Shepherding
Covering
And the MSOG


PART ONE: Article by Steve Coleman

CHRISTIAN: WHO IS YOUR COVERING?
A CHRISTIAN LOOK AT THE SHEPHERDING MOVEMENT

by Steve Coleman

Many Christians are asking "Who is my covering?" Until recently, the word "covering" was not found in most Christian literature. The popularity of the discipleship and Shepherding Movement, however, has brought this subject out in the open.

The Shepherding Movement arose in the early 1970s in an attempt to solve shortcomings in the modern church. Many newly converted Christians were not properly "discipled," or taught how to grow in the faith. They were largely on their own to study the Bible, learn how to pray, and to learn how to live a lifestyle that is pleasing to the Lord. As a result, many converts became "casualties," and dropped out of the church.

Shepherding was an attempt to correct the situation by saying that each Christian should have a shepherd for everyday guidance. This shepherd became the person's spiritual leader, counseling him and even making decisions for him. It was taught that the shepherd was "God's delegated authority" and therefore his advice was always to be followed. The shepherd was like "God's ambassador" who communicated God's messages to the disciple. To disobey God's messenger would be to disobey God, and therefore a person was to trust in the shepherd's judgment rather than his own.

Because of the tremendous amount of authority given to a shepherd, Christians were taught to seek God to find the shepherd that the Lord wanted for them. It was stated that when the right shepherd was found, he became the person's "covering," or protection. Because of the "divine relationship" with this shepherd, a person was supposed to be protected from his making wrong decisions affecting the disciple. The shepherd is also supposed to protect the disciple from Satan, who might influence a person into making a bad decision.

One of the leaders of the Shepherding Movement summed it up like this:

"We are protected by the authority to which we submit: Unsubmitted, we are unprotected." [1]

What does the Bible say about this subject?

Has a "shepherding doctrine" been hidden?

What does the Bible say about "covering"?

DEFINITIONS OF "COVERING"

The Shepherding Movement is presumably trying to use the word in a biblical sense, since all major shepherding teachers use the Bible as their basis of authority. If the Bible is the basis for Christian doctrine, then we must say that any doctrine contrary to the Bible is heresy. What we must do, then, is to use the word "covering" in the context in which it is meant. There are three major Hebrew words that have been translated as "covering." For someone to act as our "covering," this must encompass part or all of the meaning of these words, depending on the sense that is intended.

The first Hebrew word, sakak, means "to cover or hedge in." [2] Figuratively, the word means "to protect," having the meaning of "to cover, defend, hedge in, join together, set, or shut up." [3] In other words, men can protect themselves by joining together, shutting themselves up or fortifying their position, or hedging themselves in so that the enemy cannot see or reach them. The Bible says the Lord, and not a man, is our covering in the sakak sense. Psalm 91:3 says the Lord does the following things: "Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence."

The second Hebrew word that means "to cover" is kasah. The primary meaning of this word is "to cover for clothing or secrecy." [4] It also means "to cover over, conceal." [5] Proverbs 10:12 says that "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins. " A leading biblical commentator says that by love we will "overlook the offense that is given us, and cover it, and by this means strife is prevented." [6] The sin thus is not removed, but merely concealed. The third Hebrew word we find is kaphar. The King James Bible translates this word as "to make atonement," and from the same root word we get Yom Kippur, or "Day of Atonement." This root also means to "cover over, pacify, make propitiation." [7] As opposed to kasah, which means "to cover something over," kaphar means to completely "wipe it out, annul it, and make it non-existent." [8]

The word kaphar is used in context with the blood offering of the Old Testament. Aaron, the first high priest of Israel, was commanded to slaughter the goat as the sin offering for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. This was to make atonement for the holy place because of the sins of Israel (Leviticus 16:15, 16).

THE IMPLICATIONS OF "COVERING"

What sense of the word "covering" are people referring to when they say, "I am the covering"? In material published by the Shepherding Movement, it is apparent that "covering" is used in the sense of "protection" (sakak). According to the teaching, having a shepherd is like having a "divine insurance policy." Losses suffered as a result of mistakes are "covered" because a person is in submission to a shepherd.

Although the Shepherding Movement does not guarantee that a shepherd will never steer a person wrong, it does say that God will make things right because the disciple was "in submission." It is obvious, however, that the claims of shepherding are not only for sakak covering, but also for kaphar covering. Derek Prince, in his book, Discipleship, Shepherding, Commitment, says:

"Also, as Christians, we do not obey those in authority because they are right; we obey them because they are in authority, and all authority ultimately stems from God Himself." [9] If this is true, then the implication is that people could do something that is normally considered sin, i.e. something that is out of God's will. A person may know it is sin, but does not have to worry about it because he is "covered" by a shepherd. A person will not be judged for the sin, but for his submission to the shepherd. If this is the case, then how would a sin become an act of obedience? The only answer is that this transformation occurs through the process of "covering."

In summary, then, "covering" works like this:

We obey our shepherd, but our action is against God's will. We are "covered" through our submission to a shepherd Because of our submission, the sin becomes an act of righteousness. If our sin could be transformed in this way, it could only be through kaphar covering. Only through kaphar, or atonement, could sin thus be removed, annulled and wiped out.

In other words, the Shepherding Movement teaches that atonement or propitiation comes through the shepherd and the authority to which we are submitted.

CHRIST IS OUR TRUE COVERING!!!

These Hebrew words are important because they have different meanings. It has been confusing to the church because we have only one word, "covering," which describes all three of these meanings. Christians should ask, however, what kind of "covering" they are being asked to accept.

God wants Christians to cover (kasah) people's sins through love. Christian's still acknowledge that a person has sinned, but forgive the sinner just as God forgives each Christian. However, the idea that a shepherd can protect a Christian (sakak) is unscriptural. The Bible says: "Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father. ." (Psalm 28:7). It also says, "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help." (Psalm 146:3).

As unscriptural as the teaching about sakak covering is, it is a far worse error to say that a shepherd is a Christian's atonement (kaphar). Imagine how grieved Jesus Christ is when others claim to be the "covering" after He gave His life to be the covering for sins.

1 Peter 1:18-19 says, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:" The Christian's allegiance thus belongs to the one who paid for redemption, and He is the one who must be obeyed.

Romans 3:25 says that Jesus Christ was publicly displayed by God "to be a propitiation through faith in his blood," It has been shown that the words "covering," "atonement," and "propitiation" have the same meaning, and are expressed by the same Hebrew word (kaphar). Thus, if these synonymous words are substituted into Romans 3:25, it can be seen that:

Our propitiation comes in the blood of Jesus through faith. Our atonement comes in the blood of Jesus through faith. Our covering comes in the blood of Jesus through faith. It should be apparent why the Shepherding Movement is in such error: it has applied to men what rightfully belongs to God. Instead of saying the Lord is the covering, it claims that shepherds are the covering. While the Bible says people can trust God for strength and guidance, the Shepherding Movement says that a man is necessary too.

In short, the Shepherding Movement casts doubt on God's ability to care for the Christian. Let us trust in the Lord as our covering. Proverbs 3:5-6 says: "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. " When people put their total trust in the Lord, then other Christians can give the help and advice they need to learn how to grow as a Christian.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Simpson, Covering of the Lord, New Wine, Vol. 5, No. 12, Dec. 1973, pg. 29.

2. Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970, pg. 209.

3. James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, New York: Bingdon Press, 1965, pg. 82 of the Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary.

4. Strong, pg. 56 of the Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary.

5. Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament: With an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1968, pg. 491

6. Matthew Henry, Commentary On The Whole Bible, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961, pg. 749.

7. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, op cit., pg. 497.

8. John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (A Commentary by John F. Walvoord), Chicago: Moody Press, 1971, pp. 221, 222.

9. Derek Prince, Discipleship, Shepherding, Commitment, Ft. Lauderdale Fla.: Derek Prince Publications, 1976, pg. 18.

� 1981 by Steve Coleman. Reprinted by permission.

For additional information on The Shepherding Movement write,

Street Ministries,
P.O. Box 31126,
El Paso, TX 79931


ADDED NOTES FROM MY SOURCE

A good book to read about the experience of one couple in the above movement is Damaged Disciples: Casualities of Authoritarian Churches and the Shepherding Movement by Ron & Vicki Burks. The book is out-of-print, but if someone can find it, the book is an excellent expose of the detrimental affects of the movement.

Also, what description should one watch for in identifying a new church forming as to if it is into this type of church government. (I.E., should one be wary � if it is strongly based on small groups, etc.?)

I was found by Jesus Christ many years ago, and immediately went into a shepherding church in all of my young [spiritually] stupidity. I just went to church with the gal who was with me the night I committed my life to our Lord. This church was a Baptist church that was in the process of leaving the Baptist Convention to become fully charismatic.

The article that Bill forwarded regarding "Coverings" was SUPERB! Everything that has been said in the posts regarding this type of church government is completely true, and I can relate to all of it. One subject that I did want to touch on was the "home groups" that were instituted. We were led to believe that the home groups were a way of having a more personal relationship with a group of people [from our local area] that we could call on for prayer and other needs. Unbeknownst to us at the time, these home group 'leaders' met with the pastor every week, to get the "teaching" they were to give us at these meetings! Yet they were very adamant about proclaiming how these groups were led by the Spirit of God! In retrospect, I can say that it was a controlling spirit, not God's Spirit!! Also, anything that was said during the after-meeting coffee and snacks was immediately reported back to the pastor. They groomed us to think we were having koinonia, but instead, it was the gestapo regime spying out the Saints.

When my husband and I left this fellowship, we left distinctly because we knew God had told us it was time to go . . . not due to any discussions with anyone else who attended this church. Little did we know that the VERY same day, there were nine other families who talked with the pastor, and told them they were leaving also!

God truly does have a sense of humor! As is normal for shepherding movements, we were denounced from the pulpit as "leaving the covering of the church" and to avoid all of us. It went so far that when we would see one of the people who still attended in a supermarket, they would turn away from us, and hurry to another aisle!

My apologies for rambling on regarding this issue, but it is one that does more damage than can be imagined, and for many years after the deliverance Jesus Christ gave us. It took almost three years to "deprogram" ourselves from the abuse that was inflicted upon us, and the corrupt, distorted teachings of Scripture. Whom the Son sets free is free INDEED! [ Annie ]

On the below link, scroll down until you get to the title called "THE CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT" and you will see the five leaders that started a lot of the shepherding structure within the church. http://www.banner.org.uk/res/shepherding.html

The below link will show about the "Shepherding-Discipleship" and "Coventalism" that ensnares and enslaves Gods' people. http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/cor/general.htm

Below link talks about "Correcting The Shepherding/Submission View Of Women In The Church". http://www.ncinter.net/~ejt/women.htm

Below link has an interesting read on the "thin line of leadership" between leading and lording. How it can lead to authoritarian abuse and submitting yourself to "spiritual abuse". http://www.slm.org/prophetc/articles/thinlin2.html

I hope I can find some more for you! I was involved in a church that canceled Sunday evening services so "small groups could meet in members homes. If anything was said bad about the pastor or about things in general an elder would report it to the pastor. In secret of course. If you brought forth an issue then you became the problem, for trying to bring it up. If you were not for the church leadership then you were against God! We could not accept how our church was and left. It was very difficult, especially for my wife. The pastor got before the congregation the following Sunday and lied as to why we left and the board of elders let it stand.

Unbelievable... Needless to say we were very wounded, spiritually. I later found out we had a term had been coined to express what we had been through. Spiritual Abuse! There is a good book out about this. It is called "Spiritual Abuse", and is by Jeff VanVondern. (I may have miss-spelled his name.)

It seemed as though almost everyone was blindly following whatever the pastor said and couldn't think for themselves. One man asked me if I had a Church to go to. I said not yet. He was concerned that maybe I would stop going to church. I was puzzled and told him, I was not mad at God, and there were more places to worship God than that building we had left. They just didn't get it.

Well be very careful getting into this type of church government, you will not like what it does to you. I know from experience. I would be very wary if it is based strongly in small groups. Find out what folks they admire and are trying to tailor themselves after and then research them and see if it lines up with what you believe God has to say about it.

On another page (click on the link) I have pasted a summary of the book" The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse". This is the book that helped me to understand what happened to me and my family under this type of leadership.

My daughters' faith is still "ship wrecked" and I still struggle with bitterness over how the leadership at my previous church became. My daughter can't trust now. Please read over the below summary and see what can and will develop in a church operating under some of the conditions you mentioned in you original post, which I didn't fully include due to the length of the summary! [Bill ]

http://www.cephasministry.com/index_shepherding_movement.html


LINKS:

Very useful discussion of this topic: http://www.cephasministry.com/index_shepherding_movement.html

From Apologetics Index:
http://www.gospelcom.net/apologeticsindex/i05.html

Their Teacher's Manual:
http://www.highlandschurch.org/SmallGoups/teachers.htm

Testimony of an abused person:
http://www.sosa.org/board/messages/113.html

Advanced revelation by a Baptist in this context: http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/BookReviews/exp_god/blackaby.htm

CROSS + WORD from the UK on this-- Esceptional work:
http://www.banner.org.uk/res/theglory.html

Old Paths treatment of the subject:
http://www.oldpaths.com/Archive/Davison/Roy/Allen/1940/crossbos.html

Very good blast of this cult by a Luthern:
http://www.caic.org.au/general/luthmag.htm