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).

Monday, December 26, 2005

Take Dominion!

Those familiar with the old Maranatha Campus Ministries may recognize the title as that of Bob Weiner's biography cum sales pitch for the movement and its modus operandi... spread the gospel by literally taking dominion of the earth. MCM called itself God's Green Berets; academic observers like Sara Diamond called them "Shock Troops for the Christian Right." While I don't wish to demonize anyone on the right side of the political spectrum, the type of rhetoric that was considered fringe during MCM's heyday has become increasingly mainstream, both in the religious and political realms.

While some have identified two distinct theological streams in dominionist Christianity - Christian Reconstructionist (radical Puritan) and Latter Rain/Kingdom Now (radical Pietist/chiliastic), Sarah Leslie identifies three - the spiritual warfare movement (w/ties to the Latter Rain), the Mission as Transformation movement (evangelical) and Patriotic America movement (w/ties to Christian Reconstruction).

I contend that what is occurring is that fringe doctrines from the original Latter Rain and Christian Reconstruction movements - which are theologically opposed on many points, but share their drive for literal planetary dominion - have gradually seeped into the mainstream and threaten to erode historic Christianity into a syncretic religion.

This has happened before, during the Protestant Reformation. While most people believe that the Reformation was all about recovering true Christianity, thinking of people like Luther, Knox, Wesley and Whitefield, several people and movements which had significant impact and in some cases were mainstream at the time were far outside what would be considered "mere Christianity" - what Winkie Pratney glowingly calls the "red-headed stepchildren of the Reformation."

Postmodernism seeks to recover lost knowledge... which includes alchemy, kabbalah, and other false doctrines and practices... believing that nothing is really false but instead truth can be found in a plurality of voices. So God's voice is just one voice among the din.

More later...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Characteristics of Cults

This morning I found a couple of good lists of cult characteristics.

From Let Us Reason Ministries:

For abusive cults, the key word is CONTROL CONTROL CONTROL by Submitting to the Leadership - leaders tend to be the absolute end, looked to as prophets of God, as specially anointed apostles. [. . .]

It can take time for them to gain power over the new convert, but it will eventually be there. [. . .]

The methods of control which are used is usually FEAR of displeasing God the leader or both. Fear of rejection, punishment, losing ones salvation, missing the rapture, going to hell. Guilt, Fear, intimidation are Weapons used to maintain their loyalty and devotion to the group. [. . .]

And the characteristics are...


And from, better known for its SuperApostle Detector, are a list of mind control tactics used by cults:

  • Deception
  • Exclusivism
  • Fear & Intimidation
  • Love Bombing & Relationship Control
  • Information Control
  • Reporting Structure
  • Time Control
  • Pressure Selling
  • Cult Recruitment Techniques

Wow, these all sound very familiar. And they said it wasn't a cult. Maybe it was a duck instead. :-)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

blessings, ulyankee

Friday, December 23, 2005

Thoughts on The Discipling Dilemma

I saw this quote from The Discipling Dilemma posted on another discussion board and thought it pertinent to quote here:

The word "discipling" is used in this movement to mean much more than making converts. It is used primarily to describe a system of intense training and close personal supervision of the Christians being discipled. Disciples are regarded as being superior to mere Christians. Disciples are said to be Christians who have received special training. This training includes much more than mere teaching. There is an intense one-on-one relationship between the discipler and the Christian being discipled. The discipler gives detailed personal guidance to the Christian being discipled. This guidance may include instructions concerning many personal matters of a totally secular nature. The person being discipled is taught to submit to the discipler. Furthermore, the person being discipled is taught to imitate the discipler. Christians being discipled are required to confess their sins to their discipler. Such confession is followed by rebuke, correction, admonition, and prayer. If the person being discipled seems reluctant to confess sins, the discipler asks probing personal questions to elicit the confession.

Discipling is hierarchical. There is a clear distinction between the discipler and the person being discipled. A Christian might have many peer relationships, but only one person is that Christian's discipler. That discipler is the person who must be imitated and obeyed. After a Christian has been discipled for a while, that Christian is expected to start discipling others. The result is a pyramid of relationships that resembles a multi-level marketing system. In various denominations where the discipling movement has appeared, the typical pattern has been for the founding pastor of a church to be at the top of the pyramid. That founding pastor disciples a small group of other pastors. Each of them, in turn, disciples a small group of lay leaders. The lay leaders then disciple members one step lower in the pyramid. That hierarchical system continues through as many steps as may be needed as the discipling movement spreads. The growth of the discipling network typically goes beyond one local congregation to include many other congregations established by the parent group. (The Discipling Dilemma Ch. 1)

Even though The Discipling Dilemma is primarily about the International Church of Christ, a non-charismatic shepherding group that split off from the mainline Church of Christ and is commonly viewed today as a "cult," this sounded as eerily familiar to me, a former member of Morning Star International/Every Nation, as it did to the person who posted it on a UBF discussion board. Shepherding groups come in a variety of theological flavors, but have in common a pyramidical hierarchy that presumes to act with God's authority over the whole group through replacing the counsel of the Holy Spirit and of Scripture in context with that of the group and its leaders, often through intense one-on-one discipling and "accountability."

The group I was a part of has charismatic roots; there are others which are fundamentalist (ICoC), Pentecostal (Master's Commission), evangelical (Navigators), para-denominational (YWAM), ecumenical (Promise Keepers), etc. Some, like the Navigators, have attempted to move away from their Shepherding roots (which went back to the early 60s, predating the "Fab Five"), others have not, at least not in practice. And even though the original Shepherding movement was discredited a number of times... in the 70s with the original Fort Lauderdale Five controversy, in the mid-80s when the Fort Lauderdale elders disbanded, in the late 80s-early 90s with the break-up of Maranatha Campus Ministries... it didn't go away but instead has spread and mutated to where even some ordinary, mainline churches today practice Shepherding in some form or fashion, even if they don't even know what it is, where it came from, and what its long-term effects and implications have been in other high-impact groups and settings.

In my personal experience as a member of Morning Star International/Every Nation, I witnessed all the characteristics Yeakley notes above, including:

  • Emphasis on special training. We were taught that in order to be equipped to win disciples, we had to go through our movement's training school, which was originally only available in certain churches but was implemented in all churches on a local level a number of months before we left. There was a plug for this training school in every sermon; we were told that one way of demonstrating our obedience to our spiritual leaders was by enrolling. My husband noted that this might cause division - an "us" vs. "them" attitude between those who were "trained" and those who weren't. It is in this training that one learns how "important" submission to spiritual authority is, and how to make disciples under the "covering" of this spiritual authority.
  • One-on-one discipleship/"accountability." We were taught that submitting to a personal "accountability partner," whether that was a cell group leader, a personal mentor, etc. would plug us in to spiritual family, impart us with our movement's "spiritual DNA," mature us as Christians, and demonstrate our obedience to spiritual authority. In addition, all Christians needed to have a Paul (someone "speaking life into" us) and a Timothy (someone we discipled and "spoke life into"). The authority flowed one way - down - from the pastors and leaders. This was conceivably how we were "covered" by Christ. One of our local pastors - someone who is now a vice president of one of the other groups listed above - even taught that regularly confessing sins to an accountability partner was required to get and stay saved - not just faith in Christ. Ding ding ding!!!! Warning! Warning!
  • Emphasis on getting people in the church and "making disciples." We were encouraged to recruit members from among our families, co-workers, friends, etc. and there were several programs designed to "plug" people in to the church once they started to attend. A certain amount of this is just ordinary evangelism... but when it got to the point where the entire congregation was involuntarily divided into outreach groups in order to get as close to 100% involved in service to the church (it was "only" 50%!) and to recruit new converts, it got a little scary.
  • Pyramidical authority structure. I could trace my personal chain of command as: me->cell group leader->associate pastor's wife->associate pastor->senior pastor->Jim Laffoon (our movement's prophet)->Rice Broocks (our movement's top apostle/CEO). We were told that these leaders had "delegated authority" over us and as such, spoke with the same authority as God over our lives. The fear of leaders was the same as fear of God.
  • Enforced confessions. We had lists of "accountability questions" that we answered in cell group meetings; we were also told not to be surprised if a pastor approached us with something we said in group. At least this certain cell group leader was honest - I know there were others who never told their groups that what was said in group was reported to pastors. Before we left, our "records" were checked, including whether we tithed, participated in church-mandated training, faithfully served the church, had any sins or issues reported to pastors, etc. Yes, yes, yes, no... This had them scratching their heads because we were model congregants for the most part. The only thing that was brought up was that I had missed some cell group meetings and so was less than faithful to my cell group. I also was too "isolated" because I did not have enough close relationships (in other words, didn't reveal enough personal issues) within the church. My local church, as well as the movement to which we belonged, also practiced something called "inner healing and deliverance"of curses and spirits including the Jezebel spirit, the religious spirit, spirit of rebellion, etc. Aside from the fact that this belittles the cleansing power of Christ's finished work on the Cross to heal us of sin and iniquity, this leads to mind and behavior control, not freedom from spiritual bondage.

The result? A congregation that is brought in line by fear, guilt and shame. MIND CONTROL.

About a year or so ago I wrote Dr. Yeakley about some of his research findings, since he had included Maranatha in a comparative study of "manipulative sects;" as I've said before, Maranatha is the group from which my former group was descended both legally and spiritually. His research revealed that these groups actually changed the personalities of their adherents away from what they were before toward the group norm; this was not observed in mainline groups. His hypothesis is that the more a person's personality type differed from the group norm, the more psychological damage that could be potentially done to that person:

Those who are already ESFJs when they come to the Boston Church of Christ are likely to fit in quite well and not feel much of the pressure toward conformity that others feel. The greater the difference between a person's true type and the ESFJ model, the more likely that person is to feel the pressure toward conformity. Those who come to the Boston church as INTPs are in the greatest danger. (Appendix; emphasis mine)

He told me in an email that the Maranatha findings, including the group norm, were the same as that of the Boston Church of Christ/ICoC. In 1998, after I became a Christian but before my association with this group, I tested as a very polar INTP. Ewwww...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Lee Grady vs. Universalism

Charisma editor Lee Grady has written a series of columns critical of the Charismatic movement lately, which on the one hand I think is very courageous on his part, but on the other I find somewhat puzzling given other affiliations he has in the movement. For example, in the December 2005 issue he writes:

It troubles me that many charismatic and Pentecostal church leaders today are not displaying the necessary backbond to label a heretic a heretic. We have become masters at soft-pedaling and inaction when the Lord requires us to confront. (6)

He then gives the example of (Bishop) Carlton Pearson, who is apparently teaching universalism, and who has been on the pulpits of several churches, including that of Earl Paulk, who is perhaps best known in discernment circles as one of the leading proponents of Kingdom Now and Manifest Sons of God theology, which teaches among other things that Christ can't or won't come back until the church wakes up and takes literal dominion over the earth for Him first. I'm actually not at all surprised that Pearson has gotten into universalism, since one of the main theosophical sources for both the Latter Rain movement and Universalism/Unitarianism is none other than Jane Leade, a 17th century English mystic who had visions right out of the Cabala/Kabbalah, in which the entire earth would be brought into unity through the rebirthed corporate Manchild and all would be redeemed as a result, including Jesus' "brother" Lucifer.

(See why bringing the church into unity is so important to these guys?)

Anyway, I applaud Grady's courage to call a spade, a spade, while naming names rather than hiding behind Matthew 18 as so many other Charismatic leaders do. Hoo-ray! However, in the same issue, another article states:

About 1,000 people took part in a special gathering held at the huge Circus Maximus in Rome. "Contrary to what most people think, more martyrs gave their lives in the Circus Maximus than in the famous Coliseum," [C. Peter] Wagner explained. "We felt we had to do some prophetic acts to call forth the power of God through the blood that was shed [my note: by the martyrs, not Jesus] and to open up the 40/70 Window for the gospel.

The participants worshiped, prayed, prophesied and formed small groups of about 10 people. Each group took communion and, in a symbolic act, spilled the leftover communion wine on the ground where the blood of the martyrs was shed hundreds of years ago.

"We felt that we were cleansing the ground with the blood of Jesus represented by the wine," Wagner said. "The blood now is redeemed and freed to open the pathway for the power of the Holy Spirit." ("Prayer Campaign for '40/70' Window Ends in Italy" 31; emphases mine)

Ewww... isn't this dangerously close to the same thing? That by pouring communion wine that comes really close to having the same power as the blood of Christ (so almost Catholic?), the ground is cleansed and the blood of the martyrs is redeemed, allowing the Holy Spirit to move through not Jesus' blood, but that of the martyrs? Who repented and came to Christ? Is this redemption without repentance, based on a twisted interpretation of Colossians 1:19-20, which is yet another tenet of universalism?

Mr. Grady, I totally appreciate your position as an insider within this movement, as editor of one of the main published voices of this movement, in how you are using it as a "bully pulpit" for the truth of the Gospel. However, I would hope and pray that you, as a member of the International Coalition of Apostles headed by C. Peter Wagner, would also confront Dr. Wagner about the same kinds of teachings and practices you called Carlton Pearson on, consider resigning your post from this group if this is unsuccessful, and also refuse to publish articles in Charisma that support positions like these. That would be truly courageous, and would send a very clear message across the bow to those who are distorting the Gospel of salvation through Christ's finished work on the Cross alone.

blessings, ulyankee

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Unity in Spirit or Unity in THE Spirit?

A few months back, Charisma magazine devoted an entire issue to recently deceased Pope John Paul II, anointing him Vicar of the Spirit. Not surprisingly, a number of Charisma readers were shocked.

Has Charisma gone Catholic? Just about everything in the June issue was about Catholics. I thought you were Pentecostals. The Catholic Church is full of paganism and witchcraft, and the pope is worshiped to some extent. You should get away from all that mess.

However, it really shouldn't be shocking. Charisma isn't Pentecostal; it is instead a voice for the Charismatic movement. Which includes... both Protestants and Catholics.

If this had happened two years ago, I would have been shocked myself. However, my research into the Shepherding/Discipleship movement, and how it rose in response to the Charismatic movement of the '60s, revealed two rationales for Shepherding/Discipleship, according to its top leaders:

  1. Shepherding/Discipleship was necessary to curb doctrinal and spiritual "excesses" seen in the cross-denominational Charismatic movement during the '60s.
  2. Covenants and agreements forged among the top "shepherds" or "apostles" of these movements would bring the various independent streams together first into two streams (Protestant and Catholic), and then into one stream. By virtue of these top level covenants, the entire Christian church would be brought into unity.

I would maintain that (2) was probably the more important rationale, because doctrinal unity is subservient to spiritual unity, and convincing people to covenant with and submit to the authority of "shepherds," "apostles," "spiritual leaders," "spiritual family," etc. in a systematic, pyramidical fashion is one very effective way of getting this done. Anyone who needs proof of this merely needs to read the minutes of the Shepherding/Discipleship General Council - unity was absolutely the driving motivation behind this movement, and it was driven from the top down, not from the bottom up, and I contend not by the Holy Spirit, either. And this unity was between leading charismatic leaders and The Holy See.

If one looks at the history of the Charismatic movement, which spread throughout Catholic and mainstream Protestant communities in the 60s, 70s and beyond, one can figure out pretty quickly that it is by definition ecumenical. And so is Charisma's readership, even if some of its Protestant readers may not be aware of this. The Shepherding/Discipleship movement was an attempt to get all these different "steams" together in total Christian unity, and one could argue that the "New Apostolic Reformation" of today is attempting to do the same thing, using many of the same methods and teachings.

So the question is... is this a good thing?

One thing I want to say, I am not anti-Catholic. I am anti-Roman Catholic church. There is a difference. I was brought up Roman Catholic and for most of my life, I really didn't have a clue what the Roman Catholic church really believed or stood for. I also didn't know much about the Bible, since the emphasis was placed instead on relying on the sacraments for one's salvation. I'm Catholic, therefore I'm a Christian and saved, end of story. A few cracks appeared in my self-assured logic and spread very quickly once I moved from my native Northeastern US to Nashville, TN, known to some as the "buckle of the Bible belt" since it is the home of several major evangelical Protestant church fellowships and denominations. On the one hand, as I stated in my last post, it was an eyeopener to me to try to pull myself off as a Christian in contrast with other, real, born-again Christians. On the other, I was very put off by several insensitive remarks about Catholics not being Christians, which at one point almost pushed me back into the beliefs of the Roman Catholic church and away from my eventual rebirth in Christ.

I was actually attending a Catholic church at the time I was saved (I was a quintessential NPC before I moved to Nashville), but then I started reading the Bible, and soon found that Roman Catholicism and true Christianity were diametrically opposed on several points. But there was a short period in which I was truly a born-again Christian, and I was still going to a Catholic church. I think under some circumstances it is possible to identify as a Catholic and be a true Christian, especially since it's possible to not have a clue what the Roman Catholic church truly teaches, but I also believe that a Christian (including a Catholic Christian) who, led by the Holy Spirit, takes a close look at what the Roman Catholic church teaches in comparison to what Scripture teaches would soon discover that it promotes a false gospel of works and sacramentalism rather than salvation through belief in the risen Jesus Christ alone, and misleads a flock consisting of a good percentage of the world's population into a false assurance of salvation. Someone who claims to be a Christian but who relies on the sacraments, on praying to dead saints, on their baptism into the Roman Catholic church, on Mary's intercession on their behalf, etc. rather than on Jesus Christ's atoning work alone has unfortunately been led into a false salvation. And but for the grace of God, I would have remained been one of them.

I've been back and forth as to whether I can continue to identify myself as charismatic or not. I think I've decided not. That doesn't mean that I don't think that the work and gifts of the Holy Spirit are for today, because I do. But the charismatic label, as connected with the Charismatic movement, also potentially identifies me as being in a movement which includes the Roman Catholic church, and all it teaches and represents. I've been there done that for the first 33 years of my life... and I'm not going back, not even for the sake of so-called "Christian unity," unless of course if by some miracle of God the Roman Catholic church fully repents of every single one of its false doctrines and comes to the true Gospel. But as of right now people like me are considered "separated brethren" or part of the "Church of Mary," just waiting to come back into joint celebration of the Eucharist, either directly or through covenants with top Protestant leaders. Thanks, but no thanks. Any unity that does not fully uphold the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, even with the best of intentions, is not the unity that Jesus prayed for in the Garden of Gethsemene, but is instead falling in line behind the false teachers and prophets He warned us against in Matthew 24. It becomes communion with darkness.

2 John 1:9-11 states,

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.

As a result, I cannot and will not re-covenant with the Roman Catholic church or with anyone else who does not continue in the teaching of Christ; whether it be directly or vicariously through those who do so.

PS. A tidbit for those who might be interested... best-selling author and prominent Every Nation member Stephen Mansfield wrote the cover article for the above-referenced Charisma issue. He's also since written a biography of current Pope Benedict XVI, which I've just purchased but have only skimmed through enough to notice he made mention of the Malachy Prophecy with regards the current pope.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Whose Disciples?

I suppose if I'm going to write about shepherding-style discipleship, I should also probably give some examples of what I think Biblical discipleship is in contrast to "shepherding." This entry is going to be short today, but I'll give a few tidbits to get started.

Jesus in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) states:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

So, a "disciple" is one who obeys everything that Jesus commanded, and "discipleship" is simply teaching disciples to obey everything He commanded His disciples to do. However, the last sentence is key to this. Jesus Christ is with us in the Counselor He sent, who would be with us until the end of the age... the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. So we are not merely making copies of copies of copies of disciples; by the power of the Holy Spirit disciples of Jesus Christ Himself are made. Jesus Himself is really our teacher, and will be until the very end of the age.

Shepherding-style discipleship gets the part about the need to make disciples right, but tends to forget that last sentence. Without the Holy Spirit, the only way to make a disciple of Christ is to make copies of copies of copies, and this is assuming that with time the copies wouldn't fade. So instead of making disciples of Christ, a disciple of a disciple of Christ is made. Multiply that by the number of generations since Christ's ascension and you get something akin to apostolic succession.

Here are some examples of shepherding-style discipleship (emphases mine):

  • God not only drew you to Himself through someone (the person who led you to Christ), but he gave you to others (to those you lead to Christ).
  • In discipleship, you reproduce in others only what you are yourself.
  • Your ability to give correction, instruction, reproof, and rebuke may well determine the quality of your disciples.
  • Our willingness to speak the truth in love proves your authority over and love for those you disciple.
  • Your ability to receive correction will determine the kind of disciples you will produce.

Note the emphases on "you" and "your." This is classic shepherding. However, in Biblical context, these aren't supposed to be "your" disciples, they are CHRIST'S disciples!

I also have a little issue with the first point, because of John 6:44-45, as well as my own personal experience. I was saved on the first Saturday of January, 1998, on my way home from the laundromat. I was alone, though not really alone. That is when I finally surrendered to Him after years of pretending to be a Christian, but knowing in my heart of hearts that my inner life was very different from the real born-again Christians I had met during my time in Nashville. They were alive and I was dead - that simple. And I wanted to live, and faced with the fact that the only door to eternal life was Jesus I knew that standing in front of the door while merely acknowledging that the door existed wasn't going to cut it. I had to surrender to Him and walk through. The Lord can draw us to the truth in Christ through other Christians, but also through the Word, directly, or even by a combination of these. The Holy Spirit is sovereign and has the ability to move outside of the disciple-to-disciple relationship.

I was going to post a really good counter-example of what I consider Biblical discipleship, but I went back to the church website where I originally found it, and now they have stuff about accountability, being disciplined by church leadership and submitting to Jesus's lordship by submitting to the "discipleship process." Boo-hoo.

Now, I don't at all discount the need to teach people all that He commanded. I didn't automatically know how to live as a Christian after I got home from the laundromat that day. But we must remember that those we teach are His disciples, not ours.

blessings, ulyankee

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Derek Prince: A Biography

Last night I finally bought Stephen Mansfield's Derek Prince: A Biography. I primarily got it for the same reason I get most books lately... research. For those who do not know, Derek Prince was one of the original "Fort Lauderdale Five" who started what became known as the Shepherding Movement. And Stephen Mansfield is now affiliated with the group I was once a part of, Every Nation Churches and Ministries, formerly Morning Star International, which is descended from one of the more well-known (and some might say notorious) groups that put the Fort Lauderdale Five's teachings into practice, Maranatha Campus Ministries. So it's probably obvious now why I say I "finally" got it even though the book has only been out a couple months.

I have to say that I'm pleasantly surprised at the depth of the book. There's a lot here I have questions about, theologically and otherwise, but as someone who has read several of Mansfield's other books it's apparent to me that he put quite a bit of extra time and love into this one that is not nearly as evident in some of his others, including the one for which he is best known, The Faith of George W. Bush. I personally think that some of his other books tend to be on the shallow side, which is a danger of writing a lot of books in short succession, but not this one. Mansfield includes several long excerpts from his interviews with Prince which add significantly to the depth and humanity of his subject. I'm aware that it's very easy for me as a so-called "victim" of shepherding to paint the entire movement and those involved with it as completely evil (and for several reasons I agree with Prince's first wife that the "spirit attached to it" probably was), but the reality is that regardless of what kind of spirit was behind it, there were also real flesh-and-blood human beings there too who were just as prone to error and deception as anyone else. So even though I continue to be an unabashed critic of shepherding-style discipleship, I also have to remember that Jesus' warning, "Because of the increase of evil in the world, the hearts of many will grow cold," especially applies to me. Let not my heart grow cold, Lord Jesus, even when face-to-face with the false teachings you warned us about.

Now despite this, my humble opinion is that even to the end of Prince's life, at least according to the quotes and excerpts Mansfield provides, that he never fully saw the error in shepherding, even though he was the first of the original Fort Lauderdale elders to formally leave the movement in 1983. Even under Mansfield's questioning, he continued to assert that the idea of shepherding was of God and had merit, and was necessary in order to channel and contain excesses found in the early days of the Charismatic movement. The problems weren't because shepherding was wrong in the first place, but because it went too far, and in Prince's words, "carnality" and "personal ambition" crept into the movement, which caused all the damage.

This is similar to what some of the other Fort Lauderdale Five said when the Shepherding/Discipleship Movement very publicly trainwrecked in the '70s and '80s, as well as what was said about Maranatha Campus Ministries when it broke up in 1989-1990. That is one area though in which I completely disagree with even modified shepherding-discipleship proponents. I believe that the entire premise of shepherding is wrong at the very root, and that it will always go too far. Those who are familiar with the next generation of shepherding-discipleship movements, including the one I was involved with, may, even if they don't agree, at least understand how and why I believe this since the same excesses often crop up again and again and again even years later. I recently heard a second-generation leader in one of these movements say, "I thought we cut the head off this monster 15 years ago," but I contend that it's more like weed-whacking. If you cut the top off the weed, it will look ok for a while, but it will eventually grow back because it's still very much alive below the surface. Pull it up at the root though and it's gone for good. And in order to do this, one first has to acknowledge that the root is there in the first place and that it won't just magically grow into a cultivar next time instead of the same old ugly weed.

The book also adds to my hypothesis that women and men tend to see shepherding very differently, and how shepherding-discipleship movements often start out as men's movements (like Promise Keepers). Some of the most poignant sections of Prince's biography are where he reveals how he personally was hurt himself, through how it damaged his relationship with his first wife, Lydia, and after her death, how his covenant brothers then rejected his decision to remarry:

Later that evening, Derek explained that he now had to check his feelings for Ruth with his brothers in Ft. Lauderdale. "We've agreed not to make major personal decisions without consulting one another," he explained. "For that reason I'm not free to go any further with my commitment to you until I've spoken to my brothers. [. . .]"

It did not go well. When Derek explained to Basham, Simpson, Baxter, and Mumford what seemed so obviously God's will to him, they saw only problems. [. . .] The men would not approve the marriage.

[. . .] He thought seriously of casting aside the counsel of his fellow leaders and pressing ahead with what he believed was God's will. Yet to do so violated all that he had taught and all that their movement was built on. He relented. He called Ruth and told her what had happened. Later in Jerusalem again, he sat with her and explained all the objections the other men had. "I feel we need to break off all contact with one another," he explained, "except the contact we can have by prayer." Ruth agreed, and when Derek saw her drive off in a taxi, he felt a bit of winter return to his soul.

[. . .] Unable to let the matter rest, Derek continued to press the men to reconsider. Some of Derek's friends took this as a godly appeal. Others thought it was arm-twisting, an unrighteous attempt to wrest consent where it had not been given. (243-244)

People who were hurt by shepherding, particularly those who were required to submit marriage partners for prior approval or those who are in marriages initially arranged despite their wishes will certainly find this scenario painfully familiar. Yet, Prince concluded, "I must say that I believe that God ordained the Discipleship Movement, but that the response of some people to it was very carnal. It was right in its original motivation, though. Ultimately, selfish ambition destroyed it" (223).

In sharp contrast, Prince's first wife, Lydia, outright called it a "cult" among other things (223). Reflecting on when I left my former church, knowing that it was very possible my husband might be convinced to choose loyalty to our church's leaders over me and stay behind, Lydia's words struck my heart at the core...

"They've got my Derek" (223).

"They've got my Derek." That says it all.

Friday, December 16, 2005

RE-COVER-y and More Covering Doctrine

I went back and reread the Chuck Pierce prophecy I referred to in yesterday's blog in more detail, and this jumped out at me (emphases mine):

There is a way to advance to the “fullness of the pool,” for this hour is uncovered. Keep moving until everything that needs to be recovered is recovered at this time. This is a time of reversal and recovery. Remember that Constantinople/Istanbul maintained the religious structure and a false unity that resulted in the power of the church being lost—it’s time for a reversal of that. [. . .] Raise up those leaders. [. . .] Raise up the healing movement. Raise up the apostolic movement. Raise up that which is necessary to overthrow the religious structure that is watered down and stopping the power of the church from being seen.

There is much talk in the modern-day apostolic/prophetic movement (what I prefer to call the "resurgent Latter Rain") about "recovery" and "restoration." The premise is that the church lost the foundational gifts of apostle and prophet, but now they are being restored to their rightful places as government of the church. However, what is also clear here is that all that are not under this so-called "apostolic authority" are not considered "covered." "Watered down religious structures" are to be overthrown and (re) covered with a new, non-watered down authority.


I'm not going to defend religious structures for the sake of religious structures. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, both targeted in this prophecy, also base their governmental structures upon the notion of "apostolic succession" in an unbroken line going back to the apostle Peter. I'm a former Catholic myself and could go on all day about my issues with the Roman Catholic church's governmental premises and theology. However, for all its supposed "newness" what is being proposed here is really replacing the old with more of the same, but since it won't be watered down anymore it will be a whole lot more of the same. It's a "new" covering authority that proposes to act in proxy for Christ just like the old one did, but back in its un-watered down days like, hmm, during the Middle Ages?

Whatsoever happened to, "So shall it not be among you" (Matthew 20:25-26, Mark 10:42-44, Luke 22:25-26)?

Rice Broocks, leader of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, identifies this as "recovering the apostolic mandate." What it turns out Every Nation in Our Generation: Recovering the Apostolic Mandate REALLY means, can be read here. Nothing less than literal world domination.

Perhaps the Spanish Inquisition will be RE-COVERed as well and "transformed" back into something more than a Monty Python skit.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

My Thoughts on the "Covering" Doctrine

Ok, so it's been many, many months since I started this blog... let's try again, shall we? :-)

The "Covering" Doctrine:

Integral to the authority and control Shepherding/Discipleship leaders have over their flocks is the notion of "covering" - that in order to receive the blessings and protection of God, believers need to be "plugged in" to a "spiritual family" and demonstrate their submissiveness to God's authority by submitting to their local church leaders, who are in turn "covered" on up the line to the top of the network, with the assumption that a person or persons at the top of the pyramid are themselves directly submitted to Jesus Christ, having been divinely chosen or "anointed" to apostolically "cover" those underneath them.

According to the church network with which I was once affiliated, this kind of submission to "covering" and concomitant accountability gives adherents "security in God's order" (Morning Star International Policies, Procedures and Guidelines for Convention Membership, 19). This is done through submitting to apostolic governmental oversight, since God is supposedly restoring the foundational "apostolic gift" to the church today (5).

Security, perhaps, but is this kind of security Biblical? Are we to be "covered" by church government? And what if we leave? Are we no longer under God's protection and blessing?

Cheryl McGrath does an excellent job of uncovering the covering doctrine, as she puts it, even though I would exercise discernment with some of her other writings regarding the apostolic/prophetic which tend to get into Latter Rain/Sonship doctrines. Frank Viola and Steve Coleman are very helpful on the "covering" issue as well, imho.

A while back I was reading 1 Corinthians 11: 3-10 and realized there might be yet another way of looking at the covering doctrine:

3Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved. 6If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. 7A man ought not to cover his head,[b] since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

(Scripture quoted from; emphases mine)

Now, most of the time this passage is referred to in order to reinforce women's (wives') submission to their husbands, particularly in authoritarian churches like the one I was once involved with, but what is this passage saying about men? I reflected upon my growing up in the Northeast US which has a significant Jewish population, and about the practice of men wearing yarmulkes (or kippah)... and wondered if there might be a connection.

Well, it turns out there probably is, as Jewish men both during the time of Acts and today wear head coverings to symbolize their being covered by God as well as by Jewish Law. It is required in Talmud, although there is debate over whether it is required Biblically (by Torah) or not.

In addition, in ancient Rome, servants were required to cover their heads while free men did not; thus, Jews covered their heads to show that they were servants of G-d (from

Then there is also the talit, or prayer shawl, which is used to cover one's head during prayer (I have recently seen charismatic leaders promote and sell these on their TV shows and websites, btw. I was appalled to see last year that my brother-in-law even had one!).

But what is Paul telling the Corinthians? That a man who prays with his head covered dishonors his head/covering, which is CHRIST! In historic, cultural, and religious context, this is an extremely radical statement, much more than the statements about women which would have been more widely accepted at least by the Jews. Men are not covered by the Law, but are now covered by Jesus Christ, the Messiah, directly! A talit or kippah signifies to both the wearer and to others the wearer's submission to the Lord under the Law's "covering," but Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law, so now it is a disgrace for a man to adopt any other covering... for to do so implies that Christ's covering is insufficient. There is no longer a need for an intermediary covering between the believer and God, whether it be cloth, priest, or otherwise, for Jesus Christ alone is that intermediary for us, allowing us to have direct communion with the Lord.

Concurrently, if a believing man is convinced to adopt another covering that is not directly Christ, then he is leading his household under another "covering" which again, is not Christ! This was a conflict we had in our own home when I was "covered" by a female discipler, and my husband was "covered" by his discipler, and we were "covered" separately by church leadership even as I was additionally "covered" by my husband... of course, the rest of this passage in 1 Corinthians 11 was conveniently used to get women to "submit" to their husbands, but what was also happening was that their husbands were being covered not by Christ, but by men, which potentially leads the entire household out from Christ's direct covering and contradicts the entire spirit of that passage. And when women do wake up and realize what is going on, a commonly offered solution (as was presented to me) is to be quiet, get in line, and submit.

My heartwrenching decision to reject and leave this false covering, even though my husband was being convinced otherwise (see blog #1), WAS Biblical, because it was the only way I could come back under our REAL and ONLY covering as believers, which is Christ. I had no choice but to leave whether my husband decided to leave "covering" or not (he did, praise God!!!!).

"Covering" is just another word for LEGALISM, imho.

In light of this, note how many times the words "talith" or "mantle" are used to symbolize authority in this Chuck Pierce prophecy from earlier this year... it is a call for believers to come under (another) covering... in direct opposition to 1 Corinthians 11! Pierce states:

And as we release this I want you to decree that everything that is in your family that is not in line will begin to line up! Everything in your house that is not in line! Everything that is in your church that is not in line!

My question to Pierce is, "In line with WHAT?"

I am going to take this talith out, this new mantle, but I want some of you to hold it up [. . .]. Mantle means authority. You have the ultimate authority in this land.

So the answer is, get in line with a NEW COVERING, a NEW AUTHORITY, which is not directly Jesus Christ, but MEN who have the audacity to claim to act on His behalf! If putting on this "new mantle" doesn't dishonor the one, true Head of the Body of Christ, Jesus Christ Himself, I don't know what does!

If the head of the household comes under this "new mantle," then his house will follow. If a pastor comes under another covering, his church will follow. Everyone is to get in line... OR ELSE. This is typical of the rhetoric of the resurgent Latter Rain movement. That is why, in my opinion, men especially are so vulnerable - because they are being led away from Christ with these very attractive promises of power and authority over their homes, cities, and countries, sometimes never knowing that what is really happening is that they are being offered the same temptation Jesus withstood in the wilderness.

Do not be fooled, my friends in Christ. Do not let anyone convince you to trade your birthright in Christ for another covering... for Jesus Christ's covering, grace, blessing and protection are all-sufficient.

blessings, ulyankee

PS. You can read another similar perspective on this issue here - very long and indepth.