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The "Moses Model" of Ministry Backfires . . .

chuck smith.jpgNo doubt, Chuck Smith is one of the most influential figures in the modern American church.  He's the father of "contemporary worship," he give life and vitality to the charismatic movement when it had no credibility, and he served as an important father figure to a generation of kids from the 1960's who did not have fathers--the so-called "Jesus People" movement.

But his theology has long been suspect.  He's not only made a number of nutty end-times predictions (see my last "Who Said That?"), but he is militant in his opposition to Reformed theology in particular and Reformational theology in general.  At best, he's a classic Arminian.  At worst, he's a thorough-going Pelagian.  His theology is characterized by an ecclecticism typical of independent Bible Church fundamentalism. 

Having attended Calvary Chapel back in the 1970's, I've long thought one of his most erroneous (and dangerous) notions was his view that church government is grounded in a one-to-one relationship between the pastor and Jesus (called the "Moses Model"--see Click here: The Philosophy of Ministry of Calvary Chapel). 

The Moses Model positions the pastor as the one who communicates the will of God to the church--not only in terms of theological teaching, but also in terms of overall ministry management and direction.  The pastor is elevated above other church officers (pastors) and "board members."  What the pastor says, God says . . .  Calvary Chapels have always been secretive about money and their finances--a fruit of this approach to church government.

Chuck Smith does not see a proper role for deacons and elders as is so clearly taught in the New Testament.  Many people consider "ecclesiology" the least important loci of Christian doctrine and don't give things like this much thought.  But this is what happens when you don't.

And so, not surprisingly, the chickens have come home to roost with the sad scandal going in Albuquerque and Southern California as reported recently in Christianity Today (H. T. my friend and colleague Danny Hyde--

If you've ever attended a Calvary Chapel (or still do) you need to read this article carefully (see the link below).  This is what happens when ministers place themselves above Scripture ("just me and Jesus") and above other church officers (i.e., a group of elders who watch the pastor's life and doctrine).  This is what happens when church business is conducted in secret and when budgets are hidden from the congregation.  If this is not a good argument for Reformed/Presbyterian church government--which protects both ministers and church members from each other--I don't know what is!

It is all very sad.  But it is not at all surprising . . .


Reader Comments (8)

So let's see. The pastor is directly and only accountable to God. God has appointed him as the pastor of the church. So, which title is most appropriate for Chuck Smith? His Holiness, His Excellency, or simply Pope Chuck I?
May 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Alvarez
Kim - bless you for this post. WOW! Now I under a lot about the various Christian circles that I'm involved with. (thx also for the WHI!!!)
May 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNancy
Wow. . . that's intense! Its too bad that many of the people on the 'bring back Pete' website think that that full blown congregationalism is the answer to this problem. Ahhhh, the beauty of being Presbyterian!!!
May 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew C
Unfortunately, the Reformed Church has had it's share of controversy as well. I do agree with the point about Presbyterian government being a mirror of God's truth, but I also just wanted to point out that we live in a fallen world and that no matter how close we are in our adherence to Gods Word, we are still sinners.

I am a Presbyterian (PCA) and I do embrace our form of Church Government. I had in the near past, moved out of the PCUSA. While my family and I were "churh shopping" we visited a few SBC churches and a Soveriegn Grace church. While I enjoyed elements from all of these churches, I found that I was still very partial to the Presbyterian syle of church government. Not only because of the checks and balances but because of the opportunity it provides the layity of using their spiritual gifts and being apart of the ministry of the church.

But, even though I a very reformed in my faith, I am still humbled by the fact taht this is no "perfect" church and that we are all still sinners in need of our Lord and Savior and that we will still continue to fall and be humbled and lead a penitent life.

That is why, I believe that things like this that happen in the church are not suprising to us. It's a shame though, because it is very damaging to our witness to the World. How are we to be a bright light when we are constantly smudging and smearing it.


May 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDave
Yes we are all human, and we'll mess up ANY & EVERY form of Church government--so those of us who are Reformed should not gloat.

However ecclesiology is VERY important, and Church government is a big part of that.
SO we should care about it and should be biblical about it.
Many abuses of power in the Church come from a faulty view of Church government--whether it's a faulty view of the presbyterian model or any other view.

We should caare--and we should pray.
May 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterpilgrim
I've seen, up close, what happened in two ministries where the pastor has the final, unquestionable, 'God-sanctioned' word on running a ministry and it's pretty sad. There's zero room for the actual teachers of the congregation to correct the pastor's erroneous doctrine. Church members don't find their place in ministry unless they jump through the pastor's special set of hoops. Fuzzy finances happen and eventually anything that can be reationlized under the heading, "I'm God's special man so I get special treatment." eventually prevails. It's just a matter of to what degree each pastor takes it.

Of the two 'Moses-Model' pastor's I observed, one is content know he has all the control. If he says they don't eat their next meal, they go without. (I'm not kidding.) Another, (non-CalChapel) he pushed the envelope until he had absconded church finances, was abusing his wife, taking cocaine and eventually fired everyone on staff. I was the last staff member fired and two months later the church doors were closed for good.

Without an accountable pastor-ecclesiasty arrangement.. it's just a matter of time before the human flesh struts itself.
May 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHenry V.
This is just another case of how true it is out there.
We had a pastor in AZ who (WAS) dismissed from PCA for adultery - and yet got into a church there because he repented. Turned out he was inappropriate with 3 other woman while in the church. He resigned b4 it could be dealt with and bought a CC church down the road with whose money I wonder - so told by the church secretary who knew more than anyone what went on there.

There is a PCA pastor in MN who said (that Christs work on the cross merited us nothing) and is a staunch supporter of Norman Shepherd - and his elders and him have dealt with folk there in a most unbiblical way - to be denied sacraments because Norman Shepherd's good name was slandered.
What does one do with elders that have never made right with those folk - especially one that was the father of one??
Makes one wonder what is it all coming to?
So this kind of thing does go on for sure - we have seen and dealt with it personally.
Thats why we need to pray for Kim and fellow Reformed pastors that they be accountable and above reproach and we stand by them in these troubled times.
I get FAR MORE from the WHInn crew and Kims site and Scott Clark, etc, than I should from where it is to be expected! SAD!
February 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdoulos
I know this is old. I agree with this commentary for the most part. Let it serve as a warning to us all just like pilgrim said, those of us that are reformed don't need to gloat.
January 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDonald H

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