This is one of the most important and most controversial chapters in the recent history of the church. If you are charismatic, then whether you know it or not, your church and movement were impacted by either accepting or rejecting Shepherding teachings.

Here is the basic context. At the height of the cultural revolution of the 1960s, some hippies started getting saved. Soon, through the powerful anointing on Lonnie Frisbee and the organizational skills of Chuck Smith, this became a major movement now known as the Jesus People or Jesus Movement. The Spirit of God literally swept the youth of the nation from coast to coast as kids who had left their parents for “freedom” found it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. 

In this context, a group of older, more experienced charismatic ministers came together to bring a corrective. The occasion of their meeting was a moral failure of a ministry in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Believing themselves to be equally vulnerable to moral failure apart from better accountability they mutually submitted themselves to one another. When this happened, they described themselves as having a supernatural experience binding their ministries together for life. Initially the group was made of Derek Prince, Don Basham, Bob Mumford, and Charles Simpson. Eventually, former Branham campaign manager Ern Baxter was added to the group, and they became known as “The Fort Lauderdale Five.”

The five very talented men immediately began to teach on authority, submission and discipleship. Although there were a number of important doctrines, the central doctrine—the one that reshaped the church—was that every person must be submitted to another person (Shepherd/Pastor/Discipler), and that all of your major life decisions should be submitted to this person. Effectively, if unintentionally, this put the individual in the position of having two masters– Jesus and a personal shepherd. With time the personal shepherd gains more power, as Jesus gets less. And in time, this creates a system where those who have unquestioning obedience to man are promoted. All kinds of ungodly things came in through these doors. Several books have been written detailing the kinds of abuse suffered as a result. The scary thing about the whole system is that it started out with the intent of promoting accountability, and eventually enslaved people.

When someone says “Who is your covering?” They are asking the basic Shepherding question. Ironically, Jesus was asked this same question by the Pharisees: “By what authority do you do these things?” His ministry was not submitted to them, and they didn’t like that so they tried to shut him down, but the work of the Spirit was the validation of His ministry. Paul deals with the issue more theologically when he says “the head of woman is man, the head of man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God.” The covering for a man of God is Christ himself, and the covering for a (married) woman is her husband.

The second dangerous doctrine had to do with “Covenant” relationships or “Spiritual Family.” If being absolutely submitted to another person was an imprisonment, then the covenant relationship was the iron padlock on the door. The idea here is that when you enter into these discipleship relationships, they are permanent, and more broadly that your association with a specific group of believers is permanent. You were in a “Covenant” and if you left the relationship or the fellowship group, you were breaking a covenant. This quickly becomes a very dangerous situation: no matter how terrible your experience becomes with a group or person, you can not leave, and if you do, you believe that you’ve broken a covenant with God, so to get right with God you’d have to go back to the abuse! You slowly become enmeshed with the other members of the group and separated from the outside world. Your “spiritual family” becomes more important than your natural family or other believers you’ve had relationship with. You slowly become more and more isolated and more and more dependent upon the group or leader. At a certain point if your leaders do not check the pattern, it becomes a full fledged cult. Normally, however this pattern is held in tension with Biblical expectations so these groups rarely become true cults, while still exhibiting cult-like features. Scary.

After a couple of years, the fruit of these doctrines became obvious to those outside of the movement such as Jack Hayford, Pat Robertson, Demos Sharkarian and others, and they confronted the “Five” in the infamous “Shootout at the Curtis Hotel,” in 1975. The result was that the Five issued an “apology” which did not really represent repentance on their part. They rejected the excesses of some who had followed their teachings to their logical conclusions, without accepting that the doctrines they were teaching had been the direct cause.  Their persistence created a split in the charismatic movement between those who accepted the authority teaching, and those who did not.

This split is still evident today but under different names. No one dares be associated with the “Shepherding Movement” by name because it was so discredited.  But many still believe in the basic principles to some degree or another, and find support in classic authors such as Watchman Nee. The “Prophetic” stream of the church became the branch of the church that did not accept authority teachings, and the “Apostolic” branch became that which did. The tragedy is that the basic observations of the Five were correct (i.e. need for discipleship, accountability) but their solution of hierarchical personal submission was not. Therefore the “prophetic” stream still tends to reflect the lack of authority that the rebellious hippies brought into the church through the Jesus Movement. Chaos in the meeting is welcomed and even praised as spiritual, and generally everyone does their own thing, hears from God totally in isolation, etc. On the other hand, those with the Shepherding heritage value “order” over all else. While they speak in tongues and claim to be charismatic, often in practice, the gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy are not welcomed, because order is valued over the moving of the Spirit.  Or prophecy can only come through an established authority in the church hierarchy.

In summary, the Shepherds were right right to raise the issue of authority, but they were wrong about submission to other men. Christ is Lord of all, and each should be in submission to Him by the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  Because we need order and peace, we should submit to those who lead ministries over us just like we would to our bosses at work.  But this is far different from owing them allegiance in our personal or spiritual lives. And when we come to the place where following them violates our conscience, it’s time to move on.

52 thoughts on “The Shepherding Movement

  1. Very concise essay here with lots of info. Let’s make a list of Shepherding lines we’ve heard, too, just for practicality’s sake! (since we have heard several different stories now, with similar elements.)

  2. This summed up the troubles of this movement very well. As you indicate the “repentance” did not seem truly real and this movement just went underground. My father started a small bible study in Seattle in 1969 that was greatly influenced by these teachings. It has bloomed into an ultra authoritative aberrant home-based church and has now begun a radio broadcast. this church has been effectively underground, and off the radar, for nearly forty years. It has left many broke people in it’s wake. I am documenting the history; from a personal perspective; of this church called “The Assembly of the Body of Christ” on the web at ABC History Thanks for writing about this and adding yet another voice to make people aware.

  3. As someone who was saved into a ‘Covenant Ministries’ church, and the title may give some indication of what side they were on I have seen the bad side of the shepherding movement. I have also however seen the upside, when this has been done in a Father first way through prayer nt not DO THIS.. DONT DO THAT way.

    I have been discipled since the hour i was saved and it has been one of the biggest aids to my walk with Jesusover the years. I have been fortunate to have had very Godly men disciple me during these times. Not with a heavy hand but with love and care.

    Today I am part of a New Frontiers International Church in the UK which is’Apostolic and prophetic” the two can mix with a light tough and eyes firmly on Father not man.

    However I do know many who were and still are badly damagedby the ‘HEAVY SHEPHERDING’ as we caled it in the UK.

  4. Beattherrum, thanks, I always enjoy your comments. You know this post is not an attack on discipleship per se, but more specifically two doctrines that came out of the shepherding movement. I think that a healthy form of discipleship is important to the church — so the question becomes partly what ideas separate the redemptive process, and the “HEAVY SHEPHERDING.” I believe that each believer has one Lord, and so personal (rather than functional) submission to anyone else creates a conflict. It’s really more about being able to be humble and be taught. Now that I’m out of the Shepherding system, I find that other people seek me out for advice and I am able to help. At the same time, when I need advice I seek it out. Instead of “meet with me and I’ll give you advice”

    Also, may I say that the United States has a very non-hierarchical culture, and I think things were a lot worse here. So I think Americans were a bit more reactionary with the doctrine. Regardless, I think that there were specific doctrinal reasons that it created problems, and the two biggest are the ones I list in this post.

  5. Thank-you for this helpful article about a movement with which I am well familiar. I wasn’t searching for this subject but somehow came across your article tonight. 1 question and 1 comment if you have time.

    – re: ‘The “Prophetic” stream of the church is the branch of the church that did not accept it, and the “Apostolic” branch are those that did.’ Can you expound, perhaps with some particular examples? This is the only thing unclear to me from your article.

    – My observation is that the “shepherding” emphasis has been with us for 2000 years, or actually longer since it shows up in the Tenach as well. (more on this some other time maybe). If you want to know what the true foundation of a local church is, look at what the leadership asks of you when you become a fully engaged “member” (or equivalent term denoting full acceptance and participation in the church). What is the commitment, covenant, or confession required? To whom is it directed? There is a huge functional affinity on this point between churches otherwise vehemently opposed to one another — many hard-core anti-charismatic, many wildly charismatic, and many even-keeled evangelical churches share this foundation of some kind of commitment, membership covenant, or confession to a church’s leadership. This is true at least in the U.S., and it is true of most churches here that would categorically reject “shepherding” as such.

    The Lord Jesus has of course placed people in positions of “authority” in the church as a whole, as well as in particular churches, and we all do well to find them and recognize them. These are often not the people in “official” positions of leadership in a local church, however, which is the rub. We believers who are joined to the Lord are also “members of one another,” whether we like it or not, and whether some church says we are or not. What is weird to me is the continuation in the 21st century of this age-old emphasis on what is in effect a second covenant, a circumcism of the flesh if you will, that substitutes for the works (and workers) of the Holy Spirit. In Paul’s day it was the law of Moses. In ours, recognition of church leadership (or often ownership) requiring some sort of personal proclamation of submission in order to fully “join.” It is encouraging, however, that recently true leaders in the Body of Messiah are saying things such as, “a primary emphasis on wineskins rather than wine, should be avoided.” And, “find a “home group where the Spirit is moving and join it.” More and more people are walking away from anything that restricts the liberty of the Spirit in meetings of believers. Nevertheless the leaven of the “covering” doctrine in all its manifestations remains pervasive. It’s simply flesh v. the Spirit, I think, and this is spiritually discerned.

  6. Surely it depends on peoples views of Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

    Which is where a lot of this stems from. What are your understandings of it?

  7. F James — While I agree that there have been tendencies to lord over the sheep throughout church history, the Shepherding movement was a distinct doctrinal example I wanted to discuss. I do believe in leadership and governance of the church, and that the wineskins are in fact critical to the pouring out of the wine. The issue is the theory and method of that leadership, not the leadership itself.

    Drum – “Obey” is contextual. It means that you have to follow the leaders of the church in the church. It does not mean that they have authority of your conscience, or personal behavior.

  8. Frank Viola’s new book, “Reimagining Church” discusses the shepherding/covering teaching in great depth. “Reimagining Church” is the sequel to “Pagan Christianity” which was authored by George Barna and Frank. “Reimagining Church” is a detailed theology of organic church, over 300 pages. Endorsements by Leonard Sweet, Shane Claiborne, Alan Hirsch, Tony Dale, Felicity Dale, Jon Zens, John White, Rad Zdero, and others. You can read a sample chapter at http://www.ReimaginingChurch.org

    The book is also available on Amazon.com

  9. Is there a current list of sheparding churches? Is the Vineyard Church one of them? I have just come out of a very bad Sheparding experience at Radiant Life Church in Sacramento California.

  10. Hebrews 13:17

    Can you elaborate more on the correct interpretation of these verses?

    Especially “Obey” “Submit” “Give account”

    How would this be applied today in the church and personal lives correctly?

  11. Also, what scriptures can we find about ‘covering’ as it applies to a ministry and how does this relate to our relationship with authorities in our lives (ie. ‘shepards’/pastors/leaders)?

    For example, how important is it for a para church organization to be under a ‘covering’ of a church or other such authority (other than Jesus Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit)?

    1. I agree they’re great questions. I would like, if I may, to comment on the church / para-church question and the need for organisations [UK spelling 😉 ] to be “under a covering”. Because it seems to me that the whole church/para-church distinction is simply the clergy/laity distinction writ large.

      The traditional five-point definition of a valid church (a group of christian believers, calling themselves a church, with qualified leaders, rightly preaching the gospel, rightly administering the sacraments) was not handed down to Moses, nor to the Twelve, nor to Paul. It was devised by the reformers. And to be fair, they needed something like it given the huge social, political and theological upheavals of the time. But our own historical context is completely different.

      We all believe in one Lord and one body – THE church. In the light of this, we surely need to take a hard and honest look at what we mean by “A church”. A group of believers come together, for one purpose or another, under the authority of Jesus Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit. In due season it produces good fruit. What part of this is not good enough for us? Are there really elite groupings within the church that are authorised by the Holy Spirit to say to others, we’re a valid church, but you’re not, therefore God cannot use you and the devil has carte blanche to get you; you must come under our covering and authority before we will recognise you? That’s effectively to say, Jesus can only build his church through certain appointed denominations or theological tribes. Which is similar to the classical heavy shepherding claim that God can only speak to you through a certain appointed person.

      I know this is a huge and much-debated issue, and I’m leaving a lot unsaid in an effort to stay brief and on topic. But I believe all sub-groups of the [one and only] church in a given region are either being built by Jesus – in which case, they are authentic expressions of the church – or built by men and women, in which case they are at best imitations that will probably fizzle and produce nothing. An authentic expression will, surely, be known by its fruit – for a start, shouldn’t we expect that the gates of hades will not prevail against it? I do not believe that Jesus is today constrained by the reformers’ five-point definition, and so I do not believe in a hierarchy of second-class para-church groups that must be governed by first-class valid-church groups. Rather, surely, all groups of believers should continually examine their own fruitfulness, and diligently seek the Holy Spirit’s leading, whilst at the same time actively building relationships with other groups and practicing the command to give preference to one another in honour.

      1. Nick, Thanks very much for your comment. As someone who has a home fellowship now in my house and has also done established church leadership, and as some who has been both an insider and outsider in the whole shepherding deal, I would say that God does establish real leaders in the church, and they qualify themselves over long periods of serving His people. I didn’t realize how hard being a “pastor” was until I tried that shoe on my own foot, which has given me a great deal more respect for all church leaders.

        I think that the reformation definition has good merit to in in that regard, although I also agree that “para-church” may not be as helpful of a definition today as it was in the 20th century. Right now my team and I are doing a “para-church” ministry and our home fellowship has move in that direction. But to us, our “ministry” is really our “church.’

  12. Very interesting information here. I’d heard of the “shepherding movement” before, but wasn’t totally sure what it was, or who started it. I’ve been in a lot of churches and most seem to have at least some degree of these ideas in the leadership. It makes it difficult to be in a church, knowing that ultimately Jesus is to be the Lord of my life, not a pastor.

  13. The problem with the “Shepherding Movement” was that the relationship between Discipler/Disciplee became a King/Slave relationship. Derek Prince, (Derek Prince Ministries), was an honorable man. Bob Mumford is an honorable man. It has been my experience that Don Basham and those men under him became to authoritarian with the people under them and instituted this King/Slave relationship. I have personally experienced and seen the abuses. Example: Kings commanding their slaves to by wine so they could have parties and abuse wine. I know of personal Pastor friends that have died addicted to wine.
    Being involved in the “Shepherding Movement” has left it hard for me to lead my family, or mentor others. I was never a King in the movement, just a Slave, leaving consequences on my life. I’m over 50, and the scars still remain.

    1. Erich, Thanks for your note. I’m very sorry about your experience. You are one of thousands. I do agree/understand that the “Shepherding movement” was different under the 5 leaders. I’ve heard better things about Mumford, Prince and Baxter’s sphere than Simpson’s or Basham’s. However, I think they all started with the right intention and also made serious mistakes, did not deal with those mistakes and caused a lot of very serious hurt to a lot of people. One of our burdens as a church fellowship is to minister to to those like yourself who have been abused in the name of God.

  14. Thank you Thinkingriddles,

    My family and I are still walking with the Lord. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life. He is God. We are going to a Foursquare Pentecostal Church, The Church on the Way in Santa Clarita.
    There is one other comment that I would like to make about what went wrong with the Shepherding Movement. Now, the minister that was the head pastor of this church, Faith Fellowship, had to correct the abuses of the church. The church membership went down to a home church that I stayed with for 24 years, until the head Pastor moved to N. Carolina a couple years ago. They actually still believe in deliverance and many of the main points of the Shepherding Movement. I am not writing this from the perspective of having no knowlege, experience, or completely anti-Shepherding movement. I know that there was major abuses.

    * The personal experience that was very wrong, although, I was able to survive from it relates to your following comment:

    In summary, the Shepherds were right right to raise the issue of authority, but they were wrong about submission to other men. Christ is Lord of all, and each should be in submission to Him by the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

    The King/Slave relationship I was relating is related to a spirit of Anti-Christ that became part of that movement.

    * One day, (a long time ago), there was a class called for those who wanted to seek salvation. One of the elder came up to me and yelled in my ear, “Fool! You really are the Fool!” He was immediately told to stop it, this was not a true accusation, it was from the accuser of the brethren. I was a Christian, just shaken in my faith.
    The next week I fasted, and prayed. The Lord spoke to me and said, “Do not worry what other people think of you regarding your salvation. Worry about what I think regarding your salvation.” I have had complete assurance regarding my salvation since that moment the LORD spoke to me.
    I’m not judging others involved in the Shepherding Movement, but the Bible says, “Whosoever calls his brother a fool is in danger of hell fire.” Better be careful when you tell someone they are a fool or not saved.

  15. Thank you, Thinkingriddles, for your excellent post on the Shepherding Movement. I was part of this same movement for 9 years. Being susceptible to legalism and always hungry for the approval of people, I gravitated to the movement when I was a young man. At the time, I felt that I had a home. Submitting to the authority of a pastoral leader was a tangible expression of submission to God and gave me the sense that God approved of me.

    Looking back, I can see how legalism and fear kept me in an unhealthy relationship and made me more susceptible to manipulation. It has been a 20-year process of coming out of legalism and seeing how my own fears and insecurities had kept me from thinking critically about the things I am taught by well-meaning Christian leaders.

    I don’t recall a lot of obvious abuse while in the movement. But the movement certainly did not deliver me out of the legalistic mind-set I had or the fear of rejection that was behind it all. In fact, it only magnified and strengthened the grip of these problems in my life.

    I thank God for some of the positives that came out of it (namely some relationships I still treasure). But I thank God that it is a chapter of my life that God is delivering me from.

  16. I grew up in the shepherding movement. I don’t know what the ‘less abusive’ divisions were like, but I have spent my entire life surviving and healing from the abuses I experienced and many other children in my group experienced. Since I was a very young child, I knew this was not how God really was, and I’m grateful that he protected my heart and separated what we were taught from who I know Him to be. I am one of the success stories, because I have been able to forgive, heal and move on to help other abuse victims find healing. However, there are many victims of the sheperding movement that have never recovered. There was severe physical child abuse, and mental and emotional abuse to women and children. There was also plenty of perversion running rampant with young girls being given to old underserving elders in marriage – arranged marriages! There were punishments. My mom’s friend was silenced for a year because she told someone that she didn’t agree that she should have had to get permission to buy her new refrigerator. Of course, that friend told on her, and she was silenced (that means forbidden to speak to anyone outside of your house). She actually obeyed for 11 months before they left. When my mother went to the highest elder in our area to tell him that her husband, my father, was beating me, she got in trouble for rebelling against my dad and not being submitted to him. He got in trouble for not having his house in order and having a rebellious wife. The issue of my beatings never came up again. One Sunday as we sat in the hotel ballroom which was our church, our second-in-command elder said that our fathers were our boyfriends until we got married. So many fathers took advantage of this perverted teaching. When I was 13 my best friend’s dad came into the small room we were hanging out in, and said “There’s my girlfriend! How would my girlfriend like a kiss?” And she was afraid to say no and very uncomfortably yielded to him, and he stuck his tongue down her throat for an extended period of time, french-kissing her, right in front of me. Her and I used to compare bruises from the beatings we both got from our dads. And the sad things is, she was so maligned by our whole church, and considered an underserving outcast. She ran away some times. Who can blame her? She ended up getting pregnant when she ‘fell in love’ and her Christian dad beat her so bad, she miscarried. But at least she was submitted! Her ‘covering’ took care of her pregnancy problem!

    1. RM — I’m really sorry to hear this sick story. The group I was a part of was definitely mild by comparison. What part of the Shepherding movement were you in?

  17. I was deep in the shepherding movement. I lived in the Pastor’s house as a “servant,” submitted my life to my shepherd, had no brain cells of my own, cleaned my shepherd’s house, gave up my own dreams of becoming a missionary because that was “my” idea, moved to Marin County when Dennis Peacocke said “Move” and all 150 of us packed up, sold our houses and skedaddled out of there. There was plenty of abuse. By the time I left, neither my husband nor I knew how to make an adult decision. We were like children. I was 32. If you want to see how far this went, Bob Mumford did a teaching in Santa Rosa once (I was there)where he addressed one concern many people had: “People criticize us by saying people can’t go to the bathroom without their shepherd’s permission.” Then he told a story, the punchline of which was, “Well, this is the Royal Family of God. In the Royal Guard in Britain, the horses do not pee unless on command.” So, yes, you need your shepherd’s permission to go to the bathroom. It is unfortunate that there is a resurgence of the old “Covering” idea promoted by people like John Bevere. People have forgotten or never knew the abuse that happened. The fruit is always bad because it is Bad Theology, like the poisoned Bad Dates in Raiders of the Lost Ark. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

  18. Is there anyone out there who was part of the Robley’s ministry in LaMesa, CA back in 1968-1970?….I came through their ministry sane and serving my Lord, but my husband at that time became so confused that he commited suicide and two of my sons who were Christians were so turned off that they still are not walking with the Lord….I would love to hear from anyone who was part of the errors in the group….I’ve forgiven all involved, but I’m concerned about some of the things that I have seen in a church in NC and one in Redding, CA that are part of the prophetic movement , which my daughter and her family are involved in…(one in High Point, NC…..

    1. Ruth, Thank you for your comment. I’m so sorry about your loss.

      Let me say that I do not think you should be concerned about the ministry coming out of Bethel/Redding. As someone who has “been there done that” regarding the shepherding movement, I can say that that is not their flavor. Is there something in particular that you are concerned about there?

      What’s the name of the church in High Point?

      1. I totally agree with Thinkingriddle’s assessment of Bethel in Redding. I was heavily involved in the Shepherding movement for 12 years in Northern California (and had the emotional and spiritual baggage to prove it) and I find Bethel a breath of fresh air – totally the opposite spirit from the controlling, “serve me” mentality the leadership in my old shepherding church came from. What I find at Bethel which sets them apart is they want to equip, empower and release people into their destiny for God’s glory – not control them. The Shepherding movement got it all wrong. The only ones who benefitted in that movement were the leaders. I like Bethel’s “Culture of Honor.” Everyone is respected, everyone is honored – not just
        the leaders. I hope this helps. I find Bethel’s approach very healing.

  19. My wife and I were in a Shepherding Movement church in the Chicago area in the late ’70s and early ’80s.It was under Ern Baxter’s authority. I can tell you that exposing wrong teaching and abusive leaders went un-checked and was met with severe judgement and dismassal.

    When one of the member groups chose to split from us, the leader of the Chicago group of Shepherding churches instructed us not to have fellowship with them because they “broke covenant’. Upon hearing this, I raised my hand to question him. He ignored it. When I approached him to question him on this, he stated in front of a number of members that he would not talk with me since I had a divisive spirit and that i did not want to follow God. He told me that my local shepherd agreed with him on his assessment of me. Of course, I was shocked and totally floored by his comments and, especially, that my house church shepherd had said this about me. After considerable reluctance his part, my house church shepherd confessed that he had never said that about me. I think it was very hard for him to contradict the Chicago leader. But, he was a very gentle and honest person.

    On another occasion, I attended a men’s conference held in Louisville and conducted by the Christian Growth Ministries leaders. At one point, a lieutenent pastor (I am withholding his name) gave a talk on submission. Of course, he pointed out that sheep in the church should serve their house church leaders – house church leaders do not serve the sheep. He then said that husbands are not to serve their wives – wives are to serve their husbands, citing that Jesus did not serve his disciples … He only served His Father. At that point, ALL the men in the auditorium stood up and clapped and cheered. I remained seated. My second-in-command house church leader asked me what was wrong. I replied that Jesus served his disciples and that husbands are to serve their wives and that the teaching was wrong. This very intelligent and educated individual counsel ed me was that I was thinking too much!

    Truly it seemed that I was the only one who thought for himself in the church. Most of the men subcumbed to group pressure regarding the authority structure and most of the women were paralyzed into thinking that they needed to ask their husbands permission to do anything.

    Fortunately, I felt no abuse – primarily because I was secure in my knowledge of Scripture and in my ‘gut feeling’ (intuition)regarding their teachings. But, I know of many who still bear scars.

    Why did we stay for several years? We stayed as long as we could because the worship was truly uplifitng and we loved the people in our house church. We were a very close house church fellowhip. Plus, we did not let ourselves be controlled by the errant teaching.

    I must confess that I am currently very concerned about a movement/teaching being voiced by another group of men. It seems eerily similar to the teaching of the Fort Lauderdale Five. It is the teaching of complementarianism. There is another group of well-known male teachers giving a directive regarding authority. Essentially the messages are the same – a very defined chain of command through which God works and through which truth is vetted – this time under the umbrella of defining biblical manhood and womanhood. It is taking the church down a slippery slope toward a form of patriarchal hierarchism, , although they would deny it. History repeating itself despite small differences.

    Have we learned nothing from Jesus? Authority and power should neither be claimed or imposed. It does too much damage to both initiator and follower. Truth itself determines the authority of the individual. Authority is granted, not imposed upon followers.

    Have we learned nothing from Jesus?

    1. Martin, thanks for your comments. All shepherds are complementarian, but not all complementarians are shepherds. Complementarianism is an historic Christian theology, in fact the only one held for thousands of years. Properly understood, it does not give the man the right to lord it over His wife, but recognizes the God-give leadership role created by God for men. The real problem with the shepherds was hierarchical submission to a personal discipler, as I lay out in my posts. Sometimes hose abused in the shepherding system, such as Ron and Vicki Burks overreact by rejecting aspects of Scriptural truth because the abuse has clouded it.

  20. Thinkingriddles,

    Not all shepherds are complementarian, nor are they all egalitarian. Seems to me that God himself challenges our human definition of biblical gender roles through biblical examples of women to whom he entrusted with leadership, teaching and prophetic authority over men.

    Complementarian theology may have existed for thousands of years, but so has egalitarian models of authority (Deborah, Huldah, Priscilla, Junia …).

    Complementarian theology wrongly ascribes absolute authority status to males … one beat off of what the Shepherding Movement did … despite what comps claim is “creation order”.

    Complementarians state that they are being counter-cultural to a prevailing secularism. No way! They are continuing the practice of subjugating women to their decisions – a practice that has existed in both religious and political arenas throughout history. Jesus challenged this thinking with his interactions with women. If Christianity wants to truly exemplify the Kingdom of God on earth, then men will grant their sisters in the faith the exact same privilege and honor they claim for themselves – after all, they “call the shots” and, therefore, can decide to do so.

    Do you really think a father would have any problem with his sons granting this type of honor to his very own daughters? Sometimes I think we forget about the very nature of a father’s love for his children and what our Father in heaven must think about how the boys insist on maintaining control … over each other, over groups in their spheres of influence and over the girls.

    50% of God’s children are girls. If we are going to impose restrictions on half the population in the family of God, then we better not be standing on thin ice. I believe Jesus has shown us that freedom should be chosen over rules that bind and restrict. There is an apologetic for both complementarianism and egalitarianism. If we are to err, we should err on the side of freedom, rather than restriction.

    1. Somehow you seem to associate dehumanization, delegitimization or simply derision with the complementarian perspective. I see no particular correlation. Complementarianism, as it’s name implies, ascribes different roles for men and women intended by the designer. What you highlight as the argument of complementarians is actually the Paul’s line of argumentation in the Scripture — from creation (see for example 1 Cor 11:9). The recent departure from this universal position is not an advancement, but a regressive step which mars everyone’s sense of self.

      I am not going to sustain a debate about this subject on this blog, as I consider it a tangential topic.

  21. Fine. You are a complementarian. I am an egalitarian. We disagree. But, please do not ascribe dehumanization or delegitimization to my view. This was the same tactic the shepherds of the Shepherding Movement used to dismiss my observations of their authority structure (it was my problem, not theirs, according to them).

    The fact that you do not want to sustain this debate or hear my other reasons for being egalitarian makes your position look weak. I don’t think it is weak. I believe you hold your view because of your high regard for Scripture and you want to reflect what you believe to be divine order. But, believe it or not, egalitarians have the same concern.

    You consider it a tangential topic. Maybe it is, maybe it is not. All I know is that it was a key point in the Shepherding canon and I see the same thinking (a non-compromising, absolute and dogmatic claim to authority) in complementarianism. That is why I brought it up.

    1. Martin, thank you for clarification. I chose a string of words there because it was not clear which you really meant, I’m not trying to assign a position to you that you don’t hold. Regardless, I don’t think it would be a shepherding tactic unless I tried to delegitimatize your view through intimidation, etc.

      I think the discussion we have been having is really not about C vs. E. It’s really more about whether C is essentially the same thing or as dangerous as Shepherding. As someone who was pretty deep in, I can say that my implementation of Complementarianism under that system was damaging, but that seems quite healthy now — I have a happy marriage and well adjusted children. It was the Shepherding that made it sick, not the view that the man is leader of the home.

      I appreciate you bringing your story to share with everyone here on the blog.

  22. Pingback: A Dissenting Life – Watcherwoman

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