The Calvary Chapel Chronicles: The Moses Model

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91 Responses

  1. Outside T. Fold says:

    I appreciate the way you described this: You followed the money.

    (Mark Felt, aka All The President’s Men’s Deep Throat, what a gift of a phrase you’ve given to us.)

    What a tangled web, where a form of theology and eschatology is wrapped around (or within?) how a pastor makes his money and, once old, retires.

  2. richard says:

    funny to me that you post this today as last night was reading in 1 corinthians – Paul was talking about this 2000 years ago. And he said he got a job and worked. And preached.

  3. pstrmike says:

    Many independent churches operate on a thin line. They use the “Moses Model,” which is a sole proprietorship, but are also required to have a board which is a corporate model. The two styles are contradictory and can by their mutual existence breed problems.

    Pastors who plant their own church often feel that the have ownership. They can say “its the Lord’s church,” and that is true, but it is hard to escape a sense of ownership when they bankrolled the church at the beginning and their name is on the lease or mortgage documents. Blood, sweat and tears gives us the illusion of ownership – but that goes equally for the congregant as well.

    I know of more than one pastor who bought the property that the church meets at. Whether they donated the property to the church or are leasing the property to the church, I couldn’t say.

    As you mentioned Michael, the opting out of Social Security has created problems when some of these pastors needed to retire. These pastors acted on bad counsel as one means to prove they completely bought in to the doctrine. It was one way to pledge their allegiance to the movement; I so thankful God spared me of that. Many years later, their churches are paying for their mistakes which places various pressures upon their new pastor.

  4. Samuel A Tallmon says:

    100 member threshold? I’ve never heard of that.

  5. Paige says:

    My late first husband and I almost accidentally planted a church in the manner described. We moved to a small town and none of the existing local churches were welcoming to us, as hippies. My husband worked at the radio station that was owned by a very Pentecostal church, and participation in that church was required. They also required him to cut his hair and dress conservatively.

    Long story, but our distant connection to Maranatha music concerts led to many people being saved, but there was no church to send the new converts to, so we started a Bible study, in our home. Our home had a revolving front door for years and years and we never sat down to a meal without extras at the table. This is how my kids grew up. Constant flow of people in our house and lives.

    After a year of twice weekly studies, we eventually started Sunday morning services and met Sunday and Wednesday at a community center… it all rather grew around us. We were dirt poor, on food stamps and WIC. My husband worked planting trees, and I babysat, did sewing and ironing to keep us afloat. Keith and Melody Green, who had become friends of ours, sent us monthly checks for $300 way back in 1977, and did that for a few years.

    We had ZERO experience or education on church planting or business. My husband drank the koolaid and opted out of SSI, way back in 1977. I don’t remember when he finally quit working to tend the needs of the church, and the NON STOP stream of people and needs that usurped our family needs. A ‘board’ consisting of a lawyer and a business owner was finally formed, church secretary hired, warehouse rented and week by week, the congregation grew and we tried to grow with it, as we sought the Lord. We truly felt the Lord was leading. It was a surreal and seemingly supernatural time. For years. Years.

    One of the more frustrating things with CCCM and the ‘pastors conferences’, was the complete lack of any practical teaching about the logistics of establishing the Business End of Church. Zero. We operated by ‘braille’…
    Within 10 years, we built an incredible campus on 4 acres. Straight up miracle. Every year, more and more and more people came to Jesus, to the fellowship. More and more meetings and activities took place.

    Our family gave our LIVES to ‘our’ church for 24 years. 24/7, 365. My husband was paid well with medical benefits, but no plan for retirement. My kids and I served, and pretty emptied our personal lives for the church people.

    In the end, my husband completely lost touch with reality. God knows why. He was terminated by the board and forbidden from being on the property. He received a separation of $21K, his leased vehicle and two Mac computers. All mention of him has been reduced to the engraved rock at the edge of the creek, placed by his adultress-widow, where he baptized hundreds. There is no mention of us anywhere in the current church. We never existed. We had NOTHING to show for 2 decades of personal sacrifice.

    Church IS both ‘the Lords’ work” AND a business. IMO, in the CC movement, there has in the past, as I don’t know about it now, ZERO instruction on the business end. I would guess this has been remedied.. and pastor’s conferences are not just one spectacular Bible sermon after another.

    I am, however, certain of God’s provision. People make a lot of mistakes. That is our nature, and the Bible is full of stories of the godly making mistakes… yet God is merciful ‘forgiving thousands”… and that is where my hope lies.

  6. Paige says:

    To the commenter who used a Bible verse to say that pastors should “work”… You obviously have no idea what full time ministry is like.

  7. richard says:

    no one said it was easy.
    Are you implying that Paul had it easy, and that “today” it is different ?

  8. Paige says:

    Yes, it is different today…. and being a local pastor, regardless of the size of the congregation, has many different responsibilities and obligations that Paul did not have, not to mention that Paul did not have a family . Paul traveled and planted churches, raised up leaders, then, attempted to visit those churches. Obviously the pace of life then was entirely different.

    One of my dear young pastor, church planter friends/sons mentioned recently that between a 6am coffee meeting and getting home by noon, he had communicated via text, phone and email, 36 individual church participants.

    I can remember phone calls at 11pm from a group leader who didn’t have a key and couldn’t figure out how to turn the lights off…. so I went down there at 11 to lock up. I can also remember a couple who left our church angrily because we didn’t come to the hospital to view their deceased premie. ..

    My husband was gone so much, trying to connect with church people and activities, that my kids invented an alternate Christmas holiday, which my family observes to this day, since my kids’ dad was always gone at the community Christmas dinner that our church started 39 years ago. He felt that it was important to be there for the people serving.

    Since my husband studied on Saturdays, and was at the church from 7-2 on Sundays, he was never able to go to sports events with the kids, or even be around much on their school days off.

    Yes, it is different today, even more demanding than it was many years ago, when my late first husband was pastoring.

  9. bob says:

    I was taught by observation as young aspiring cc pastor that the rule of law at cccm was always “don’t touch (or question) God’s anointed”! I now understand this was, in reality, a dictatorship style of ministry designed like a pyramid scheme for the chosen few at the top of the cccm food chain. It was the unspoken cc philosophy many of us learned of how to successfully operate a thriving and prosperous cc and rule your own kingdom. You are the moses of your flock, and your staff and leadership are all hand-picked “servants” along with the 501c3 franchise BOD of yes men who always go along with the sp every wish or… they are shown the right foot of fellowship!

    Anyone who dared question the rigged system was deemed, “disgruntled” Chuck even warned the flock at cccm on the 2000 series that a man that came against him was dead the same week… Challenge moses and God will kill you!

    Thank God I and many others have been delivered from that cult mentality!

  10. Em says:

    Probably not new news, but i do recall that it was a dead giveaway that you had incompetent leadership, if when questioned they turned on you… Military and parental protocols excepted… for the most part…

    Pray for those poor migrating folk as i hear that they are beginning to show signs of the wear and tear of this impulsive attempt to escape their hardships at home… pray for the children and the mothers, especially

  11. Steve says:

    I think one thing to note is the assistant pastors who may challenge the sp who are shown the door are also encouraged to start their own fellowship on their way out. The idea is if you are brave enough and talented enough to challenge the senior Moses, you may just have what it takes to go stake out your own territory and start your own church. This competitive nature may explain the tremendous growth in the shear number of fellowships. As Michael explained this is a business model that is actually rooted in greed and competitive capitalism. But it doesn’t matter to any of them because the ends (# franchises) seems to justify the means (territorial competition). The franchise owners have their own disfunctional club that has to maintain a semblance of unity to the congregational pewster. Unfortunately this is lose lose situation for everyone and a win for the devil.

  12. ( |o )====::: says:

    Very clear & cogent, as usual Michael.

  13. clearlesslyambiguous says:

    Never get between a man and his livelihood!

  14. pstrmike says:

    “The franchise owners have their own disfunctional club that has to maintain a semblance of unity to the congregational pewster. Unfortunately this is lose lose situation for everyone and a win for the devil.”

    Some of them do, some of them don’t. It is a mixed bag, with both truth and error, much like your above post.

  15. Babylon's Dread says:

    Essentially this means that flawed theology has outcomes and conflicts of interest always manifest where livelihood is concerned. Churches based on market share are also utterly vulnerable to changing cultural values.

  16. Duane Arnold says:

    “For many of these pastors it’s not just a matter of a theological distinctive, but a way of survival.”

    With the current demographic, I don’t think we have seen the worst. Many of the fellowships are shrinking. Property issues (in terms of city and state taxes) may come home to roost for those who “own” church property and engage in lease-backs. Medical bills are also on their way as the system becomes increasingly fragile. For those whose whole family is involved in leadership, you may multiply. The additional tragedy is that many of these pastors are actually good people caught in a dysfunctional system that, at least in some sense, was not of their making.

  17. Em says:

    Dr. Duane @ 1:49 is worth pondering… do we as the Body of Christ have an obligation to those who literally have left everything to follow him? probably…
    for my family i wrote a little book on history of the lives of my Pastor Grandfather and his wife. i made a mistake, i should have written how this impractical man, a product of the Holiness Movement was cared for all of his life, near penniless, but living in retirement comfortably… dying in an “upscale” nursing home… it was totally God’s gracious provision for a man whose children thought of him as too strict and impractical for the real world… evidently God didn’t agree with them…

  18. Eric says:

    This is where I say that the Australian system is better than the American one, in that every employer must pay some % of salary into every worker’s retirement fund. For those who miss out on paid work, the aged pension is also normally enough to get by on. Your fortunes in retirement don’t depend on who you happened to work for, whether that company still exists and whether you left on good terms.

    It’s also sad and inflexible when a pastor is expected to be a business owner/administrator. There are many gifts required in running a church, and to expect one man to carry all of it may be bad for him and for the other gifted people who could help. And when the pastor has such a financial stake in the church, I imagine it’s more likely for him to spend a lot of time exhorting the congregation to give generously.

  19. Cash says:

    Michael is right that there is a dual nature to the Moses Model. The pastor and the board. But the pastor can fire the board because he is “Moses.” This sets up a dangerous corporate model and the “business” or “corporate” side of things is upside down and there is no accountability. The Senior Pastor is all powerful and this is not healthy for anyone, including the pastor.

  20. Linnea says:

    I’ve always struggled with the Moses/Papal model. Matthew 27:51-52 makes clear that God removes the separation from ordinary man and Himself:

    “And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.”

    It’s pretty clear to me that the former “priestly” role as intermediary between God and man was now defunct.

    I believe Paul established that a priest/pastor role then became one of teacher and exhorter.

    The Moses model was broken from the beginning, but as Paige has recalled, God still used it and the men and women in it to accomplish His work.

  21. Steve says:

    There will always be a Moses model simple because there is always a bountiful supply of narcissists. They fit together like a hand in a glove.

  22. Michael says:


    I know a lot of these guys.
    Not all of them are narcissists.

  23. Steve says:

    Michael, I’m sure there not all narcissists but the system and the personality type re-enforce each other like no other I have ever seen.

  24. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    My thought has always been that on any given day I am sure that at minimum, 95-98% of all Calvary Chapel attendees are perfectly happy with the governance style of their church.

  25. Xenia says:

    I just have to cringe at the blanket, or almost blanket, statements being made about Calvary Chapel pastors. Let me tell you something: when I departed my old CC I said some mean-spirited things to senior pastor. I gossiped about him, too. Rather recently (almost 20 years later) I felt convicted to make amends and I sent him an apologetic email. He responded with the most gracious letter I’ve ever seen. He basically said he almost certainly deserved everything I said about him and even more and he forgave me from the bottom of his heart.

    He is a Moses-Model sort of man, a die-hard Calvary Chapel pastor.

    Please, just because you’ve had some bad experiences, not every evangelical pastor will fit into the narcissistic, ego-maniac role. The ones you’ve never heard of- the ones never discussed here- don’t fit that mold. Probably the vast majority of them don’t fit. The Moses Model does make it hard to be humble but many manage.

    I was a one who enjoyed pointing out all of Calvary Chapel’s faults but I repent of that. What does our Lord say? If they aren’t against Me they are for Me.

  26. Steve says:

    Xenia, I appreciate your comments. My comments on this particular post are geared more towards the Moses Model and less personal towards a pastor but it is hard to separate the model from the person at times. In my opinion the model is bankrupt and spiritually defunct.

  27. Steve says:

    I would also say the Moses model is very similar to the more common vision casting model that is ubiquitous in most Evangelical churches. My church actually practices vision casting which is quite disturbing to me but at least for now I have a great deal of respect for the leadership because they are humble. They even allow me to speak out against vision casting because they sincerely want to hear my concerns although not sure I convinced anyone. That would be wonderful if that could happen in Moses model church but I never saw it work. Voting with your feet was always the remedy. That topic probably deserves it’s own post at some point.

  28. JM says:

    Another insightful article, Michael!

    I never connected the dots in regards to their lack of a retirement plan. Now it becomes clear. I will remember until I die the constant drilling about the imminency of the Rapture and the date upon which it was likely to happen–1981! The Chuckster (rhymes with huckster) was a date-setter! This should be another very good example of pastors following a man way too close and not forming their own conscience influenced by the Word. Even if these men started out this way–these original pastors had plenty of time to grow and mature out of all that. For some reason–many did not make that transition. I will maintain until I am gone that Chuck was too much an idol to too many!

    Sadly, what Chuck said also caused other people to make bad decisions and make no necessary future plans. Many aging Christians who were exposed to all the rhetoric died depressed because there was no rapture in their lifetime. (Chuck, himself, did.) Worse, some from that time became despondent and left the faith altogether. We were never allowed to talk about the aftermath of the Chuckster’s false prophecy. Call a spade a spade–for all intents and purposes–it was a false prophecy.

    Disclaimer: I do believe in the Scriptural Second Coming of Christ and believe it should be taught. It is part of our confession of faith. I also believe that the concept of the Rapture should be given fair exposure so believers can make up their own mind. We need to quit treating congregants like babies. If we keep doing this–we will keep getting babies who cannot handle the more complicated, Christian issues and we will deserve it.

    Strangely–I still don’t think the above issues are necessarily the point. Every denomination has the right to preach as it pleases as long as it meets the criteria for orthodoxy. It’s HOW CC presented their brand of theology/eschatology that I remain very upset about. I think CC had the right to teach the Rapture, etc., as their position if they chose to, give Scriptural grounds as they saw it for what they believed, etc. However, they should have NEVER taught these things to the exclusion of other theories. It was years before I realized that there were so many other approaches to eschatology. After exiting CC and regaining confidence in my own thoughts again, this was one of the many subjects of which I felt betrayed. Their manner of teaching left me deliberately uninformed. I know many do not like to use the word “cult”–but regarding this subject (among so many others), CC’s adamancy combined with their exclusivity on certain issues was hurtful to the flock in the long run and produced some questionable fruit.

    Grateful that their CC satellite exposed me to the Gospel back in the dark ages, but still celebrating getting out of that place and into a place more brightly lit!!

  29. Xenia says:

    However, they should have NEVER taught these things to the exclusion of other theories. <<<<

    I do not believe that churches are obligated to teach doctrines they do not agree with.

    However, if they are going to mention other views, they need to be fair and give an accurate explanation.

  30. Xenia says:

    For example, my Orthodox priest is not obligated to teach us Rapturism as if it were one good option among many. However, if he were going to mention it [will never happen] the honorable thing would be to explain it accurately and not give a caricature.

  31. JM says:

    Xenia, your point is well taken. It is helpful because it lets me know that I was possibly unclear. My issue was not that CC was obligated to teach other views/theories but that it would have been much healthier if they at least acknowledged other views existed. In my tenure there–non of that happened. Hope that will help clarify.

  32. Jean says:

    I agree with Xenia. A church is not a college in which different doctrines are presented as equally or potentially valid; and a church should never teach “theories.” Christ, his Gospel and his teaching is no theory.

    A church should be, preaching Law and Gospel, administering the Lord’s means of grace, setting captives free, and quieting burdened consciences. None of that is theoretical.

  33. Xenia says:

    Thanks, JM. I agree.

  34. Kevin H says:

    I agree with Xenia’s clarification, but I can see where JM is coming from in the original point. I have met quite a few people who have been indoctrinated seemingly only in CC or other rapture-centric theology who pretty much think that any other viewpoint on Christ’s return is heresy or next to it, while also only having skewed caricatured pictures of what those other viewpoints are. I agree that any church should not have to teach all views, but that when other views are mentioned, they should be presented properly and fairly, even if it’s stated that they do not agree with such viewpoints. In order to give a full teaching on a subject, I think there would often even be a need to at least recognize that there are other viewpoints in Christendom.

  35. Xenia says:

    Kevin, right. Other end-times views should not be dismissed as “the false teachings of liberal churches,” for example.

  36. Jerod says:

    Your experience with CC is thrice as difficult as ours was, and I admire your family’s tenacity in service. You are very gracious towards the pastors and BOD, more than I can often muster the heart to afford my old church, save a couple friends. You are indeed one to model the spirit of forgiveness after. Sometimes I think I’ve got it, then I notice there’s still arsenic leaching into my well…

    In regards to Paul, he stayed at many of those churches for years on end, working and teaching, as his final warning to the Ephesian “BOD” in Acts 20 points out.
    No, no family for him; that’s the biggest difference and why he wished that we could all be as he was – single, contributing members of society devoted fully to the Lord’s work amongst one another and in our vocations. I think he had it harder because he never knew the joys and sorrows of marriage and parenthood, and gave every last drop of blood in service to God and his people.

  37. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    “Anyone who dared question the rigged system was deemed, “disgruntled” Chuck even warned the flock at cccm on the 2000 series that a man that came against him was dead the same week… Challenge moses and God will kill you!”

    Sounds too much like a Sorcerer putting a Death Hex on anyone who crosses him…

  38. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    “I have met quite a few people who have been indoctrinated seemingly only in CC or other rapture-centric theology who pretty much think that any other viewpoint on Christ’s return is heresy or next to it…”

    I can attest that during my time in-country in the Seventies (not in CC, but in one of its splinter clones during the heyday of Hal Lindsay and Christians for Nuclear War), I heard NOTHING else other than The Rapture. Used as Fear and Guilt Manipulation to “scare ’em into the Kingdom”. The damage is still there.

  39. Xenia says:

    I don’t understand why anyone expects Calvary Chapel, or any other group that has strong rapturist views, to teach the other views. My Orthodox church only teaches the amillennial view. I don’t expect the short time we allot to the homily to be wasted examining doctrines we don’t embrace. I suppose all pastors should inform their congregations that “There are other views out there” but I can’t believe that adults who have any degree of curiosity don’t already know this and aren’t perfectly capable of Googling “End Times Views” to see what other Christian beliefs there might be if they are interested. I was an rapturist Evangelical until I was 50 years old and I was perfectly aware that there were other views (I am not an idiot) and if I wanted to, I could have read about them to my heart’s desire. I chose not to…. not until my last months as an Evangelical, that is.

    Take some personal responsibility, folks.

    That’s one thing missing in many of these discussions:* Personal responsibility.

    *I except Paige and similar stories. She was a true victim. Her story makes me livid.

  40. filbertz says:

    as one who cut his teeth in Dispensational circles, the linking of Moses Model schtick with Rapture eschatology is, at best coincidental, not causal. In fact, Calvary Chapel is the only outfit I’ve ever encountered with this particular ecclesiastical model. The fact that CC was rapturist has as much to do with the Moses Model as Hawaiian shirts.

  41. Sue says:

    I also attended CC for 20 years with my husband. It’s true if you don’t believe in their end time beliefs and believe in something else they think it is heresy. Very cult like from what I saw and heard over the years. The Moses Model is a bad model. Our pastor said “God told him” ….. Now looking back lots of people from our previous CC use that praise “God told me”. Not biblical at all. Also the pastor appointed his elders which were “Yes men”. He even had his dad and brother on the elder board for many years and maybe they still are. Not right in my eyes. Not when the church is over 800 people. We do not regret leaving CC but it’s hard to find a good solid Bible teaching church that isn’t reformed. We go to a reformed church now and again, my old friends from CC when they hear that they say, oh they teach Replacement Theology.

  42. pstrmike says:

    Thanks for a much needed balance on this thread. I took six months and taught eschatology, including all the views. It helped some of the people understand the Church a little better and made the dispensationalists mad because I wouldn’t endorse a pre-trib view. Actually had one leave the church over it.

    “Take some personal responsibility, folks.”

    didn’t understand your last sentence, but no big deal. Every non-denom church I have been exposed to is Moses Model. In truth, so was the congregationalist Baptist church I grew in.

    “God told me” can in fact be biblical, but it is one of the most abused sayings in evangelicalism.

  43. Shawn says:

    I have gone back and forth with this issue, and I’m now back where I started from. I used to be a pastor under the “Moses model”. Then I bought into all the constant bad talk about it, and I abandoned the “Moses model”. I went to pastoring a church that was sort of a combo of elder-led and congregation-led. At the start, I figured, now I’m really “holy” because I’m in perfect obedience with all the strong righteous people that made clear the satanic evils of the “Moses model”.

    And what happened? You’ve never seen a greater number of sniveling passive-agressive attacks if you don’t fall perfectly in line with the “consensus”. You’ve never seen more committees and meetings that have to occur before you can move a simple children’s Bible study from one building to another. You’ve never seen more people each with a piece of the pie who each expect their ministry to be attended, and crying when they aren’t, and so everyone is dragged from one meeting to the next. You’ve never seen so many opinions flying in your face on everything you teach, everything you decide to do, everything you stand for.

    It’s a mess. And I’m done.

    I’m going back to the “Moses model”. If someone doesn’t like what I believe the Lord is leading me to teach and do, there is a congregation-led nuthouse down the street.

  44. Steve says:

    Shawn, the congregational nuthouse church down the road with endless committees and sub committees is the best thing that ever happened to me. I wouldn’t change it for a million dollars. I love it because everyone is involved and can use their gifts accordingly and not at the Moses discretion where he dictates everything.. I would rather be in a nuthouse than a cult. Church shouldn’t be a spectator sport to entertain the masses. When the church gets too crazy, it’s probably too big and one or two of the home fellowships can break off and start a new fellowship organicly.

  45. Joel says:

    JM–is there a source out there about Chuck Smith being depressed about no Rapture prior to his death?

  46. Michael says:


    I’m the source.
    About six months before he died it hit him that he wasn’t going to be raptured…

  47. Joel says:

    Got it, thanks.

  48. pstrmike says:

    Are you . . . oh never mind. Maybe I know you, maybe I don’t.

    Anyway, not everyone has leadership giftings or understands what leadership entails. Give them some power and they want to use it to further what they believe is the right thing to do. If they haven’t been equipped to be leaders or stewards then you can end up with a disaster. I don’t know, perhaps you equipped them, perhaps you didn’t. If you didn’t equip them for leadership you bear some responsibility of being the genesis of your own dissatisfaction. People need to understand the responsibility of power before it is given to them, and conversely, we are only setting people up for failure by placing them where they are not equipped to serve.

    I try to include my elders in decisions and it can be difficult when they either don’t understand, don’t agree, or have their own agenda. It takes time to reason with them, share your heart with them, and bring them into a place where their agenda is not their own, but the Lord’s. That being said, it is also a constant work to ensure that of myself in the oversight decisions and hermeneutical calls that I make.

    BTQ, great way to describe the Body of Christ that meets down the street from you.

  49. The New Victor says:

    You can opt out of Social Security??? Aussie guy above, employers pay half of the tax. If you’re self employed, you pay both halves. Various state and federal employees are in different defined benefit plans.

    Any thoughts that the Apostolic model seems to be closer to the Moses model, and is the RCC structure from the beginning like the MM?

    Rapture or no rapture in my mind makes no logical difference.

  50. Jerod says:


    Moses Model, Moses Model, hmm, Moses Model – let’s see – Yes! Here it is, in Exodus:

    “sniveling passive-agressive attacks” – check; “you don’t fall perfectly in line with the ‘consensus’ ” – check; “You’ve never seen more people each with a piece of the pie” – yup; “and crying” – of course, check;

    “You’ve never seen so many opinions flying in your face on everything you teach, everything you decide to do, everything you stand for” – CHECK. CHECK. CHECK. CASH, CREDIT CARD, CHECK.

    You forgot to mention your back being used as a the congregation’s knife block. Check, I assume?

    Sounds like you actually had the Moses Model and you are thinking of going back to the grind.

    Paul also practiced this “Moses Model”. Don’t let anyone tell you it ain’t biblical. It’s right there in scripture.

    Don’t give up.

  51. Bob says:

    It works wonderfully as long as your the moses!

    moses gonna moses!

  52. Em says:

    from everything i’ve read here, the “Moses Model” is not in God’s plan for the Church as described…
    should the pastor have the final word? well, Moses’ father-in-law advised him to get a support group formed and delegate and things ran better after that on the exodus…
    perhaps, the pastor should have the respect and the wisdom to be the final word on anything controversial in the running of a church body… perhaps… but his job is pastor, not janitor or treasurer or logistics manager (excepting his own) and further, we should be able to give respect due to our pastor teacher, but that does not mean that we mindlessly accept all teaching from the pulpit (IMV that includes historic teaching in some cases, also)…
    or so it seems to this evangelical interloper here 🙂

  53. link07 says:

    My family was leaving to go on a long term mission trip a few years ago. Long term as in 10 years plus. The uber driver taking me to work the last week we were in town turned out to be a former Calvary pastor. I asked why he was driving (obviously in his late 60’s). He told me that when he started pastoring he was counseled to NOT buy into social security since the rapture was going to happen any day. Very telling and it was while my wife and I were discussing getting long term employment and life insurance.

  54. Steve says:

    Paul also practiced this “Moses Model”.
    Wow, not sure what Bible people are reading. Paul did just the opposite of Moses model. Are you also going to say that Jesus followed the Moses model as well? Paul was an appointed apostle by Jesus himself in a miraculous way. Which brings me to my next point that and it may be difficult and humbling for some. None of you CC pastors are apostles. Do you claim to receive direct instruction from Jesus himself? Were you inspired to record your own 10 commandments like Moses did or write down scripture like Paul did? I think we all know the answer to that.

  55. Jean says:

    Hey Steve,

    I wouldn’t mind the Moses model, if the pastor, like Paul, preached nothing but Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). But, what are the odds?

  56. Xenia says:

    St. Paul was not the pastor of a local parish. He was a missionary. “Moses Model” does not apply. Actually, the only person it has ever applied to was Moses.

  57. Steve says:

    Jean, you have better odds winning the Powerball. And that’s just in the preaching rhelm. It’s also a matter of what pastors do or shouldn’t do. The personal ownership idea that Michael mentioned is extremely problematic because it goes against everything the church is supposed to be. We as a church are the bride of Christ. If anyone owns the church, it is Christ. But even talking like this would offend some. How many women would like to be owned by their husbands? Maybe belonging to would be a better term. But if we are going to talk about ownership, only Christ has the right to that and this is where many CC pastors have gone completely off the rails. Is the church owned by a pastor?

  58. Duane Arnold says:

    In this whole discussion, I think we’ve left behind the idea that a “Moses Model” of leadership (or something close to it) can arise in any church – Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc. It happens when the pastor is “successful”, especially over the course of a number of years. The congregation is usually willing to abrogate decision making to such a successful pastor. The attitude becomes, “Well, he built it, it belongs to him…” It also includes, “Whatever will we do if he leaves.” When any congregation moves toward dependence on a single personality, there is danger of the Moses Model… even if it is called something else.

  59. Michael says:

    Whenever people choose to formalize a gathering, church or otherwise, there will have to be some form of governance.

    The fewer people involved in governance, the more efficient governance is.

    I understand both Shawn’s frustrations and those of people who have been under ecclesiastical dictators.

    So far, we’ve found no perfect way of doing this…because all governance is done by sinners.

  60. Michael says:


    John MacArthur’s church is “elder led”…but if anyone thinks he doesn’t have the last word they need to share what they’re drinking…

  61. Steve says:

    Michael is right that there is no perfect form of church government. With that said though, we should strive to at least understand the Word to the best that we can and follow. Unfortunately Chuck Smith in his distinctives gave the least biblical credance to the congregational form. That’s ashame. I’m probably a minority opinion here but it deserves more than a passing dismissal. If you want to consider the NT, there is plenty in there to support more of a congregational goverance. Chuck gets all his ideas from the OT.

    Regarding elder rule goverance, I think there is biblical support but I am hestitant. I think elder rule goverance can be more dangerous than the Moses Model. This is because you can potentially have an entire elder board participating in an abusive situation and involved in cover up. This is unlikely in a congregational environment. I suppose a congregational form of government can be abusive but it’s more likely to become too liberal. Both are problems but I would take a liberal church over and above an abusive church. I think we need to keep in mind that the local church is just a small sliver of Christ’s universal church.

  62. Michael says:


    I’ve been on the front line of this debate for a lot of years…and I see nothing in the NT that commends congregational governance.
    I would also say that the local church is representative of the universal church…the Bible knows nothing of Christianity outside the church.

  63. Jerod says:


    Re: Moses Model – My comment was tongue-in-cheek. I think a large part of Moses’s model was dealing with a lot of crap from people, something which a CC model seems to allow for the pastor to suppress or circumvent.

    I attend a congregational/elder led mix. It seems to work well for them, so far.

  64. Steve says:

    I would also say that the local church is representative of the universal church…the Bible knows nothing of Christianity outside the church
    Michael, you went from local to universal to just church in one sentence. I recognize that there are believers that don’t attend a local church for various reasons. This is sad and they should be part of the local church but they are not. I also recognize that not every local church member is saved and a true believer. This is a weed and tares issue as far as I am concerned. I can warn and exhort, but if there is a baptised professing Christian member in our local church, I give them the benefit of the doubt. But there is no way any local church can guarantee the salvation of all their members.

  65. Em says:

    I once knew a Baptist pastor who practiced what i assume was a version of this Moses Model… He hid inside a small group of toxic loyalists that he called his “in crowd.” The man loved God and yet….
    There might be circumstances where this works, but there is a great danger -IMV – that it gives insecurity and maybe incompetence a safe place and a growth stunting place.

  66. Steve says:

    Jerod,. Yes I understand it was tongue and cheek. What you say is very true, but in reality Paul suffered much more than Moses ever did. Maybe what Paul experienced was this new aspect of the Moses Model you described on mega steroids. 🙂

  67. Michael says:

    Paul suffered more than Moses?
    Leading two million people through the desert while they bitch and moan endlessly for forty years?

    Let’s just say they both had their hands full..

  68. Bob says:

    The pastor is (should be) the leader of equals, nothing more or less… that’s it!

    I don’t need another moses…

  69. Steve says:

    Well I don’t want to disrespect Moses and say that he didn’t suffer but he is not the first person that comes to mind in the OT as a poster boy of one suffering. That would probably be Job. You don’t hear too much about the Job model applied to the pastoral office. But it’s just crazy why CC is always going back to OT anyhow to find how to run a NT church. Stick with The NT. Paul suffered for the gospel and that should be expected as a pastor. Isn’t this a good enough model for us? The theology that lead to the ecclesiastic Moses model in CC is the same stuff that lead to their crazy end times stuff and crazy political Zionism.

  70. Jerod says:

    I think the bible describes Jesus as one like Moses because both were acquainted with sorrow.

    Paul doesn’t describe himself that way and if he suffered more than either Jesus or Moses he counted it as joy to be counted worthy.

    Which is probably how they all felt.

    Which means comparing their level of suffering (counted as joy) with my sorry perception of suffering (whoah is me) means that the premise for the argument (suffering is awful) is wrong.

    We are exiles. Maybe there is some way we find joy in it, like water under the Mojave.

  71. Muff Potter says:

    Calvary Chapel is and always has been a cult.
    I walked away many years ago and haven’t looked back.

  72. Steve says:

    I reread the distinctives again and from Chuck Smith’s own words I would have to agree with Muff. If you consider the pathetic history of CC I agree even more. But I hate to put this label on a group without really understanding it’s meaning. They are definitely cult like and cultish.

  73. Steven says:


    Your thoughts are very clear and we’ll articulated. Good article that I wish the majority if 2nd(+) generation CC pastors would read and understand.

    But even then, I doubt the majority would accept the truth.

  74. Steven says:

    As for them opting out of Social Security and not getting on Medicaid now,. it’s not that hard to get back in the system.

    I personally know at least one person who has done so. He stopped paying I to the system and then some years later starting paying back in.

    There are many ways of doing it…but it all comes down to being g financially responsible and paying back in.

    What does it say, in this day and age, that they don’t do it? I think we can all think of an answer.

  75. CM says:

    Another thought:

    The “Moses Model” makes it easier for sociopaths and narcissists to become the pastors of their local church. It also also allows them to sandbag their successors through the use of their remaining sycophants and hand-picked board members/staff/elders (see the Skip Heitzig CC Albuquerque saga).

  76. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    Sorry Steve but you are misinformed. Once a pastor opts out of social security, there is no way to opt back in for ministerial income. Period. The only option is to generate income from a non ministerial source, like taking a job from a for profit organization or from a non-profit that is not a 501(c)(3) religious organization

    So in a sense your charge to be “financially responsible” really has nothing to do with it unless you mean quit ministry and get a job outside of church. So also inferring this is a volatile act to not do it is not an “answer,” but just a fact as pastors who remain in ministry have no social security retirement planning options apart from the church employer establishing a rabbi trust retirement fund to make up for the loss of social security income at retirement.

  77. bob1 says:

    Oh, I see…

    Opt out of SS.

    Then when you reach old age, you’re a burden to those around you because you foolishly
    decided not to buy in to SS.

    Got it.

  78. Steven says:


    If ones wife is in a secular job, as my contact was, that should suffice, would it not?

    Or just be could find a hobby and/or and sell things on eBay or something…at least that’s what soneobes dissertation I read claims.

  79. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    Bob1. Many times it is not as simple as your evaluation. I have knowledge of a few large ministries that actively encourage or pressure pastors to opt out as they get grossly underpaid (even for a person serving in ministry) and welcome the chance to increase their paycheck as the are definitely in need. This pressure to opt out then reaches the senior minister’s goal (and/or the administrator’s goal) which is to lessen their obligation to increase payroll as they build their ministries on the “backs” of these vulnerable individuals. What are those pastors to do? Yes it could be said they should quit as pastors and get another job, but many times easier said than done, especially if they have little post high school education other than bible college or is they are over 45 years in age. In reality, for better or worse they are trapped and prey to this kind of abuse.

    Steve. SS provides that the lesser income spouse may get as much as 50% of the SS paying spouse. But when that spouse passes, the right dies with it I believe.

    Any side income would be seen as independent contractor income and subject to SS income.

  80. bob1 says:

    Jeff, my apologies. I guess I missed the context of this. But outside this kind of situation, I think not paying in to SS is a fool’s errand.

  81. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    Agreed. Opting out should not be due to “God is providing me a new car , nice vacation, etc.” Any retirement device should be utilized in lieu of “I can take home more money because I am ordained.”

    As a side note, every case where I saw pressure on pastoral staff to opt out was in Moses Model church in the extreme

  82. The New Victor says:

    So much for “pay unto Caesar…” since SS is a tax, not an IRA or 401(k) which are voluntary (and wise to do if you can). Survivor’s benefits are for minors. My mom got like $300 as a one time death benefit when her husband died in 2001 since he stopped paying into the system in the early 70s.

  83. Em says:

    I m may not be following here, but….
    My spousal survivors’ monthly benefit is about 2/3rds of my late husband”s and the $300 is the sum that all S.S. recipients are allocated at death… try and bury someone on that amount
    Thank the Lord for IRAs and now 401s

  84. Jim says:

    Caveat-I love Paige and see her as a hero.

    The pastor who communicated with over 30 congregants before noon has created a dependent congregation, which is the natural outcome of the Moses model. I can’t think of anything virtuous in placing ones self between God and His people.

  85. Jim Vander Spek says:

    There is a lot of confusion exhibited in these comments about the effect of ministers opting out of paying into Social Security and Medicare taxes.

    My sadness is that ministers of the gospel will gladly and knowingly declare what is not true (lie) to the government in order to obtain financial benefit and feel no shame before man or God. Those who opt out of paying Social Security and Medicare taxes sign the following when they “opt out” on form 4361:

    I certify that I am conscientiously opposed to, or because of my religious principles I am opposed to, the acceptance (for services I perform as a
    minister, member of a religious order not under a vow of poverty, or Christian Science practitioner) of any public insurance that makes payments in the event of death, disability, old age, or retirement; or that makes payments toward the cost of, or provides services for, medical care. (Public insurance includes insurance systems established by the Social Security Act.)

    I certify that as a duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church or a member of a religious order not under a vow of poverty, I have
    informed the ordaining, commissioning, or licensing body of my church or order that I am conscientiously opposed to, or because of religious
    principles I am opposed to, the acceptance (for services I perform as a minister or as a member of a religious order) of any public insurance that
    makes payments in the event of death, disability, old age, or retirement; or that makes payments toward the cost of, or provides services for,
    medical care, including the benefits of any insurance system established by the Social Security Act.

    I certify that I have never filed Form 2031 to revoke a previous exemption from social security coverage on earnings as a minister, member of a
    religious order not under a vow of poverty, or Christian Science practitioner.

    I request to be exempted from paying self-employment tax on my earnings from services as a minister, member of a religious order not under a vow of poverty, or Christian Science practitioner, under section 1402(e) of the Internal Revenue Code. I understand that the exemption, if granted, will apply only to these earnings. Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this application and to the best of my knowledge and belief, it is true and correct.

  86. Steve says:

    “I have informed the ordaining, commissioning, or licensing body of my church or order that I am conscientiously opposed to, or ..……….”

    Curious,. Who is that ordaining, commissioning or licensing body in a Moses model church? Is that the Moses himself or God?

  87. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    In my experience, in a Moses model church the commissioning/licensing body according to the typical church bylaws is the Board of Directors/Board of Trustees. Those bylaws typically provide that a board member nominates the candidate, although the process is initiated by the Moses model sr. Pastor or will recommendation usually carries the vote as to ordaining the candidate

  88. John says:

    Do you think this has much to do with Mike Rozell has exorcised his authority?

  89. Peter says:

    I’m all with teaching/explain the various ESCHATOLOGICAL views but they must be grounded in proper hermeneutics and solid exegesis. Otherwise, the teachings are nothing more than personal viewpoints and slanted interpretations based on the pastor’s educational background, family history etc etc. I lean towards a pre-tribulation stance because of what I studied in scripture. I received my Bachelor’s in Theology in a Reformed Seminary and they didn’t even touch on End Times verses or prophecy. It was only years later that I discovered that almost 30% of Scripture is prophetic. After years of digging, reading, listening did I feel confident that this position is adequately supported by many scriptures and early church father’s, not to mention Paul in his letters to the Thessalonians. The obvious problem was continues to be DATE SETTING when it is SO CLEAR that no one knows. So I rest in the knowledge of my salvation and pray that the Lord will use me until the day I die to speak of Th Cross and nothing else.

  90. Captain Kevin says:

    “The obvious problem was continues to be DATE SETTING when it is SO CLEAR that no one knows. So I rest in the knowledge of my salvation and pray that the Lord will use me until the day I die to speak of Th Cross and nothing else.”

    On that part we can agree.

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