Most of my life in ministry, I have served as the “number two” man: as Dan Juster’s assistant for 5 years at Beth Messiah congregation, at a Christian high school for 4 years under Thurlow Switzer, as Joe Shulam’s assistant for 4 years at Netivyah, under Ilan Zaimir for 3 years at the Messianic Jewish Alliance, and 4 years under Ari Sorkoram at Tiferet Yeshua. I did serve as the senior leader at El Shaddai in Frederick, and now at Revive Israel and Ahavat Yeshua in Jerusalem.
Daniel the Prophet was the key leader under Nebuchadnezzar, Joseph under Pharaoh, and Mordechai under Ahashueros. Although these men remained in number two position, they were the true leader in God’s eyes. Being number two is the scriptural pattern for ministry since Yeshua (Jesus) serves as number two. Although the Father is greater (John 14:28), Yeshua is the central figure of the Bible, mediating between God and man.
Supervising versus Action
The number one position usually functions as supervisor, while number two leads the action on the field. It is like a coach and the team captain. The captain plays under the authority of the coach, but he leads in scoring the points. It is difficult to be both overseeing authority and action leader; just as it is difficult to be head coach and team captain at the same time. At Revive Israel and Ahavat Yeshua, I try to function as the coach, giving away key plays to our team members wherever possible.
Being number two also provides character training. Joshua served as the top general under Moses, leading the battles while Moses stood on the mountain with his hands raised (Exodus 17:10-11). We call this “serving another man’s vision.” Character and charisma develop at the same time. Serving as number two has the added blessing of providing a continuing check for our humility.
During those 40 years in the wilderness, the complaints rose up to Moses, not Joshua. Thus Joshua was able to focus on the battle against the Amalekites. Joshua also served to protect Moses from the internal complaints and divisions.
Once, we hosted a visiting minister at Revive. Our “department” leaders were there, but I was absent. Someone in the meeting became offended at the ministry, and then angry at me. Although I was not there, I had to deal with the offense. There is protection in the number two slot because complaints and offenses rise to the top.
Another benefit in serving in the number two slot is that there is more time for devotionals. Since Moses was often dealing with problems (Exodus 18), Joshua was able to spend more time enjoying the presence of the Lord (Exodus 33:11). Later, Joshua fulfilled his destiny as leading the conquest of the Holy Land. His ministry was a continuance and expansion of his service with Moses (Joshua 1:2-8).
Satan, Absalom, and Joab
Serving as number two also has its dangers. Lucifer (Hillel ben Shachar) served in the number two position as one of the top angels along with Michael and Gabriel. Then pride crept in; pride led to jealousy; jealousy to being offended; offense to rebellion (Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28). When serving in number two positions, we need to be on guard every day, against the creeping, satanic thoughts of jealousy and offense.
We can make a mistake on one of two sides. The first is Absalom, King David’s son. He was gracious, talented, and attractive. He started to play off people’s natural tendency to complain about David’s leadership. Absalom had more time to spend with people. Because of his gifting, he was able to gather their loyalty to himself, subtly pulling their hearts away from David’s (II Samuel 15:1-6). One of our jobs as number two is to guard people’s loyalty toward the top leader.
Another example was Joab, the great general under King David. He was victorious, self-disciplined, brave and uncompromising. He stayed on the front lines, while David was lounging in the palace, committing adultery. Yet Joab’s power ultimately led him to betray David and to hurt others around him whom David was trying to raise up in leadership. Those with a mercy heart need to guard against the Absalom spirit and those with a prophetic gift need to guard against the Joab syndrome.
Leaving Abusive Leadership
Sometimes we serve as number two and the leader becomes abusive. This happened to David under King Saul. Saul became jealous, lost his sanity, and started attacking David. David tried his best to stay loyal and submitted, but all attempts failed. We must make every attempt at reconciliation, but also confront sin in loving, covenantal dialogue (according to Matthew 18 principles).
If that fails, we can do what David did next: 1) leave, 2) guard the leader’s honor. Some people stay under a leader even though they are being abused. That is wrong. God does not want you to be abused. Discernment is needed. Sometimes God calls us to stay under abusive leadership, for the greater good of the kingdom. If so, He will provide special grace not to be damaged spiritually.
When David left, he separated himself geographically for a time so as not to be a source of division. He made every effort, at risk of his own life and against the wishes of his team members, to protect Saul’s honor and position. David knew he would be king one day and wanted to set a pattern for right order of authority. He gave an example of how to leave the number two position when the top leader is abusive.
Let us follow in Yeshua’s footsteps, serving the Lord as “number two.” Even when we are at the top of an organization, we really are number two any way, serving under Yeshua’s leadership in our hearts. Serving as number two is an effective and efficient way for any disciple to bear much fruit for Yeshua’s kingdom.
Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.
He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.
Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.