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The Shepherding Movement

The Fort Lauderdale Five I’ve mentioned the Shepherding Movement a few times, and lately have had a couple of request to explain something about what this movement was all about. Rob McAlpine‘s forthcoming book, Post-Charismatic contains a good overview of the movement as well as the Latter Rain and other charismatic movements… the book should be out shortly, but I can’t just link to it yet… so here goes.

In the early 1970s, four well-known charismatic leaders responded to a moral failure among charismatics in south Florida. Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Don Basham, and Charles Simpson felt a need for personal accountability and covenanted together for this purpose, submitting their lives and ministries to one another. Ern Baxter, who had ministered with William Branham, was later added to the group and they became known as the “Ft. Lauderdale Five.” They formed Christian Growth Ministries in 1974, and in the movement that they began, the accountability they shared became an emphasis that all believers should submit to a “shepherd” in order to be discipled in the Christian life. Their prominence helped gain wide acceptance for their teaching, which included what was felt to be correctives to the charismatic movement at the time. Other charismatic leaders began submitting to the authority of the Ft. Lauderdale Five in what was known as “covenant relationships.” A network of cell groups was formed, with members submitting to a shepherd who in turn was submitted to one of the five or a representative who was submitted to one of the five. At its height, it was estimated that some 100,000 people were involved in this network in the USA. In conjunction with this pyramidal authority structure, the movement taught that every believer needed to be under a “spiritual covering” from a leader in authority over them. Other doctrines taught by the movements included echoes of Latter Rain theology, such as restorationism.

Without mentioning the Latter Rain Movement, Don Vinzant identifies five roots of the shepherding movement: Roman Catholicism (confessing to a discipler, but without the safeguards the Catholic Church implemented); Pietism/Wesleyanism (small groups, discipling through rule-keeping, legalism); Watchman Nee (authoritarian approach to discipling, “covering” and “City Church”); parachurch organizations (discipling approach of Navigators and Campus Crusade); and the Charismatic Movement (non-denominationalism and loose church structures, Juan Carlos Ortiz).

The movement gained a reputation as exhibiting abusive and controlling behaviour through its emphasis on obedience to one’s personal shepherd. In spite of its acceptance among some charismatic leaders, the movement was denounced strongly by others, such as as Pat Robertson and Demos Shakarian. In 1975, a meeting that became known as “the shoot-out at the Curtis Hotel” to place to resolve the dispute, but as implied by the title, the endeavour failed in its objective. As Lawrence Pile writes,

As long ago as April 1976 Russel T. Hitt wrote an article for Eternity magazine entitled “The Soul Watchers” in which he described spreading abuse of pastoral and discipling authority in several well-known Protestant Charismatic, Evangelical, and Roman Catholic movements and denominations. In an editorial entitled “Of Shepherds, Fiefs, and the Flock” the editors of Christianity Today wrote, “The temptation to control people is often Christianized by spiritual strong men who present a benign persona.” And in a 1985 article with the title “Disciple Abuse” (Discipleship Journal, Issue Thirty) Gordon MacDonald wrote, “Abusive disciplemaking begins when someone seeks people with the conscious or unconscious aim not of growing or leading them, but of controlling them. Sadly, this can be — and often is — effectively done in the name of discipling. The extremity of this tendency is cultism” (emphasis added).

By the mid-1980s, the movement was in sharp decline. Derek Prince severed his ties with the group in 1983, and the movement’s magazine, New Wine, folded in 1986 in the face of ongoing revenue losses. In the late 80s, “Baxter, Basham, and Mumford officially ‘released’ their disciples from their previous pyramidal authority structure.” Prince and Mumford particularly distanced themselves from the movement’s teachings, and in 1990, Bob Mumford went a step further and issued a “Formal Repentance Statement to the Body of Christ,” saying,

Accountability, personal training under the guidance of another, and effective pastoral care are needed biblical concepts. True spiritual maturity will require that they be preserved. These biblical realities must also carry the limits indicated by the New Testament. However, to my personal pain and chagrin, these particular emphases very easily lent themselves to an unhealthy submission resulting in perverse and unbiblical obedience to human leaders. Many of these abuses occurred within the sphere of my own responsibility.

The January/February 1990 issue of Ministries Today displayed on its cover the words, “‘Discipleship was wrong. I repent. I ask forgiveness.’ — Bob Mumford.” Charles Simpson was left alone with the movement — apparently it continues to this day, though Simpson prefers to call it the “Covenant Movement.” Even he has distanced himself from some of the movement’s earlier teachings.

At its best, the Shepherding Movement endeavoured to provide spiritual support and teaching to believers, helping them mature in Christ. At its worst, its teaching was a mechanism for systemic manipulation, control and abuse of the “disciples” within it. Few positive accounts can be found in the aftermath of the movement, with negative ones being by far the majority of experiences being talked about. It seems unlikely that none of the movement’s participants experienced any positive effects, but the ones reporting abuses tell common stories of practices that are clearly abusive, to the point where the movement as a whole is deemed to have been in err. Such accounts reveal that disciples who were expected to consult their “shepherd” before making major decisions such as marriage or career choices were not isolated cases — or even rare ones. Wealthy disciples were forced to reveal personal financial information, and secret sin and confidential family information was demanded to be revealed. According to Pat Robertson at the time, one individual “was warned that he would miss out on the Kingdom of God and be ruined spiritually, physically, and financially if he did not submit to the shepherd’s authority”, and “a key figure in the shepherding movement [was quoted as saying] that if God spoke to him and he knew that it was God speaking, but his shepherd told him to do the opposite, he would obey his shepherd.” It seems that the establishment of a hierarchy with sanctioned authority given to leaders over subjects tends to instill notions of the kind of power that corrupts.

59 Responses to “The Shepherding Movement”

  1. Pistol Pete Says:

    I can see how such a system could be vulnerable to abuse. At the same time, there is a tremendous need for something that might promote greater accountability in the Church. What Bob Mumford said about this particular movement – “Discipleship was wrong. I repent. I ask forgiveness.” is part of the tragedy of the broader Church today where believers pick-and-choose what to follow instead of being challenged to follow Christ in all aspects of their lives.

    Thanks for the post. It is very revealing.

  2. Barb Says:

    This is intriguing to me. It is intriguing because I first heard of many of the components of Shepherding – not from the charasmatics but from Bill Gothard’s teaching – who was not a charismatic at all. Gothard teaches hierarchal structures (especially within the family but also within the church or para-church organizations) and covering is a huge component of his teachings. I wonder where he got exposed to his teachings.

  3. Mak Says:

    “shepherding” is just a fancy word for control and that exists in all contexts as barb mentioned.

    I’m more inclined to embrace a community model rather than a heirarchical “shepherding” model. As for the concept of accountability pete – again, usually just a fancy word for control and behavior modification. if we would just stop following a model of exalting a leader and limiting the “layity” we’d be fine.

    we’re not called to herd sheep, we’re called to make disciples…that has a very different look than any of this stuff.

  4. John Says:

    ” Charles Simpson was left alone with the movement — apparently it continues to this day, though Simpson prefers to call it the “Covenant Movement.”

    Charles Simpson basically fired the pastors/teachers that were over him & that he was relating too – Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Don Basham. He then proclaimed that he was the head pastor & everyone would report to him. That was the end of the church because over half of the church disbanded after that claim. He was not responsible or reportable to any head over him. although he required everyone to maintain him as there head. I also left the church at that time.

    The only good thing about discipling is that you have a better change of keeping your brothers & sisters on the straight & narrow.

  5. grace Says:

    Been there, done that. Although we never experienced the “personal shepherd” aspect of this. What we were involved in had a much more corporate flavor with the entire group required to submit to and obey the rules and vision of a select few. The only time things became personal was if someone wasn’t “on board” and the accusations began to fly.

  6. John A Shepherd Says:

    Thanks Bro. Maynard for the historic sleuth work here. Let me gladly distance my adopted moniker, “A Shepherd,” from any associations raised in anyones thinking by what you have herein described.

    Charles Jefferson, in a series of lectures in 1912, describes my understanding of shepherd work far more eloquently than I am capable of doing…

    “It is by no means easy for a young man to become a shepherd…An orator he can be without difficulty. A reformer he can become at once. In criticism of politics and society he can do a flourishing business the first Sunday. But a shepherd he can become only slowly, and by patiently traveling the way of the cross.

    “The shepherd’s work is a humble work; such it has been from the beginning and such it must be to the end. A man must come down to do it. A shepherd cannot shine. He cannot cut a figure. His work must be done in obscurity. The things which he does do not make interesting copy. His work calls for continuous self-effacement. It is a form of service which eats up a man’s life…Every good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” -Charles Jefferson, The Minister as Shepherd

    As example of work not making “interesting copy,” this shepherd finds himself called upon to help an elderly lady put the lens back in her glasses after lunch. Why pursue such a menial task when there are sermons to prepare and mission trips to organize and other assorted important business to tend to? This dear lady cannot read her bible without these glasses. Furthermore, truth be told, all the other “important things” are really small compared with serving the least of these.

    Mak, indeed we are called to make disciples, but isn’t it at least worth noting that the singular image Christ gave his followers for accomplishing this task, and indeed the singular image they adopted, was that of shepherding?

    Blessings from this shepherd to you all.

  7. Mak Says:

    being a shepherd has nothing to do with what this movement promoted

  8. Sinapup Says:

    Been there, done that, won’t do it again. Still making disciples, after all it is a thing given by God, and wasn’t our idea at all.

  9. RMacD Says:

    Barb, I was in it all. I knew Bill Gothard fairly well when he started out from Wheaton, long before Trinity was in existence. He was an avid reader of Watchman Nee and I think you can find many roots there. I was also fairly well established in the ranks of the Shepherding Movement. The Gothard connection helped me embrace the SM, but there were many things happening that these guys were trying to put right in Charismania, but as usual, flesh institutionalizes even what God initiates. You don’t know me from spit, so there is not much I can say other than outside of the deadly issues of control, there was much good fruit. I’ve read most of the material now public by Rob and only say that I was there. Facts without context fail to truly reveal every one of our journeys.

    I beg you to remember that there always is another side to our stories. Certainly this web site should celebrate that! Two important books are, The Shepherding Movement:Controversy and Charismatic Ecclesiology, by S. David Moore , T&t Clark Int. 2003, and “The Challenge to Care” by Charles Simpson, Servant Pub. Ann Arbor, 1986 which I think is out of print. If nothing else, Charles’ book allows one to hear his heart and understand the dynamics of events. Isn’t contextualism important, after all? I spoke with Charles in October and we briefly and positively chatted about the Emerging Church. He said, “We were too willingly hijacked by ecclesiology”, and he passionately said, “It is so very much bigger than ‘church'”. Thanks for allowing me to jump in here.

  10. Brother Maynard Says:

    You’ve got it — the objective might have been good, but the methodology was too flawed. The article by Don Vinzant cited above states,

    Because of abuses, the Roman Catholic Church built in a safeguard in their Spiritual Director arrangement. They found that personal domination and manipulation can easily run out of control when one person is both the confessor and the Spiritual Director. They began to require, therefore, that the confessor and the Spiritual Director could not be the same person.

    My strong suspicion was Watchman Nee — see RMacD’s comment as well.

    Yes, when this thing runs amok, “shepherding” is not the right term anymore… and it was methodologically structured to run amok. It’s the heirarchy that seems so “off” to me now. The term “shepherd” even starts to sound bad, but in Jesus’ day, the shepherd was a lowly occupation, left to the outcasts who were ceremonially unclean all the time. They did not tend their own sheep, but those of others. By introducing heirarchy and position into the role of the shepherd, everything gets corrupted.

    Right — Kip McKean’s ideas seem to come from the Shepherding Movement… The SM group taught that there should only be one congregation in each city. Patriarchal or complimentarion views tend to follow this worldview, as women fit into that heirarchy below men; the scriptures on Christ the head of the church and man the head of the woman feature prominantly, so you don’t tend to get hierarchy in this sphere that views women as equals in any way.

    Thanks for chipping in… sounds like you were there.

    Grace & Sinapup,
    Yeah, anyone touched by this stuff and burned at all tends to not want to go back at all… count me among that group! Fortunately for me, I joined the group I was with in ’89, after this had mostly all died down. Unfortunately, it took a long time for me to recognize that the aftereffects of the movement and its teachings have lingered for two decades… and counting. A lot of the practices and lingo had been dropped, but a lot of the thinking remained.

    John A Shepherd,
    Thanks for this… from our past discussions as well I know you don’t think of “shepherding” at all in the same way as described here. You outline something that is relational and they made it positional — *huge* distinction!

    Thanks for dropping by with some first-hand insights and the book recommendations. The movement seems to have started out with good goals, but the methodology set in place (based on some faulty theology in my view) sent it off the rails pretty far and pretty fast. Take a reasonable goal, a misunderstanding of scripture, apply structure, and scale up. Bad recipe no matter how good the goal was at the outset. As noted, it seems only the negative accounts speak out rather than any positive ones… partly the nature, but on the other hand I know some people who would say the SM was positive for them and when I look at what it did to them and what they believe about it, I would say they they are wrong, it wasn’t positive. There may be some good fruit, but… as they say, even a blind squirrel gets a few nuts. In my mind the good fruit of the movement doesn’t nearly outweigh the bad. Interesting the comment “we were hijacked by ecclesiology” — sounds much like the “structure” I’m talking about.

  11. Terry D Says:

    Ditto’s on RMacD #10

    I too was there and in the midst of the SM. You can chalk up one for the positive side here. I pretty much grew up and through it. Nothing negative to report here although I am aware there were some reported abuses.

    What I’d like to hear though is from those here who are commenting against discipleship, how is the command from Jesus to DISCIPLE working for you? According to Jn.14:12 how many are doing what Jesus did? Any one healing the sick? Casting out demons? Raising the dead? setting the oppressed free, Destroying the works of the devil? 1Jn.38

    I’d like to hear how it’s working for you?

  12. Barb Says:

    Terry D,
    Maybe I’m missing something here but this was not a discussion on discipleship but on the shepherding movement. I think that everyone here would agree that we are to make disciples. Some have even said so directly. Some of us may even cast out a demon or two to get that accomplished. It seems that you are a bit caustic with the “how’s that working for you” line. Maybe the Shepherding movement hurt you more than you realized. To seemingly take the commentors to task for not (?) doing these things without even asking is a bit over the top.
    There is a huge difference between Paul saying, “follow me as I follow Christ” and someone telling you that you needed to be under their covering so that the enemy could not touch you or telling you who you should date or marry. One is discipleship – the other was a part of a movement that the very men who led it had to apologise and ask forgiveness. The nature of this discussion was the movement – not discipleship.

  13. Terry D Says:

    My apologies for coming to the party late. This was my first visit in the home of Subversive Influence. Yes the heading was the Shepherding Movement. The words disciple and discipleship were interlaced throughout the opening statement as well as some of the other comments. I don’t think you can have discipleship without Shepherding, some good and some bad. Maybe the word Shepherding has been hijacked by the enemy, but David did it with wisdom, Ps.78:72. Part of the great commission is to disciple, to model, teach, train and release. Everyone influences others one way or the other good and bad, yes? no?

    My comment wasn’t meant to be over the top. I started out by saying I agreed with the fact that there had been abuses in the SM. I think abuse will exist wherever controlling leaders emerge. So If I offended anyone please forgive me?

  14. Brother Maynard Says:

    No worries. If you came through the SM relatively unscathed, you were quite fortunate. I think your first comment might not have been clear… being discipled and raising the dead or other miracles don’t have a direct correlation unless we’re practicing magic. Nobody’s against people being discipled… it’s the way that it was espoused in the SM that is the problem. You’re right about abuse with controlling leaders — and the thing about the SM is that it enabled the abuse through the teaching on authority. And no offense taken ;^)

  15. Sinapup Says:

    I have been making disciples for over 50 years. At the present timie there are over a hundred individuals serving the Lord all over the world that I had some input into there lives. I have been in the hierarchical end of the movement, and presently have a minimal control personal ministry. I do have an agenda, the creation of reproductive believers, sometimes called disciples. I do believe that the effort to do this has had both bad practices and bad press. Does that mean we should not be centers of influence in getting laborers out. I don’t think so. The command to make discipes is not something we thought up, but rather is given to us. It is not optional in principle, but practice can and often is a struggle. God is well able to produce men after His own heart through us, despite the truth that we are all broken and the only way to do this is by depending entirely on Him as we work what he commanded and that only He can do.

    Your Servant, Sinapup

  16. Sinapup Says:

    Yes, I know. The “there” in line two, should be “their.”


  17. RMacD Says:

    Barb, I just read a lot of your journey, and reading your story was very painful. By the way, even Wikipedia relates that The Shepherding Movement was also known as the Discipleship Movement. Your blog, /2008/02/discipleship-formulas-ditched (click your name #13) I think rightly describes the most important aspect as being “relationships”. Why is it then that we are surprised if the things that make and break us are relational? If these are the roots of the wounds, why do we spend so much time with the externals? The structures are only the scaffolding. — And we are even told that we don’t wrestle with flesh and blood, but we keep dealing with symptoms and miss the decisive battles. People are not our enemy. Those that abuse are as much victims as those who are abused, and His Kingdom remains divided. (I know of congregations that have been manipulated from within and destroyed good pastors.)

    But we do need to tell and hear one another’s story, and that is one of the reasons I think this site is so valuable. I am guilty of having abused my leadership and injured His bride. I appreciate the opportunity to confess this (in writing!) and ask you all, perhaps as representatives of those I hurt, to extend to me forgiveness.
    (And I am not even anonymous, my TrackBack tells it all!;-)

  18. Barb Says:

    Sorry, I am still really sensitive to leaders (especially) who seemingly throw out all the charasmatic signs and wonders (Any one healing the sick? Casting out demons? Raising the dead? setting the oppressed free, Destroying the works of the devil?) as a measuring stick of true discipleship. I think 1 Corinthians sums it up well when it says when done without love, it is nothing. I was in a church, and I think Bro. Maynard describes a movement that was all about these things but lacking love and instead, desiring power. Power ministries can display all the “signs” of above but never really actually touch or love the people that they are ministering to. I know, I was satisfied with this system for a very long time and thought my “signs and wonders” were a stamp of approval from the Father to show me that I was ok. Sorry, I have very low tolerance for anything that smacks of the old stuff and I should probably just remain quiet.
    Backing out now. :)

  19. john Says:

    When will we ever learn that a man (or a group of men) can’t replace the Holy Spirit. The shame is, much of this is still being taught in way too many churches. What a shame….

  20. awoman Says:

    I am a female who was raised in a shepherding-style anabaptist church waaay before “Shepherding,” then was part of some we-don’t-call-it-Shepherding shepherding fellowships.

    Although I thought (hoped, dreamed) I had left the pain behind, I find that it is still not safe to be yourself and a female at the same time in many Bible-believing churches. Yet any leader there can be expected with reasonable certainty to strenuously deny being part of Shepherding, or not being part of it any longer.

    I found this site as I have been online looking up the word “covering” and “Shepherding,” trying to clarify where the covering, mantle etcetera came into play–having once again been blindsided by someone in “church authority” where I volunteer.

    If the negative aspects of Shepherding are truly a thing of the past, then why is a woman who has a well-rounded personality so threatening to males in the church? Why is a single adult female not trusted as fully as a married woman? Why, when a male leader is in disagreement with a(ny) female, is SHE therefore “rebellious”? And this term “rebellious,” my brothers, has roots way, way deep in twisted scripture, using an implied rebellion-as-the- sin-of-witchcraft as the ground that still shakes beneath my feet when I encounter or even as I write about this kind of perversion.

    Comment away, but please, does anyone have any advice/scripture/literature on how I can speak to this situation when it happens to me? Covering, rebellious, use that on me and I become a two-inch tall terrorized child, and I hate it. I hate the lie, I hate the fear, I hate it that I am authentic, trustworthy and competent and viewed to be so everywhere but in churches, and I hate it that I don’t have the language to call it what it is when it is happening.

    If this is too far afield of the topic, please delete or disregard. But I really could use some insight–especially from those who’ve been there.


  21. awoman Says:

    Oh, and the woman certainly did not “snicker” on this one…

    {What’s with that?}

  22. Cheryl Says:

    Twelve years ago the Lord delivered me from the SM. To be honest I didn’t know that is what I was rescued from until I came across this website and read the comments. I guess the Lord wanted me to be aware of what this movement is called. I was a relatively young Christian (about 5 years) when I went to a counselor at a Baptist Church for help. I was struggling with negative thoughts about the Pastor’s wife who taught. I knew it was something rebellious going on with me so I went for help. The problem was…the counselor eventually confronted me to ask me specifically who the person was I was struggling with and told me she was using witchcraft on me. The counselor also taught a counseling class and distributed cassettes and videos with teachings on the prophetic ministry. They were from Morning Star Ministries. Soon later the counselor had a group of women and a few men that he invited to his home with his wife for Bible Study. Amazingly, the Pastor of the Church and his wife were aware about what was going on and they were praying…and waiting for the Lord to give them the timing to get rid of the counselor. The counselor was confronted several times by the Pastor. My husband did not like the videos from Morning Star, he was not seeking the Lord as passionately as I was so I was confused. We started going to a charismatic church and after a year at the knew church the Lord lifted the veil from my eyes. Sobbing, I called the Pastor’s wife at the Baptist Church and asked forgiveness. Unbelievably, the Lord delivered over 50 people within three days. I didn’t know this until a week later when a friend from the Baptist Church called me to say the counselor was finally let go and that many people had gone to the Pastor and his wife for forgiveness. It took a lot of trust and faith in Jesus for the Pastor and his wife to wait until the Lord’s timing to do this. But many were rescued from the SM because of their wisdom and trust in the Lord. That was 12 years ago, and now I look back objectively. God used my experience with the SM for good in my life, but it was not without a lot of heartache and pain.
    I made a lot of mistakes that hurt others in my zealous desire to serve the Lord. At the time this happened, the Lord had just called me to homechool my sons. That was 12 years ago and the youngest graduates at the end of May. The Lord has used homeschooling to disciple me, I am thankful for these difficult but wonderful years. I am seeking the Lord for direction for this next stage in my life. Thank you to all of you for reminding me to guard my heart so I am not opened up to error. However, I thank God for the difficult experiences…He taught me that the true Shepherd uses his staff of truth and grace to pull us back so we are on His path. God bless you all.

  23. Stephen Simpson Says:

    John “shot back” on February 22:

    “Charles Simpson basically fired the pastors/teachers that were over him & that he was relating too – Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Don Basham. He then proclaimed that he was the head pastor & everyone would report to him. That was the end of the church because over half of the church disbanded after that claim. He was not responsible or reportable to any head over him. although he required everyone to maintain him as there head. I also left the church at that time.”

    Let me state up front, I am Stephen Simpson. Charles Simpson is my father. Rather than me offering a lengthy and spirited rebuttal to the exceptionally inaccurate slander that John serves up in his note above, I would simply recommend a “non-partisan” source for each of you to consider: Dr. S. David Moore, a church historian under the oversight of Dr. Vinson Synan and Pastor Jack Hayford. Dr. Moore has written the definitive book thus far on this subject. It is entitled “The Shepherding Movement,” and it is a balanced, insightful, and well-researched scholarly book that provides a clear-eyed overview of the blessings – and the problems and abuses – that occurred during the formative years of the movement.

    I recognize, with sorrow, that in the midst of the work of the Holy Spirit among His people, there are those times when carnality manifests, and many of God’s precious people have been hurt by fellow believers or leaders. This has happened in the Shepherding Movement and it has happened in many other movements as well. I would not have commented here at all or attempted to balance some of the perceptions shared in the commentary, had John’s comment not been so egregiously inaccurate. I don’t know if John was actually here or not, but either he is misinformed or deliberately misleading. I have no interest in a squabble here; please prayerfully read Dr. Moore’s book for yourself, or talk with some of the tens of thousands of your brothers and sisters in Jesus who continue to be blessed in the Shepherding Movement.

  24. Linda Spagnola Says:

    I wanted to comment on what some of the ladies are communicating here about not being recognized for their worth as human beings, ladies, in the church. Even if you are in an attitude of humility and totally surrendered to Christ, some people (men and women) may frown upon you. It is, after all, human nature. The one thing we should not be doing as women is tooting our own horn either with the brethren or out in the world, for that puts us in the second of a double indemnity: the first being, since the 4th century MEN in the church have tried to control everyone under them. As late as the early 1900’s men in this country could still legally proclaim their wives and kids as their possessions. Some things don’t change fast enough or don’t change at all. Unfortunately, the hierarchy that began in the 4th century church (copied from the Greek and Roman empires) is alive and well today, and that is what you are dealing with. Most men and women today have no idea how the true church of Christ operated in the first century. If they did, they might leave and find a true Ekklesia in their area with which to fellowship: where ALL (men and women) participate and where the only Head Shepherd is The Head Shepherd, Christ. Things are not going to change in the church made with hands. It will continue on as it always has. Very few stray from the hierarchal evil still prevalent today. The story and explanation is much too long to go into here; but if you would like to read about it, I recommend two books: “Pagan Christianity” by George Barna and Frank Viola and “Reimagining Church” by Frank Viola (just out this week). Just google the titles to get more info or surf into You know, I happened into this site of Bro Maynard’s again because I googled “Sheparding Movement”, which I read about in Reimagining Church last nite (in the last 2 chapters). I don’t believe it was coincidence. If you have an open mind and are really looking for answers, give these two books a read.

  25. Johnny Freewill Says:

    I find it interesting that Stephen Simpson dropped by to defend his father’s honor and church. I suppose I would do the same thing, especially if I received my paycheck from that same church.

    I’m from Mobile, where Stephen’s and his father’s church is located, and I was right in the middle of all that rot that occurred in the late 70’s, early 80’s when this thing peaked and then crashed.

    1. It was cultic, pure and simple. Maybe it didn’t start out as one, but it sure turned into one. I had many friends in Mobile whose parents jumped right in the middle of this movement, some of the kids got involved, most did not. As far as the FLF is concerned, Mumford is the only one (that I know of that openly and fully repented of it), as Stephen points out, Charles Simpson never repented of it, still practices a polished-up (perhaps watered-down) version of it at Covenant Church of Mobile. None of this stuff is particularly new, strict authoritarianism is a large part of most cults, including Mormonism, Scientology, People’s Temple, etc., satan has no new tricks. In the early 80’s, parents were told to throw their boys out of the house when they turned 18 if they didn’t join what was then known as Gulf Coast Covenant Church, now Covenant Church of Mobile. By the way Stephen, do you guys still do this at CCM? And don’t try to tell me it never happened, I can name names.
    2. It was perpetuated by greed. The pyramid nature of the whole scheme reminded me of Amway and Herbalife. I knew people who were made shepherds (and called pastors) who had no more biblical understanding than your average burger-flipper, these people heaped ruin on the heads of their flock. Businesses collapsed, family fortunes were lost (by people who could not afford to lose these type things), families were irreparably broken all in the name of discipleship. Remember, I could name names here, names of failed businesses, names of families broken, all people Stephen or his dad would recognize, but I won’t.
    3. It was and still is, very secretive. The inner workings of the Shepherding Movement in particular and these type movements in general (refer again to the Mormons and Scientologist, among others) only come out when someone gets fed up, leaves the movement and spills the beans. That’s one of the aspects to which Bro. Maynard is referring when he refers to the overwhelmingly negative accounts he has heard.
    4. All these folks who start out by saying, “I was in it, it was started in the Spirit, blah, blah, blah,” you’re in denial. Yes, some good came out of it, but I remember reading of Joseph being sold as a slave by his brothers, good came from that but it didn’t make his brothers or their actions any less evil. I was there at the beginning of this movement too. The Shepherding Movement was driven into the ditch almost instantaneously, because of it’s potential for abuse. Why did it take years for most of those involved to see the abuses (and some still haven’t seen it) that my friends and I saw from the very beginning? They saw it, they were getting rich off of it and kept their mouths shut. Before you go defending this movement, pause and think of the families torn apart, the scripture twisting, the extra-scriptural legalism to which these vile “shepherds” subjected their “sheep,” and remember the FINAL warning given by our Lord in the Scriptures, Rev 22:18, 19, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

    Be very, very careful when embracing anything that departs so radically from the traditional faith that has been entrusted to us by our forefathers and our God.

    *Full Disclosure – I posted a version of this on another website, about a year ago. As far as Stephen’s recommendation of Moore’s book or his dad’s book, fine, Moore’s book is a soft-focus, semi-sympathetic look at it with some gentle criticism thrown in, Charles Simpson even allowed himself to be interviewed for it. As for Hayford’s backing of Moore’s book I can’t comment, I respect Hayford, maybe in California the damage done by the SM was not as evident as it was in Mobile. One book he didn’t recommend is Damaged Disciples, by the Burks, which I will recommend.

  26. Linda Spagnola Says:

    “The Shepherding Movement”: First of all, the only true Shepherd is The Lord Jesus Christ. When a man assumes this title, any number of ungodly things go on. I believe the five fold ministry is alive and well today within the body of Christ. Any one of us at any time can be directed by the Lord to be a teacher, evangelist, etc. These are not “offices” that men appoint other men to within organized church systems, but giftings or helps that the Lord uses through his instruments to build up his body. (remember – first the natural, then the spiritual: we worship God in Spirit and in Truth) Secondly, the Father/Son/Holy Ghost is not a “movement”. Christ is the Life given to men by God, that men may live not unto themselves, but to give glory, honour, thanks and blessing to Father God as they allow Him to direct their path. Period. It is up to each person who accepts Christ as the Saviour of mankind to completely give up his will that the Lord’s will be done in and through the person’s life and by extension, throughout the body of Christ. If a person finds himself running from one meeting to another, from one movement to another, then he is not living in the fullness of Christ who lives within him: for when a person does abide in Christ, allowing him to work within, he will not hunger and thirst. Christ fulfills every need. That said, there is not a lot of good that comes out of reviewing past mistakes, especially when it settles into accusing, dwelling upon, arguing. Many false “movements” of a religious nature have come and gone. Unfortunately, since lack of faith exists, some men will keep looking to other men for their religious experience, and so more movements will come. These should not be dwelt upon and rehashed: just recognized for what they were – then move forward seeking Christ, rather than another “movement”. Without a doubt, God can and does bring good out of bad: but it is not in his or our best interest. It certainly does not justify creating a new “movement” because the old one failed. NO! The only move we should make – the only move we need – is to let Christ completely rule and reign within us, instead of running after a man, a ministry, a movement or whatever! SEEK CHRIST ONLY, and all other things will be added unto you! Any needs, wants or questions that you have will be answered if you just seek to let Christ only direct your path!

  27. RMacD Says:

    Thanks Linda
    I hope your drops of oil bring some healing for all of us.

  28. Stephen Simpson Says:

    “Johnny Freewill,” I’ll stand by my earlier comments, and use my real name to do so. I’m afraid you are terribly incorrect on several key points; whether you were malicious in spreading these falsehoods, or simply misinformed, I’ll leave between you and the Lord. For instance, your quote about my father “firing” the other “New WIne” brothers is absolutely wrong and factually inaccurate. I don’t need to “defend” my dad’s honor; dad long ago taught me that what matters is honoring the Lord, and the Lord is our defender. I do believe, however, that inasmuch as your comments could cause some to stumble, you should at least be confronted by a witness. People can then pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show them who is being truthful.

    Mobile, the city where I was born, has been “ground zero” for many attacks and slanders against my father. One former pastor in the city made it his personal mission to actively and maliciously spread wild disinformation, and he was quite prolific. He even distributed booklets in our residential neighborhood and warned our neighbors that we were going to turn our house into a church where strange rituals would happen. Terrified neighbors circulated a petition to force us to move out. Crosses were burned in our yard. Our home was vandalized and our lives were threatened. Two years later, by the time we actually did move, some of those same neighbors wept to see us go because we had established warm, friendly personal relationships with them.

    Let me just mention a couple of issues: The notion that “all young men are or were thrown out of the house at 18″ is laughable. Were you “thrown out” of your house? Was it because it was a “church policy” or were you having some kind of issues? I don’t really know your story, but you don’t sound like you had the same kind of experience in our church that most had (if in fact, you were ever in the church). Concerning your comment that our church or movement are “secretive,” I just have to chuckle that your allegation is made from behind the anonymity of a pen name.

    Your accusation does remind me of a true story, however.

    In 1987, Jimmy Swaggart did an article in his magazine, THE EVANGELIST, making many of the same false or exaggerated or out-of-context allegations that you have repeated here. My dad asked for a face-to-face meeting with Brother Swaggart to discuss the article, particularly the 22 specific errors within Brother Swaggart’s article. To Brother Swaggart’s credit, he agreed to the meeting, reviewed the facts with his staff, and then agreed to not only print a retraction and apology, but gave my dad a page in the magazine to issue his own statement. One of the specific allegations that Brother Swaggart made was that we were “secretive” and “inward” and did not believe in evangelism. My dad asked Brother Swaggart, “Did you know that I have a daily Gospel radio broadcast that airs in 22 cities preaching about Jesus?” Brother Swaggart said, “No, I did not.” Then my dad said, “Are you aware that 2 of the stations broadcasting my program are owned by you?”

    It is hilarious to think that an anonymous blogger would accuse a ministry of being “secretive” when that ministry has an extensive 40 year record of publishing magazines and letters in more than 140 nations, distributing hundreds of thousands of audio Bible teaching recordings, and giving birth to the world’s largest praise and worship music company. Our church has been in existence for 35 years now, and on the same piece of property for 25 of those years. “Johnny,” your “reports” sound like re-cycled cut-and-paste, out-of-context, or outright fabricated tales that have circulated on the internet for years.

    “Johnny,” I don’t know who you are. Your comments reveal that you don’t really know who I am, even if we may have met. I serve the Lord Jesus Christ, because of His grace and calling, and because I love His mission. If you are seeking to trip me up in the fulfillment of that mission, then you may take it up with the Lord.

    Linda, just a quick thought about your note … most of which I agree with, by the way … we became known as “the Shepherding Movement” because there was an emphasis placed on pastoring (which is translated “shepherd”). Yes, Jesus is the One True Shepherd, but as you note, He gave specific leadership giftings to pastors (shepherds), prophets, apostles, teachers, and evangelists to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was a lot of “Charismatic Chaos” where “lone ranger” Christians were roaming across the body of Christ with no accountability, no biblical basis, and no integrity, doing great harm to many. The teachers associated with NEW WINE and many other godly Christian leaders simply recognized a need to re-emphasize Scriptural truths concerning the Church, integrity, accountability, and the gifts that administrate all of that. Were you to read the highly-acclaimed and objective book by Dr. Moore that I referenced earlier, you might better understand the context for the name, “Shepherding Movement.” Thanks for your comments.

    In the meantime, what I am strongly desiring to do is to be obedient to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, to care for the people whom God has entrusted to my leadership, and fulfill the mission that we see in passages such as Luke 4. That is what I am doing, that is what the people of Covenant Church are doing. This week, we have a team ministering on a mission in Mexico; more than 50 people there have received Jesus Christ as Lord in the past few days! Praise God!

  29. Linda Spagnola Says:

    In response to Bro Steven – Yes, I did pick up on what the “Shepherders” were and did. You failed to pick up on where exactly I was coming from, however. With all due respect, the Lord Jesus did not give his church “leaders” and “lay people”. You have only to study the first century churches to realize that Jesus was head over all and that all the brethren were equal under him. The only difference was giftings of each person and the fact that those who had more wisdom were approached to help settle issues and disputes. THE ONLY HEAD OF THE NEW TESTAMENT HOUSE CHURCHES WAS JESUS CHRIST LORD. No man was ever head (leader) over anyone, anyway for any reason. Because when a man is given even a nano speck of “leadership” over any other, things begin to spiral out of control and a deep dark pit opens. Just like what you all are arguing about here. Do you see what I am saying? Men do not and should not lead/mentor/shepherd/etc other men as is the case in the organized, institutional church system (that has been alive and well since the 4th century, thanks to those who wished to copy the Greek Orators and Roman Legalists). Council together with each other and the Lord when needed – yes. I will make it clearer: In the first century housechurches, you had Jesus Christ/Holy Spirit as head over his people/bride/church. Christ and his bride to be: no offices – everyone was equal and contributed. Today, since the 4th century, you have leadership and lay: those who orate and those who warm the pews (which is why the church is so powerless today). Can you see the difference? Look at the power exhibited thruout the 1st century church compared to what you see today. I will say this again – the only movement we need today is that ALL of Christ believers handing over ALL their will to God thru Christ that they may do a mighty work in and thru all of us for the redemption of all mankind! The Kingdom of the Lord is at hand! If only we would seek it in true humbleness and give ourselves over to it!

    You have shown here on this site some of the splits that have and still go on between even believers. This is because you are out of God’s will: for if you were in his will, there would be peace, harmony and everyone would be working together in the spirit to bring about God’s will for humanity, not trapped in their own carnal disagreements. We are to be the tools God needs and uses to reach the unbelieving world – that is all! That is what we are made for. We are to pray, council, encourage, exhort etc each other, but not judge one another and certainly, not put ourselves OVER one another, because that is solely Christ’s domain.
    I have some questions, if some would like to forward an answer:

    1. Why was there a felt need to put together a league of “Shepherds” to watch over the Lord’s sheep? Was there no faith and trust in Christ and the Holy Spirit to lead and guide the “wayward” souls you were trying to save from themselves? Is this what Christ truly wanted you folks to do???
    2. Did you save those you came together to shepherd?
    3. Why do you continue to argue, debate, justify, defend yourselves regarding the outcome of this move?
    4. Don’t you realize how this looks not only to other followers of Christ, but to the world as well?
    5. Has this helped to spead the good news of Jesus Christ Lord and Saviour?
    6. Has this given glory to God in any way, shape or form?
    7. Has this brought the brethren together in unity?

    You know, there is no unity outside the will and spirit of God. When enough of the brethren give up their will for God’s will and let him work in and thru them, great power of the Lord will be unleashed and mountains will be moved! But no such thing can happen unless/until everyone gives up their will, their way. And if you are part of man’s organized system of ‘church’, you are bound to that system and are not free to give 100% of yourself to the Lord. Speaking from personal experience, I am one of the people who has left the church system to find a fellowship devoted to Jesus Christ, rather than a building, men or ministry. I would suppose you might think me wayward, needing a “covering”: but I assure you, I have a covering and it is not a man, building or ministry: it is the Lord! I have learned, changed and let go of more earthly stuff in these past few years after leaving the church system of man than in the rest of my life before! Why? Because of a close relationship developed with the Lord, which has not been stiffled or manipulated by others who wish to be my leader/mentor/shepherd in Christ’s stead. Do you believe that Christ and the Holy Spirit are enough to lead and guide every single person to the Jordan River and beyond? If not, why not?
    Thanks for listening.

  30. Terrence Says:

    As I read the new entries I wondered how our Father feels about it? There seems to be some bitterness and hurt still. As a father myself I’m sure it hurts to see your children not getting along. If your personally hurt why not just say so? If your not then my question would be what spirit is it that accuses the brethren? What was it Jesus said about throwing stones? Makes me wonder if he’s coming back for a bride without spots or if His prayer in Jn 17 is going to be answered, it might be awhile?


  31. RMacD Says:

    Hi Linda. Please hear this question not in a combative or hostile tone, but I really want to hear your take.

    What was the scriptural function as “you see it” of pastors and overseers in practical terms (how might it have worked). How “did” they “back then” equip the body to do ministry? Practical stuff!

    For reference to where I’m coming from—I resigned the “professional ministry”, but it took a while–I’m an old guy whose entire life was devoted to the “system”. I agree with most of your take on the organized church. But aren’t elders and pastors some of the leadership mentioned in scripture? (No “laymen”, amen)

    We were trying to walk in the light as we saw it at the time. We were coming from Moody, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon—all of us bringing our unavoidable cultural baggage of professional Institutionalism. Charles Simpson’s book was called “The Challenge to Care”. We were awakening to the fact that the past institutions were not “making disciples”, and the business of the institutional churches seemed to care less and less about people and more about themselves and their programs.

    I had been a traditional pastor and we were working with some younger people that we had to go bail out of jail as they were still battling with some of their addictions. They were spiritual infants. Many that had come to the Lord were not even up to society’s standard of social behavior, let alone the Kingdom. Some people came into the fellowships and gave people really sick personal prophesies. We tried to involve even young Christians to help the newer ones (we are all ministers, remember), but now we are accused of having immature leadership.

    We were already what was (then) seen as and called “the church” (by society), so it fell on us. We bailed folks out of indebtedness and tried to help by having some in the congregation with business orientation help them to budget their income. Our later critics said their finances were none of our business.

    This blog is good for listening to people’s stories, and rightly so. But when we start judging hearts and motives we really don’t even have the ability to discern what actually happened, let alone judge. But we, and an increasingly growing body of sincere emerging church folks are looking for answers that do not seem to be too forthcoming (even home fellowships have their problems). It was not that we weren’t trusting Christ and the Holy Spirit to lead and save the people, we were trying to find our part in it. And I suspect that most of us still are.

    So please don’t take “my question” as some kind of a personal challenge for you to prove something. Most of us know a whole lot by now of what doesn’t work. I’m still personally trying to get my head around what the scripture intends and tells us about shepherds, apostles etc. as I indicated in my question. How do you guys care for the spiritual newbies, and those who’s lives are really messed up? I know there are some good books out there and I’ve read some, but most don’t really get into this messy stuff. Hey, this is also a “story” blog it seems. Some good success stories would really be encouraging about now.

  32. Peggy Says:


    Even though you didn’t address this question to me, I think you would be encouraged by reading Neil Cole’s book “Search and Rescue” which follows his “Organic Church” and “Cultivating a Life for God” in which Neil gets into some of the nitty gritty stuff you’re looking for.


  33. RMacD Says:

    Thanks Peggy. I’ve read some of Cole’s stuff and also highly respect his work. Haven’t followed up however with his “Search and Rescue” which sounds like some practical answers he wasn’t able to get around to in “Organic Church”. Regarding “stories”, Neil is known for his skill in using them. It is just that by the time books reach the market a lot has been unavoidably edited, and it would be helpful to hear some “first hand” feedback from those in the trenches. That was why my question to Linda, or any others here. I’ll pick up a copy of “S&R”.

  34. Stephen Simpson Says:

    Hi Linda,

    Thank you for clarifying where you are coming from. Your issue with The Shepherding Movement really transcends the one particular movement and goes far deeper into your concerns about the Institutional Church. You may be surprised to know we have a good amount of common ground there, when it comes to the problem of “clergy” vs. “laypeople.” Were you to read my Dad’s 1986 book, “The Challenge to Care,” which is a foundational book for many house churches and home cell groups, or his brand-new book, “Ants, Vines, and Churches,” which focuses on the organic nature of the Body of Christ, you would understand that we very much champion the understanding that every member is called to be a minister.

    I am guessing, however, from your notes, that much of your perspective on this particular movement comes from second-hand reports or internet innuendo. I don’t want that to sound patronizing; it’s just that you may not have actually read or heard the actual teachings or history of the movement. Earlier, I recommended Dr. S. David Moore’s objective scholarly history of “The Shepherding Movement.” That project was the idea of the pre-eminent Pentecostal/Charismatic church historian of the 20th Century, Dr. Vinson Synan, who mentored Dr. Moore, first at Oral Roberts University, and later at Regent University. “Johnny Freewill,” may “pooh-pooh” that book, but many credible church historians respect Dr. Synan, Dr. Moore, and Dr. Moore’s pastor, Jack Hayford (who also recommends the book).

    Much of what is shared on the internet that I’ve read about our stream of churches is skewed anecdotal information or outright viral myth. Part of the blessing of publishing extensively for 40 years is that there is a solid written record, and a vast audio library, and so a lot of the tales simply melt away in the face of fact.

    I’ll try to answer your questions succintly:

    1. “Why was there a felt need to put together a league of “Shepherds” to watch over the Lord’s sheep?”

    Nobody put together a “league of Shepherds,” although that would have been a really, really cool name for it; much better than the loathesome “Ft. Lauderdale Five” moniker that flippant opponents tagged them with. Initially, it was four men (Basham, Prince, Simpson, Mumford) who simply came together in prayer and seeking God to help restore another brother who had fallen. They related together as friends and brothers, providing mutual accountability under the headship of Jesus. In time, others sensed a need for mutual accountability and brotherhood and requested to be a part of this fellowship. Actually, this happened rather quickly and expanded exponentially, which led to some of the problems and abuses that later occurred.

    As a follow-up, you ask, “Was there no faith and trust in Christ and the Holy Spirit to lead and guide the “wayward” souls you were trying to save from themselves?”

    Of course there was faith and trust in Jesus Christ. You presuppose much here in your questions that is simply off-base; your tone is a bit hostile and belies your lack of understanding of the 40 year history of the movement. Because you have a fundamental mis-trust of Christian leadership in any form, it’s going to be impossible to convince you that God does, in fact, ordain pastors, apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. One role that we don’t see enunciated in the New Testament is “Lone Ranger.” If you have this question for the brothers entrusted with leadership of the Shepherding Movement, then you must have it of any Christian leader.

    Why all the angst towards leadership? As RMcD noted, I’d be curious to see how you take your philosophy and interpret it in the light of Scripture and in the realm of practical reality.

    And then you ask, “Is this what Christ truly wanted you folks to do???”

    One question mark would have sufficed. Since the framing of your question is faulty (you automatically presuppose that these leaders abused their authority), I won’t answer it directly. I will say that the men who joined themselves together – out of a widely diverse set of backgrounds – were already well-proven in ministry, they were exceptionally sincere in seeking the Lord, they believed that God had knitted their hearts together, and they had great love and care for the people of God. They reflected the heart of the One True Shepherd, and despite mistakes, the overall fruit of their ministry has been very good and has profoundly shaped the way that Charismatic pastors function worldwide. Other movements such as Promise Keepers and the worship movement were significantly seeded by the Shepherding Movement.

    2. “Did you save those you came together to shepherd?”

    Jesus saves; pastors and other leaders offer care and wisdom, and equip the saints to go out and do the work of the ministry found in passages such as Isaiah 58-61,Luke 4, Matthew 25, and in the Great Commission: go and make disciples. Hundreds of thousands of people have been blessed in and through the Shepherding Movement. Sadly, there were also some who didn’t fare well, either because of their own issues, or because some leader failed.

    3. “Why do you continue to argue, debate, justify, defend yourselves regarding the outcome of this move?”

    Why do some continue to attack, slander, mis-report, and scheme with regard to this move? We cannot “justify” … it is God who justifies. We are “dead” and our life is hidden with Christ in God. He will vindicate or judge, according to His truth and lovingkindness. What I am doing here is simply being a witness. God continues to move mightily through this fellowship of churches and ministries, and if anyone wants to debate that, they may take it up with Him.

    4. “Don’t you realize how this looks not only to other followers of Christ, but to the world as well?”

    How * what * looks? My main burden is whether or not the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart are acceptable in God’s sight. I am sure you would agree with me that the opinions of the accuser of the brethren should not shape our perspectives, and I am certainly not expecting any pats on the back from the world. If you are wondering whether or not I am aware of the mis-perceptions and disinformation that is out there concerning our movement, then of course, I am, which goes back to your question #3.

    5. “Has this helped to spead the good news of Jesus Christ Lord and Saviour?”

    Has the slander and innuendo and bitter rancor helped? No. Has the Shepherding Movement been active in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ? Yes, absolutely, and the historical record and thousands of followers of Jesus Christ testify to the fact, praise God!

    6. “Has this given glory to God in any way, shape or form?”

    See all of my answers above. People spreading gossip doesn’t glorify God. People proclaiming the Gospel, praying together, loving together, making disciples, worshipping God, and engaging in mercy ministry does glorify God greatly.

    7. “Has this brought the brethren together in unity?”

    Wherever there is carnality (flesh), there is going to be a division, because that’s the fallen nature of mankind, and also because the Word of God will come and divide the spirit from the soul (fleshly nature, desires, understanding). We have freely confessed that there have been times where we failed or where we “started in the Spirit and ended in the flesh.” I would suggest that this is true of any Christian movement, even godly movements. Church history indicates this is true. And, it is true of the house church movement as well (keeping in mind that our movement heavily influenced the house church movement).

    In short, whenever people are involved with something, there will be both blessings and difficulties. But, we hold fast to Psalm 133, and we have worked diligently over the years to be better brothers and sisters with the larger Body of Christ. This we have done, and we enjoy many long-term and rich relationships with believers from a wide array of backgrounds and “labels.”

    One day, either here on earth or in heaven, we will join hands with every person who has commented here who has received Jesus as Lord, and together, we will worship Him Who is Worthy of all our praise.

  35. Stephen Simpson Says:

    Just an observation: the introductory remarks that get added to each of our comments are odd. We are being depicted as “snickering,” “chortling,” “throwing hands in the air,” “leaning across the table,” and other actions that do not add any real understanding to the discussion.

    I’ll be interested to see how this comment is “prefaced.” Does the Bulletin Board software do that automatically? In my opinion, it’s not helpful. Sorry if that sounds picky.

  36. Terrence Says:

    Its built into the site and changes each time you view the same comment. It could be a bit misleading for newbies which is unfortunate but for those who have been here a while, I think they learn to ignore it. I don’t think it helps either but hey its not my site.

  37. Linda Spagnola Says:

    Thank you for your patience! My work days are long due to working in one county and living in another, plus we had fires here over the weekend (CA). I will at least give short answers for now.

    To Stephen Simpson –
    Thank you for your comments. The two books you mentioned sound interesting; and I do understand that each person in the body of Christ is called to serve/minister. The difference is whether they wait to be sent by God or move according to their own inclination. I have visited house churches of both ilks. Certainly, as Paul’s writings attest, there will be problems in house churches; but the one problem you should not find is a systematic programming that purges the Holy Spirit right out of the building made with hands. For if Christ is not the sole head of the body, then by definition, it is not his bride/church. It belongs to another.

    Where the Shepherding Movement is concerned, since I was not a part of it, then any info is second hand – including books, tapes, interviews and whatnot. I do thank you for taking time to answer the questions, which may benefit others as well. I will print out your answers and read a bit later.

    RMacD –
    Ahhhhh, yes, the practical schtuffffff! There are so many ways to approach that my mind has been boggled. I will try to be simple and brief.

    If you lived in the first century around the time of Paul and you decided to follow Christ, you were drawn into a local fellowship at some one’s home, where those of the same ilk met anytime day or night to pray, study, exhort, encourage etc. You found out that one of the Apostles (let’s say it was Paul) help to set up this fellowship, perhaps staying for several weeks or months to set up a foundation and make sure all who were going to be meeting at this fellowship knew how to meet with Christ as head, how to fellowship together etc. Then, Paul would have left to continue his travels/visits/house church set-ups/letter writing. What? You mean he left that fellowship without a pastor/rev/etc? Yes, he sure did. After all, Christ is the head and the Holy Spirit is the director who moves us as long as we lay aside our will for his. Eventually, from the midst of the fellowship (perhaps, months or years down the road), would arise a person or persons who showed great maturation in Christ and on whom the people in fellowship could depend upon for guidance when needed. These “mature” ones could be any age, as everyone learns of Christ and God’s heart at differing rates. These mature ones would perform a function, not be elevated to an office. You’ll note that until these mature ones became visible and working, Paul had to continue to write letters to answer questions and rebuke wrong theology/doctrine among the different churches. And you will further notice that when he did write those letters, they were not written to a pastor or reverend: they were written to the whole house church body and sometimes these letters were passed around to other house churches as well.

    This does not directly answer your question regarding titles and offices, but am sure that if you study how the house churches of the first century were set up, observed how Christ handled such issues (like rebuking John and Peter for fighting over who should be top man next to Christ) and studied the original language regarding such terms as pastor or elder, you would conclude that they refer to “maturity in Christ” or a function as God directs/permits, rather than an office that some man holds above others in the body. No – all in the body are on equal footing with the Lord. What makes thenm different is their gifting and how the Lord wishes to use each one. Our function in Christ is spiritual, not natural and that makes all the difference.

    Interesting question about newbies (which I started this out with) and those who are messed up. Imagine being part of a first century fellowship that met regularly – perhaps as often as daily. You know each other personally and are therefore accountable to one another. Therefore, just like it used to be in natural families before Independence hit everyone, when some one does something wrong, everyone becomes aware of it and so that person is surrounded literally and figuratively by those who see the problem. These people will then put time and effort to help this person overcome their problem, because that is what family members, especially the family of God is supposed to do. You will note that in one of the letters that Paul wrote he actually told the body of believers to put distance between themselves and the adulterers in their midst. But however it was handled, it was handled in and by the love of the Lord. New persons, as said previously, would be welcomed into the midst of the group and would be ‘brought up’ just as a child is in a natural family. The new person would grow in the knowledge of Christ as he is surrounded by same.

    You know, I can see it so clearly, but it is hard for me to relay, especially to some one who has come out of the system and still sees things from the perspective of that system. But I guarantee you, what I have discussed here, what I see and understand, did, does and will work for those who are truly seeking the mind of Christ – first! I have seen first hand the Lord at work at some of the house church meetings I have attended. The question(s) really is not, what about leadership (or newbies, or those who misbehave), for those things are the business of God/Christ/Holy Spirit. It is not important for us to know these things. The real issue is for each one of us to come to the absolute end of self and will, that God may have his way with us! He will determine how and where each person serves – in what function, at what time and in what ministerial capacity. It all comes as one matures in Christ!

  38. RMacD Says:

    Ahhhhh, yes, Linda, the practical stuff!. I’m not going to play fair. I’m going to pull authority. I don’t mean institutional biblical academics (I have that) or any ecclesiastic hierarchical eldership, but what the scripture does say eldership means, and that is my long life—in practical terms, not just the years but the mileage. Stuff of personal stories that teach and go beyond what recent books we’ve read or bright revelations we have come up with. Some are born from 20 years as a missionary in Africa, others from my own personal struggles.

    Shall I relate when a friend was shot dead off his tractor, or when alarms went off in a friend’s house in the middle of the night? As we men rushed to help, other evil men waited behind to attempt to break into our houses where our wives and children remained? Long after, their crowbar marks on the iron grates over the doors and windows reminded us that we weren’t playing church “in Kansas anymore”. A drunken Zulu attempted to hijack my car as I was waiting for my Zulu pastor friend. Four young Zulus attempted to rob me point blank (in, of all places, a “Micky Dees” restaurant) Ever tried to teach with automatic gunfire between police and criminals 1000 yards away on the campus? No “lock downs” there. Yeh! I know what it really means to trust Jesus, as have thousands who have gone before us, even those from those dreadful denominations. I also know that my need of them on occasion was not a warmed over lesson from 1 Cor 12, but life itself. It is easy for the eye to say to a hand you need it, but quite another thing to actually trust it when the lights are out.

    I have seen a traditional church of over 500 folks spend time with Ralph Neighbour (early house church experimenter) convince the leadership and the congregation that their system was unbiblical (and it was!) and dismantle itself into home groups, while the leaders moved on. A year later it was a disaster and the scattered folks were back “in the system” in other “churches”. You see, they weren’t ready yet. In fact, the only reason you “were ready” was not because you were a really spiritually perceptive person who saw through all those manipulating pastors, but because Jesus “according to the council of his own will” gave you grace to move on from the place others sacrificially provided for you; some, centuries ago.

    Things are not really all that new. Thirty years ago I was working to plant autonomous house churches, not too unlike the way Viola writes about. (Great books—really!) Back then Jim Rutz was working through that, and did a pretty good job of illuminating how Pagan our Christianity was. And, yes, Frank has done an even better book (Sorry Jim!). Of course it has been messy. It’s all there in the scripture. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:12, “ What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Did you pick up your song in there anywhere? A major indictment in 1 Cor is that the believers didn’t know who they were in Christ; either individually “or corporately”.

    Watchman Nee, a pioneer seeking a non-institutional church expression taught that it was “commissioning”, not “volunteerism or self-appointment” that brought leadership into the Church. You mentioned that principle. Yet Nee in his later books on authority fell right back into another version of “being led of the Spirit” into another place. Have you ever read the unabridged “War on the Saints” and of the struggles Lewis and Roberts had with deception and demonic activity in their home gatherings? This is why I was really asking for actual personal stories, not how things might have occurred in Scripture, or what you read others have experienced. To merely tell someone, “to just trust only in Jesus and walk in the Spirit” is what we used to call a “goss-pill”. Neil Cole emphasizes the Apostolic, and Paul does come on as very “authoritative”; a postmodern hot button word.

    Yes, leadership was not an office but a functional description of those (not only men) who functioned in those giftings. However Paul did address, not only the church at Philippi but also the overseers and deacons, at least recognizing that they did have a recognized identity as such. They were to be treated somewhat differently, not as an office but as a gifted governmental position. Sure that stuff is all scaffolding, but whether it works or not is the heart issue, not the position—even as in a natural family. You say, “The question(s) really is not, what about leadership (or newbies, or those who misbehave), for those things are the business of God/Christ/Holy Spirit.” It is if you are a loner and only doing your own thing. How does the Lord usually work, except through His Body, which does have gifts of government within it. (i.e. 1 Cor 12:28, Eph 4, 1 Th 5:12, Ti1:5-7). If it isn’t at least somewhat about newbies or those who are “self-appointed experts” and deceived, evidently you have never been in situations where people even needed to be physically restrained (ah, the good old days of the early Charismatic Movement). Oh, and I have seen it work also, for a while.

    Actually I agree with probably 90 percent of what you say, and I agree that one-man pastors of buildings is unscriptural. Ministry is done by the Body and gifting. But emerging church blogs and books can be as nebulous as some seminary classes or oratorical sermons. A lot of what is still coming out as new revelation is only re-workings things that have been around a long time. After all, don’t you agree that what we learn comes from spending time with the Holy Spirit? I’m kind of sorry for being long-winded and sounding paternalistic, but I am at least a grandfather of a few. But—1 Cor 4:15, not Mt 23:9-10. Those verses are the sort of apparent contradictions I’m trying to “wrap my mind around”. It seems a heart matter, but is not as simple as you seem to make it.

  39. Linda Spagnola Says:

    Good day Stephen Simpson – I have just reread what you last wrote to me and all of the above. Firstly, I wish to apologize for my hostile attitude. Unfortunately, I picked up a bit of it from some of what was written above, but that is no excuse. Certainly I do have some rough edges to be ground down and that is one purpose of the brethren – to inter-react among one another, to chasten and encourage when needed.

    I also apologize for not making clearer statements on two fronts:
    1. The questions I asked. They were written with regard to the inter-reactions on this site about what went on years ago, not with regard to the movement itself. That is past history. Briefly, when I read the statements above, saw only divisiveness between brethren, not unity in Christ. You continue to rehash the past, instead of living for Christ in the now. That is why I posed the questions.

    2. Leadership. You may have the idea that I rebel against leadership. Nay. But what I consider leadership and what you see as leadership apparently are two different animals. Yours seems to be like that of earthly government, while that which I champion is spiritual. What I see does not depend upon office, age, sex, appointments, credentials etc. It is solely based on spiritual maturity in Christ. Since I have not explained myself too well here regarding leadership, would advise a reading of Reimagining Church by Frank Viola, which has a chapter regarding spiritual covering. Where women are concerned, it is interesting to note that Christ encouraged women in his day. He came not only to set men (in general) free, but to set women (who were considered second class citizens) free as well. Yes, God does ordain pastors, apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers to equip the saints (many of these are women), but it is NOT an office that one fills. And it may not last. It might be only temporary until a purpose is served. Anyone in any fellowship might be led by the Spirit to fulfill any of these functions at any time for any space of time. It is not an elevation to office, it is a service needed at the time. At the moment a person says “I am a pastor … (or whatever)”, at that moment that person has replaced Christ on the throne. He has put his eyes at the level of I/me/my. There is only one I AM – and it is he our eyes should be upon. We are to serve with heart and mind on Christ.

    Example of leadership: I attended a house-church a while back about 70 miles north of where I live. There was no ‘leader’ there, but there was a young man (late 20’s) who everyone recognized as being spiritually mature in many ways. By the time the meeting ended, it was very late. I have night vision problems. I went to this person (who was young enough to be my son) to discuss the best route home. He suggested a way and I submitted to his guidance because I recognized the spirit of the Lord in him. I got home safely. I know God kept me safe because of this submission. In other times, others have submitted to the Christ in me. This is the way the body is to work. There is accountability to each other in Christ and no one person dominates/controls what is going on. No one elevates himself as equal to or above the Lord. Yes, I have a fundamental problem with the leadership fundamentals of the church system/institutional church/church made with hands. But not with true leadership as ordained by the Lord. I have nothing more to say about this as Frank Viola’s book says it best.

  40. Linda Spagnola Says:

    Hi RMacD – so you aren’t playing fair! That’s okay – just know that you would have to be much older to be my grandfather! ha haha Thank you for your response and no, I don’t think you are long-winded! You are passionate in your belief!

    I understand better what it is you seek. Actually, I have read Viola for years, also Rutz, Barna and others such as Chip Brogden of, who also once pastored a church. Reading Viola should have given you some answers you seek, for he does give examples of house-churches and how they work, including leadership. In dealing with ICor 4:15 and Mt 23:9-10, it is clear that in Mt Christ is dealing with the earthly Jewish leadership, while in Cor, Paul is dealing with spiritual leadership regarding the house-church. One must read the entire letter(s) with knowledge of the times it was written, to whom and why while seeking the Holy Spirit to ascertain what is being said. And certainly we do learn from the Holy Spirit: Paul spent 3 yrs in the desert being taught. I have had my own desert experiences of learning, as many have.

    Altho I have never been a missionary to a foreign land, I have had experiences of different values. I was once married to a man who beat and raped me about every time he got drunk: this escalated when I joined a local body of believers. A few years out of that nightmare, this naive, street dumb white blond found herself in SoCal’s most crime ridden mobile home park (where I have lived ever since) amongst minorities/gang members (ever hear of the Crips and Bloods?). First 6 mos I was here we had 4 attempted homicides (one in my yard), 1 homicide, sex orgies and drug dealing aplenty. I have been shot at. I have ventured out after hearing shots to go to the aid of one who was shot because no one else would do so. As a Christian, I have had to stand up to gang members. I grew up and got street smart fast here. We all have our stories. They help us to mature in Christ and we see we must continue to depend upon him for life. I give all the glory to God for all the trials in this park he has and continues to get me thru!

    I have been in the midst of gatherings where demonic activity was about. That comes about because the people are out of God’s will. One interesting experience occurred while at a mega-church one Sunday: sitting in the front row, the alter call was made and many came on down. This pastor began praying over this one woman and she attacked him as the name of Christ was uttered. Elders grabbed her and took her away to an office to pray over her. We heard she was delivered/set free of whatever had hold over her as the meeting ended. I felt demonic activity in another mega church in the area due to constant compromise of the gospel and finally quit going. I have been a messenger to those in the body, relaying dreams and messages of warning mainly (especially to two different pastors who plagiarized the writings of others). I could put some titles to what I have done: but, I am nothing, for it is Christ in me that gives me life to give to others. It is he who directs me in the use of whatever gifts he has supplied.

    You mention that people from home groups that did not make it went back into the system because they were not ready: it is hard coming out of the system. For in a house-church you have to submit to Christ (instead of a man) while accepting responsibility to become God’s tool (instead of warming a pew). Unfortunately, many run back to the safety of ‘do nothing’ religion – letting the ‘pastor’ of the church shoulder the responsibility. It is far more difficult these days to make a house-church work, because we are far more polluted and have a huge weight on our backs to get rid of. Also, our country is one of individual pursuits and as the earthly family has and continues to be divided, so has the spiritual family. People have a hard time relating to one another, forgiving, coming together in unity, moving on in Christ. Physical living distance adds to the dilemma.

    I will finish up by relating more of the house church I attended (which I started above in the reply to Stephen). When I got to the address, I was welcomed and after basic intros, we talked of spiritual things. Once most of the people (most in their 20’s and some of us oldies) had arrived and we had partaken of refreshments, all of us, children included, gathered in a circle in the ample family room. First one, then another led in a song, or reading/poem etc. A baby began to cry, so the mother quietly walked to a back room to take care of things and stood just on the outskirts joining in while comforting the child. I was there to just observe, so I thot. A few persons spoke up, thanking God and expressing how Christ was working in and thru them and then I found I had a word to give. After, another person spoke up expanding on the same theme I had expressed and on it went. It was truly a blessed time in the Lord! It was orderly and the working of the Holy Spirit was evident. I would be meeting with this group today if I lived up there. I have yet to come across anything even close to that experience down here. All 5 house-churches up there meet together a couple times a month but have smaller house-church meetings in their own areas during the week.

    This is the practical stuff for me. You think that it is not as simple as I make it: right – it is even simpler: all it takes is for each of us to totally/completely/continually submit to Christ. Christ is a simple kinda guy: we make it complicated by bringing to the table all our preconceived notions, instead of handing them all over to Father God. Christ said his yoke was easy, light: he came to set us free from all that besets us and separates us from Father. Everyone seems to place their concerns regarding missions and social action before Christ, when instead, we should leave all such things to him. If we are truly willing, he will use us to give light and life to humanity according to HIS will and timing. The only thing that matters for us is – today: the past is past and the future will take care of itself. But now is the time for Christ. We give our all to him, he will answer all our questions, in his own time. Amen. And I believe this subject has played out.

  41. RMacD Says:

    Wow! I hope we are not putting anyone off this thread by our intensity. By-the-way; I recall that a key teaching in the Shepherding Movement was the crucial difference between obedience and submission which was purely an internal “heart attitude”, and that authority was something that was given, and not be “taken”. This all helps to know you and your context. It has been good meeting you Linda.

  42. len kloth Says:

    ‘ Spiritual authority’ This is one of the books that was used as a foundation for the Shepherding movement back in the 80’s.-here are specifics;

    Below are a few statements in this book that I don’t see New Testament support for.

    Page 22-23 under “First Lesson a Worker Should Learn Is Obey Authority”: We are under men’s authority as well as having men under our authority. This is our position. Even the Lord Jesus on earth was subject not only to God but also to other’s authority… A Christian worker ought to know who is above him. Some do not know who are the authorities above them, hence they do not obey. We should not be occupied with right or wrong, good or evil; rather should we know who is the authority above us. Once we learn to whom we must be subject, we naturally find our place in the body.

    Page 71 under “Be Fearlessly Subject to Delegated Authority”: People will perhaps argue, “What if the authority is wrong?” The answer is, If God dares to entrust His authority to men, then we can dare to obey. Whether the one in authority is right or wrong does not concern us, since he has to be responsible directly to God. The obedient needs only to obey; the Lord will not hold us responsible for any mistaken obedience, rather will He hold the delegated authority responsible for his erroneous act. Insubordination, however, is rebellion, and for this the one under authority must answer to God.

    Page 180-181 under “To Be in Authority Often Means Loneliness”: In learning to be in authority we ought to be sanctified before brothers and sisters. Many legitimate things we cannot do and many lawful words we cannot speak. We must be sanctified both in words and in sentiments. According to ourselves we take a certain attitude, but among God’s children we will be sanctified. Even our fellowship with brothers and sisters must have a limit beyond which we will neither be casual nor frivolous. We should rather lose our liberty, we rather will be lonely. Loneliness is the mark of authority… The opposite of holiness is commonness, not sin. To be sanctified is to be different from others….The sparrows fly in flocks, whereas the eagles fly singly….To be in authority requires restraint; one must sanctify himself. Others may but you cannot; others may speak, but you cannot….You may feel lonely and miss the fervor of the crowd; nevertheless, you dare not mingle with the brothers and sisters in joking and jesting. This is the price of authority. Unless we sanctify ourselves like our Lord we are not qualified to be in authority.

    Page 182-183 under “To Be in Authority Requires Restraining One’s Affections”: I will show myself holy among those who are near me.”…There is a much severer discipline applied to them than to the people in general…. As has already been mentioned, the opposite of holiness is commonness. Holiness means that others may, but I cannot. What the disciples may do, the Lord does not. What other brothers may do, those in authority cannot do. Even lawful affection needs to be put under control; otherwise death can be the consequence. The people of Israel died because of their sins, but priests may die because of not being sanctified….Those who serve are anointed by God. They should sacrifice their own affections, denying even legitimate ones. All who would maintain God’s authority must know how to oppose their own feelings, how to lay aside the deepest of their affections towards their relatives, friends and loved ones. The demand of God is exacting: unless one lays aside his own affections he cannot serve God. He who is sanctified is God’s servant; he who is not sanctified is a common person.

    Page 184 under “Sanctified in Life and Enjoyment”: It is therefore a matter of enjoyment. Others may enjoy, but we cannot. Others may rejoice in pleasures (for wine speaks of rejoicing), but we cannot. People serving God are under discipline that they may be able to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean…. The higher the office, the stricter the demand. The degree of nearness to God becomes the degree of His demand. Of him to whom God entrusts more, the more will He demand. God especially concerned with whether of not His servants have sanctified themselves.

    Page 185 under “Authority Is Based on Sanctification”: Authority has its foundation in sanctification… You cannot represent God if you maintain very liberal and loose communication with the people. The higher the authority the greater the separation.

    Page 191 under the chapter “The Conditions for Being Delegated Authorities”: To be in authority is costly; such ones need to be sanctified from the rest and be ready for a lonely life…. As soon as one becomes too common, he is dropped from the work. His usefulness is gone, and his authority is lost.

    Its about controlling people, legalism, a very dangerious form of fundamentalism

    King George 111 used Romans 13 against the colonists in the revolution. Romans 13 was the bases of ‘divine right of kings’ to rebel against them, was to rebel against God, a nifty arrangement. He was told “If Kings rule by divine right, then let them rule in heaven!”-Thomas Jefferson

    Watchman nee’s book is a return to the authoritarian legalism of ‘kings,’ dangerous, medieval, scary.

    I know who I would agree with, between Watchman Nee, and Jefferson!

    I invite comments;

  43. Terry Says:

    I’m wondering why we continue to talk about what happened back in the eighties. Is there still a Sheperding Movement going on? Control maybe in different forms today yes.

    When it comes to authority I like to think we all model ourselves after the Master. Interestingly so In Luke 4:31 when Jesus taught the people were amazed how he did it with authority. A new teaching.

    31Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. 32They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority.

    36All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!”

    In Marks gospel he refers to it as a NEW teaching with authority. Not only did he set the man in the synagogue free from the kingdom of darkness He went on to Simon’s mother in law and demonstrated more authority setting her free from a fever. Then many others who were sick and under the influence of the kingdom of darkness were set free.

    So my question is … is their another type of authority we should operating in? After all Jesus is the model and we are the disciples.

  44. Linda Spagnola Says:

    G’Day to all – I read with interest Terry’s question and Len Kloth’s comments ref authority. It is really quite simple: Jesus Christ Lord was subject to Father God and as his followers, we are now subject to Jesus. Christ stated that he could not do anything except the Father do it through him. It is the same with us today: we can do nothing unless we are abiding in Christ and he does it through us. Whatever we do outside of Christ is of the world. And if we are operating in this mode, we are subject to the governments of this world instead of to Christ.

    People think that if they just say the name of “Jesus” that whatever they ask will be granted. It is not the name “Jesus” that is the issue. Let me explain: the word “name” in the Greek means “authority and character”. Therefore when the disciples were healing in the “name” of Jesus, they were healing by the authority and character granted to them by Christ Jesus, whom they subjected themselves to and served.

    Christ is the head of the Ecclesia (church or body of Christ). Therefore, we are all subject to him. As far as authority towards one another, everyone has the authority granted by Christ. Any “leadership” within the body of Christ is actually a function (usually born of age/wisdom), rather than an office (filling offices is the world’s way of governing – not God’s). Leadership or not, we are to serve each other: the greatest leader will be the one who chooses to serve the brethren without whining, fanfare, charge, expectation of payback or notoriety. This was demonstrated by Jesus in the washing of the disciples’ feet.

    Anyone of us at any time may be called upon by the Holy Spirit to fill one of the 5-fold ministries: and just as quickly, pull us away and into something else. We are at his beck and call and no man has the authority to commission us to go here or go there, do this or do that: only the Spirit of Christ. Again, it is a function, not an office. God is no respecter of persons, neither should we be. Treating rolls in the body of Christ as functions in which you serve, rather than offices which puts men over other men is God’s way of insuring we also are no respecter of persons. When all serve, there is no power-play or similar worldly pursuits.

    Romans 13 always has been twisted, turned and convoluted to fit the needs of the power hungry. Again, it is very simple: we are to obey the laws of man except when they cause us to disobey God. Then, we must take a stand. Christ came to fulfill the laws and if we abide in him, we too fulfill the laws. He rendered to Caesar what was Caesar’s and we are to do the same. We are in this world, but we are not part of this world. Therefore, our concern should not be the world and the authority they operate under: rather, our hearts and minds should be abiding in Christ that we operate in his authority and character in whatever we say or do. To do this, we must constantly seek him in the Word and in prayer every moment of every day.

    Think about this: when Christ walked the earth, each and every footstep he took he was in communication with Father. His mind did not dwell on the past or in the future, but on the moment. This is being constant in prayer / communication. The world is not our primary concern: Christ should be our primary concern. He is the answer to all questions.

  45. Terry Set-Free Says:

    I was caught in the SM for more than 30 years. I wish that I had seen this site sonner as I could have shared a lot. I have been out about a year but it takes a little time to be healed of it. I am free now! I read all the posts here and I respect all who shared. All we ever wanted was the truth.

  46. Jay Fortier Says:

    This movement had the practical effect of a cult. Fortunately, God gave me the sense to run very far away from it at age 9. The only people defending this stuff are the people that obtain money or power from the participants.

    A good litmus test for your relationship with God is this: If someone is between you and your relationship with God, asking for money, or asking for behaviors that serve them instead of God, then you belong to a cult.

    A relationship with God is free, fiscally and behaviorally. If you are met with verbal threats of any kind, such as the thinly veiled threats above, you are involved with a cult. Do not fret or fear though, because these people have to face God some day for their actions.

    God’s love is not spoken through thinly veiled threats from someone who believes they are God.

  47. RMacD Says:

    Jay Fortier: Sadly you make a sweeping statement about those “defending this stuff” that you know nothing about. I am one here to defend both the intentions and integrity of most all of the leadership as well as a great deal, but not all, of those teachings. At the age of 9 I doubt you were in position to make decisions to “run” anywhere, or even be knowledgeable concerning most of the scriptural issues at that time. Try an honest understanding of Paul’s discourse in 1 Cor 9 in the context of what is reasonable regarding financial support in ministry. Then ask if all of the orthodox denominations are therefore “cults”.

    That said, your comments reflect the view of how Western Institutional Christianity has impacted those outside the “church systems” we have made to become another “business” with a secular world view, and not representative of His Empire. Remember, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood.

  48. Janet Says:

    As an early member of the movement, and wife of a shepherd, I find myself revisiting some of the concepts and wondering whether there is some truth that was the baby thrown out with the bathwater. My former husband and I had a personal friendship with Derek Prince, and I still regard him as a profound Bible teacher. But we, along with most of the members of our fellowship, suffered terrible consequences, including divorce. Yet there seems to be an ongoing purpose for the small group ministry, and a new emphasis on the need for making disciples as opposed to bringing people to the Lord/church just to fill pews. Do you have any resources you can recommend to address these issues in the true Biblical sense?

  49. William Russell Says:

    Tried this once before, maybe I can get it done this time.

    Floundering in the hippie movement of the 70s and living a life that was rampant with drugs, alcohol, and sexual immorality, Jesus found me, cleaned me up, forow zgave me, and I found myself listening to Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Don Basham, Ern Baxter, and Charles Simpson. The 20 or so years I lived under the umbrella, some I suppose would call it a shadow, of the teaching of the “Sheperding Movemenet”, it was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I’ve learned to forgive the wrongs, love the experience and move on to a deeper, full life, in Christ. I not only survived I’m living and loving life. Also,I live with a deep since of gratitude for what those years brought to me. God is good. Men try and miss many times,, and so it was.Although it does not excuse the abuse that came later in the movement, it was joy and freedom for me. Blessings and Grace.

  50. William Russell Says:

    I need a good editor. (llaughing at my typos)

  51. Nancy Says:

    To Johnny Freewill,

    Thank you for your comments. People need to know the truth. As far as California goes, abuses took place there also. But I choose not to comment on this. I think if we all were to just read our bibles and allow God’s spirit to guide us into God’s truth, we will remain on safe ground. Thank God there are Bible teachers out there who love the truth of God’s word and who know their limits. I hate to be a name dropper but Chuck Swindoll is a good pastor. He is by no means perfect, but at least he knows his limits relative to shepherding.

  52. Michael Carrigan Says:

    I was largely outside of charismatic/pentecostal churches for over 20 years. I tried to please my Catholic wife more than God.

    When I came back, I noticed a couple of doctrines that were quite different from the way I was raised and for which I could see little scriptural support, namely, the use of the phrases “cover” and “covering” to describe how a pastor, teacher, or even an apostle, prophet or evangelist provides protection from bad decisions or striking out in ministry on one’s own.

    The other teaching was the use of the title Apostle or Prophet in front of a leader’s name. The idea being that to receive a prophet’s reward, you must receive a prophet in the name of a prophet.

    Now I took the Assemblies of God position paper on the Discipleship and Submission Movement written in 1976,, and instead of using the word “shepherd”, read it with the word “cover”. And much of it is applicable today. But instead of interposing a leader as a gatekeeper to the door of heaven, now it appears there is a need for a “cover” according to some.

    Yet, it is clear that in Psalm 91, the Lord is our covering. There are few references to “cover” in the new testament, except that of women covering their heads as a show of submission to husbands.

    There certainly are many mentoring type relationships in the Bible: Eli and Samuel; Moses and Joshua; Elijah and Elisha; Paul and Timothy; Saul and David; and Daniel and Joseph to their kings. But these were bilateral agreements. David, indeed, left when it was clear he had to follow the Lord. He respected and protected Saul as King, but he did not submit to his authority as a servant would. Saul kept trying to kill him, after all.

    Even Bill Gothard, who speaks so eloquently about the umbrellas of authority in his Basic Youth Conflicts seminars, did not go so far as to say that you must stay under the “covering” of a ministry to form another. Indeed, his ministry fired him when they learned the details of what was to become his lifelong ministry. And he tells seminar attendants that if you disagree with the direction of your authorities, you either obey or you leave.

    It is the insecure who say that you must be under my covering if you leave, otherwise God won’t protect you or that somehow you will be cursed.

    One scripture that really struck me was Isaiah 30:1

    Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin:

    So it is not a light thing for one to say they are a covering for their constituents. If they stray from the Spirit, then they become accountable to God.

    The other trend I’ve seen is that leaders call themselves, perhaps with apparent authorization of others, and sometimes a whole congregation, Apostles and Prophets. Thus instead of “Paul, a servant and an apostle” or “Paul, a prisoner of the Lord and an apostle” or “Peter, an apostle”, we see Apostle ________ or Prophet ________.

    Certainly there are those who move in the various offices. And the influence some country leaders have is in the millions. And there are those through whom God moves mightily through signs and miracles.

    But the titles can lack credibility to outsiders, unlike the title, “doctor (of philosopy)”, which is awarded through accredited universities.

    Even Paul, (clearly an apostle to the whole church!), deprecatingly said to the Corinthians (I Cor 9:2), that while he may not be an apostle to all, he was an apostle to them. So it seems that a church can “ordain” or “accept” their own apostle out of love and respect. But to demand such treatment is clearly of order. Even our Lord said not to have people call you Rabbi. No wonder no one calls themselver Teacher so and so. And yet they take on highter titles.

    Yet, when I see someone sit down at a church lunch that no one knows wearing a name tag Apostle _________, and who asks that his business card be passed from person to person, instead of simply talking to the pastor, it seems something is wrong. It should not be where anyone can go around from church to church, and say they are an apostle or evangelist. There should be some widespread recognition, and certainly some kind of invitation from a pastor before such a person starts mininstering using those types of titles.

    That this title should not be taken on lightly is seen in Revelation 2:2, I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.

    In all, it seems the the Bible covers everything, even the topic of “coverings” and apostles.

  53. Linda Says:

    Praise God that your eyes were opened to seeing that you were trying to please men (or in this case, your wife) instead of Father God! You do not have an easy existence, but the Lord will see you through as you abide in him.

    Yes, out only covering is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is covering over all the sheep. There in no way exists one sheep above another: we are all equal, but each has different gifts to offer the body of Christ.

    If we are truly seeking to become one with Christ and with God, doctrines do not matter. What does matter is fully submitting to the Lord, cultivating a maturing relationship with the Lord and with those in the body of Christ. As the relationship grows, we all become of one accord with each other, the Lord and Father God. Then the Father can use us to further his purpose on earth. Every other thing will eventually become clear to us. We see thru a glass darkly, until the scales are removed. Jesus Christ Lord and Saviour is not a doctrine, tho men may make him such. He is The Way, The Truth and The Life. To reduce him to doctrine is to bring him down to our level of understanding. He wants to life us up, but requires our cooperation. He is our blessing!

    As for a visiting apostle or any of the 5 fold ministries: these are functions, not offices. Just as a “pastor” is a function, not an office. If one is sent by God (which is what an apostle is), one does not require an invitation. God is above all men and sends who he pleases to where there is a need. That said, it is up to those who are to receive the message to discern by the spirit whether or not it is actually of god.

    Men do not decide how, when, where, who or why a messenger of God appears. They are only fellow servants of he who is sent among them. And quite frankly, a person sent by God does not act in an elite manner, drawing attention to himself by high or haughty words, dress, mannerisms or announcements. He does not need to if truly sent by God. He gives his message and continues on. Why a true sent man of God would wear a name tag beginning with a title is baffling: unless he was not really sent of God. His words and proclamations would need to be discerned whether of the Spirit or not.

  54. RMacD Says:

    Michael and Linda, even in the early days of the Charismatic Movement there was a powerful move of the Spirit with the Catholics. I knew Bill Gothard in his beginning days, but it seems that Jesus’ prayers for true visible unity can never happen as long as we make it ALL about doctrine. It isn’t really about how much we know, but “who” we know. This is not to say doctrine is not extremely important, but as pointed out many places in this string, our flesh wants to have control and even Paul struggled and relates it in Rom7.

    You correctly identify gifts that are erroneously turned into titles, while the distinctions are there to enable us to be inter-dependent upon one another, not our popular rugged fleshly independent tendency. The familiar passages by Paul in 1 Cor 12 should dismiss equalitarianism, as we are different members of His one Body. I need you because of my limitations.

    The well known chapter on love that follows puts much of the Church’s motives to task. Even Elders when operating in an authoritative situation within the congregation are seen to be as a plurality, and perhaps why Jesus mentions where two or three are gathered, He is there, but in a different context (authoritatively) than with us as individuals.

    Jesus exhorts us to not call any man teacher or even father, yet Paul told us that though we have many teachers, not so many fathers. It appears that as far back as Saul, we have chosen a vertical hierarchical structure for authority, instead of the horizontal flow of family with elders who are heads of families. What good father doesn’t want their offspring to be even better than preceding generations, including himself? But hierarchy has even destructively crept into natural families. It seems significant that Malachi, as he ends our Old Testament, prophesizes John the Baptist’s announcement of the mission of the Messiah who will restore the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.

  55. John S Turner Says:

    Thank you to all for your comments. I met my Lord Jesus Christ at the age of 43 years old 6 years ago. I am still a young Christian even at the ripe old age of 50. I am in a home church fellowship that is led by a group of 4 elders. The problem is one that has been discussed here, namely we are being led by men and not the Holy Spirit. One of the elders met Mr Mumford during the 80’s and still practices the SM. He is married but does not live with his wife but with a young single women of the church who is basically is handmaiden. He said God told him to do it! I have brought this subject up with the other elders but have been rebuked. They tell me I need to submit to authority. What they mean his theirs and not Christ’s. I was not aware of the SM until about 2 years ago. After researching it my eyes were open to what was going on. It’ ironic that one of the first books I was giving was Watchman Nee’s book on Spiritual Authority! I truly believe The Lord led me to this small fellowship for a reason. Was it to stir the pot or show the other members what was wrong, I am not sure. I do know that my Lord Jesus Christ will prevail in the end. I firmly believe that The Lord has not released me yet from being a member of this small group. It is on his timeline not of mine. I ask that you all pray for me that I hear his voice in this matter. Like it was said above your either obey the authorities in the way they are leading us or leave. Thank you for letting me rant.

  56. Ann Marie Says:

    HI Everyone, HELP!
    My church has begun to take a drastick direction into discipleship. In fact, that is the only thing they say they are about now. Having been somewhat in the Shepherding movement of the 70’a and 80’s, I am seeing some of the same things happening. first off, love seems to be getting colder. If you are not with it, then leave is the new motif. The pastor used to be a “hands off” kind of guy. I am the youth director in the church. As a youth director, control is the new paradyme. If it is not “discipleship” then we really don’t want it is the new motto. I am getting to HATE the word discipleship. How sad. I am so burdened by the direction of the church now. The pastor says the building won’t be here in 5 years because they will all be meeting in homes. so the 40 year old preschool will now be shut down in the next fews years. It seems he is trying to dismantle the church in the name of discipleship. Many people are leaving and many are confused. Any suggestions?

  57. Brother Maynard Says:

    Ann Marie,

    Obviously I don’t know all the intricacies involved, by in general I suspect you need to leave, and be candid about why. It doesn’t sound like this is a situation that’s about to change, but getting people to talk about it and about what’s going on that is wrong may help others to find the courage to move on to a safer place.

    Look at Barb Orlowski’s website and book, as well as Rob McAlpine’s book referenced above. Searching online generally for information on spiritual abuse will get you pointed in the right direction. The shepherding movement is spiritual abuse, pure and simple, though people don’t use the same terminology as much now — hence the more general search terms.

    At the end of the day, it will be difficult, but the last thing that will be helpful for you and your spiritual growth is to stay put, even if you’re convinced that you can help bring change. From all I’ve seen, bringing the kind of change necessary is extremely unlikely without a significant number of senior leaders on your side against the direction that’s being taken.

    Hope this helps!

  58. Linda Says:

    Ann Marie,

    You are caught in the cross hairs of what is becoming a huge topic in Christendom today: disciples are NOT being made in the institutional churches today, and the church system is wondering why and therefore trying to remedy the problem with changes and ultimatums.

    The reason why there are these types of abuses today in the institutional church system is because it is patterned after the worldly corporate systems. After all, man is far from perfect and a man running a church is going to get pretty agitated when people start leaving, grumbling etc because there goes his livelihood. There were no “leadership offices” in the first century church. Christ was and is the ONLY Shepherd or leader of the church. I strongly urge you to find those who are truly devoted to serving God above all else, who see Christ as the one true Shepherd and gather with them.

    Please do not throw out the baby (discipleship) with the bath water (the church you are in). Go back to the New Testament and read about Christ choosing the disciples, how they lived and learned together. Read about the women who became Christ’s disciples. Read about the love all had for one another in the first century church. Then realize this: when Christ called the 12 men to “follow me and become my disciples”, fishers of men, they left everything and entered the inner court to reside with Jesus and learn from him. He called, they answered and became obedient.

    The reason why there are so few disciples today is because most to profess to belief in Christ remain in the outer court, ministering to each other, doing whatever they want to satisfy their spiritual longings with a minimum of output to God. They are not maturing and God cannot use them. That is why the church today has no power or authority over all the growing evil here and abroad. Being ‘commissioned” by men to do this or that in a church made with hands does not a disciple make. Doing does not make one a disciple. Christ first said, “follow me”. He did not send out the disciples until later (for instruction). God can not send us out to minister horizontally until we first come to him and learn to minister vertically to him (as did Moses and many others).

    You state you feel burdened: if we remain tethered to the world in us, in others, in some church system we reside in presently, this is going to be the case. Christ said to come to him, all who are heavy ladened and he will give you rest! Can you see the difference, between how this church you belong to is run compared to how the true Shepherd and leader, Jesus, cares for his sheep?

    Ann Marie, I suggest you set aside all your present agenda and enter the inner court to minister to Father God. Hear and obey what he tells you and move forward into true discipleship/maturity. I guarantee you will not regret it. It will take courage and you may need to be in the desert while he teaches you, but it will be well worth it! Count the cost – move forward into freedom with Christ!

  59. Martin Says:

    I was a member of a shepherding church in Chicago during the ’70s and 80s. Gotta say it … I think many abuse problems stem for male-only. patriarchal leadership.

    The ciurrent complentarian movement to define Bilblical Manhood & Womanhood is more about ‘manhood’ than anything else. It is good that they call males to greater acoountability and integrity, but they need not accomplish this by surpressing the movement of the Spirit among women.


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