The adulterated concept of "spiritual covering" itself is problematic enough (for more on that subject, read the previous two posts). Yet, its negative effect is increased by the fact that it is the predicate for several other, related elements of error comprising the heretical Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines and practices, one of which is the matter of "personal pastors." Indeed, this element has been the basis for at least as much excess, errancy, and authoritarian abuse as the others discussed in this series of articles concerning those doctrines and practices. To those who employ these practices for sordid purposes or with less than pure motives, the perverted concept of "spiritual covering" is license for a most insidious kind of unauthorized personal domination and control of their subjects under the auspices of this very delusive and destructive version of "personal shepherding."As with most other elements of error with these and other false doctrines, this particular component is the result of perversion and adulterization of a valid Truth. The essence of the erroneous concept of "personal shepherding" is that because the spiritual leader, along with the entire chain of leaders emanating from him, provides and in effect IS the "spiritual covering" for his followers (which we have already shown to be a false hypothesis), the leader has not only the right, but also the duty to interlope into the private and personal affairs of the lives of the members of the group. In essence, the leader becomes the equivalent of tribal chief to the group, whose final approval members of the tribe must have for most every important transaction and decision in their lives, with some variability depending on the particular group and leader. In many cases, members must receive authorization from the leadership for the most mundane matters in their lives, including financial matters and purchasing decisions, matters of career and employment, housing, family, friends, social and educational matters, and just about every segment of the members' lives.
Now, of course there is a very valid role of shepherdship that Fivefold Shepherds (and all Fivefold ministers are under-shepherds, not just pastors) are indeed ordained by the Lord to fulfill on behalf of the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4), Jesus. Indeed, Chapter Eight is wholly devoted to delineating the rightful role of Fivefold ministers as elucidated by the Word of God to the extent that it relates to the errors of the Discipleship teachings. The meaning of the word "shepherd" is to feed and care for, to lead and to guide, and that is the crux of what Fivefold shepherds are to provide on behalf of Christ unto the sheep of God's Fold.
As I have repeatedly indicated in various ways, what is involved in the case of the Discipleship/Shepherding teaching and practices, unfortunately, is a bastardization of the shepherding principle. And the core of that corruption is that proponents and practitioners of this teaching "exceed what is written" by trying to impose their leadership authority and responsibility in the natural realm rather than limiting it to the spiritual realm. Corruption and counterfeiting of the genuine and true is one of Satan's favorite and most effective strategies. He attacks the manifestation of Truth by polluting it with subtle deception, excesses, and error. The result is mixture, and the product of mixture is confusion. Confusion in turn opens the door to further demonic incursion. Demonic incursion produces discreditation, and discreditation leads to the ultimate objective of the wiles of the devil — rejection of valid Truth. Most of Satan's evil machinations are predicated on this multi-part strategy.
Exceeding the God-ordained scope and sphere of ministry offices is one of the most common forms of error in the Church today. It is absolutely vital for every minister to understand that the context and sphere of his shepherding is limited primarily to the spiritual. While Fivefold ministers may occasionally be able to proffer some inspired or experiential counsel and advice even regarding natural matters, their foremost calling and enablement is to feed, care for, lead, and guide the sheep of God's Flock spiritually and in relation to spiritual matters, not so much natural affairs. We are charged by God with the responsibility to feed His sheep spiritual food, to care for them with the spiritual wherewithal of the Holy Spirit, to lead them unto the one and only true Rock of their Salvation and Provider, Jesus, and after the pattern given us by the Chief Shepherd (Ps. 23) we are to guide them "in the paths of righteousness," which is, the Way, Truth, and Life of Jesus.
[Addendum, 2008: How critical the discussion of this Truth is today in the first decade of the 21st Century, when hundreds, if not thousands, of purporting preachers are now misusing the God-ordained sphere of their ministry offices promoting themselves as get-rich gurus, wealth wizards, life coaches, securities sages, investment instructors, profit prophets, and all kinds of other demonically-inspired claims to specialized insight under the auspices of the Holy Spirit. All this absurdity is a bastardization of the ministry that is bringing discreditation and disgrace upon the good offices of the Fivefold Ministry! It is absolute BLASPHEMY against the Holy Spirit, from whom these unscrupulous, self-seeking, greedy charlatans purport to be receiving their inspiration for their avaricious ambitions at the expense of God's Flock! This is nothing more than money-changers in the Temple, and I for one, am OUTRAGED by it all and refuse to sit quietly and passively as these purveyors of poisoned waters perpetrate their diabolical schemes of sorcery a la Simon the sorcerer who was "claiming to be someone great," performing his MAGIC ARTS and seducing the "smallest and the greatest" among the people of Samaria into calling him "The Great Power of God," and "giving him attention (lit., deference afforded deity) because he had for a long time astonished them with his MAGIC ARTS" (Ac. 8:9-11). All of this is nothing but SORCERY of the highest order! The same kind of sorcery employed by Simon the Sorcerer, Elymas the Magician (Ac. 13:6-12), and the slave girl "who was bringing her masters much profit by her fortunetelling," whose masters, after the Apostle Paul cast the spirit of divination out of her, became enranged when they "saw that their hope of profit was gone, seized Paul and Silas and dragged them through the market place before the authorities," who proceeded to order that they be beaten with rods and threw then into prison and placed thm in shackles (Ac. 16:16ff). I prophesy to you that God is about to bring judgment upon this whole matter and every person claiming to be a "minister" or "prophet" who refuses to repent from all this witchcraft being perpetrated upon the people of God in the name of the Lord and the Holy Spirit! The same righteously indignant Jesus who wielded the whip in the Temple in Jerusalem to drive out the money-changers 2,000 years is about to wield His whip of judgment once more to drive the modern-day money-changers from the Church He is building! Mock this word at your own peril, Preachers and pundits of perdition alike!]
When a minister routinely goes beyond the God-set, albeit, invisible, boundaries of his calling and purview of authority, which is the limitation of the spiritual realm primarily, and habitually interlopes into the natural, physical realm, interposing his own will in the ordinary private matters of his followers' lives, he is engaging in unsanctioned usurpation and illegitimate authority. In the process, he also leaves behind his legitimate duties, responsibilities, and sanctioning from God as an under-shepherd, as well as his effectuality. To take it a step further, a minister who engages in this sort of imposition and usurpation has essentially taken on the role, totally illegitimately, of the husband/father/head of those households and families over which he has imposed his authority; for, as the Scripture delineating true "spiritual covering" (1 Cor. 11:3-16) indicates, the role of headship (i.e., government or leadership) of a household or family in the natural, has been assigned by God to the husband/father of that house.
Another term for this illegitimate interloping and usurpation into another man's domain of authority is — "spiritual adultery." Now to some this attribution will seem to be overkill and a bit melodramatic. Yet, in light of Scripture, it is neither. This is precisely what leaders who engage in these practices are engaging in — spiritual adultery. Allow me to explain.
God said the head of every woman is her husband, and every woman, at least every Born Again woman, has a husband, even those who are widowed, divorced, or never-married. Born Again women who for whatever reason do not have a physical husband with whom they are living are joined to and one with the Ultimate Husband — Jesus Himself (1 Cor. 6:17), the effectuality and efficacy of which fact is determined by the degree of each unmarried woman's receptivity and faith in that fact. When a person other than the legitimate husband/head of a house invades the sanctity of that household by illegitimately interposing his own will and authority upon the woman of that house, that constitutes spiritual adultery. No person, man or woman, including ministers, is authorized to intrude into a household in this fashion.
It is with regard to this very sort of illegitimate authoritarian "home-invasion" that one particular New Testament passage alludes and admonishes with especial attribution to the "last days" in which we are now living:
But realize this, that in the last days there will set in perilous times of great stress and trouble — hard to deal with and hard to bear. For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self- centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate (greedy) desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffers), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane. [They will be] treacherous (betrayers), rash [and] inflated with self-conceit. [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God. For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it — their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession. AVOID [ALL] SUCH PEOPLE — TURN AWAY FROM THEM. FOR AMONG THEM ARE THOSE WHO WORM THEIR WAY INTO HOMES AND CAPTIVATE SILLY AND WEAK-NATURED AND SPIRITUALLY DWARFED WOMEN, LOADED DOWN WITH [THE BURDEN OF THEIR] SINS, [AND EASILY] SWAYED AND LED AWAY BY VARIOUS EVIL DESIRES AND SEDUCTIVE IMPULSES. [These weak women will listen to anybody who will teach them]; they are forever inquiring and getting information, but are never able to arrive at a recognition and knowledge of the Truth. Now just as Jannes and Jambres were hostile to and resisted Moses, so THESE MEN ALSO ARE HOSTILE TO AND OPPOSE THE TRUTH. THEY HAVE DEPRAVED AND DISTORTED MINDS, AND ARE REPROBATE AND COUNTERFEIT AND TO BE REJECTED AS FAR AS THE FAITH IS CONCERNED....BUT THEY WILL NOT GET VERY FAR, FOR THEIR RASH FOLLY WILL BECOME OBVIOUS TO EVERYBODY, as was that of those [magicians mentioned]. (2 Tim. 3:1-9, AB)
I have alluded already to the fact that these false concepts of "spiritual covering" mixed with the "absolute submission" concept makes for an extremely poisonous and potentially lethal rue, which almost invariably eventuates into various forms of authoritarian abuse that frequently entail some kind of illicit sexual exploitation. This, of course, by Bible-definition, is physical fornication and sexual adultery, which obviously is utterly sinful and damning, not to mention the horrendous natural and spiritual consequences such abominable abuse and exploitation engender. Nevertheless, though it may be hard to imagine, the fact is that in these situations where leaders illegitimately interlope into the private affairs of their followers, usurping the role of the husband, even in those cases in which no physical fornication and sexual adultery have yet occurred, the "spiritual adultery" that has been committed is even more heinous and abominable and will produce even graver consequences, both spiritually and in the natural. The reason spiritual adultery of this nature is such a grievous offense to God is that it is His authority, albeit, intermediated in the case of the married woman by a human husband, that is being usurped. The true spiritual Husband is Christ, and it is His betrothed that is being assailed when one of His sheep is abused and exploited. Thus, spiritual adultery carries with it an even greater judgment than sexual adultery.
Abhorrent as it is, that these Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines and practices constitute spiritual adultery, there is yet another offense they abet which in terms of gravity may even surpass spiritual adultery. In addition to spiritual adultery, adherents and practitioners of this false theosophy are also fostering and participating in "spiritual idolatry" as well.
These doctrines are idolatrous for two related reasons. One, because they lead people away from the objective of whole and complete trust in God alone as the ultimate Source of supply of all things. And, two, because in addition to leading people away from trust in God, they also lead people to put their faith, hope, and trust in mere flesh and bone human leaders for the things God insists we look to Him for, many of the particulars of which I have already addressed.
[Read entire article: Spiritual Idolatry]
[For more on the detrimental effects of submitting yourself under the spiritual coverings of men, I urge you to read The Curses of Unauthorized Covenants.]
[Editor's note: This article is adapted from the book, CHARISMATIC CAPTIVATION, by Steven Lambert. The book exposes the widespread problem of authoritarian abuse in Neo-Pentecostal church-groups, and explains how it became infused into the very fabric, foundation, and functions of the Neo-Pentecostal church arising out of a false movement known as the Discipleship/Shepherding Movement (1970-77). ]