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).

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.


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