The Calvary Chapel Chronicles: The Children of Moses

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27 Responses

  1. Richard says:

    Is it a choice or a calling ? ( to be a pastor)
    Is it a business or a church ?
    Is it to sustain at all costs or to serve it’s congregation ?

    It would appear that at times,
    It’s a choice
    It’s a business
    It must be sustained

    All in the name of Jesus
    (I’m a cynic too)

  2. Michael says:

    Richard…good questions…

  3. Bob says:

    Nepotism is the name of the cc game! Keep the kingdom franchise $$$ (donated by the dumb sheep) in the family…

    There’s no business like “god” business!

  4. Bob says:

    In the end dear PP family, its ALL about the Benjamins!

  5. Michael says:

    Let’s be careful.
    I pointed out something common among this group while trying not to make general assumptions about spirituality or motive.
    Most CC’s are less than a hundred people…not exactly an ATM machine…

  6. Matt says:

    I go to what I call a “good” Calvary (with elders, without scandals, etc). But we do have this phenomenon going on. The pastors wife and daughter run the office. Another daughter works sometimes on the web site. And recently the son got named youth pastor after graduating Bible College. None of these people are unfit for the job. But the “optics” aren’t great. In my experience, it isn’t anything nefarious (not all about the benjamins.) It’s more about comfort level–you know what you are getting when you hire close friends and family, so it makes it easier to manage. I’ve seen this is very common in small organizations where you may not have people with a lot of business or leadership experience making these decisions. I see this same thing in many other local organizations I’m a part of. They go with people they know because it’s the easier way to do it.

  7. I see what you are saying as being generally true as presented, but not in 100% of cases. But the point of this comment isn’t so much that. A piece that is a huge contributing factor in this scenario is the loyalty of the people in the church and to the founder and their “heir.” There is an enabling of this pattern of behavior from those in these churches. Enough of a loyalty base for the founder to stick around and the heir to inherit anyway. But then this brings up again the problem of loyalty to a person and/or loyalty to a brand or organization above loyalty to the Church. This is a potential side effect of entrepreneurial church planting models be it in CC or otherwise (Acts29 was like this, at least under Driscoll).

    In churches where “branding” is the main form of “outreach” loyalty will always be to the wrong thing, even in churches where there has been a succession to a non-blood relative.

    Interestingly enough, I recently witnessed a scenario where a father “merged” his ailing church with his son’s “successful” church (on the other side of town where no one from the ailing church would drive to) and now the father works for his son doing what he likes doing with none of the responsibility. Sadly it was done in such a way where people were left church-less, staff are left jobless and in one case nearly homeless (living in a parsonage and suddenly having to move before the property gets sold in addition to scrambling to find a job in ministry or otherwise).

    This is off topic, kind of, but maybe for another post, I fully get that pastors live by faith, to a degree. Having been full time myself, there is an uneasy pressure/reality that if I don’t do certain things or do things in certain ways, people will leave, with their money, so while I’m living by faith there is something I can do about my own income. Serving two masters. My current mode of thinking is that, in today’s western culture and climate, it is better to be a pastor who is self-sufficient. In other words, your livelihood doesn’t come from the church, or at best be bi-vocational. “A workman is worthy of his wages.” I get and agree with that. But when your family’s ability to live and thrive is on the line, it’s way too easy to compromise (in some circles it is expected to compromise) when your paycheck comes from the offering bucket. I’m not condemning anyone here who is full-time BTW.

    But I do wonder if, even when a church grows beyond the 200-250 mark, if it couldn’t be led and managed by volunteers (unpaid pastoral and management team). There is something about working in the real world 8-5 and connecting with real people that makes one more connected and compassionate and focused on what needs to be taught and said from the pulpit, than coming up with things to sell christians to keep them coming back and putting butts in seats and bucks in the bank. I think every pastor should do a tour driving for Uber/Lyft because it’s a real eye opener. But I digress big time.

  8. Michael says:

    Good stuff Matt, and Corby…

  9. TheGhostofBelleStarr says:

    Or when you make your son the worship leader and he can’t sing a lick…

  10. DavidM says:

    I occasionally go to CC websites and look at how many staff members have the same surname as the pastor.I am sometimes astounded at the num era. In one church in SoCal, there are no less than 5. It appears that those churches are family businesses. That is shameful. Now, I see little wrong with a pastor of a small church preparing his son to succeed him, there is nothing inherently wrong in that. Sometimes there is little choice when the church is small. But, if it becomes a family business, then the church is serving the pastor and his family, not the other way around.

  11. DavidM says:

    PS. Sorry for the typos in the previous post!

  12. Jerod says:

    So would you guess , if you had to guess, that the general mindset amongst the children of the Model Moses is, “Meh, it’s a living. ‘Least I ain’t hanging drywall…”

    Do they consider the CEO position/pastorate their earnest ministry?

    How would one know anyway?

  13. The Least of These says:

    Nepotism is not the sole property of CC. I know many churches (and businesses) who opt to keep family on the payroll for a variety of reasons, some of them mentioned in this blog. It’s a common practice. Sometimes it works well, but more often than not it’s fraught with issues.

    I am not a huge fan of it. Most likely because I’ve never had security from the family business making sure I’d never go hungry. No, I had to work my butt off so I didn’t go hungry. Still to be clear, after years of observing how CC works, I have found nepotism is a conduit for a lack of fairness, demoralizing to non familial employees, allows for employees to be rewarded and promoted because of their proximity to power as opposed to their qualifications, and lastly, lacks the challenge of diversity of thought by allowing processes to get stale and stuck in procedure. In addition, many times management roles in CC are passed down to family members grossly under qualified while those with real world skills are subordinated and paid less. Brian Brodersen continues in that model today, as do many of his fellow pastors.

    This worked for Chuck. It kept his family close and dependent upon him. And although you have Cheryl assuming the role of the leader of the Joyful Life women’s ministry when Kay became unable to continue, this shift happened while Chuck was still alive. Much of what Cheryl has been able to do has been through the machine her father had in place which included a pulpit and an ability to be a part of the publishing mechanisms Chuck had already set in motion. And while Cheryl remains the most popular of the women speakers in CGN, many wives in CCA still harbor a resentment towards Cheryl because of the license and opportunity afforded to her by her father throughout the years as the CCA wives struggled to make ends meet in their own churches. To Cheryl’s credit she is bright and articulate and highly auto-didactic in her theological pursuits. She isn’t selling snake oil, and she believes deeply in her version of the life of a believer as seen through her research. Very few can boast that, but nevertheless her opportunities came through opened doors which no other female inn CC could have walked through, with the exception of Jan.

    The biggest issue in CC isn’t nepotism. It’s a contributing factor in the overall arc of issues that have muddied the waters of CC. I consider it equal in merit to CC’s thinking that their Bible College is higher education or the School of Worship a legitimate music institution. They are not. They require students parrot the ideas given to them, and these schools suffer from arbitrary decision making while never really requiring students learn to a formal standard. It’s really more that power posts in these institutions, and in in CC’s themselves, are filled with the family and friends of the leaders, and sustained by dictate, allowing people to rise to leadership who are not adequately qualified.

    So in the end you end up with something which is deformed because there just isn’t any new DNA allowed. That’s the problem of nepotism in CC.

  14. richard says:

    good one, Jerrod.
    guess what I did for 20+ years – hung drywall.

    as a somewhat related, somewhat funny story, 2 of our 3 boys decided they wanted to hang drywall too.
    while they were in their apprenticeship, I was their boss some of the time, and I was so tough on them other workers would ask them, “how do you put up with the boss – he really is tough on you”. To which they would answer “he’s my dad”

    which brings me back to your comment and to my previous one. I have always felt that one had to have a “call” to be pastor, but for many pastor’s kids, it’s like you said – a choice – a good way to make a buck, and it beats hanging drywall.

  15. Linnea says:

    We went to an Anglican church for awhile that broke apart because both husband and wife were “priests” and the 3rd priest was outnumbered in all the decisions. For the record, I had no problem with the husband and wife. This phenomenon is not isolated to CCs.

    This putting one’s own money on the line does breed “ownership” in a church and also encourages passing on the family business. My husband is doing that with our kids, but the difference is, the business is not a church.

  16. Steve says:

    The succession from father to the son is modeled right in the old testament Kings. CCs new model will now be the King model replacing the Moses model. Of course there will always be good kings and bad kings but it seems like the “Touch not God’s anointed” threat may get a resurgence in the next generation.

  17. Jerod says:

    I was a plumbing tech (DWV, mostly grounds) for about ten, then an instructor aide in Mod Severe special Ed, now a teacher. I know where you’re coming from.

    Btw, I bet your shoulders were HUGE!

  18. Jerod says:

    I figure a good way to know if it’s a calling is if life”s circumstances (what my mom says, are the fingers of God) keep bringing one back to the same vocation. For me it’s been teaching special needs people. Hopefully for some of those CC et al moses model kids it’s the same.

    Oh, and praying about it *smacks forehead*

  19. Eric says:

    Where I am the large pentecostal churches go father to son or son-in-law. That usually works out ok. The small ones often close or get absorbed into a conglomerate. In other denoms pastors usually change over more often.

  20. UnCCed says:

    I can tell you it’s a strange feeling after being “groomed” for leadership at a CC, to be told (ironically to several of us) by the 14 year oldest son of the Senior Pastor “yea, my dad told me and my brother when he retires, he’ll turn-over the church to us.”
    Ironically, it was one of the best things that happened to me, for all their talk of “the Word,” this was the umpteenth example of why I couldn’t trust an SP, and how thankful I was I took (again the irony) advice of Chuck Smith long before “men, find yourself a trade” to aspiring pastors.
    Now, using Jesus command regarding the Pharisees (do as they say, not as they do), I take the teaching sans all the rhetoric of superiority (while plenty of women and children suffer abuse-which seems to get forgotten in all discussions, except in heaven), abandon the form, and serve with a clean conscience.

  21. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    “A cynic might say that the main qualification for these positions was blood relations.”

    Move over, Saudi Royal Family and the Kims of North Korea.

  22. JM says:

    Catching up a bit today. Very thankful for your continuing series, Michael. Thank you for persevering. I am learning much from the various perspectives on the “succession” issue.

    In regards to the “succession” at CCCM, does anyone know much about that video Paul Smith posted about circumstances close to Chuck’s death? Paul stated that Chuck did not want Brian to take over. It was also reported that there was a willingness to pay Brian off. I even remember reading something that implied the reason Paul had been previously fired by Brian was because Brian didn’t want Paul influencing Chuck in this matter. If it sounds convoluted, I would concur that it is. Just wondering if anyone was familiar with all of this and had perpsective on it.

  23. Michael says:


    I’ve written about it…

  24. MomFromFL says:

    I see the “family business” issue in a lot of similarly “entrepreneurialy planted” non-denominational larger churches. This includes family working for the church and the church being handed down.

  25. Clockwork Angel says:

    I know I’m a bit late to this series, but I wanted to share my input, as the adult child of two Calvary Chapel hippie converts. I do think that it was a move of God to draw in the hippies, and that He didn’t even need Chuck Smith per se to do it. I’d say He drew them to Himself in spite of it all, in which case it would have been better for Smith to step down so that the bountiful harvest coming in would not be harmed later.

    My mother was herself delivered from drugs. God radically changed her life. But my father…. He might have sort of cleaned up on drugs for a time, but the alcohol addiction came back. He never cleaned up his porn addiction. He lied to my mother and entrapped her in a marriage, hiding his homosexual practices, porn addiction, and very poorly managed type I diabetes. It was only after she married him that she found out, and because of Calvary Chapel’s demonization of divorce, she thought she had to stay with him. He cheated on her, abused her, beat her, abused me, and so forth. He eventually left us with nothing when I was 19. He never changed much, as far as I could tell, until his dying day.

    What emboldened him was Lonnie Frisbee. He used to gush over the man, saying that Lonnie is in heaven, and he was going there too, because he was eternally secure like Lonnie. He had no incentive to have the Holy Spirit to radically change his life. He was entitled, arrogant, and a misogynist. Various Calvary Chapel members would cover for his hit and runs when he’d be drunk driving. None thought to warn my mother away from him. I once asked him if he even cared about Jesus giving rewards and making Jesus smile, and his face got all hard. He said he didn’t care, so long as he got in.

    Calvary Chapel taught my father cheap grace. They sold him fire insurance.

    So, I have mixed feelings about the movement. Many hippies truly got cleaned up. God radically changed them, like my mother. Others did not clean up. My father’s case was not exceptional. The same cheap grace followed him into Vineyard. My father led Bible studies there, while having a porn addiction that others knew of. Even if they didn’t know about the domestic violence, they knew about that, as he was getting prayer in men’s groups for it. This was business as usual. It turns out another Bible study leader was one of his drinking buddies and was also abusing his family behind closed doors.

    My Mom once told me that when she was at CC Cypress after she’d just converted, she was attending a Bible study that really edified her. The leader was going through the Greek, verse by verse, and did not shy away from passages admonishing Christians to live holy lives. She felt encouraged and built up. This leader was told to step down. She never could figure out why. In retrospect, we think it’s because his holiness message made some people too uncomfortable.

    I don’t want to say that it was always like that at CC or Vineyard. Vineyard would sometimes have holiness conferences that I remember as a kid. I remember my father hating John Wimber when he’d preach edifying messages on personal holiness. My Mom would walk away encouraged. My father would walk away bitter and angry, speaking evil of John or any other preacher who preached the same. But, the emphasis on eternal security for saying a magic prayer ultimately kept my father from taking Jesus’ Gospel seriously, from having a true attitude change inside. He had his get-out-of-hell-free ticket, and that was all that mattered. He clung to it to his dying breath, while still not giving so much as a sincere apology to me or my Mom for the horrific abuse and abandonment we endured. He died in good standing at an ACNA parish. Nobody there made him take steps to reform himself. They only ever gave him pity. My Mom and I received none.

    I hope this gives food for thought. By Smith allowing his own infidelities and even Lonnie’s to be swept under the rug, by saying it only affects rewards and not one’s eternity, he emboldened my father to practice sin. Thus, the well was poisoned.

  26. Em says:

    While acknowledging the struggles of besetting sins and forgiving grace, i have never seen anything in the Bible that makes me think there is any justification for claiming salvation while ignoring the Holy Spirit’s promptings to deal with one’s old sin nature… Redemption is not a ticket that you pick up at the ticket window, put in your pocket and expect to pull it out like a boarding pass that you’ll wave under God’s nose at judgement time … just isn’t …. ?

  27. Joe says:

    You all are rather keen on generalizations, eh? Lean not on your own understanding. Of all the local churches, there is no perfect church. Let each one remember that Christ is the Head and that we all answer to One. It’s a dangerous game to extrapolate a few observations to an entire group. Let us consider the condition of each one’s heart, rather than bloodline.

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