Spiritual Covering and Authority
It has been said that if we do not know our history then we are doomed to repeat it. This is true in the church as much as it is in the world. There were a number of distorted teachings from the Shepherding Movement that impacted the church in a negative way. Many of these doctrines have been popping back up in the church, and many leaders don't even know that these doctrines came from the Shepherding Movement. These teachings consisted of: spiritual covering, unhealthy spiritual authority, discipleship to man, unhealthy submission to personal shepherds, and covenant relationships.
The scripture is very clear that in the latter times some will depart from the faith giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1). It should raise a red flag with us when a doctrine is being taught that does not have a foundation in the word of God. I am not saying that the Lord cannot do or say something that is extra-biblical. I am saying that if a doctrine is being taught that is not in the scriptures, we must examine the scriptures very closely to test the doctrine. No doctrine should contradict the word of God.
The Shepherding Movement
A powerful movement that redefined much of the charismatic movement came into being around 1970. It is known as the Shepherding Movement. This movement began when four anointed teachers came together in a 'covenant relationship.' These men were Don Basham, Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, and Charles Simpson. Later, in 1975, they were joined by Ern Baxter. Teachings such as spiritual coverings, submission, and covenant relationships became widespread because of this movement. Much of what was taught, was spread like seed into the minds and hearts of young believers growing up spiritually during that time period. It was then passed on to the next generation of believers without them even knowing it came from the Shepherding Movement. Many leaders in ministry today have taken doctrine into their hearts that came straight from the shepherding movement and they don't even realize it.
The article's intent is not to discredit or dishonor the five teachers mentioned above. They each had powerful teaching ministries and were mightily used by God. I am sure that much good fruit came from their ministries. The intent of this article is to examine some of the errors and overemphasis in their teaching so at we will learn from their mistakes, and not follow down the same path. The Bible openly talks about the errors of those who went before us, for our own instruction.
'Spiritual coverings' have become a huge doctrine in the body of Christ. Many times leaders do not even teach on this doctrine, it is simply mentioned as a matter-of-fact. Therefore many in the church grow up spiritually, accepting this doctrine as Biblical truth. But where is this doctrine taught in the Bible? Where do the apostles talk about this doctrine in the letters to the churches? When does Jesus teach it in the gospels? I don't know, because I have not found it.
The scripture seems to be silent on the doctrine of spiritual coverings, yet man seems to be very knowledgeable on the subject. We must be very careful that we are not taking into our spirits the teaching of men as if it is the word of God. We must study these things to see if they are so before we simply believe them. If we do not keep this practice, we run a great risk of falling into deep deception in the coming days. It doesn't matter how 'famous' the leader is teaching the doctrine; we must always believe the word over 'their word.'
Charles Simpson wrote an article in 1972 in "New Wine" magazine titled 'Covering of the Lord.' It focused on the covering or protection provided by submitting oneself to God's delegated authority in the church (among other things). Don Basham stated in 'True and False Prophets' that "submission to spiritual authority provides the greatest spiritual protection anywhere available for Christian ministers and teachers." The movement taught that submission to a shepherd provided spiritual covering by being in right relationship to God's delegated authority in the church. This may sound really good, but where is this taught in the Bible? Surely apostolic doctrine would address such an important issue as this, so that there would not be any confusion in the church?
The first century apostolic church did not teach submission to man like the 21 century church in America teaches it. They taught submission to Christ. The first century church did not teach that leaders can provide a spiritual covering, because they understood that the Lord is the one who covers man. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalms 91:1 NKJV)
The word 'secret place' in the Hebrew means to cover, covering, hiding place, or protection. The Hebrew word for 'shadow' also means defense. So he who dwells under the covering of the Most High shall abide under the defense of the Almighty. The scripture does not tell us to dwell under the covering of man, but rather God. He is our covering and He is our protection. Let us examine the only New Testament scripture that addresses this issue of covering:
“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.
For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels." (I Corinthians 11:3-5, 7, 10 NKJV)
The head of every man is Christ. Leaders in the church are not the head of man. The head of every wife is her own husband (man/husband and woman/wife are interchangeable in the Greek). Every man who is ministering with his head (Christ) covered by another man, dishonors his head (Christ). Man should not cover his head (Christ) with the covering of man, because he is the image and glory of God. The image and glory of God must not be covered up by the covering of man, which is very disrespectful. The wife of a man must be covered by her husband's authority because of the angels, and because she is the glory of man. The glory of man must be covered, and the glory of God left uncovered. The glory of God (man) is covered by God Himself, not man. The glory of man (wife/woman) is covered by her husband. Please note that a man's wife is not to be covered by any other man other than her own husband.
In Ephesians 5:22-32, the scripture reveals to us that the marriage relationship between a man and a women is a spiritual parallel of Christ and His bride (the church). So in the context of coverings, and Christ and His bride, the head of every woman is man. The bridegroom is the head of His bride. The bride ought to have a (spiritual) symbol of authority on her head, because she is under her husbands covering. The only man who can cover a woman is the husband of that woman. Therefore, Christ is the only legitimate covering for His bride. No other leader can or should take Christ’s rightful place as the covering for His own bride. Any leader who tries to cover Christ’s bride with his/her own covering, is in a sense, attempting to take the bride for themselves. I wonder how Christ feels when leaders try to cover His bride for Him?
Covering and Deception
The current church has made an argument that states, "Being under a man's spiritual covering will protect you from deception." Actually the opposite is true as we will see. In the context of deception being released through antichrist spirits, John states: “These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” (I John 2:26-27 NKJV)
John states, by the Holy Spirit, that believers do not need another man to protect them from men who are trying to deceive. The believer does not need the protection or teaching of men to stay free from deception, because the anointing from God abides in the believer. The anointing teaches the believer all things concerning the truth and keeps the believer from the lies of men. However, when a believer is submitted to a man as their spiritual covering, deception can spread much easier. This is very evident in denominations. If the leaders of a denomination do not believe that Jesus currently heals people, then you will find that most believers sitting under their spiritual covering follow their belief system of deception. The same is true about the doctrine of God's judgment. I have witnessed whole movements in the charismatic church reject New Testament scriptures of God's judgment. Then as other leaders and believers come under the movement's covering, they follow suit into the same deceptive doctrine.
The Shepherding Movement formed coverings in order to protect 'the sheep,' but the covering actually had the opposite effect. The teachers created a movement of accountability to prevent one another from deception and sin. However the movement ended in deception and sin, the very thing they were trying to prevent. The deception trickled down to churches, leaders, and believers much easier because they were under their covering, and authority; and because they were submitted to them. People believed what they were taught without have a firm foundation in the scriptures. They were also afraid of questioning their spiritual authority, and didn't want to seem like they were not being submissive. With an environment like this, false doctrine can spread rapidly like gangrene through the body.
Submission and Discipleship
The Shepherding Movement taught that every believer needed to be submitted to the authority of a shepherd (pastor) and be discipled by them. There are great flaws in this line of thinking. Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Jesus was not telling his disciples to go make disciples for themselves. He was commanding them to make disciples of Himself. We should never be discipling people. We are to lead people into a discipling relationship with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit should be the only one discipling believers. He is the only one who can effectively do so. We can be there for believers to give counsel and wisdom, but we must not overstep our role. To do so can be very damaging to maturing believers.
True leaders will never require believers who are less spiritually mature to submit to their authority. Jesus told His apostles how they will conduct their leadership in the church: “Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” (Luke 22:24-27 NKJV)
Jesus made it clear to His leadership that they will not be 'throwing around' their apostolic authority in the church. They will not have an authority structure set up like the unsaved world. It would not be a chain-of-command system like the worldly military. Jesus drove it into His apostles that they would not lord their authority over believers, but they would use their governing authority to serve believers. Leadership is to raise up, mature, equip, empower, and release. The current church is formed mainly around the office of the pastor, in which the pastor is in charge of the church. This is not scriptural. This model is not much different from the priest driven Roman Catholic Church. This false model will change over the next years as the Lord releases His true apostolic ministry. Apostolic ministry will reform the church according to the word of God.
The 12 apostles were before Paul in the Lord and in the apostleship. James the Lord's brother, Peter, and John were the pillars of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). Yet it seems Paul was not under their spiritual covering. Paul publicly rebuked Peter for being a hypocrite (Galatians 2:11-14). How can you publicly rebuke someone whom you are under the covering of? Paul was submitted to the Lord, and the Lord was his covering. James the Lord's brother, Peter, and John were all submitted to the Lord. The Lord was their covering. Jesus was submitted to the Lord, and the Lord was His covering. John the Baptist was submitted to the Lord, and the Lord was his covering. Many will use the example of David submitting to Saul, but did David submit to Saul? If David was submitted to Saul, David would have never run away and hid from Saul. Saul's command and his will was not for David to run, but to stay and die. David disobeyed the will and desire of Saul. He was clearly not submitted to him. Disobedience to someone's will, regardless of what their will is, proves that one is not truly submitted. Jesus was willing to die, because He was submitted to His Father’s will.
One of the greatest rules in leadership is: never ask someone to do something that you don't do or wouldn't do yourself. Jesus doesn't ask us to do anything that He didn't do Himself. Leaders lead by example. There are some leaders who say they are submitted to a ministry and are under their spiritual covering. They then encourage the believers that attend their church to be submitted to them and be under their spiritual covering. Yet these leaders have very little contact with their own spiritual covering. In fact, many of these leaders don't even have access to their spiritual covering, and their covering has little to no knowledge about the leader's ministry. Many times this is because the leader who is the spiritual covering lives thousands of miles away, and does not have time for a real relationship with the leader. There is something seriously wrong with our current way of doing things.
Grace does flow from leaders to those who are connected with them spiritually. Grace flowed from Paul to Timothy, because Timothy was a spiritual son to Paul. It flowed from Moses to Joshua, because Joshua was a son. The Father and the Son are the model. Grace is released through the family relationship. It's not about the coverings of men and submission to men, it's about family. If you don't have continual direct access to a spiritual father, then he is not a spiritual father. If you don't have continual direct access to a spiritual son, then he is not a spiritual son. You have contact with your family.
Many leaders in the church would argue that one must be submitted and under a spiritual covering in order to be accountable. We must be accountable to someone so we will not fall into sin right? Being accountable to men will never keep us from sin. Being accountable to the Lord and knowing Him as the judge, is a very good deterrent from sinning. We must know the Lord's love and we must fear Him. When we know His love, we don't want to hurt the One we love by sinning. And when we have an understanding of the terror of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:11), we are afraid of what will happen if we sin. We need both. Many in the church do not have an understanding of the fear of the Lord. If we can see the Lord from an eternal perspective, we do not need to be accountable by men. If we have a revelation of the throne of judgment and our eternal rewards, we will not be given over to sin. We will do nothing to damage our relationship with Him, affect our eternal judgment, or hurt our eternal rewards. Accountability to man is not what is needed; what is needed is a revelation of Jesus Christ!
Many leaders would argue that we must be in accountability relationships in case someone falls into sin. Let me say that if we are in family relationships then spiritual family members will help in the horrible event of a moral failure. Spiritual fathers will act in love and understanding to fulfill the scripture (Galatians 6:1). If a leader does not have a spiritual father and falls into sin, and then continues on like nothing ever happened with no signs of repentance and restoration; the Lord is perfectly capable of dealing with that leader. The Lord can deal with leaders much better than we can. Just ask King David. The Lord is perfectly capable of exposing hidden sin in the life of a leader and seeing that they are removed from public ministry (1 Peter 4:17). Any leader who thinks they can get away with secret sin is sadly mistaken and does not have a revelation of the judgment of God. If you don't believe God still judges, then you probably do not have an accurate understanding of the fear of the Lord. This great deception has set many American leaders up for big public falls over the last years. Men who have people accountable to them cannot see the hidden sins in the hearts of others. But no one can fool the Lord. When the Lord does expose hidden sin, it is His mercy. He loves people too much to allow them to continue in unrepentant sin, which will eventually lead to the destruction of their soul (1 Corinthians 5).
Control and Covering
The covering doctrine can move very easily into the flesh, with control as the result. I once spoke to a person about a ministry opportunity and asked them if they would like to be apart of something I felt the Lord wanted to do. The person's first response to me was, "I need to be covered for this. I would like you to meet with my covering and talk to them first." Basically what the person was saying was, "I need my covering to make sure this is okay and then give me permission." There is something seriously wrong with this. Believers (who have been in Christ a while) must be mature enough to pray, ask the Lord, and hear Him for themselves. Then make a decision based on what the Lord says. Believers may need to even seek counsel from a more mature believer. That is completely scriptural. However, to have a spiritual covering give approval, permission, or make decisions for a believer is not scriptural. This is controlling and dangerous.
There is an overemphasis on submitting to the spiritual authority of men when it comes before submitting to the authority of God. Leaders over us should never be making decisions for us. The New Testament clearly teaches that we do not need a go-between. Man should not be coming between us and Christ. Allowing this to happen is sin. We must be able to hear the Lord for ourselves and obey Him, if we are to be effective for His kingdom. His sheep know His voice (John 10:3-4). The goal of leaders should be bringing people to maturity where they can hear the Lord for themselves and make decisions based on the voice of the Lord. Leadership should not be keeping people dependent upon themselves by having believers run decisions by them in order to get their permission and approval. Jesus Christ lives inside of us and it's His permission and approval that we need. John the Baptist understood this; Jesus' influence in people's lives was becoming greater and John's was lessening. This should be the goal of leadership. We should not be keeping people dependent upon ourselves, but rather making people dependent upon Christ.
Another doctrine that was made widespread during the Shepherding Movement was that of 'covenant relationships.' This began when the shepherding teachers all made covenant with each other in the early days of the movement, and later was broadcasted through their teaching. I will note that by around 1985, all of the teachers were no longer in close association with each other and their 'covenant relationship' had come to an end. This doctrine can be very dangerous. Whenever we make a covenant with someone, and then break that covenant; we are cursed with a curse. That is why Jesus said to let your yes be yes and your no be no. He didn't want us to fall under curses by swearing to do something, and then not being able to fulfill it. We can never fulfill covenants in our own strength. If the old covenant has taught us anything, it was that.
In the new covenant we do not make other covenants. Nowhere in the New Testament does the scripture tell us to make covenants with other believers. Covenant relationships are not scriptural. Of course there is the exception of marriage, which has existed since the beginning of man. We make a marriage covenant when two people our joined together. However we cannot fulfill that marriage covenant. It can only be fulfilled if we allow Christ to live through us and fulfill it for us. A fifty percent divorce rate in the church should show us that we cannot fulfill this covenant without Christ.
It is extremely unwise to make a covenant with another person unless the Lord directly tells you to do so. We can never put the Lord in a box, and the Lord may, in rare circumstances tell a believer to make a covenant relationship with another believer. If the Lord does this then He will release the grace to fulfill the covenant. If we make a covenant with another believer on our own, then we will not be given the grace to fulfill the covenant; just as the shepherding movement teachers could not fulfill their covenant. I have watched whole churches and small groups dissolve because they made covenant by a signed contract. This is not New Testament life, but rather Old Testament death.
When we fail to make good on a covenant that we have made, our lives become cursed. We must then deal with these curses and broken covenants by the blood of Jesus and through repentance. What would have happened if Paul and Barnabas would have made a covenant together? In the beginning of their ministry there were no signs that they would ever be separated. However a sharp division came at a certain point. If they have made a covenant relationship, then they would both have been cursed and the damage would have been much greater. We are in the new covenant so let us abide in it as the Lord does things through us. We must simply let our yes be yes and our no be no. Anything else is from the evil one.
True commissioning comes from the Lord, not man. A number of ministers are extremely vocal (under the guise of thankfulness) about who their covering is or who they are ordained by. These ministers love for others in the church to know which man or ministry they are ordained by, when the ministry is well known among men. This gives them more recognition in the sight of men. While it may be important for a ministry to be recognized and ordained among men, the true legitimacy and authority of a ministry comes from being ordained by Jesus Christ Himself.
Paul was not ordained by the spiritual authority of man or under the covering of man. The scripture makes it clear: “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),” (Galatians 1:1 NKJV). There will always be those ministers who boast in the flesh about their ordinations of men. And those who have truly been ordained by the Lord, will not need to boast. They know they carry the authority and backing of Heaven when they minister, so they don't have to try and make men believe in their human credentials.
Who raised up Moses and sent Him? God or man? Did man commission Elijah or did the Lord? John the Baptist carried around his ordination papers from the well known ministry that commissioned him, true or false? Or Did John move in the fire of the throne, and the proof of his ordination was demonstrated in the anointing that moved the multitudes to repent and be baptized? The Holy Spirit is the only one who can truly send out a messenger of Jesus Christ:
“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.” (Acts 13:1-4 NKJV)
Submitting to Spiritual Authority
“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17 NKJV)
“And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.” (I Thessalonians 5:12-13 NKJV)
The scripture is very clear that the five leadership gifts of Ephesians chapter four, do carry spiritual authority. We must obey the scriptures so we do not go into deception. The Lord will place us in ministries and put us in relationship with leaders. When He does this, it is important that we submit to Him and His word. He is our covering, and in order to stay under covering we must be walking with Him in obedience. If the Lord has placed a leader ‘over’ us, then we must submit ourselves to the Lord’s process.
True leadership is in submission to the Lord and under His government. Leadership should allow the Lord to govern the people through them, just as Moses did. The people in the congregation would then be under the government of the Lord, just as the leaders are. The leader should never be governing or ruling the people. The people should never be under the government of man. The Lord's will is for His people to be under His rule and His government. He is the King and we are all His subjects.
True leaders are under the control of the Holy Spirit. Leadership is not a position. It is organic, and a quality of spiritual life. Leaders who do not have an intimate relationship with Jesus, have nothing to offer believers regardless of their position or title. A true leader has been broken by the Lord to the point where their self-will is no more. They have been through the fire with Jesus Christ and they know His heart and will. Real leaders are content with only seeking the Lord in the secret place in order to know Him. They do not want or seek a position of authority. These leaders will only function as a leader if the Lord commands them to do so. Only when the Lord approves of leaders and commissions them to function as such, can a leader be safe and trusted. There are currently many leaders in the body of Christ who are functioning in a leadership position, yet they have never been commissioned by the Lord. These are leaders who have had a gifting and could be successful in ministry apart from the Lord's approval; or these are the leaders who got a degree at seminary, and took a position unto themselves. Believers should only be under the Lord's appointed leaders, and not the multitude of imposters that are currently functioning in the Church. God's appointed leaders will put the Lord's interests first, and not their own self-centered vision.
Leaders who are lording over the sheep will be judged. The false shepherds who are after their own things, building ministries unto themselves, and ruling God's people in an unrighteousness way; will be removed from their position of power as the Lord wills. The Lord will put His shepherds into place that will allow Him to rule His people through them.
“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”” (I Peter 5:5 NKJV). It is important for believers who are young in the Lord, or not spiritually mature, to be under godly leadership. Just as children are under their parent's authority until they are grown up, it is important for spiritual children to submit to spiritual elders until they are grown up spiritually. Leaders should be maturing spiritual children, and not keeping them in a place of spiritual immaturity. The more mature a believer is, the less they need the leader. Unfortunately many leaders keep believers in a place of spiritual immaturity in order to keep them under their influence and ministry. Even though the scripture does tell those who are less spiritually mature to submit to those who are more spiritually mature, it still says that we should all submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21).
I have seen a number of pastors who place a lot of emphasis on submitting to authority. I wonder if those same pastors would be willing to submit to apostolic leadership and apostolic authority in the region they live in? Or are they only interested in getting believers to be under their covering and submitted to them? Maybe these preach, but they do not practice. Please note that pastors who claim they are submitted to a minister who lives 1,000 miles away, when they have no personal contact with that minister; does not qualify for ‘being submitted’ to authority.
My wife and I went through a season of humbling ourselves and submitting to leaders who were not spiritually healthy. This was a very trying and difficult season for us, and it caused us much pain. Nevertheless, the Lord had a powerful purpose in this. He was dealing with our self-life, teaching us, and working maturity in us. If we had not listened to the Lord during this season, we would not be where we are today. The Lord’s ways are far above our ways and He is good.
Sometimes the Lord will only have us under a certain ministry for a season of time, and sometimes it will be for a long period of time. We must listen to the Lord and be willing to stay as long as He wants us to stay. We must also be willing to leave a ministry when He says it is time to leave. If we stay under a ministry when the Lord has told us it is time to depart, then we are in disobedience and violating the authority of our Head. I have seen believers stay in a church simply because they wanted to be ‘faithful’ or ‘honoring’ to the leadership. Sometimes believers stay in a ministry so they don't appear to be unfaithful or non-submissive. Our goal should never to be moved by human compassion or the perception of men. Our goal should be to be moved by the Lord, and walking in obedience to Him. If we are following the desires of men over those of the Lord, we are setting ourselves up for a spiritual shipwreck.
I have also been in a season where I was not under a certain leader in ministry. Sometimes the Lord will pull leaders away into a wilderness season of preparation much like He did with Joseph, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This means He will at times, do things the same way He has always done them. He must prepare some leaders in the wilderness alone, because if the current lukewarm church were to get her hands on these messengers; she would try and mold them into her own image. The Lord must prepare certain people away from the church in order to transform them into His image. These messengers will then go forth to the church to call the church to a higher level.
Legitimate leaders do not want to rule over people. Their heart is like that of Gideon. They desire the Lord to rule over His people: “Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.” (Judges 8:22-23 KJV). This is the kind of leadership that the Lord is looking for.
“Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name,” Romans 1:5 NKJV
Apostles are given authority to bring people into the obedience of the faith. This is not a authority that is lorded over believers, but it is used in love with the purpose of serving. Spiritual authority is also given to leaders to address sin in the church. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul addresses the church for allowing unrepentant sin to continue. He tells the church to “put away” the evil person from the church, and not to keep company with believers who are in unrepentant sin. Another aspect of true authority being exercised by leaders is the addressing of false doctrine. Paul publicly confronts the false teaching of two men in 2 Timothy 2:17-18. The Lord releases this authority to keep His body free from gangrene. Leadership possesses authority to bring believers to maturity and to see Christ formed in them. Leaders are also given grace to equip believers for the work of ministry.
Apostles can use their authority in an abrupt or sharp way if they absolutely have to (2 Corinthians 13:10), but it is never their desire to do so. True apostolic ministry does not want to use their authority for control, or claim to have dominion over believers (2 Corinthians 1:23-24). They simply want believers to become dependent on the Lord, and be transformed into His image.
Submission to False Authority
The church in Corinth was somewhat carnal, and therefore they responded positively to carnal leadership and false spiritual authority. Paul addresses the issue of the church receiving false apostles and accepting their soulish ministries:
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
Seeing that many boast according to the flesh, I also will boast. For you put up with fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise! For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face.” (II Corinthians 11:13, 18-20 NKJV)
The current church in America has given itself over to some of the same sins as the church in Corinth did. We value gifting more than character and fruit of the Spirit. We celebrate and cling to the giftedness of vessels, more than those who have a deep intimate relationship with the Lord. We value power over the secret place, therefore we are attracted to those ministries who focus on healing and miracles over those ministries who focus on knowing the Lord. We should have healing and miracles, but to know Him is much greater.
I have been in meetings where the ministers only talk about themselves, their ministry, their visions, their prophetic words, their anointing, how many people they have healed, and all of the other leaders they are connected with who have a lot of influence. Christ and the life of the cross are rarely, if ever, mentioned in their messages. This is what Paul was referring to when he said, “if one exalts himself.” There are currently many people in the charismatic church who tolerate this kind of immature and soulish leadership. Thankfully many people are waking up and things will change in the days ahead.
True leadership points to Christ and not itself. True leadership exalts Christ, and not itself. True leadership has been crucified with Christ and is no longer living, because Christ is living through it. We must have the maturity and discernment to recognize the real from the false (Hebrews 5:14). The Lord will always allow the false to continue in order to test the hearts of believers. We can have what we want: Christ or the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (which is desirable to our natural souls).
The Order of Church Leadership
“And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.”(I Corinthians 12:28 NKJV)
The structure of the current church is centered around the ministry of the pastor. In most cities, the movement of the church is controlled by the leadership of the pastor. This current model is out of order from the scriptures, and the church will never enter into fullness by continuing down the same path we have been on. Pastors are absolutely crucial and a necessary part of maturing and equipping the saints (Ephesians 4). But the point is that pastors are a ‘part’ of the leadership, not the whole. The ministry of a pastor alone will never bring the church into fullness. The ministry of a pastor alone can never properly lead the church in a city. The city church must have apostles and prophets operating in it.
The scripture says that God has appointed first apostles and second prophets in the church. Note that the scripture says ‘in’ the church not ‘over.’ This does not mean that believers should not sit under the authority and grace that flows from apostles and prophets. But it does mean that apostles and prophets are serving in the church by laying foundations. Each city church (or regional church) must be built upon foundations of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20-22). Pastors or teachers do not have the necessary authority to lay the foundations in which the church is built upon. Living stones must have a living foundation laid by living apostles and prophets. Every city or regional church must have their own apostles and prophets. A visiting apostle or prophet can never lay the foundations that are needed to properly build the church in that area. Only God’s design and order in 1 Corinthians 12:28 can ensure that the church will come into fullness and maturity. This does not mean that apostles and prophets are better than pastors and teachers. It is simply a matter of function by the design of God.
Apostles are declared by scripture to be first among leadership in the church. If we would like to see the 21 century church be all that she is called to be, apostles will have to take leadership of city or regional churches. This could be an issue since pastors are currently leading the churches in most regions throughout America. Pastors may be threatened by the restoration of apostolic authority, because they will no longer be first in the church. However, true pastors who are walking in humility and obedience to the scriptures will submit to the Lord and His word. The first century pastors demonstrated this kind of humility, and I am confident the 21 century pastors will as well. The only way we will have the change that we long for in the church, is to submit to the Lord’s will and allow Him to restore in the church; first apostles, second prophets, and third teachers.
I will write briefly about my journey in the church to help impart a better understanding of how the Lord (our covering and head) leads us and guides us. When my wife and I were fairly immature believers and growing in the basic things of the Spirit; the Lord had us at a small church for a two and a half year season. Towards the end of this season some problems arose in the church leadership in regards to holiness and purity. My wife and I knew our season there was coming to an end. However, when we did leave the congregation I did not handle it in the right way. This was mainly due to immaturity. I was submitted to the Lord in His direction for us, but I was not submitted to Him in how I addressed the leadership. This failure initiated a season of correction and loving discipline from the Lord (Hebrews 12). He is quite capable in dealing with us when we depart from His will. And He is a good Daddy.
The Lord had my wife and I at another church for just over a year. The leadership at this church was very controlling and hurtful to a number of people within the congregation. My wife and I attempted to draw near to the spiritual leadership by the direction of the Lord. After a year of opening our hearts, we could see clearly that all of our efforts had failed. We were hurt and wounded. Hurt leaders hurt others. The Lord spoke to me clearly saying, “You have learned all that you need to learn here. If you stay longer you will simply be hurt more. Damage will be done that is not necessary.” Our time was up at that congregation, but the Lord had taught us much.
In December of 2013, I met Val Munson of Spiritfire Global Ministries. The Lord began to knit our hearts together during our very first meeting. Over time our relationship became that of spiritual family. My wife and I have been connected to Val and his wife since that time. They have been a blessing and an encouragement to us. I have learned much from Val, from simply how he has treated me. Val has always treated me as an equal and not like child. He has valued me and respected me. He is very free and allows me to be who God has called me to be. He has never tried to form me into his image or control me. Because of his maturity and leadership, I have opened myself to him. I have received counsel, wisdom, and direction from him. Nothing in our spiritual relationship has even been forced. It has been smooth and natural. Val has never asked me to submit to him, or be under his authority and spiritual covering. Nevertheless I am open to anything he needs to tell me or speak into my life. I do at times, ask for his counsel. We have a relationship of mutual respect and honor. This is how spiritual relationships should be in regards to believers and leadership.
Val has demonstrated to me the nature of the Lamb. Jesus is loving and kind in dealing with us. He does not commission His leaders on the earth to be authoritarian or chain-of-command like. He commissions them to serve. Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light. His leaders should be leading with the same mindset. Believers are not possessions of leaders, they are possessions of the Lord. Believers have the same Spirit of Jesus in them that leaders do, and they can go directly to Jesus themselves. They don't need a go-between.
The following is taken from Rick Joyner’s book, “The Path.” There is much we can learn from this Heavenly wisdom: “My reason for being so transparent is because I have a job to do; to get these people through the wilderness. They will only make it by their faith in God, not me. I know there is a certain trust they must have in me as God’s provision for them at this time, but my goal is to get them to the place where they do not need me.”
“My goal here is not leadership. I did not ask for this position nor want it. This is an assignment that I am honored to have, but it is a duty. My purpose is to grow in Christ like everyone else here. Did He not lay down His life and give His leadership to others? I want to be the best leader I can be for His sake and for their sakes. My purpose is not to be the leader, but getting them through this wilderness. I will quickly defer to anyone who can do a better job at this than me with, of course, the approval of the One who is the leader of us all. Sometimes the greatest leadership can be to know when to give up the leadership and follow.”
“To be a leader is a very shallow goal. Getting to the mountain (of the Lord) with all who have been entrusted to us is the goal. I do not want to let anything, even my own place, eclipse that purpose.”
“John’s (the Baptist) whole purpose was to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. Then he directed them to follow the Lord even though it meant that they would leave him. He was willing to decrease as the Lord increased, because this meant that he fulfilled his purpose. We are not here to build our authority in people. We’re not here to make people our disciples, but to make them His disciples.”
True leadership is not manipulating and controlling. Leadership in the kingdom is free and empowering. Once the Lord’s apostolic and prophetic leadership is restored in the church, the church will come into her glorious destiny. These ministries were taught by the Lord in the wilderness and they know their function. They are the friends of the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom does not stand between the bride and the bridegroom. The friend stands beside the bridegroom, and rejoices to see the bride and bridegroom in close proximity to each other. The friend loves hearing the bride speak to the bridegroom and the bridegroom speak to the bride. True leadership’s joy is made full in witnessing this interaction.
- Ty Unruh (2015)