We don’t hear the term “playing second fiddle” used to often anymore. I suppose it’s probably not “hip” enough to warrant the usage of this terminology by anyone who considers themselves a “progressive thinker” or even a post-modernist. Such idioms have long since lost their attraction to an ever-changing people while they, at the same time, create and implement new ones.
In case you were wondering, the meaning of this particular idiom is to place yourself in submission to someone. Its origin can be found in the orchestra world where violinists would be classified by 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so forth, with 1st being the most accomplished chair. During the heyday of its popularity, this expression was used not only for individual submission, but also for prioritizing events, tasks and functions. One would say for example; I like going to football games but it will always play second fiddle to baseball.
I am for all practical purposes not a “progressive thinker”, I largely have a fondness for many traits, characteristics and especially idioms of years gone by. I bring this to bear because of the startling exodus that has been occurring for many years now by those who would identify as a “millennial” (born from 1981-1996) from any organized religion (most notably, Christianity). Alarmingly this trend appears to be carrying over to the “post-millennial” generation as well. Perhaps the most startling revelation however is that the millennials cannot lay claim to the origins of this departure. That prize can actually be awarded to the “baby boomers”, whose slow but steady departure paved the way for “generation Xers” and so on and so forth.
I used the idiom “second fiddle” because it seems to me that many in our churches today (regardless of their generational identification) are operating with a spirit of malaise. In the western hemisphere the church as a whole is dancing dangerously close to stagnation and paralysis, an “I’ll go to church, or serve, or worship this Sunday, or whatever, at my local church…unless something better comes along”.
Do a Google search and you will find countless authors giving countless reasons with countless amounts of remedies to this trending predicament. I don’t presuppose to have an answer to the alarming exodus from church, nor do I fully understand a person’s desire to place self interest over a God who redeemed them from their sins. But what I can speak to is the “playing second fiddle” and despite its negative connotation, it is actually more desirable than one might think.
If we carefully consider the definition of said idiom, we cannot ignore the “placing yourself in submission to someone”. Is it not our Lord Jesus who came down from His heavenly abode and placed Himself in complete submission to the will of His Father? Did God ask Abraham to offer up his son Isaac on the altar to see if he would place his son above his God? The answer to both of these questions is a resounding “yes”, and in both examples, there were certainly great opportunities for submission to be set aside in lieu of self-interest.
As mentioned previously, there is no shortage of self-help programs available, but it seems to me that if we truly want to make any attempt whatsoever to stem this tide of complacency, it needs to start with each one of us individually. If we truly are concerned about the growing exodus from our local churches, we first need to place a premium on our own investment into our local churches.
We must demonstrate a reliance upon our fellow body of believers and more importantly a reliance on Jesus Christ. The exact opposite is all too often happening, when we are placing self-interests first we establish patterns of behavior that are mimicked and put into practice by a watchful audience. That audience can be your neighbor, your spouse, your children or your grandchildren.
The call of the church right now needs to be one of us playing “second fiddle” to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and not our Lord playing “second fiddle” to our desires. The manifestation of us submitting to the Lord establishes the standard and daily practice of submitting to each other, collectively, under His Holy name. It will be through and by this mutual submission that the body of believers will then be able to effectively join to the mission of our Lord. As he said to his disciples, “peace be with you. As the Father sent me, even so I am sending you” (Jn. 20:21).