It is lonely at the top. All people who hold a lofty office need to have someone who is trustworthy, to whom they might dare to speak their innermost troubles, and also have such a person speak wisdom into their heart.
Like most other ministers, I too have personal experience of the need of such a person. The sacramental Christian churches (Anglican, Scottish and Roman Catholic) have always valued and established such roles within the structures of church appointments, largely focused at Cathedral level.
In such roles the Chaplain to the Bishop, as it were, does 'double duties' and performs a variety of functions other than just being a confidante, sounding board and advisor to the Bishop; for example, taking turns on the preaching roster, attending a wide variety of community and church related committees, speaking on behalf of the Bishop, being involved in ceremonial functions.
Many "period" television dramas set in the 18th and 19th centuries portray this Chaplain to the Bishop as being rather sinister, sneaky and self-serving characters.
One example is Reverend Obadiah Slope, who was portrayed in an amusing way in the television series of the 1980s called "The Barchester Chronicles" which was based on the book "The Barchester Towers" by the noted master of irony and biting commentary on his society, author Anthony Trollope. http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0236966/
The non-conformist churches on the whole didn't have such formal appointments, but encouraged every senior Minister to have a fellow minister to whom they might confide and seek another voice and to ponder the advice of one they trusted.
In some Denominations, it is actually highly recommended. The Reverend Rowland Croucher established John Mark Ministries to serve this need, and he has become known as the "Pastor's Pastor". He and the team leaders he appoints have filled this role for many Ministers.
As usual, we can turn to the wise counsel in the Bible to guide us in these matters. In 1 Kings 19 verse 16, Elijah the prophet is commanded this:
Elijah was at the height of his ministry, having put paid to the false prophets of Baal on top of Mount Carmel. King Ahab's wife Jezebel had put a price on Elijah's head, so that, instead of enjoying the moment of his great triumph, he ran and hid. The end result was that Elijah needed someone to who might counsel him.
He also explained that his own personal 'Chaplain' for much of his ministry was the late Reverend Peter Thomson, who served as chairman of the Sports Ministry for many years, and who had been Headmaster at Timbertop (the environmental arm of Geelong Grammar, where students spend all of year 9), Master at St Mark's College, a student residence within Adelaide University and Professor of Theology.
He also spent some years in England as the friend (chaplain) to the then UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
Whenever we travelled to Melbourne they would meet up with Peter and Helen Thomson, and the Thomson's also spent time with them in Tweed Heads promoting Well-Being Australia to both the business and Christian community.
Reverend Thomson's wise counsel was a most wonderful gift from the Lord into my life, The Chaplain to the Bishop (or to any Christian or Mission Leader) is a critical ministry, and that one should be applauded and emphasised for all those in leadership roles.
Likewise I too have been / continue to be - the chaplain to a number of distinguished persons over my 42 years in Christian ministry.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at