We’ve had several opportunities in recent years to meet a new lead pastor. Each time I’ve met them for a first conversation, they’ve made a similar statement: “You’ve been an associate for a long time.” Buried in that statement is a question: “Why haven’t you moved on to pastor your own church?” My answer has always been the same: “I’m called to be an assistant coach.”

Every sports team has a head coach who is the primary “face” of the organization. When a team wins or loses, it’s the head coach who gets the fame or the blame. However, surrounding that head coach is a cadre of assistant coaches who each focus on certain areas of team vitality. They don’t sit in the spotlight (unless they fail spectacularly), but they have an essential role in developing and supporting the team. An effective sports team needs not only a skilled head coach, but also dedicated assistant coaches.

For some assistant coaches, it’s a training ground for future head coaching opportunities. You can learn a great deal by observing a head coach who does the job well. You can also learn from their mistakes. But for some assistants, it’s where they are gifted to serve. It’s where they belong.

God has a long history of calling assistant coaches into play. Aaron’s support and collaboration with Moses were pivotal in leading and guiding the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land. John Mark was a lifelong helper to Paul and Barnabas. There are many others, such as Joshua, Caleb, Elisha, and Timothy. The idea of “playing second fiddle” often has a negative connotation, but the truth is that if the orchestra is going to be any good, someone has to play that second fiddle.

I share this with you not to provide information about myself, but to highlight the truth that each of us who follows Jesus has a calling. That calling is revealed in the gifts that God has invested in us. It is revealed in the needs we meet that awaken our hearts and move us to action. It is revealed in the doors that God opens for us. Only a few are called to serve vocationally within the Church, but every Christian is called to serve Christ not only in who we are, but in what we do and how we do it.

When we try to serve in a way that doesn’t fit our gifts and graces, stress is the result. When we try to follow the path that others tell us we “should” be on, discontentment is our reward. I’m not advising that we choose our own path without regard to the wisdom we might receive from others. On the contrary, as one of my favorite Proverbs says, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).

Ultimately, finding where we best fit in God’s plan requires humility, prayer, and a willingness to listen both to God’s voice and to the wise counsel of those around us. Whether we are called to be leaders in the spotlight or supporters behind the scenes, our contributions are invaluable to the Kingdom of God. By embracing our unique roles and using our gifts to their fullest potential, we not only fulfill our purpose but also help others to thrive and grow in their own callings. In doing so, we create a stronger, more vibrant community of faith, working together for the glory of God.