Calvary Chapel and the 'Moses Model'

Matthew 23:1-12– Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.

Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.

For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men.

They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.

They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.

And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The "Moses Model"

In the light of the concept of the so-called Moses model (a phrase sometimes used to describe Calvary Chapel leadership structure), it’s probably a good time to clarify what we mean by that terminology … or perhaps what we should mean by it.

In order to make such a clarification, it’s important to detail what the “Moses model” should never mean. After that, it is important to note what it can and should mean. In Matthew 23:1-12 Jesus exposed the version of the Moses model embraced by the scribes and Pharisees.

Clearly, their way was entirely unacceptable to Jesus, and must be wholly unacceptable to

any leader in any church. A pastor or lead/senior pastor who follows the Pharisaic pattern should either repent or resign.

Note that these men:

Put themselves in Moses’ seat. In other words, they elected themselves as judge and jury over God’s people. They acted on their own, apart from scripture, and without reference to the direction of God Himself.

Lived differently from their teaching. They said the right things, but lived the wrong way. Their

example was a very bad one.

Demanded much from others but were unwilling to do anything themselves. They were bosses, not servants. They led by pushing and driving people, not by example.

Did everything to be noticed by people. They were consumed by their lust for human approval.

They thought themselves as super spiritual, and wanted others to see them that way. They

loved to be referred to as rabbis and fathers. They were very fond of titles.

Distanced themselves from people. Rather than serving the people, they were the ones being


They were not humble; they promoted and exalted themselves at every opportunity.

I’ve seen these kinds of leaders in action. There have been windows of time when I’ve been one of those leaders.

I will never forget jogging one time with a dear brother in our fellowship, a man who understands a lot about church life and leadership. He said to me in his (at times characteristically) coarse manner, “The Lord is doing some great things with this church, and will continue doing great things if you don’t screw it up!”

When I led from on top, pushing people, I did mess things up. Afterwards, repairs were always necessary.

New Covenant Leadership

Fast forward to the New Covenant. Under the New Covenant, Jesus was the quintessential servant. He specifically directed His leaders to follow His example (Matthew 20:25-28). Therefore when there is talk about the correct model for ministry and leadership, one must always start with Jesus.

The true version of any Moses model should be melded with what many have called the Jesus model. Under the Jesus model, the only surviving and applicable parts of the Old Covenant Moses model are found in the heart of Jethro’s counsel:

Exodus 18:19-23– “Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do.

Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times.

Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you.

If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”

Looking closely at the original Moses model, we see that Moses was to be:

An intercessor for the people.A teacher of God’s Word, giving to them the whole counsel of God.A wise discerner of men, able to recognized giftedness and character. This would be essential for the purpose of putting others into leadership.One who delegates responsibility and authority according to one’s ability.

One way to measure what model a pastor is operating under is to look at the church org chart, if it has one.

A Pharisaical org chart will be a top down leadership flow, with the senior pastor at the top, and with everyone else as underlings. They exist to do his bidding.

A balanced org chart will have clear roles and authority, but will be much more flat. Each leader leads, and every leader serves. It’s all for one, and one for all. The leader exists to help and bless those working in his area of responsibility, for the purpose of glorifying Jesus Christ.

To summarize:

Calvary Chapel pastors and leaders should strive to emulate Jesus’ style of leadership, which was a servant-leader model. As they do so, they should add into the mix the principles Moses followed, principles he learned from his father in law.

If this is what a Calvary Chapel pastor means when he says he subscribes to the Moses model, he’s gotten it right…but only to the degree he has put Jesus’ teachings and example of leadership in the #1 position.