COVERING, COMMITMENT TO FLOCK & OTHER MARKS
Jan 28, 2004
CHAPTER III PART 1
COVERING, COMMITMENT TO FLOCK & OTHER MARKS
DOCTRINE OF THE NICOLAITANS
If Jesus were to write our churches seven letters today what do you think his main concern would be ? Most of us would probably expect him to tell us that we should love one another more, live in unity, and work harder ( and we should). However, in Rev.2 & 3 we may discover a surprise. Jesus was concerned about the deeds of those seven churches but He seemed even more concerned about correcting wrong doctrines. He was especially concerned about the danger of compromise with error (doctrine of the Nicolaitans ) and sin (doctrine of Baalam and Jezebel). If the Church will stay out of error and sin God can deal with it to love more and work harder, but once the Church compromises with error and/or sin it has HAD IT and no unity is possible. God can't deal with it effectively at all because right doctrine is the foundation of right deeds and unity. The word "Nicolaitans " comes from "nikao" to conquer and "laos" the laity. Many Bible scholars agree that this was the earliest form of the notion that ministers were set in authority over the laity, falsely dividing an equal brotherhood. It was the earliest form of Shepherdship error which brought the Church down into spiritual bankruptcy and the Dark Ages. Laymen were considered exploitable commodities to be "ruled over" by religious leaders in the name of Divine order (and all for their own good, of course).
PROGRESSIVE LEAVEN IS SERIOUS
Some do not think the Shepherdship error is very serious because such groups today still love Jesus, praise the Lord, and the Holy Spirit still moves at times in their meetings. They still teach a lot of truth along other lines. Let's not kid ourselves, God's Word says that ERROR IS PROGRESSIVE LEAVEN. Beware of the leaven (doctrine) of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (Matt. 16:6 12). "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (Gal.5:9). God's only answer is to "Purge out therefore the old leaven'' (1 Cor. 5:7). Navigators know that if you set your course a fraction of 1 degree off, the farther you go the worse it becomes until you are miles off course, completely lost.
We really got our eyes opened when we read an old book written by Charles Russell back when he was first founding the Jehovah's Witness Cult. He seemed to have a lot of truth at first. He spoke of a born- again experience and dedication to God, yet seeds of error were sprinkled throughout his writings. Now, just over 100 years later, look how far off the devil has taken the J.W.'s. They will not even claim his early writings now, he had too much truth for what they have become. Today one would never guess that their organization was founded by a man who seemed to know God.
In the Early Church when Shepherdship error first began with the Nicolaitanes they probably praised God and moved in the Spirit for a while, too. But before long we had a dead ecclesiastical Dark-ages Church ruled by the papacy and a descending order of cardinals, bishops and priests in the name of Divine order. A little leaven soon leaveneth the whole lump! The devil only plants error for one purpose, to sidetrack or destroy the entire movement, if possible.
If Jesus were to write letters to the Church at Jacksonville, and various other cities we believe he would still stress that we must deal with Shepherdship heresy and compromise first so there would be something left of the Charismatic move long enough so he could deal with us about love, unity and evangelism. His priorities would not have changed.
DOCTRINE OF COVERING
Most Shepherdship teachings come from scriptures twisted or taken out of context but this is one of the ones that came right out of thin air and has no Biblical basis whatsoever. The main idea is that Christians need the spiritual protection (covering) of a pastor's authority over their lives to: (1) keep the devil off of them (2) be in divine order. Some try to connect this idea to a passage in I Cor.11:1-16. In this passage Paul is saying that wives should go ahead and wear a literal veil in church because of a local custom in Corinth honoring the headship of a husband in his home. (This only applied to Corinth, Jewish women never did wear veils in their synagogues, only the men wore a small cap called a yar-mul- kak). This passage is speaking of a literal veil and a Gentile custom.
Paul is not in any way referring to shepherds being the spiritual covering over anybody's Christian life. IT DOES NOT COMPUTE. Others have sought to connect the idea of "covering" with Rom.13:1-7. Here we are told to obey secular government which God has ordained to keep order in society. This in no way refers to pastor-sheep relationships. It does not compute either. For years we Charismatics have been refuting ground- less doctrines handed down by tradition. In this matter of "covering" some Charismatics have made up a groundless doctrine of their own.
JESUS IS OUR COVERING
If we are determined to search out some concept of a "spiritual covering" in the Bible we have to go back to the Hebrew language. There was a word in the Old Testament for spiritual covering and it was translated into Greek as hilasterion" referring to the mercy seat over the ark of the covenant (Heb. 9:5) It was the place where blood was sprinkled once a year to atone for Israel's sins. It's meaning for us today can be found in Rom.3:25 speaking of Jesus "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (hilasterion or covering) through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forebearance of God. "As Christians our only spiritual "covering" is the blood of Jesus. Actually His blood did more than just "cover" our sins, they were remitted, which is far better for us. Symbolically speaking Jesus is our mercy seat (hilasterion, covering) who made our fellowship with a holy God possible.
After preparing this teaching we happened to find a different kind of spiritual covering in II Cor. 3:14. Paul was speaking about Israel "... whose minds were blinded; for until this day remaineth the same veil (covering) untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament." We see that it is possible to have a spiritual "veil or covering" which acts as a blindfold over the mind when one tries to understand the scriptures. This is really a sad fact of the Shepherdship error. When God's people submit their lives to men, Jesus is no longer their Lord and spiritual blindness has to follow. When we hear them speak of their "covering" we can't help but picture a big, black blindfold over their eyes which is what their covering is doing for them and, bless their hearts, they do not even realize it.
COVENANT COMMITMENT TO FLOCK
Most Shepherdship groups teach that their members must take a vow of submission to the shepherd and/or undershepherd and open up their lives to be rebuked and corrected. Most, also teach that their members should make a covenant commitment to the flock". Then, if members ever try to leave they are accused of breaking a serious covenant made before God and man. They fear all kinds of demonic attack and harassment if they do not get in line, repent and return to the flock. Recently a young man we know left one of these flocks and backslid. Three years later he was killed in an accident. Members of that flock were soon telling his family and friends that this happened because he got out from under the "covering" of the pastor. The real truth is that he backslid to get out of Shepherdship bondage and got out from under God's protection. What does God's Word teach about covenant commitment to man? Romans 13:8 tells us to "Owe no man anything but to love one another...." What about vows ? Matt. 5:34 "But I say unto you, swear not at all...." The only God ordained, human covenant for Christians is marriage
The Bible teaches that we should settle down as an active member of a local church (preferably in our community) and find our place in the Body of Christ, but we must be free to move elsewhere when God calls, our commitment is to Him first.
At times Christians have raised up special ministries with tighter organization so they could get more accomplished. The Salvation Army was used by God mightily to minister in "skid row" areas and they were patterned like the military. Teen Challenge-type ministries must have special rules to minister to ex-drug addicts who live in, and God blesses them. Here is how those organizations differ from Shepherdship: they do not try to put their special rules on other Christians wholesale. Workers are free to come and go without fear or disapproval. Their structure is special for a practical purpose only, not an erroneous doctrine to be applied to the entire Body of Christ enforced by fear and manipulation. The motive and application makes the difference between practical truth and spiritual heresy.
MORE MARKS OF ERROR
We want to consider some more common marks and methods found in Shepherdship groups so that the error can be spotted even when everyone involved firmly denies it, (as is customary nowadays).
Escapees from Shepherdship have repeatedly told us that their pastor and undershepherds had a subtle superior, condescending, patronizing attitude toward them. They said he would tend to "put them down", treating them like children, although he might not be much older than they. The sheep were encouraged to open up their lives and share past problems. Then the pastor would use the information to keep them "put down" later. For example if they disagreed with him in some way he would remind them "you just have rebellion in your heart, remember, you were a rebellious teenager." Or "so you want to quit your job and go to Bible school?" "I can see that you are yielding to laziness again, remember how you once lost two jobs in a row?" Thus their past was brought up and used to discredit their integrity and keep them in line with his wishes. Personal sex sins are often confessed only to be used against the individual later. This is another example of subtle manipulation used to control by undermining self-esteem. This is "psychological abuse."
Some churches put out a prayer list of members to be prayed for daily and if anyone leaves the group, their name is removed and they are told that the devil is free to bombard their life without this "prayer covering".
The Bible tells us to pray for all saints, (Eph. 6:18) regardless of whether they leave our church or not. We must be careful how we pray because God isn t obligated to give us guidance for other people's lives. Prayers sent out to bind a person up and make him do our will like (come back to our church) amount to witchcraft and will boomerang, binding up the sender.(Gen. 12:3) We must release others to be led by God with no strings attached.
Every Christian needs to be in fellowship with the saints but he need not fear when God leads him through a transition from one church to another, or into his own ministry. The devil can't take advantage if he is following God. The Holy Spirit can lead someone in China to pray in the spirit if he needs it. This prayer covering idea has been a tool used to keep people afraid to change churches and get out of error. Staying in error and bondage is the thing we should fear and avoid.
REBUKE NOT AN ELDER?
Here is another scripture often twisted out of context to keep the sheep afraid to question or challenge their shepherd when he abuses them. (I Tim. 5:1 -2)"Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father. The elder women as mothers, the younger as sisters with all purity." The word "elder" can have three applications: (1) An elder, (bishop or pastor) in a position of leadership in church (2) Christians, spiritually older and more mature than others (3) Those older in years, in the natural. Vine's Greek Dictionary explains that here "elder" is speaking "not in respect of position but in seniority of age." We are simply told to be respectful of older folks, no more, no less. Certainly we must be respectful of godly church leaders as well, but neither Jesus, Paul nor John hesitated to rebuke deceiving leaders who were teaching heresy and rejecting truth, no matter how old they were, and regardless of their position.
In the beginning of the Charismatic Movement (1960's) most everyone flowed together, teaching simply the baptism in the Holy Spirit. As Charismatic theology developed we saw two different teachings emerge, the "Faith Message and the "Shepherdship Teachings".
Out of these two we have seen a new hybrid-combination develop. Some pastors teach the "Faith Message" for living a personal victorious life but they teach the Shepherdship concept of church government.
They seem to want the public image of a "Faith Church" and desire to invite in special "faith teachers" but most of them would be uncomfortable coming to a Faith-Shepherdship church if they knew it. Some have solved this problem by being careful to never preach Shepherdship doctrines directly from the pulpit themselves, then if asked, they say "We used to be involved in Shepherdship but we quit teaching it several years ago." This is "a" truth, but "the real truth" is that they have continued to practice it, counsel it, and circulate Shepherdship tapes through the church library and have their cell group leaders teach it in sessions that are closed to the public. They tell their people "We are not in Shepherdship anymore, but we did keep some of their good truths, now we have found the perfect balance between Faith and Shepherdship teachings. If receptive, they recommend this combination to other "Faith" pastors and teachers, spreading the heresy.
Thus the power and appeal of the Faith Message is used as bait to draw people in where they will be brainwashed and blinded by the Shepherdship error's bondage never being able to grow up and leave the nest, like blind Sampson forever treading the mill for their pastor.
Faith teachers are brought in who have been unknowingly deceived as to what is really going on. Most well known faith teachers seem to think that this error has died down and are not speaking out like they did at first, thus leaving the devil plenty of room to work. We are trusting God to begin to reverse this trend so that these "Faith- Shepherdship-Hybrid-Monstrosity" teachings will spread no further in the body of Christ.
Many shepherds keep their sheep in line by giving the impression that they have special spiritual X-Ray vision and can see into their hearts. Nothing could be further from the truth. The New Testament clearly teaches that we may be able to discern a demon spirit (in the flesh or soul realm) when needed to minister deliverance to someone who seeks for help. At times God may show us someone's spiritual problem such as fear, confusion, etc. to help us better minister to them when they come to us. However, GOD NEVER GIVES ANYONE X-RAY VISION INTO ANYONE ELSE'S HEART. Anyone claiming to see into our hearts is in error and not to be feared because he is speaking out of his own carnal imagination or a demonic gift of suspicion. We are told that their favorite accusations are usually, "You have rebellion" or "You don't have any love in your heart." Don't worry, you and God are the only ones who know what is in your heart. (I Cor.2:11)"For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him...?" v.15 "But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man." It is before our own master that we stand or fall (Rom.l :4). No man is authorized to judge our hearts. Someone can evaluate our deeds and suspect what is in our hearts because of our deeds but God and you are the only ones who know for sure what is in your heart. God is not out to embarrass you and he will not tell anyone anything about you without also giving them the love and compassion to minister to you without criticizing, judging, or putting you down. If we do have something wrong in our hearts we are to judge ourselves and the Lord will not have to deal with us about it. We do have a duty to judge and expose doctrinal error if we are to follow the example of Jesus and the apostles.
WHY THESE TACTICS?
Why would anyone want to use the X-Ray vision idea to accuse God's people? It appears that many shepherds enjoy keeping their sheep defensive, confused and full of self-doubt. A sheep who has self- respect and confidence is not so easy to dominate. We are told that it is common for some shepherds to rebuke their sheep just often enough to destroy their self-confidence and keep them in their place, submitting under the shepherd's thumb.
Some sheep are actually afraid to leave Shepherdship groups because they have been taught that they can not trust themselves not to back- slide unless their pastor is controlling their lives! Christians are not bad little kids who need to be embarrassed, dominated and punished into serving God. What a low-down concept of God's new-creation plan for his sons! God's Word emphasizes the sonship of the believer (56 times) much more than our sheephood (22 times).
Many have been taught that we all need a human authority over us to discipline our flesh. If that were true, we all have chores, responsibilities, bosses etc. so that should do the trick. But, seriously, our real motivation should come from following, obeying and serving our spiritual authority, Jesus who inspires us to be faithful in every area of life to please Him.
In many Shepherdship groups we see much outward display of affection, neck-hugging, back-slapping, etc. Especially the Shepherd plays the role of a big, loving Daddy to the flock. The most appalling aspect is that he may severely rebuke a sheep, sometimes in public and then hug their neck and croon "Oh, I just love you so much" while the startled sheep is fighting back either anger or tears. This reminds one of the old Casanova ploy. He tells the girl he loves her just to take advantage of her. This phony affection seems to be a cover-up so the sheep will stand still allowing himself to be humiliated, supposedly for his own good. This couldn't be agape love because the entire thing is contrary to the spirit of Jesus. Real agape love doesn't dominate, manipulate or use harsh rebuking tactics. Real agape love is gentle and kind, longsuffering with our faults and very tactful and compassionate (I Cor.13).
This tactic works better than one would imagine because it exploits a deep basic human need for love and affection. One of the tactics used by the demonic "Children of God" cult is called "love bombing". They systematically shower love and affection on a newcomer to draw him and solidify him into their cult where he is turned into a brainwashed slave, all in the name of Christian love. God planned for this basic need to be met, first by our relationship with him and then as we sincerely love one another in Christ without an ulterior motive. If a pastor practices real agape love he will soon get himself and his flock out of Shepherdship error and bondage.
REBUKE AND CORRECT
Probably the greatest single abuse found in Shepherdship is the practice of the pastor sharply rebuking and correcting the sheep, often publicly. This appears to be what really puts "teeth" into the error, crushes their self-esteem and keeps them in submission.
We recently did a very enlightening word-study on the root meaning of the Greek word for "rebuke" found in the New Testament. We found that there are only four places where any one is told to "rebuke" anyone else in the Church
in the King James Version.
W.E. Vine's, Strong's Concordance, and Kittei's Theo. Dictionary of the New Testament agree that this word should have been translated "reprove" in three of those places, and in the other place it means "admonish". These words simply mean "to convict, convince or tell a fault", they don't carry the idea of the humiliation of a harsh rebuke at all. We will look at each of the four scriptures separately to see who is to be reproved or admonished and how it is to be done.
Titus 2:15 Paul tells Titus "These things speak and exhort and rebuke (reprove) with all authority." Paul had just been explaining about sound doctrine and godly living. Now he is saying "Titus, you go and tell the people what I have said and exhort, admonish, and convince them of what is right, with the authority of truth backing you up."
II Tim.4:2 "Preach the Word, be instant in season and out of season reprove, rebuke,(admonish), exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine..." Here Paul tells Timothy to reprove, admonish and exhort God's people in a longsuffering (forbearing, patient) manner. God wants his children to be treated tenderly.
I Tim. 5:20 Them, (elders) that sin, rebuke (reprove) before all that others also may fear. We know that here "elder" means "pastor" or "bishop". Most translations indicate that the thought here is if they "continue to practice sin." If that is true we could read it this way "elders, pastors, or bishops who continue in sin must be reproved in the presence of all so that the rest may stand in wholesome awe (at the seriousness of what they did). This makes good sense, because a leader's life is a public example to the flock and if he falls into a serious sin it must be dealt with and set right before the people, publicly. (In other passages we see that if the sin is really serious he must step down and walk in his repentance for a while until he proves himself trustworthy enough to be restored to leadership).
Titus 1:13 "...Wherefore rebuke (reprove) them (the Cretians) sharply, that they may be sound in the faith." Here Paul was talking about the Cretians who he had just said were liars and evil beasts, in verses 10-11 he said they were unruly deceivers (of the circumcision) whose mouths must be stopped because they subvert whole houses teaching things which they ought not (heresy and false doctrine). That is pretty bad, it appears that they had earned themselves a sharp reproval.
The previous scriptures add up to this conclusion: (1) We are to teach the Word to bring light and reprove wrong thinking. (2) We are to be longsuffering and patient with God's people. (3) Church leaders who fall into serious sin must be reproved publicly. (4) In the extreme case where someone is deceiving others, teaching false doctrine and heresy they should be sharply reproved.
We can see that "public reproof" and "sharp reproof" are extreme measures only to be used in special, extreme situations.
WHICH SHOE FITS WHO?
There is absolutely NO SCRIPTURAL FOUNDATION WHATSOEVER for "publicly" reproving or "sharply" reproving an ordinary sheep who is just stumbling along, trying to do the best he can.
To be technical, according to these scriptures, pastors who teach and/or practice Shepherdship qualify for both. They should be "publicly reproved" for continuing in the sin of unscripturally dominating, rebuking and abusing God's people, and they should be "sharply reproved for teaching false doctrine and heresy (or for allowing undershepherds to teach it). Furthermore they should step down and walk in their repentance until they prove themselves trustworthy and come up to the qualifications of a pastor found in I Tim.7:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9, before being restored to office. Is it not ironic that they are the very ones who feel authorized to rebuke everyone else?! If they do not repent and stop all this, one can't help wondering if they might have a "rebuke" or two waiting for them at the Judgment Seat of Christ !!! After all, Jesus already said he hates the deeds and doctrines of the Nicolaitanes and he is the same yesterday, today and forever.
It is heartbreaking to watch the backsliding problem that often occurs in Shepherdship groups. A young man may begin to have resentment against the shepherd because of the humiliating tactics used to keep him in line. His resentment is also directed toward God who he believes wants him in submission. He can see no way out except to backslide back into the world, the only place that seems to offer a semblance of relief and freedom. Cell group leaders are under more pressure than others and are rebuked more severely. At times one of them will backslide, disappointed and disillusioned with God and man. We can't permit fine young Christians to be sacrificed on the altar of a false demonic doctrine like this, we must take it seriously enough to intercede, share truth, and do all we can to expose this destructive heresy so some will be saved.
It is often the sincere, humble-type Christian who falls into this error faster than other types because he is more inclined to doubt his own judgment, even when he senses something wrong. He is the type who is more willing than others to accept rebukes and humiliation because he thinks it is God's will. Truth is more powerful than error because it has the power to reach our hearts and witness with our spirits. It is amazing how fast light dawns when these people are presented with a clear outline of the real truth because they have sensed something was wrong all along.
SAME VIRUS, DIFFERENT STRAINS
This error operates like a virus, it keeps changing symptoms as it passes from one group to another. Some pastors can sense who to dominate and who would not take it so well, so they are harder on one than another. Some stay off the case of those older in age, especially if they are big financial givers. Some leave borderline members alone and go after the most promising workers. Some specialize in rebuking women. (They are BULLIES). There are some outside the movement who do not teach the doctrines of Shepherdship at all but they have the spirit of domination and control over their people. (We've always had a few of those around, even before this error became popular). We recently got reports that there are pastor's wives who harshly rebuke the sheep right here in our town. Also we have heard of another recent local instance where one sister called the elder and got permission to rebuke another sister sharply, just one sheep to another. It may vary widely but you can always recognize the same basic spiritual disease when you know what to look for.
Inasmuch as the Shepherdship error springs from a wrong concept of pastoral authority it might be well to look into the seven levels of authority to understand where pastors fit in.
SEVEN LEVELS OF AUTHORITY
For more details on this subject refer to Ralph Mahoney tape series "Human Rights" (5 tapes). To order write to:
Blvd., Burbanks, Ca. 91502-1096
Sovereign or Imperial Authority Eph.1:21-23, Rev.19:16 God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the only ones at this level of total, absolute authority
Veracious Authority This is the authority of truth John 17:17 God's word is truth. Hundreds of years ago the Church drew up the Westminister Confession to deal with heresies in the Church of their day. It gives us wise guidelines to consider: 1. Nothing contrary to scripture is truth 2. Nothing in addition to scripture is binding (not even a shepherd's so-called authority) 3. It is the believer's responsibility to search the scriptures for himself (and follow them) Acts 17:11
Voice of Conscience or Spirit of Man Rom. 8:14, 14:23 LOWER LEVELS (far below the first three)
Delegated Authority The Church has authority in the name of Jesus over demons, the elements and contrary circumstances when needed, but no personal authority over men's lives. Police, armed forces are delegated authorities of our government as long as they stay within their delegated boundaries. Pastors have the delegated authority to keep order in meetings, steer overall direction of their churches, and deal with heretics, sin, and division in their Churches.
Stipulative Authority of legal contracts and agreements. Marriage is in this category, God has stipulated our roles and if we do not like them we do not have to get married.
Customary Authority I Cor.11 Paul recognized the validity of good local customs so as not to offend.
Functional Authority Derived from ability, training or God's gifts and callings. If we saw a car wreck we would give place to a medical doctor because of his training and ability. Pastors have functional authority to perform ministry duties because of their God-given ability and calling. They have the functional authority of a servant, they are better equipped to serve our spiritual needs, guide and feed us. Shepherdship seeks to lift pastors up into Sovereign or Imperial Authority over men's lives. Thus they are lifted up to usurp the place of Jesus and God's Word over the lives of their sheep, placing the pastor on his throne. This is idolotry!
AUTHORITY & RESPONSIBILITY
It is good to remember that authority is always tied to responsibility. If we leave our job with someone and go on vacation they must also have the authority to deal with problems that may come up while they are responsible. From this we can see where pastors fit in. If God had given them the responsibility of standing in our place at the judgment seat of Christ then he would also have given them authority over our lives. The Bible clearly teaches each that each of us must give account for himself (Rom. 14:12), therefore every man must be free to make his own decisions here and now. A pastor must only answer to God for his own life and for doing his best to feed, lead and love us, he will not have to account for what we did.
Christlike motivation will cause a pastor to desire to serve. On the other hand flesh motivation will cause him to seek authority over others. If he only seeks responsibility to better serve he will be a blessing, but if he seeks authority he will be a curse to the Church sooner or later.
MARKS OF CULTISM
Another eye-opener is to review the 8 marks of cultism in relation to Shepherdship teachings. These marks fit all the false-Christian cults such as Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. Some Shepherdship groups have all 8 points (just like the Jim Jones cult). Most have at least 5 or 6 of them and are leaning toward the others. For further information refer to Charles Trombley's tape on "The Marks of Cultism". Write to Charles Trombley Ministries, 500 North Elm Place, Broken Arrow, Ok. 74012. The most prominent Shepherdship points have astericks.
EIGHT MARKS OF CULTISM
*Never reach spiritual maturity Let us teach you more, you are not quite ready to leave. You can not hear from God for yourself, can't go to Bible School or into your own ministry…maybe later.
Always trying to earn fellowship with God, never quite get there. Must obey the shepherd to please God and there is always the shadow of the shepherd between you and God.
*Exclusivism. Only we have the true message, order or structure. We have true Divine order. Special cell-group sessions are not open to the public.
*Can not question authority of leaders or what is taught. Touch not God's anointed or the devil will get you. If you disagree with the pastor, he accuses "rebellion in your heart".
All have alternate routes to God through us, our organization, etc. Most Shepherdship groups still teach salvation correctly but then you must follow God through your shepherd or his confirmations, if you do not, rebukes and/or disapproval follow.
*Elitism. Our teaching is so deep and rich, there is nothing like it elsewhere. (A friend wryly commented, if you don't clean your horse's stall it will soon get deep and rich, too).
*No true desire for evangelism, get converts from other churches. Groups vary widely here. If pastor is ambitious he may push outreach or proselyte or both. Many have no evangelism at all. (Which is probably best, so less people will be brought into error and bondage).
*Enslaving organizational structure. Bondage to pastor-covenant commitment to flock. Must serve shepherd to keep approval, avoid disapproval. Very hard to get out.
Our attention was arrested by a passage in a recently-published book describing how new people are drawn into and held by cults. We were astonished to note how well this passage describes the methods we have seen used in many Shepherdship groups and we quote the entire as follows: Portions we wish to emphasize are underlined. Cults generally attract prospects with an outpouring of attention and affection, the so-called "love-bombing" technique. Feeling, not doctrine, is the lure. In fact, the belief structure is seldom mentioned in the beginning
Cult leaders know that once an initiate has been reconditioned to accept their particular world-view, and as soon as he feels a sense of meaningful belonging, his mind will be ready to accept any teaching, including a belief that the leader represents God.
When the recruit's mind shifts into neutral, the period of intensive indoctrination begins. The effectiveness of this tactic is often enhanced by sensory deprivation, extreme amounts of physical activity coupled with fatigue, severance of all ties with family and friends, and the forsaking of all belongings and material possessions. In a short time, the initiate becomes emotionally and spiritually dependent on the cult for decisions, direction, and even the physical necessities of life. The outside world appears more and more threatening. Finally, his mind "snaps" and "the sudden
drastic alteration of personality in all its many forms" takes place.
Approval, acceptance, belonging, authority--all those things that were missing are supplied by the cult. Motivation is generated by rewards for excessive zeal. Critical thinking is discouraged and corporate identification with some larger-than life mission (as conveyed by the leader) causes the member to equate what is good for the cult as being good for him. Young adult cult recruits are the least likely to consider thoughts of abandoning the group. Severing the cult-fostered dependency would mean having to cope with hardships and to fend for themselves in a hostile world. Any consideration of leaving immediately conjures guilt feelings of forsaking God's calling, falling into Satan's hands, or even worse, risking the wrath and judgment of God. (Taken from "Larson's Book of Cults", Chapter 3, A Sociological Perspective on Cults, page 28 & 29. Used by permission from Bob Larson and Tyndale House. Underlining is ours.
If Jesus tarries and things continue to move in the same direction there is no doubt in our minds that we have a full-fledged cult taking shape right here in the middle of the Charismatic Move. God forbid that this should continue.
SHEPHERDSHIP EXTREMES ARE NOT THE MAJOR PROBLEM
Some have suggested that basic Shepherdship teachings are of God but the major problems come from immature leaders and unbalanced extremes within the movement. They have even gone so far as to point out that we evidently believe that the basic "faith message" is of God, yet there are plenty of immature extremes in that movement, too. We can agree that even a valid message from God will be carried to extremes believe that a look at the foundations of both messages will reveal the "Faith Message" is of God but the "Discipleship-Shepherdship message" is not.
We understand that the basic Faith Massage in a nutshell is this: A believer who is living right and rightly motivated has a right to claim God's clear promises made to him in unwavering faith and he should talk and act in line with that faith. Therefore God's people need to be taught how to walk in faith. We believe that this is a neglected truth that needed to be restored to the Church here in the last days for the primary purpose of building God s Kingdom and accomplishing His purposes in the Church and World, regardless of the immature extremes found within the movement.
On the other hand the basic Discipleship-Snepherdship message is that God's personal authority has been delegated to Church leaders to rule the lives of their sheep. They are said to stand in the place of Jesus to rebuke, correct
and guide the sheep to bring them to maturity. Also it is said that the shepherd is to be the sheep's "covering" to protect them from the devil and keep them in line. The sheep are expected to obey the shepherd, even when he is wrong, thinking that God will correct the shepherd. As we have explained at great length this is totally wrong and unscriptural and it would not matter if only the kindest, sweetest people in the world were teaching and practicing it in perfect balance, it would still be totally, absolutely wrong. Extremes in any movement are bad for all concerned, but the problem here is not just the extremes. The major problem is that the basic message is not right. Nothing could be more serious than that!
WHAT IS THE RIGHT WAY ?
Many people have never known anything but Shepherdship teachings. Once they recognize the error they ask us an important question. "What is the right way?"
In attempting to answer this question I believe we can safely say we are sharing our thoughts which are pretty much the same as most well-known Word teachers, who stand against Shepherdship error.
WE SUBMIT ONE TO ANOTHER
What is true, Bible submission ? It is a two-way street submitting one to another in the fear of God. Eph. 5:21 We're to be polite, respectful and willing to lay aside personal human opinions and preferences to flow with others. The pastor will probably do more of this than the sheep so he can better serve them.
WHAT ABOUT CORRECTING FAULTS ?
How should a pastor deal with faults and shortcomings he sees in the lives of his flock? First by preaching and teaching God's Word, then by counseling God's Word when needed. God's Word and Spirit are given to bring us to maturity, not some man's concept of rebuking/correcting.
Just because we see a fault does not mean that we always need to say anything. We see faults and shortcomings in our children which only time and maturity will erase. This is normal because they are children and it would be cruel to expect them to act like adults. God allows his children elbow room to grow without crowding them and is very patient in dealing with faults, one area at a time.
God prefers to deal with us by the preaching/teaching of the Word which is profitable for reproof and correction. II Tim.3:16, so we can judge ourselves. As light dawns we can see our faults, we desire to overcome them and the truth acted upon makes us free.
If preaching/teaching and counseling the Word doesn't get the job done it is between the believer and God because that is as far as a pastor is called to go. He is not called to try to push, dominate or manipulate people into changing or cause them to fear him. That is how the devil operates and it can never produce life. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and profits nothing (Jn. 3:6, 6:63).
It is better if people come to the pastor when they need special help because then they are more likely to be ready to change. Going to them first puts them on the defensive and is not wise in most cases.
Occasionally someone may have a serious problem that is hurting him severely and effecting others adversely. Perhaps he is prone lo get feelings hurt over petty trifles, complaining to others and causing division among the brethren. Perhaps he is behaving in such a way as to offend others and then is sad and lonely because he has no friends. Perhaps he is interrupting the speaker and talking out-of-place in meetings, breaking the flow of the anointing and distracting others. After prayer a pastor may need to deal with this sort of thing, speaking to him privately if possible. We believe that public correction is rarely needed and then usually as a last resort in a severe situation.
If we really abide by the golden rule we will treat others as we would wish to be treated, with tact, diplomacy and understanding. It is not easy for anyone to receive direct, personal correction without feeling personally threatened and rejected unless it is saturated with genuine concern for his welfare and reassurance of his personal worth. Isn't this how Jesus corrects us? (So sweetly it does not even seem like a correction). We need to make sure this is our true attitude before we even approach someone for tactful correction. We must never be respecters of persons, either.
As pastors, God wants us to do our best to keep in line with I Cor.13 when we deal with his precious sheep so that our attitudes and dealings will reflect God's own attitude toward them. That is what we are here for: "Bear which means to endure or carry one another's burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ. . . " (Gal. 6:2)
ELDERS AND DEACONS
We certainly believe in elders and deacons because the Bible teaches both. In the Bible the word "elder" can apply to three different categories as we mentioned earlier. Elder can be used interchangeably with pastor or bishop when speaking of someone with a full-time, five-fold ministry office of leadership in the Church. The term elder can apply to believers who are spiritually older and more mature than others, or the word elder can simply mean those who are older in natural age.
A typical church would normally have all three. There would be the pastor (elder) who is responsible to God for guiding the Church. There would be more mature Christians (spiritually) who would help look after the younger and there would be older people in natural age. Deacons could be those with or without a five-fold ministry calling who have a full-time secular job for earning their living. We were taught that God appoints only one pastor as leader of the Church and that elders and deacons are raised up to assist him in the work. We see no scriptural foundation for full-time businessmen governing the Church and there is certainly no basis for elders or anyone else ruling the lives of the sheep as we have already explained in chapter one. A small, new church can function quite well with a pastor only, until it grows to the point that assistants are needed, and it takes time for God to raise up dependable helpers.
WHAT ABOUT CELL GROUPS?
Small fellowship groups flourished in the Charismatic Move before the days of Shepherdship. If used correctly for the right purpose, small groups can encourage people to pray for and minister to one another and can provide a friendly, small-group atmosphere to begin to encourage moving out in the gifts of the spirit. Cell groups are wrong when they are used to put people into submission to cell-group leaders so they can better rule their lives. The purpose makes all the difference.
SHOULD I STAY OR LEAVE?
Most Christians instinctively flee from Shepherdship error as soon as they realize it is not right, however, a few still hesitate to leave familiar surroundings.
Occasionally someone comes to us with this question: "I realize that my church is teaching Shepherdship error, but I love the people so much, don't you think I should stay in the group and try to help them see the light?" The Bible teaches only one thing, that we are to get out of serious doctrinal error and have no fellowship with those who remain in it. (Rom 16:17 and Tit.3:10) You can certainly pray for them and witness for the truth whenever you get an opportunity, you can't realistically expect to remain in an atmosphere of error and bondage yourself while hoping to win your friends into truth and liberty.
Anyone who has been in Shepherdship error themselves needs to get out and sit under good teaching in order to grow strong in the Lord and get the cobwebs of error cleared out of his own mind. He must become established in truth first, and only then can he really help others effectively.
LIBERTY OR LAZINESS?
If we do not teach Shepherdship. how do we get people to serve God in the Church? Will they not feel so free that they will get lazy and undependable? The Early Church and the Protestant Reformation did fine without Shepherdship doctrines, yet we do not want to encourage people to be lazy and undependable. Without commitment and discipline we can't get anything accomplished and we would be ruled by selfishness and our flesh. How fat would we get with no commitment in our homes, to our children, or on our jobs" Nobody needs lawless, undisciplined, unproductive freedom because that is just bondage to the flesh, moods and whims. The Bible makes it clear that we should be either in the full-time ministry ourselves, or we should be supporting someone else's full-time ministry (church) with our time, tithe and attendance. But we are to stay there only as long as God chooses, and be ready to follow Him wherever He leads.
CATCH THE VISION
God's plan has always been that we should preach the truth so that people can catch the vision of God's beautiful plan for their lives. They need to see that only as they find and fill their place in the Body of Christ will they find fulfillment in serving others. When they see what they could "be" and "do" for God they will desire to be faithful so that God can promote them little by little. There is nothing more exciting than effectively ministering to others in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and this can take many various forms. This is what we were created for, to walk in the good works which God has planned and ordained for each of us (Eph. 2:10). A clear vision of God's plan and purpose for us has to be the most inspiring, motivating force a Christian can experience. If we have to resort to putting people into bondage to get them to serve God we're all in the wrong business and we had better find it out the sooner the better!
WHAT ABOUT WIFE-SUBMISSION?
We believe that the scripture teaches that the husband is the head of the wife in the body-soul realm. Jesus is the only spiritual head of the wife, or anyone else in the Body of Christ. A wife should submit to her husband "as it is fit in the Lord.'' (Col. 3:18) If he asks her to do wrong she must humbly respectfully refuse and obey God rather than man. (Acts 5:29) Men are not the head of women in general, this only applies to marriage and the home. A husband is not to attempt to force his wife to submit, he is to love her (Eph. 5:25) and consider her wishes in a Christlike attitude, making it easy for her to support his leadership in the home as they both look to Jesus as their spiritual head to lead and guide them both into unity. For more information refer to Kenneth Hagin's book or tapes on "The Woman Question". If your problem is a lost or backslidden husband you might order our three (3) tape series by Judy House entitled "Survival and Success Guide For Unequally-Yoked Wives"