On 1973 a doctrine about the need of ‘Spiritual Covering’ or submitting to a shepherd was promoted by the “Shepherding Movement“, this movement affected many church denominations mainly charismatics but also Reformed, not only in America but also around the world. The teaching of spiritual covering has been blamed for various levels of authoritarian abuse, church splits, families splits, etc. to the point 2 of its early proponents, Derek Prince, who withdrew in 1983, explained publicly that “we were guilty of the Galatian error: having begun in the Spirit, we quickly regenerated into the flesh.” & Bob Mumford in 1989 offered a public apology for being involved in it & admitted the movement was a mistake. He said this resulted in “perverse and unbiblical obedience” to leaders.
The Shepherding Movement had five leaders or shepherds “The Fort Lauderdale Five” at the top of a leadership pyramid. (Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Charles Simpson, Don Bashamat & later Ern Baxter former William Branham (1) campaign manager of Later Rain movement was added to the group). These leaders were responsible for one another’s spiritual health and keeping each other on track by “covenant relationships” and mutual accountability. They taught on authority, submission, and discipleship, that God was restoring biblical church government, delegating His authority through the fivefold ministry offices Eph. 4:11 . When one entered into a discipleship relationship, it was permanent. Members were in a “Covenant” with one another. If someone left the group, they were breaking a covenant. See more practices. These kinds of religious systems as the cults, place more emphasis on one’s “spiritual family” than one’s natural family.
This concept of 5 leaders on the top wasn’t new, it had started in the 1940’s by the ‘Latter Rain Movement‘ (1) & promoted later by C. Peter Wagner (1). Some proponents have also added an ‘Armor bearer’ to the church office. But if we study some church history we will notice that the implications of “official” ministry terminology not only don’t appear in the original Greek texts but were unheard of in the first centuries of Christian writings. In other words there is not passages in the New Testament that refer to “office” of ministry, simply refer to “serving”, “leading by example”, or “being watchful and caring for” the Lord’s flock, not ruling or exercising authority over others.
Over the years and after some scandals the movement faded but unfortunately some still promote their doctrines & we have a growing number of groups & church networks today, most of them offering Spiritual Covering to church leaders (for an annual or monthly fee or tithe), which teaches unquestioning submission to a “Shepherd’ or leader who becomes your ‘covering’ & who in turn receives ‘covering’ & guidance from someone further up in the line or pyramid.
In order to keep submission most of these churches control information & teach Christians that they have to obey & submit to their leaders misusing Hebrews 13:17, “Obey (#G3982 = be persuaded by) them that have the rule over (G2233= leader) you and submit (G5226= yield) yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. Hebrews 13:17” (Please see ‘Hebrews 13 17 & Ecclesiastical Authority‘, or ‘Misuse of Hebrews 13:17 ‘). They also teach about obedience to God’s delegated authority, ‘Spiritual Covering‘, or Bill Gothard’s ‘Chain of Command or ‘Umbrella of Authority’ , who by the way is also involved in many scandals of abuse of authority:
‘Silence allows sin and false teachings to continue and many to be defiled by them. It is important that sexual abuse, false teachings, and deceptions be exposed to the light so that others are not deceived and harmed. Jesus has warned us that in the end times: “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13). We thought it would not happen to us—to be deceived—but it did. I am grieved that I was so easily deceived by a false teacher. I have had to repent and apologize to my family for leading them in the false teachings of Bill Gothard.’ . . Biblicalresearchreports.com
Church’s authority is not positional, does not reside in the Church, or in any office-holder in the Church , but in the Word of God. The Head is the authority & that head of the Church is Jesus Christ alone, (Ephesians 5:23), we all (the body) look to Him for guidance, provision, and protection and submit to Him.
If we really follow Christ we should follow & obey Him, His teachings. Jesus gave us in His Word the right model to follow and was NOT to copy the world’s form of authority (ruling over another or having superior authority over another).
This shepherding concept of authority, promotes the same pyramid shaped organizational structure of authority as we find in the business world (& false religions).
But we all, the leaders specially should follow His example and be servants of all. Jesus being God “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant…” (Philippians 2:7). Please let us reflect about it : God on His knees washed dirty human feet & also took in His body our punishment!! Oh we praise you Lord Jesus! we magnify your name, we adore you & bow down before you, oh Lord of lords & King of kings you are worthy of all our praise!!
Are we following His example brothers & sisters? . . .
Godly church leadership (servant-hood) is best exhibited through meekness, sound doctrine, honesty, integrity, respect, good example but mainly through genuine sacrificial love.
But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister (G1249– Servant): And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered (G1247 = served) unto, but to minister (G1247= serve), and to give his life a ransom for many. Mark 10:42:44
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof], not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over [God’s] heritage, but being examples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:2-3
All proponents of this ‘covering’ doctrine are Dominionist or promote “Kingdom Now‘ theology. They also have twisted Scripture to prove that the blessings we receive from God are proportional to the honor we give to church leaders. (Book ‘Under Cover’ by John Bevere, page 122). He also mentions in his book that God told him He never intended for His people to get all they needed from His Word, for that reason we must have pastors to tell us what to do. This sounds like when the pope says: ‘ a direct and immediate relationship with Jesus Christ outside the communion and the mediation of the Church is dangerous and harmful’. Or what Mormons and other sects teach: obedience to their leaders or prophets which are considered God’s delegated authority., so we can be blessed. . . But we are in a New Covenant! We have the Holy Spirit & the Word of God to tell us what to do.
But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. 1 John 2:27
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. Ephe. 1:17
These movements use the word “covering” in the sense of “protection” & ‘authority’, some taught that having a covering shepherd was like having a “divine insurance policy”, that if you make mistakes you wont suffer loss because you were “covered” & were in submission to a leader. In other words your sins & mistakes for obeying men are covered because of your submission to men. But the Bible says:
Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. Psalm 146:3
Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. Jeremiah 17:5
The ‘Covering’ theology is dangerous, it creates a system of control masked as protection, that promotes ‘honor of men’ rather than God, and have wounded many believers. It’s a fertile ground not only for spiritual abuse but also to cover all kind of abuses ( e.g. see Bill Gothard creator of ‘Chain of Command’ & ‘Umbrella of Authority’). Also this worldly structure is preparing the Church to submit obediently under the coming leadership of the New World Religion.
This ‘Covering’ doctrine is unbiblical because it places the leadership of a church in the position of priest or mediator between God & the believer, it has applied to men what rightfully belongs to God. We now have free access to God’s throne with no priest, no mediator except Jesus Christ (Heb. 12:24).
The concept of spiritual covering makes an earthly authority figure a substitute for God in the life of the person or ministry that has the “covering.” (or puts the submissive person in a position of having two masters – Jesus Christ and a personal shepherd). This Christians had to consult their ‘Spiritual Covering or shepherd’ prior to making career or family decisions. Sadly this doctrine leads to idolatry, to apostasy. Over time the shepherd gains more power and control over the one submitted, but Jesus Christ is overshadowed. It also pulls believers away from complete trust in God into trusting a leader for their “covering” or protection, to hear from God for them & to lead them instead of learning to be led by the Holy Spirit. The Word of God warns us over and over again to beware of those that would deceive believers.
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. 2 Cor. 11:13-15
In the New Covenant there are no high priest (Heb. 4), covering (John 10:11) nor mediators ( 1Tim.2:5) except Jesus Christ. We all are priests, (1 Peter 2:9). If we have the Holy Spirit we ALL are ‘anointed’ and believers are all brethren. The bible discourages putting any men above the others like the Pharisees did at the time with their spiritual leaders, we still have the same problem today of men working to exalt themselves, bearing titles and having men address them as such. There is a saying that bears so much truth “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:. . . But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi (G4461: my master, teacher i.e Rabbi, as an official title of honor). But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father (G3962 see 2 – a title of honor) upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. Matt. 23:1-12.
The Bible says the Lord is our covering and not man:
In the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel 34 and Isaiah we can read what God said about shepherds who lead His people into false teachings. We are all responsible for our decisions & are without excuse, we have the Word of God. Let us draw closer to the Lord and trust in GOD as our only & true covering. Proverbs 3:5-6 one of my favorite bible verses says:
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.
Jesus is our true Shepherd!
Video: Spiritual Covering Bondage
NOTE: We believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the church, and that the gifts are only for humbly serving God’s people, and do not prove a superior spirituality (Matt. 7:22-23). We, as well as many believers, consider that this restoration movement of the 5 fold ministries as taught by Later Rain Movement (& their followers, like apostolic movements etc,) is wrong and not biblical. We don’t believe in apostles dictating new doctrinal revelation today or adding to God’s Word. We also disagree with teachings that say the 5 fold ministries exist only for leadership in the church (see Acts 21:9), or that present-day apostles and prophets should govern the church.
Kingdom Now or Kingdom Come – A tale of Two Kingdoms, by Pastor Sandy Simpson
Biblical Answers to Shepherding -(Spiritual Covering)
The Shepherding Movement – Healing from churches that hurt
Mind control tactics – Brain Stopper N.5
“Apostles and Prophets,” AG document.