What to do when your pastor wants you to ‘submit’ but he is wrong? The Moses Model and spiritual abuse from the pulpit
“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matt. 10:28
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”. 2 Timothy 1:7
“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand”. Mark 3:25
“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters”. Matt. 12:30
“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31
“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” Titus 2:1
I was once part of a church where the pastor was placed on a pedestal. Even though he was spiritually and emotionally abusive and taught false doctrine, most of the church-goers continued to apathetically and fearfully submit to him. They did this because they were told that if they didn’t, they would be going against God Himself. You know, the old “touch not the Lord’s anointed” nonsense, which is usually used in abusive groups in a twisted manner. They were told that if they questioned leaders, they would be like Moses who could not enter the promised land. The pastor was also teaching that the leaders could not be held accountable for their wrong-doings by those church-goers “below” them. This was a Calvary Chapel church.
Hold your leaders accountable. Putting leaders on a very high pedestal is never wise. This is what is done in the Moses cults by way of the Moses Model. A few years ago, I spoke with Cult Expert Rick Ross. He explained that the Moses Model is sometimes seen in spiritually abusive groups. When we do this – and treat our pastor as if he were a “modern Moses” – we are not doing ourselves, the pastor or others any favors. Placing leaders high on the pedestal of unaccountability will only lead them to pride and empower them to spiritually abuse others. It leaves the door wide open for satan to do his work.
We are not doing ourselves or anyone any favors by submitting to leaders who are not submitting to the Lord (or who are completely perverting sound doctrine intentionally). Actually, the Bible commands us to “mark and avoid” such people. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17; Emphasis mine).
Submission must ultimately be to GOD. Clearly, there are many leaders in the world who are not “of the Lord” as they claim, and many appear as “ministers of righteousness”. Jesus spoke and warned about such people. Also, we are not to submit to them, but to the LORD. If we are submitting to false leaders that lead us to sin or do things contrary to what Jesus has taught – instead of the LORD – we could actually be guilty of idolatry. We must not submit to them, and the Bible never intended that we submit to false and/or abusive leaders. As Christians, we must take into account the entire counsel of God and not focus in on only one Scripture.
“So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve”. 2 Corinthians 11:15