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).

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.

10 Comments:

Blogger Blog World said...

I have a Posters site and was wondering if you would like to swap links. You can swap links with me at bloglinker.com.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Layman said...

Have you read The Sheparding Movement by S. David Moore? It's a good piece of church history. I reviewed it on Amazon.

I'm also looking forward to getting Mansfield's new book.

11:18 AM  
Blogger ulyankee said...

Hi layman... no, I haven't read that one yet - thanks so much for the tip.

9:28 PM  
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1:51 AM  
Blogger worldchangers said...

It's ok to propagate the truth which I am also all for. Just separate what are true and what are accusations.

I know the church is going through issues right now. Nevertheless, I'm growing in Christ and have chosen to pray for the leadership instead.

But thanks for the informative timeline. I learned a lot. I wasn't around then. Please keep it updated. Even beyond March 1, 2006.

cheers!

1:39 AM  
Blogger JACK HENNESSEY said...

I appreciated that piece of writing. I just wrote this as a comment on another blog where one was promoting "accountability groups."
*****************
I read this quote last week and had hoped someone might comment on this practice. No one did so I pray you allow me the liberty to.

"I think that accountability groups or accountability partners are a great preventitive for self-righteousness."

Wow! Have I seen that one raise it head every so often. I first witnessed it with the discipleship/shepherding movement of the 70's promoted by Derek Prince and Don Basham. The Vineyard movement and the Pathfinders find themselves also in this paracultic mode. This type of accountability, I believe, brings nothing but bondage. Accountability shifts from being accountable to God to accountability to man.

Blessings and may we never transfer to man what is God's and of the Spirit.

Jack

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;" 1 Tim 2:5

6:51 PM  
Blogger WalkingWounded said...

I grew up in the Sheparding movement. Just like any one who has grown up in abuse, perspectives of what is normal, loving and correct are skewed. Healing has come so very slowly. This movement affected four generations of my family, my grandmother, parents,an aunt and uncle, myself, cousins and my children. The wounds are deep and serious. It has felt like we have been so wounded that we needed a spirtual ICU, but there isn't one. My older child are now practising non christian beliefs, wanting nothing to do with Christianity. My cousins have battled drug addiction as a means to try to forget. A day does not go by that I do not feel the searing pain left on my soul.The Sheparding movement was not of God in any way shape or form. If the bible states we will know people by their fruit I would have to say that there certainly a great many bad apples that went on to injure others that might other wise have been good fruit.

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Blogger Susan8101 said...

Hard to even talk about this still without weeping.
Our church was a wonderful growing Spirit filled church where one was fed richly! Then one Sunday and for every Sunday for 6 months the sermon was on rebellion! We started to wonder why the pastor kept on and on. The Shepherding doctrine was then introduced and we were told to disobey was REBELLION! And discipline would follow(disfellowship) women and children were told what they could and could not do without any biblical support, in short we were treated as lowlife. I knew that this whole thing was a perversion of biblical truth taken to the extreme and I tried for two years praying and attempting to get my hubby to see that this wasn't a good thing. Final straw was the adultery of my hubby. I was not mature enough to take this, yet another uppercut, my love grew frozen both for my hubby and God! I went back into the world and was divorced. The toll this Movement and my "rebellion" took on my family(3kids) was disasterous and still is. Jesus has truly saved me now but my children want nothing to do with Christianity. I pray the Lord in His Sovereignty changes this. I have left out much for brevety and this is the first time I have told my story. May God have mercy on us!

12:43 PM  
Blogger Phoenix Rising said...

Hi Ulyankee. I was wondering if you had an email to contact you. I am also from The Morningstar movement and would like to ask you a few questions in private.

Thank you,
phoenix757

9:01 PM  

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