I’ve been thinking lately about this whole “Apostolic Reformation” thing, and the similarities that some of the language bears to authoritarian ideas like the Shepherding Movement. I think in general there’s a tendency to misunderstand the nature of the apostolic ministry, which doesn’t help matters much. I think when our first thoughts of “apostles” is of what and whom they are in charge, we’re missing the boat right out of the gate. To mix metaphors, that is.
In poking around the Internet on the subject, I find that I’m not the first or only one to notice parallels, like one listing of apostolic networks with influences from the Shepherding Movement, with an introduction that states,
The NAR [(New Apostolic Reformation)] is the latest attempt. Graham Cooke in his interview with the Elijah List suggests that the NAR is making the same mistakes over again. By focusing on church leadership instead of empowering the laity empires can be built, but the Kingdom itself suffers because the people are not built. I’m not against apostolic networks at all, but just the leader focused mentality that has fueled them. In fact, I think that the original Latter Rain ideal of the 5-fold was revelatory and is needed, but that we haven’t really captured the true spirit and humility of the men who started the New Testament church. I think the idea of an NAR is on the way out, but the idea of the 5-fold is here to stay.
I think this captures it quite well. For the record, the “network” to which my CLB was aligned is on the list — it’s not in the “Shepherding-influenced” section, but could/should be.
Although a community moves on from the shepherding teaching, it can be difficult to remove its effects completely. Those who were in the shepherding movement can take on an almost blind loyalty to their leaders, and uncritically so. The leaders seem never to be completely free of the desire to instill their opinion or will on the people, and tend to have the belief that as leaders, they are accountable for the people in the church and as a result have a more direct ability to hear from God. Many of these ideas may not be stated and may even be refuted, yet the beliefs can be clearly inferred from the actions. This won’t be universal, of course, but it is what I observed in my own context. The shepherding teaching was rejected, and the January/February 1990 issue of Ministries Today bore the words, “‘Discipleship was wrong. I repent. I ask forgiveness.’ — Bob Mumford.” Yet on the ground, many of the people I knew wouldn’t say that it was wrong in an unqualified way… a lot of the statements were to the effect that, “Well, you know, there was some good stuff in there, some good teaching — it just got carried away.” In essence, this is an apology for praxis while attempting to maintain an apologetic for doxis. Essentially, like the kid caught with a hand in the cookie jar, an attempt is made to curtail the behaviour, but not the convictions that led to it. They deserve the cookie, don’t they?
Now, two or three decades down the line, is it the same old, same old, but with a new title? I’m convinced that the apostolic ministry — as all of the fivefold ministries — is valid and continuing for today. What I have begun to question is the Latter Rain doctrine that fuels a lot of thinking on the matter, the one that says that the fivefold ministries were all “lost” to the church during the Dark Ages and stand in need of restoration. I think a narrow understanding of what these ministries are would yield that conclusion, but I’m not convinced it’s accurate — to my mind, it needs a bit of re-examination.
Our CLB progressed from the miscellaneous list to the shepherding-influenced list.
I agree with the need for re-examination. Perhaps some of the things that were declared as “lost” were simply occurring beyond the radar screen of church organizations.
I’m fascinated by this whole area for a number of reasons. Firstly, I have sensed a calling to explore intercessory and prophetic prayer for a number of years, and yet I find myself very wary of the power structures and personal empires that often seem to grow up around this kind of ministry.
My heart is to neither let go of the call to move in the full range of what God offers his people through the Spirit (spiritual gifts, ministries etc) but neither to descend into creating empires and power bases.
I fear that a lot of the new threads of Christian community\emerging church have let go of the call to engage with the power of the Spirit, or are forfeiting the spiritual authority that comes from being in Christ because these things are so often enshrined in institutions and structures which they have left, which have hurt them, or which they hate for some reason. So the baby is thrown out with the bathwater.
Your post mentions Graham Cooke – I find some of his recent writings fascinating, as they draw together the Holy Spirit stuff with a more contemplative spirituality e.g. “The Hiddenness and Manifestation of God” which he wrote following a conversation in a cafe with a Roman Catholic priest in a dark period of his life.
Is it possible to flow in the depths of the Spirit’s power within a more organic, relational, emerging, humble context? What does it look like?
Your words here are very kind and gracious. I appreciate that. It is still so fresh for me that mine tend to still hold the bitterness that hurt brings. Yesterday I wrote about this group (NAR) and the one doctrine of the end time harvest that allowed much of this false teaching of the shepherding movement to be introduced into our fellowship. This doctrine was the main reason given of why we needed to change things to a much more structured, heretical approach. We were also told that it was a restoration of things lost to the church but this always made my husband crazy because they had not bothered to pick up a church history book to reveal tongues during Jonathan Edwards day or freedom in worship during the Moravian times or the abuses of the same doctrines during the Shepherding movement or earlier in the Latter Rain Movement. “Everything is new,” they said. We are on the cutting edge of what God is doing and has ever done. Baloney!!
A little clarification please…
I am outside the loop of most emergent/CLB/etc. conversations and the lingo is a bit foreign to me. (For what it’s worth – Bro. Maynard, you are one of my trusted and treasured sources for this due to your seemingly even-handed and calm voiced articulation of these thoughts.) Just what is being referred to by the “Shepherding Movement”? Did I pull an Rip Van Winkle and miss this one? Or is the landscape changing faster than Clark Kent in a phone booth?
As a delighted shepherd of a local congregation I must admit I can get a bit defensive/passionate about the idea. Perhaps I’m among those blinded by their own loyalty…I do not see my role as Shepherd as one of positional authority. Any authority I may have is derived from the trust gained in serving the flock under my care. Mark 10:41-45 sums up my understanding here.
I look forward to clearer vision on this one – please wipe the mist from my glasses.