Second Tier Leaders – Scott Thornton

The truth is, that synergy ends where entitlement begins.

I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked me, “When will you do your own thing?”.

“Your own thing”… That phrase gets thrown around a lot! We talk about trends and responsibilities, social spaces and hobbies this way. “Oh, that’s not my thing.”

When it comes down to the call of God, I know this is my thing. I know serving my Senior Pastor and being a second-tier leader is what God has purposed for my life. I suspect you’re here today because this is your thing too.

Empowered and called, I am anointed to do this….

Now, for some of you, this may be your thing for the rest of your life. There is a sense of a God- breathed destiny on you assisting your Senior Pastor or Senior Pastors. For others, it may be seasonal until God releases you into leading a ministry of your own. In the construction of a house, there is scaffolding and there are bricks. One is temporary, the other permanent. Both are needed.

Regardless of what the future holds, we have an opportunity in this season to be faithful with what has been entrusted to us. If we see this season as a waiting room, rather than our God-given moment, we could miss what He has for us.

So how do we discharge the duties of a second-tier leader well?

  • We don’t create the vision but we need to have a revelation of it.

We need to be able to hear the vision and yet also communicate it effectively to others as if it was our own.

Mathew 21:2-3 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

Mathew 21:6-8 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them..

Thought: When we have to have tough conversations, do people leave feeling as if they had had that conversation with our Senior Pastor?

  • We don’t have the responsibility to set the vision but we do have a responsibility to help outwork it.

When I think of a second-tier leader in the bible, I think of Joseph. From a young age, he knew he was destined for greatness. What he arguably did poorly was communicate that.

Genesis 35:5-11
5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.
6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had:
7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
8 His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?”
11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

You’ll notice all the dialogue is around status and superiority and not about calling or providence. As we all know, when Joseph stepped into the fullness of his calling, it was actually very little about the title or the prestige and it was all about the responsibility and the cause.

As we know, years later, Joseph is in jail thanks to a miscarriage of justice. He’s suddenly brought before Pharaoh to interpret his dreams.

Genesis 41:14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.

This would have been a great moment to stage a protest, to give Pharaoh a piece of his mind about how he had been unfairly treated or to speak badly of the chief cupbearer. Joseph could of made quite the scene in his prison clothes, dirty and unkempt. Instead he cleaned himself up and came before Pharaoh with humility.

As second tier leaders we must realise that management is not where we operate at our best and management is not what the Senior Pastor needs to release to us, the weight of ownership is what we are called to have. Management releases task, ownership releases heart and head space.

Bottom up is management top down is ownership.


  1. Second tier leaders own their attitude.

    Ministry will give us many opportunities to become offended. We must, must, must have a conviction that God has entrusted our leaders for this role and that we are here to assist them.

  2. Second tier leaders own their insight

    Genesis 41:33-37
    33 “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.
    34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance.35They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food.
    36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.”
    37 The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials.Joseph didn’t attempt to wiggle his way into Pharaoh’s inner core. He brought his giftings and his insight to assist Pharaoh in his leadership without demanding attention or recognition for it.

    The more I produce the close we are, the more I influence the more I am trusted.

    As second tier leaders, there will be moments where our pastors and leaders receive the credit from our revelations. We need to be okay with that. We are here to not just fulfil roles or functions but to hear from God and bring our wisdom and sights to situations.

  1. Second tier leaders own their responsibility to serve

    Genesis 41:41-45
    41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.”
    42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.
    43 He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, “Make way !” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.
    44 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.”
    45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.

    Joseph didn’t just receive his promotion and stay in. He went out. There are perks to being a second tier leader. We can’t afford to stay in those when our responsibilities are out there.

  2. Second tier leaders own the detail of their work

    Joseph could have easily delegated this work. It would have been monotonous, perhaps even humiliating, to sit and deal with person after person for their share of grain. Yet Joseph knew his responsibility was for the distribution of grain to get Egypt through the famine. Ensuring the distribution was fair was a crucial component.The reality is, our Senior Pastors carry a greater responsibility than we do. We can’t own that for them but we can own what has been entrusted to us with great diligence and detail.Here at LIFE, we have a great team who oversee a whole lot of areas relating to Sundays. I could easily leave them to it and just concern myself with leading the service or speaking. Yet I know it releases Ps Paul, if I am there earlier to see how rehearsal tracks, to see how the facility is looking, to connect with and thank those on team, I do this detail to take the pressure off my senior leader and to ensure what he expects from a Sunday happens.

  3. Second tier leaders understand where their reward lies

    Genesis 41:6 Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the one who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.

    It can be easy to assume upon privileges, to equate ourselves with our senior leaders. Great second tier leaders understand their rewards lie with God and their faithful service. Joseph knew, even as he administered a detailed and constant role in the face of fear and lack.

    God must be our reward. There are enough people in the world fighting to get what they feel is due them. We must be able to push past our insecurities, our resentment, our hurts, to serve our leaders faithfully.

I hope you’ve been able to gain some insight and have your thoughts provoked in regards to being an effective second tier leader. God Bless!

Scott Thornton
North Campus Pastor & Executive Team

1 Comment

  1. For me, as a lay person who has been around long enough to have seen it all, the most important quality for any leader is humility.

    Humility sees a leader serving shoulder-to-shoulder with the volunteers: behind the coffee machine at church, welcoming at the door, ushering in the auditorium, helping at kids’ church, dressed in hi-viz and directing cars on a rainy day in the car park, connecting with the mums in the baby room. Or it might mean letting someone else use your highly-coveted carpark near the church entrance, or surrendering your front-row seat in church when there is only overflow seating available.

    “But..” I hear you say, “that’s not my job, I’m here to serve the senior leadership and the wider church”. “I’m far too senior to do carpark duty or sit in the welcoming lounge.” That’s for the volunteers who aren’t on staff!” “And I don’t want to sit out in the foyer! This is my seat, I’m a pastor and I’m entitled to sit in the auditorium.”

    Humility and servant hood are the most attractive and praise-worthy character traits of all. Unfortunately they are rarely seen in the “important” leadership of the church.

    Proverbs 3:34. God has no use for conceited people.

    (Food for thought?)

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