2 Samuel 15:1-7 (ESV)
1 After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run before him.
2 And Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way of the gate. And when any man had a dispute to come before the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And when he said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,”
3 Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man designated by the king to hear you.”
4 Then Absalom would say, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.”
5 And whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him.
6 Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
I’ve been a “second chair” leader in the church for over ten years … either as an associate pastor, a senior associate pastor, and now, as an executive pastor. Probably the single most helpful piece of advice I received about working well in this role was to “guard against being an Absalom standing in the gate” seeking to ingratiate myself to people while seeking to take over the kingdom (or, the church). A former colleague and I used to regularly remind each other to guard against this destructive tactic. He even wrote a couple of columns about it about it for Leadership Journal here and another here. Another of my mentors (Fred Barshaw) from my days at Grace Community Church would consistently encourage those of us who were young and upcoming leaders to guard our hearts and motives from the sin of Absalom. More than once he told us that one sure way to “crash and burn” as a leader was to somehow think that God made a mistake in not making us the one in charge.
All of us in the second chair ministry need to keep Mark Wheeler’s words in mind:
If we are not careful, associates easily become an Absalom at the gate, stealing away the hearts of Israel (2 Sam. 15:1-6). Like King David’s son, we begin to think that things would be different if we were in charge, that we are the answer to the problem.
We’re tempted to think we’re more “in touch” than the senior pastor. We discover there’s support for our way of thinking, and we can become the catalyst for a power struggle or church split!