Shepherding/Discipleship Movement Survivor's Blog

The present-day impact of the Shepherding/Discipleship movement from the perspective of a former member of Morning Star International (now Every Nation Churches and Ministries).

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Introduction... 6/26/2005

Colossians 2:19

and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.

Ephesians 4:7-16

7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." 9(What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

(Scripture quotations taken from

I am a survivor of the Shepherding/Discipleship Movement, which despite a flurry of recantations, renouncements, and legal dissolutions back in the 1980s, still very much exists today. I don’t technically come out of one of those older Shepherding churches but out from a movement which is legally and spiritually descended from one. Nobody really calls it “shepherding” – in fact, most of these churches never really did, even back during Shepherding’s heyday in the 70s and 80s – but instead use terms like “discipleship,” “accountability,” “mentoring,” “submission,” “lordship,” and other benign sounding names that other non-shepherding churches in the Body of Christ have been using all along but with markedly different meanings.

A year and a half ago, before I even knew that I was even “in” the Shepherding movement to begin with, the Lord started speaking to me about bringing a word to “a body that has forgotten that Christ is the Head.” I don’t consider myself a prophet and I don’t “hear” the Holy Spirit speaking to me every day (this was one of the first and few times I’ve heard from God in quite this way), so my first responses were (1) this must be really important for God to talk to me like this and (2) it has to be tested against Scripture. It was around this time that I first stumbled upon my former church movement’s history as well as its connections with something called the New Apostolic Reformation, which makes some amazing (and dubious, imho) claims about being the restored, foundational government of present-day apostles and prophets.

Of course, then I made the “mistake” of starting to ask questions. My spouse has told me numerous times that I’m “too submissive” (most recently, last week), but I’ve also been told by numerous others (mostly family) that I’m “too smart for my own good” and “too inquisitive.” You can take the Yankee out of the North but you can’t take the North out of the Yankee, I guess…

Not only that, but I started seeing more and more things come up that I had questions about.

  • Why was it that pastors didn’t ask us to do things but commanded us to?
  • What is “delegated authority” and why is it synonymous with God’s direct authority?
  • Why are all of us, but particularly husbands, taught to submit to a “covering” that is not Christ but man, and why are their wives required to submit to a chain of command that is outside that of her husband?
  • Why is asking questions considered the sign of a “rebellious” or “Jezebel” spirit?
  • How come my husband has been telling me for our entire marriage I’m “too submissive,” but now all of a sudden I’m not “submissive” enough because I’m hearing from the Lord directly and not through him or church leaders in “authority” over me?
  • Is it true that I can only hear from the Holy Spirit through others or that it must be confirmed by leaders as a sign of my “submission to authority?”
  • Do we really believe that we have all Christ’s authority now to literally take over the world’s governments and rule in His place, before He comes back, or in order to make Him come back?
  • Is it really true that “delayed obedience is really disobedience?” Where is it in the Bible? (Hint: it’s from a 1964 book by the Navigators.) Where does “testing the spirits” come in? Does the time it takes to do that indicate you’re instead just being rebellious and disobedient?
  • What’s the deal with “all Christians have demons?” Why do we all need to be delivered of demons and curses after salvation? Doesn’t this discount the cleansing power of Christ’s Blood and the completed work of the Cross by adding works unto salvation?

Oh, and the big ones… the ones that made others think I was really wacked…

And the biggest big one… the one that finally pushed me over the edge and out of the church because it crossed the line into denying Christian essentials… how could this organization that preaches Christ’s lordship and the inerrancy of Scripture allow a top leader to come in to our local church to teach on “inner healing and deliverance” and state that Christ’s victory over sin and death came not at the cross but in the wilderness, and that we could be “men of God” just like Christ was a “man of God” after his baptism (I don’t exactly know where the wilderness vs. the cross thing came from, but the perfected “men of God” teaching is otherwise known as “Manifest Sons of God” and is descended from an old heresy called Dynamic Monarchianism). How could this person be responsible for training all the movement’s campus leaders in North America?

I will say that my questions were lovingly tolerated and considered especially at first, but as time went on tolerance began to wane and I was expected to submit and stay. I will also say to all reading this, including those who are sticklers for everything being done decently and in order, that yes, I’m a married woman, I did ask my husband at home about all these things first, he encouraged me in my searching and study, and that we approached our church together in these things at all times. I did not go around his back and did not subvert him or his role in our home. He was the one who spoke for us as a couple and as a family except when he asked me to speak.

I was told that…

  • It’s not like Shepherding anymore because now you can appeal decisions made by leadership. This is like the difference between Europe’s absolutist medieval kings and “enlightened” kings who occasionally entertained appeals from their subjects. Both are based on the “divine right of kings” theory. And what if your appeal is unsuccessful and you are not granted “grace” to not obey a command? You are expected to obey (even if it may violate your conscience)…
  • You are part of spiritual family and you can’t just leave spiritual family because now you carry our spiritual DNA. We did sign a covenant to our local church. I went back and looked at that covenant and it said nothing about never leaving the church. All those commitments were to the Body of Christ and about acting in a Christian, Biblical manner. I wasn’t leaving the Body of Christ; just one of the local expressions of it. (Yes, I am a member of a church today.) My former church did commit to teaching in accordance with Scripture and imho I wasn’t the one who broke that covenant just because I happened to speak up about those questionable or outright unbiblical teachings. Scripture does say that we are to mark and avoid false teachers, and that we are to have nothing to do with those who deny Christ. And sorry, but the “spritual DNA” teaching with the concomitant “impartation” and “activation” teachings taken from the Latter Rain movement is eerily close to something taught in the New Age movement.
  • C. Peter Wagner is not an issue. I didn’t buy that one, but I did mostly drop it as an issue. There were other issues at the time more pressing than C. Peter Wagner and the fact that we were part of the foundational government that will be poised to overthrow secular authorities by approximately the year 2010. (“It takes a government to overthrow a government.”) [12/15/05 update - I did find out that C. Peter Wagner absolutely was an issue, since our top leader/apostle considered him a "mentor" to our movement.]
  • What our church movement/international leadership teaches are not valid reasons to leave. Ok, other than that we’re expected to enroll in their bible school (this is a major way members are “equipped” and “discipled”), we are otherwise exposed to their teachings through their other teaching materials and visiting preachers? There are church movements where you can say that what goes on in one church doesn't reflect on them all, but I don’t see how it could not be an issue when my local pastor was personally “submitted” to one of the movement’s top leaders and we were considered to be “covered” by the movement’s International Apostolic Team… and when I personally was only a few steps removed from that authority within our pyramidical, one-on-one authority system?

Obviously, I believe in biblical separation… only as a last resort, but I do believe I had no choice but to separate from those preaching “another gospel” after exhausting all others.

In my humble opinion…

  • Shepherding/Discipleship preaches another gospel; that of salvation of works not grace.
  • Shepherding/Discipleship preaches another Christ; that of Christ by proxy through “delegated leadership” and “dominion.”
  • Shepherding/Disicipleship removes the headship of Christ over men, subverts the headship of a husband over his wife and family, and replaces the headship of the Body of Christ with that of self-appointed “foundational” apostles and prophets. It potentially divides families and churches, not unifies them. The only unity is in unquestioning obedience to leaders, not obedience to the Lord Jesus and to Scripture.
  • Shepherding/Discipleship replaces the sovereign role of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying and convicting believers with that of men receiving confessions (sometimes enforced confessions, and sometimes confessions through “informants”) and “speaking truth into” believers.
  • Shepherding/Discipleship isn’t just wrong when it goes too far and injures people (many proponents have repented when it has) but it is based upon erroneous theology to begin with, and unless and until the Latter Rain ROOTS of this doctrine are pulled up, it will ALWAYS go “too far” and become abusive at some point.

A month or two after the Lord began speaking to me of a “body that has forgotten that Christ is the Head” I was reading Colossians 2 when I realized that Colossians 2:19 was the verse the Lord was leading me to. This verse discusses someone who has lost hold of Christ who is the Head; we are to do the opposite. Hold on to Christ for our dear lives. Don’t trade his Headship for someone who promises a more secure “covering” or “protection.” This doesn’t mean disconnecting from the Body of Christ (I don’t advocate “lone ranger” Christianity) but it does mean that ALL members of the Body of Christ are directly connected to the Head which is Jesus Christ alone. Pastors, especially pastors of “troubled” churches, think twice (or thrice, or ten times!) before signing your church over to a “covering authority” even if you are offered a greater salary than you would have dreamed otherwise, or greater authority, or more secure spiritual protection and “accountability” for you and your flock; you may find out too late that it is closer to a corporate takeover of your church than you ever thought possible within the Body of Christ.

Thus this blog. It is my prayer that the Lord uses my voice for the purpose to which He has called me.

Everything here is humbly offered as the opinion of the writer.

Blessings, ulyankee