Today, we present the views of veteran mega church pastor who has seen it all…and has managed to navigate these waters with integrity and honor.
The Superman model of ministry so prevalent during the last 40 years is being tested.
It’s “one man, one show” person centric philosophy is being challenged by age, lack of transition plans and unchallenged sin nature.
For the Superpastor the “Kryptonite” to fear and respect is still original sin.
Sin nature is still abundantly available here on earth for Super-Christians who want to partake of it. The celebrity model of ministry during this media driven age has put many a face on the TV screen and radio waves. Gone are pink hair, bad comb overs and laughable stunts of TBN and Tammy while we welcome the newer, youngish, hipper and more relatable crew that cater to our Christian consumer needs through the mass of available outlets.
Don’t get me wrong, this style of leadership has given us some great ministries that have accomplished much for God’s Kingdom.
However, time tests everything and the mega church model is becoming the “old gray mare” and she “ain’t what she used to be.”
Let’s say we are capable of a couple of bad decisions a year for a couple of years, that’s not much. But if you make two bad decisions a year for several decades you have an accumulation that may alter your world, or worse someone else’s. The older the philosophy of ministry is, the greater the likelihood of weakness.
The era of the “benevolent dictator” as pastor is under fire.
Accountability, and the lack thereof, are words thrown around like Ninja weapons to accuse leaders of any number of self centered sins.
However, in the context of the personal isolation that celebrity life inevitably brings, accountability to friends, family and understanding peers can be a lifesaver. The Bob Coy tragedy and the Mark Driscoll dust up are just signs of a weakening construct of a ministry philosophy that ultimately does not work long term. To build on one mans talent and gifting ultimately stacks the weight on one mans weaknesses whether they be major or minor flaws. You add years to those flaws and the potential for failure increases.
If we were to take a walk thru scripture beginning with Moses’ “Captains” of Exodus 18 all the way through the partnerships of Paul with Barnabas, Silas,, Priscilla and Aquila to Timothy and his team of deacons and elders, we see that leaders don’t lead in isolation. We see good listeners like Timothy and Titus soaking up wisdom from Paul, not the belligerent, self-reliant bullies that dot today’s pastoral landscape.
I don’t see any lone wolfs in Scripture.
I think this philosophy of church planting and subsequent ministry starts with the idea of chairs facing one direction listening to one man talk and never progresses beyond measuring the size of the audience. Hence the often asked question at pastors conferences, “how many you runnin’ on Sundays?” Super success means you still have the solo leader shouldering the celebrity power that fuels multiple services, the satellite locations, the big screens and the added plethora of media. It works when it works but the chairs are still facing the same direction when Superman fails. It just gets crazy trying to keep up.
It seems that Superman’s strength is waning these days and the definition of “crazy” is still “find what doesn’t work and keep doing it.”
Now, the comments are open…I don’t function well in the morning…
First, and first to say that these words are so true. Thank you!!!!
“For the Superpastor the “Kryptonite” to fear and respect is still original sin.”
“If we were to take a walk thru scripture beginning with Moses’ “Captains” of Exodus 18 all the way through the partnerships of Paul with Barnabas, Silas,, Priscilla and Aquila to Timothy and his team of deacons and elders, we see that leaders don’t lead in isolation. We see good listeners like Timothy and Titus soaking up wisdom from Paul, not the belligerent, self-reliant bullies that dot today’s pastoral landscape.”
All pastors need to hear these words.
Love this……………………….” we see that leaders don’t lead in isolation.”
I’ll shut now!
You’re doing well, no need to stop. 😉
Even if we look at the scriptures as a source of example or modeling, I must say that there is nothing in the Bible that comes close to resembling what we now call ‘church’…. The most powerful dynamos in the NT were imprisoned and killed for their ministries. This is very far from the solo star in front of a large audience with the million dollar media tech behind him.
The one-man show isn’t going anywhere.
In churches where it is not a one-man show, in churches where a whole boatload of people come to decisions together, there is also a bunch of craziness, false doctrine, and abuse out there.
The one-man show isn’t the problem. And the boatload of equal leaders isn’t the problem.
1 Corinthians 11:19 is what is really going on, in any system.
it is easy to see the pattern develop as the church gets larger–emphasize what is “working” measured by what produces attendance and offerings. Somewhere lost in the shift is what is “working” in discipleship and thorough equipping. I think the old “a mile wide and an inch deep” reckoning is pretty true of many mega-churches. Further, in my experience, the mega-church becomes the focal point of the attendees’ lives–it is where they spend their time, attention, resources, emotional capital, form circles of friends, etc., to the exclusion of knowing, loving, and serving their ‘neighbors’ or forming broader connections with other believers from various churches & parachurch ministries. It wasn’t until we stepped away from the one we were attending that we began to realize how cultish it was & how others viewed it from outside.
Unlike other churches where I served, I chose to isolate myself from others at the church where my fall took place. Rather than seeking accountability as I did before, I elected to bask in my achievement of finally serving a church that I had longed to pastor. I can’t say strongly enough how important it is for pastors not to isolate themselves.
I believe one of the reasons some pastors seek isolation is the fear of being vulnerable. Be mistake IMO.
After the responses here and on FB with the crowds cheering for their idol (and we have heard it every time one of these guys falls), I don’t see how the one man show is going anywhere. There is a willing and paying audience for them. Sadly, this kind of adoration sets men up for a fall.
Plenty of Bible heros had to go it alone for long periods of their lives. Maybe not lone wolves, but lone. As Jeremiah said, I sat alone.
The Kryptonite thing is a wonderful metaphor, just wonderful, a lifesaver, thx to the mystery author.
They haven’t yet understood the financial and spiritual cost of Coy’s fall.
We’ll get into that next week…but it’s those costs that will lead to change.
The older the philosophy of ministry is, the greater the likelihood of weakness.<<<
“They haven’t yet understood the financial and spiritual cost of Coy’s fall. We’ll get into that next week…but it’s those costs that will lead to change”
Possibly change at CC FL (though I doubt even that). But not change at any other church that uses this system, and not change with any other new church coming with this system.
This is “big news” because it is Calvary Chapel. But a guy going down in a big church, seems to happen every few months, if you follow church news.
So many good things to comment on in this article. Wow, been an avalanche of good articles on here lately.
“….chairs facing one direction listening to one man talk….”
8 years removed from this modern lecture model of church, and can’t see myself ever returning.
American culture is an aberration and so is its offspring, the mega-church and its wannabees.
I came across a phrase recently that describes much of what passes for Christianity in America:
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism
Moralistic: We don’t hate anyone, we don’t condemn anything, we are for cage-free hens and we are against global warming.
Therapeutic: We go to church to feel good. God doesn’t expect much out me, we are all sinners but OSAS so who cares? The music is exciting, the pastor tells good jokes and doesn’t put a guilt trip on me. No condo bondo!
Deism: God is up there, smiling down on me and that’s all that matters.
(My use of “we” is meant in the sense that a practitioner of MTD is speaking, not a blanket “we” that includes everyone.)
Thank you, RiBo…and thanks to all those folks who wrote for us.
That was my favorite part of the article…those chairs still face the same way when he fails…
Well I will tell you one issue and it goes to the one man show – the prize of the pulpit.
My pastor may preach 2/3rds of the Sundays at most. he has no problem giving up the pulpit. Why, because his ministry is not tied to the front and center of the pulpit – but working as the pastor throughout the week … working with the school kids and their parents. teaching classes of 6 old ladies at a time or confirmation classes to sweaty 10 yr olds..
Our mission is to the community through our school – it is more important to him to be out there every morning greeting the kids and the parents than it is to be “the front man” on Sunday mornings.
(In a more Bible-centered church, the Moralism centers around abortion and homosexuality.)
Xenia – the MTD is pretty much a description of what I call the American Pop Evangelical church.
I think like yesterday when the word simony was used in a misplaced way, perhaps the word pastor is being used here in a wrong way.
Perhaps what is being spoken of is really the church’s Super Teacher & Super CEO & Super Strategist.
But is he really a pastor, let alone Super Pastor?
“But is he really a pastor, let alone Super Pastor?”
Well golly friend, of course the answer is no. He doesn’t fall in line with your personal, strict, religious beliefs. So, he’s only qualified to bag groceries 😉
Bagging groceries isn’t easy -= I did it in college.
But seriously, the guy may be pastor to his staff at best.
Bagging groceries isn’t easy -= I did it in college”
Many of our local stores make you bring your own bag and bag it all yourself. Eventually going the way of the kid that pumps gas at the gas station?
“But seriously, the guy may be pastor to his staff at best”
I think you’re expecting too much from a man, in order for him to hold the title of pastor. Some people want a guy that will be there when you’re in the hospital, counsel you anytime you want, open the door when the church time starts, be there to answer every question.
So basically, you want to hire one guy to do everything. But the Body is a Body. He’s there to teach, to feed. Everyone else can do everything else. That’s my reading of Scripture.
Some people want a guy that will be there when you’re in the hospital, counsel you anytime you want, open the door when the church time starts, be there to answer every question.<<<
Not only that, but I expect to be invited to his house for Christmas and Easter dinner and I expect him to hear my confession and address me by name when I go up for Communion!
The author of this article has a large church.
He still does funerals, weddings, counseling, and teaches.
One size does not fit all…
“Not only that, but I expect to be invited to his house for Christmas and Easter dinner and I expect him to hear my confession and address me by name when I go up for Communion!”
I am to take you seriously, or tongue in cheek? I honestly don’t know! 🙂
If you are serious, I can’t imagine ever being a part of a church like that. Yikes. The pastor can teach me and be used to give me help in the Lord, but I don’t need THAT much help.
Andy, I attend a small parish and our pastor really does all these things (and more) without being the least bit intrusive. We all do things, though. He doesn’t do it all.
Well then we should have no complaints – Tony Robbins type teaching fits right in to your view. Pastor up front delivering message – congregant / student sits quietly taking notes and hitting passages.
At your church do you ever raise your hand and ask pastor “will this be on the final”
I think I will stay away from your churchj.
“and hitting passages” SHOULD READ – HiLiting passages
“Well then we should have no complaints – Tony Robbins type teaching fits right in to your view. Pastor up front delivering message – congregant / student sits quietly taking notes and hitting passages”
Why does a lecture teaching automatically have to be “Tony Robbins” material? It can’t be meaty doctrine? Then Paul the apostle, teaching for hours, was “Tony Robbins”? You have some goofy views.
“I think I will stay away from your church”
You just made them very happy.
The pastor can teach me <<<
Well, that's what he does, by his loving actions towards his congregation. He models what it means to be a Christian by the way he treats us all.
Xenia wrote: “Well, that’s what he does, by his loving actions towards his congregation. He models what it means to be a Christian by the way he treats us all”
In Scripture, there is someone teaching the Bible. The gift/office of teacher. It is separated from the other gifts, which would cover some of the things you’re talking about. He doesn’t have to do all of that (or any of that) to be able to teach me, according to Scripture.
You’re just setting up one guy to have to be all things to all people, and Scripture just doesn’t support that.
Let me amend my last post by saying, we should be all things to all people in terms of trying to win them to the Gospel, but a pastor can’t do every task.
He doesn’t do “every” task, as I said. But he does the work of a pastor.
Xenia, I suppose we have very different definitions of a pastor. I’m looking for a discerning and Biblical teacher, when I seek a pastor. I look to others in the Body, to do other things.
What Andy is saying is that the work of the pastor is to teach – end of job description.
But that is not the case at all – the pastor is to equip me to carry out my vocation, and that does not just come from him standing in the pulpit teaching me “meaty doctrine”
BTW, when it comes to preaching, I want my pastor to preach the gospel each and every week.
“the pastor is to equip me to carry out my vocation, and that does not just come from him standing in the pulpit teaching”
I’m to walk by faith. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. The Word of God is brought through teaching (among some other places).
“BTW, when it comes to preaching, I want my pastor to preach the gospel each and every week”
As per Lutheran doctrine. However, in Biblical doctrine, the believer already has the Gospel. Unless you expand the meaning of “Gospel” to be, I can’t intake oxygen without the Gospel. Which is an unbiblical framework.
Andy, believe me, this is my biggest difference with evangelicals.
To the evangelical, the gospel is a one and done – the gospel is for the unbeliever only and not for the believer.
I on the other hand believe that the Christian still needs to hear of Christ’s saving message every week – that is the restorative message we come for.
I guess you can get a lot of doctrine from the pulpit with that strategy.
But you know, if Jesus doesn’t die in your message, you have not preached the gospel.
“Andy, believe me, this is my biggest difference with evangelicals”
I’m very aware of how different groups define “the Gospel”. So I do (apparently) fall into the “evangelical” camp, because I believe that it is following the Bible’s definition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So you will never convince me to abandon that.
We DO have a scriptural example of the lone wolf.
He was mighty and got a lot done.
And we don’t need any more like him!
MLD is a lot like an artichoke…you have to peel through a lot of stuff to get to the edible goodies. 😉
…but it’s worth it.
fil said, “MLD is a lot like an artichoke…you have to peel through a lot of stuff to get to the edible goodies.”
I’ve been peeling for years…no luck 🙂
RiBo is a lot like tequila…he’s an acquired taste. 😉
or….. insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different result. Same ideal.
This article, and the others that have been posted this week are shouting from the rooftops what many of us in pastoral ministry have known for some time. Top-down church leadership brings with it inherent dangers to the pastor, his staff and the church they are trying to serve. The author’s descriptions of these problematic regimes are spot on . It is normal for Christians to give each other the benefit of the doubt, particularly our favorite pastors, but it takes much consideration and an ounce of courage to address problems within the regime. The reality is we all sin, when issues arise within these structures, they need to be addressed with great wisdom, grace and humility for all parties involved. Too often they are met with denial followed by a thorough tarring and feathering of the messenger. I some ways, we haven’t distanced ourselves as far from the Inquisitions as we would like to think.
That…is the comment of the day.
Well said, Ixtlan.
I agree with Michael.
Well said, Ixtlan.
Just food for thought, offered to those who care less about a pastor teaching than him serving all the other areas… How would one respond to Acts 6:2 (which, ironically was given me in another article’s comment stream disfavoring the pastor/elder-led church)?
When the other ministries of the church became too much for the leadership/pastors, what did they do? They empowered others to serve in those ministries. Why?
Acts 6:2 — “It is not right that we should give up preaching the Word of God to serve tables.” 6:4 — “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word.”
(PS: What necessitated it? Vs 1– apparently ***the church had grown to the point that it had become impossible*** for the pastors to effectively, personally, serve everyone’s needs.)
Pastors are to have a loving relationship to Jesus’ flock. But how do they prove they love Jesus? John 21…
Feed His lambs (the Word).
Tend His sheep (serve them).
Feed His sheep (the Word).
I find it interesting that Jesus moves from immature to mature sheep in this command. The church should concentrate on teaching the church sound doctrine that challenges them to lay down their lives and become disciples of their risen Savior, as a response to His grace. This should create mature believers who in turn are equipped and empowered to serve the church in a variety of ways (back to Acts 6). Thus, if done Biblically, the pastor-taught church does not become a “one-man-show”. It becomes an effective community of believers where everyone is active and maturing to a selfless, serving spirit (exemplified, may I add, by the selfless service of the pastors).
I believe that my responsibilities as a pastor include both teaching and serving the body in such a way that I always consider that I am “training my replacements”. It is an attitude that we promote to anyone serving or leading in ministry. Don’t just get things done. Invest in people.
The YMCA and corporate jobs can get things done. Secular charities can get things done. The church should be investing in Jesus’ flock by:
Feeding them some more…
I just wanted to thank you for what you have been contributing here the last few days. I hope you stick around. And don’t get too discouraged if some are never satisfied with your answers. As a CC pastor, you could state that the sky is blue and there would be some here who would take umbrage at the statement and would accuse you of using Moses Model abusive and manipulative tactics to feed your narcissism. But I think I can safely speak that for most of us, although we may give you some push back, have appreciated your dialogue here thus far.
I agree with Kevin H. Welcome “a pastor.”
Thanks Kevin. I think I’ll take some advice from another commenter yesterday and be a bit more frugal with my posting, so as not to paint any unneeded targets on people whom I respect greatly. But I appreciate the opportunity to dialog.
I would like to say this: Anyone who leads in a truly abusive and manipulative way is not exhibiting the ‘Moses Model’. I’ve taught every verse of Exodus and Leviticus. I’ve studied Moses’ example in detail. Numbers says he was the most humble man on earth. (Always funny to me, seeing how Moses wrote numbers, lol. Oxymoron?) Exodus and Numbers are replete with his example of selflessly serving God’s people. Even at their worst times, he said, “God if you won’t forgive them then just kill me.” Even at the worst of times, he poured himself out in prayer for them.
That doesn’t mean Moses was always perfect. He lived a life of constant torment, criticism, low self esteem and self-criticism… But this always (ALWAYS) kept him in prayer and reliance on God. Again… That doesn’t mean he was always perfect. He sinned by hitting the rock. He sinned while hitting that rock by taking credit for God’s work (“Hear now, you rebels: shall **we** bring water for you out of this rock?”) It seemed even Moses had his moment of “super-pastor” sinfulness.
So, the ‘Moses Model’ doesn’t mean the leader will be perfect. But if a person is truly seeking to minister from the ‘Moses Model’, they will be selflessly pouring themselves out for the benefit of God’s people, living humbly, and living a life of repentance when they fail God and/or the people.
(For the record, this picture of “least-is-greatest”, servant-leader is spelled out in the Distinctives for every pastor that seeks to become associated with CC. It is the ideal, even if the ideal is missed.)
Blessings to you all and thank you for your graciousness.
I too agree with Kevin that its good to see you here dialoging. However, when you start defending the “Moses Model”, I hope you will understand there will be a lot of push back.
Now that you have mentioned the “distinctives”, I was told repeatedly that they are no longer a requirement. Other CC pastors on here have said the same things. These are all very legitimate questions and if you stick around maybe you can explain what you mean by:
“(For the record, this picture of “least-is-greatest”, servant-leader is spelled out in the Distinctives for EVERY pastor that seeks to become associated with CC.”
Andrew, I wasn’t aware that the distinctives are no longer a requirement. That would be very surprising to me.
Note that I am not defending every action, ever performed within the ‘Moses Model’, just as I’m sure MLD would not defend everything every Lutheran pastor has ever done, etc… Nor, as I pointedly mentioned, am I defending Moses’ failures.
The church is full of genuine people doing bad things, as well as bad people doing bad things. It always has been, and will be until Christ redeems us all.
I’m not trying to play the martyr here, but if my every statement is going to be dissected, you can understand my time here will be very tedious. As opposed to such dissection, could we concentrate on the spirit of the statement, and decide whether we agree that, whatever model or whatever names we put on them, or whatever books they were written in (first given Biblically), church leadership should be servants first? That if every church leader were to do this in true example, following the example of a Savior that washes feet, we would have to talk about leadership structures much less, and there would be far fewer wounds to be mended?
The distinctives are history…as is the “Moses Model” monicker.
As you can see I am confused. I like Michael and trust him. But you are the CC pastor not him. Can you ask Sandy Adams if they are a requirement?
Michael wrote: “The distinctives are history”
And if that is true, then it is no longer Calvary Chapel (save the name on the door). Then CC will be standing for nothing, having no identity, and nothing to count on.
It won’t be enough to say, “we teach the Bible”. Every group says that.
The distinctives held specific doctrinal stands on teaching the Bible. Without those doctrinal stands, they are not Calvary Chapel.
Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.
I went over Sandy Adams head… 🙂
That is exactly what the contention is about in CC…good observation.
The distinctives are off the shelf. Smith didn’t write it and people finally figured that out.
Michael wrote: “That is exactly what the contention is about in CC…good observation”
Which is why CC as we know it, is toast. The churches will still exist, but they will be an “eclectic” mix, where you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the mainline denominations at least try to hold their churches to structured confessions and doctrinal requirements? Some may have departed from them decades/centuries later, but at least there was an initial effort to keep it going, yes?
I always believed that on some level, Chuck Smith kind of wanted CC to die with him (since he thought the rapture would come before his death anyway), again correct me if I’m wrong.
Those are big topics for another time, but you have assessed the situation pretty well.
Thank you for the clarification, Michael.
I went over Sandy Adams head… 🙂
Michael who would that be?