for my next ministry post. He finally made it clear, (or, I should say, I came to the point of readiness to hear and obey). As a result, I now serve as Executive Pastor at Crossroads Community Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia and I'm having the time of my life.


The potential for ego to be a problem is resident in all of us. I find that especially in the local church, due largely to the love and adulation of the congregation, senior leadership must keep constant check on the desire to be popular. Few can resist the lure of praise, even false praise. At times it may be difficult for you as Number Two because you believe that you do all the work while someone else gets all the attention. He who gets the most attention also gets the most flack! I can promise you that if you learn to find your joy in service and productivity for the Kingdom, God will fulfill all your needs to be loved and known in healthy ways.

God keeps me humble on a regular basis. Just when I begin to sit up and think, "Hey, I really am good," He graciously allows me to see that it was never me in the first place. I am merely an ordinary leader who occasionally does extraordinary things because God uses me. When I operate on my own, it's back to ordinary. When I submit, God does great things.

The truth is that all of us are just a little less than we think. Aaron discovered that truth in a painful way. In Exodus chapter 32, in the story of the golden calf, we see how weak Aaron could be. His leadership collapsed, he took no stand, and blamed the people. We will never know all that Aaron went through, but we know this - he gave in. Whether you call it people-pleasing, fear, or wimping out, Aaron was exposed. I've been there, have you? It is in the remembrance of those painful moments that humility is cultivated. We learn, become stronger, and remain more tightly attached to The Vine.


Let's be practical. As simple as knowing what is expected of you may sound, I've seen more train wrecks in this area than in any other of being an effective Number Two. There are old jokes that lightheartedly say, "Well, I do whatever the Senior Pastor doesn't want to do." The truth is that it doesn't work that way; certainly not with a senior pastor who has wisdom and experience and a Number Two who knows what he or she is doing. The expectations of Number Two must be carefully considered and agreed upon by both players in alignment with the overall church mission. I also recommend that these expectations are put in writing for clarity.

One of my favorite stories from my consulting practice was a tension-filled situation between the senior pastor and the Number Two in that church who happened to be the worship leader/ administrator. I asked the worship/admin pastor what was bugging him and he responded, "The Senior Pastor is always late to the worship service!" In a separate meeting I asked the Senior Pastor the same question, his response was, "My worship leader never starts the service on time." When I got them both in the same room the worship pastor said, "I don't start on time because you aren't there." The Senior Pastor said, "I'm not there because you haven't started yet!" We all had a good laugh, and the solution was easy. The Senior Pastor clarified by saying, "I want you to start the service at 9:00 a.m. no matter what. By the way, I'll be there!" The worship leader said, "Cool, I can do that." They had never discussed the issue. Note the integral connection between expectations and communication.

Distribution of Power

Ex-Secretary of the Navy John Lehman said, "Power corrupts, but absolute power is really cool." I still laugh every time I read that. Now, let me give you my quote, "Be wary of any person who clamors for power, subtly or otherwise." My quote may not be as eloquent as Aaron's might have been, but pay it heed anyway.

The Number Two must be very comfortable with authority, but not seek it, need it, or claim that without more authority, they can't get their work done. Real authority does not come from a title. Authority for leaders is all about influence - something earned, not granted.

It is understood that the senior pastor must empower his staff and give them the authority they need without micromanaging them. I admit I have been blessed in this respect. John Maxwell is the king of empowerment, and Kevin Myers is equally as great. They both truly handed over the keys and said, "OK, she's yours to drive, just please don't drive over a cliff!" Well, not exactly in those words. The truth is that they have exhibited amazing trust and faith. Some of you Number Twos are going nuts right now, asking, "But what if I'm not empowered?" I don't want to get sidetracked; this article needs to stay focused on the role of Number Two. I will say this to you: If you believe that you are not being empowered, there is a trust issue in the relationship and the two of you must deal with that before anything else is accomplished.

So what about decision-making? How does that work? First, it is the responsibility of the second in command to learn how the senior pastor aligns his values and priorities with the mission of the church. If in doubt, ask questions. Don't ask the senior pastor to make the decision. Don't ask, "What would you do?" Ask value and alignment questions. You want to know how he thinks. Then you must execute decisions on your own two feet, accepting full responsibility for those decisions. It is worth noting that it is perfectly acceptable for the senior pastor to ask the Number Two what he or she would do in any given situation. A good second in command should be a trusted confidant and wise advisor.

Leading Up

This point could easily be an article by itself. For now I'm only going to touch on it. Leading up is the process of influencing your boss, according to the best interests of the church, as well as to help him/her be a better leader. Leading up is not about you. Leading up is not about making yourself look good, but helping those above you lead well.

There is a big difference between leading up, and "fixing" the pastor. It's not your job to fix the pastor. We covered that in the previous article. Leading up is not about your preferences, but does include your passion. Remember that the greater good of the church comes first.

Leading up is about your ability to use your gifts, talents and focused attention to specific areas in such a way that both of you lead better and the church makes measurable progress. For example, Kevin Myers, conducts monthly leadership training time for the entire staff. Because I am with the staff more, I will lead up by giving him suggestions for topics and insights to enable the lesson to be of maximum relevance and impact. He then combines what I share with him with his thoughts and God's leadings to write a lesson.

Leading up involves being honest, direct, and demands that you take the initiative. Leading up requires that you deliver several solutions with every problem you encounter. Those who are truly great at leading up anticipate a problem and cut it off at the pass before their boss ever had to be aware of it, let alone deal with it.

What if you believe that the senior pastor is making a mistake? It's your job to speak up clearly and with conviction in private. You may need to address this issue several times, but ultimately trust him or her with the decision if they differ from you.

The role of Number Two is a challenge, but a high calling and privilege. If this is what God has called you to, then pour your whole heart into it. Never lose your own perspective and personality, but serve well.

This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter 'The Pastor's Coach' available at I hope this is helpful to you, the next edition of The Pastor's Coach will cover the topic of ministry values.