Hello friends. I want to ask you a question. What do you know about spiritual covering? What is it? How does it work? Who needs it? Is it biblical? This subject has been a source of controversy since the 70’s and continues to be so today. From the Holy Spirit Teaching Movement (HTSM) to the Shepherding Movement to the Modern day mystical movement the varying opinions are vast. In this article, I will attempt “shed some light” on this subject by presenting a bit of history, the arguments of the two most prevalent schools of thought and culminate with Biblical perspective that I believe will help you view this subject with a little more clarity.
I remember back in 2007 when my good friend asked me the question, “who is your covering”? My answer, “what’s that”? She looked very surprised and said, “You know. You’re covering?” My reply, “No, really I don’t know.” You see I did not come into relationship with Jesus Christ until 2004, so I had very little knowledge of past “movements” in the Christian world. When my friend shared her rendition of spiritual covering and that it was necessary so as to be protected from warfare or curse, honestly my rebellious side rose up. The thought of having a person that was not my parent tell me what I could or couldn’t do sounded a bit controlling and oppressive. I figured I was in a personal relationship with God who was my protector and I was sure I didn’t need this “covering”. Here is where the article truly begins, because the former conversation perfectly illustrates the two most popular opinions regarding spiritual covering.
Let me begin with a little history. When many people think of “Spiritual Covering” what may come to mind is the “Shepherding Movement” that began in the 1970’s, but what’s just as important is the origin of the shepherding movement is how it came into being.
During the 1960’s a “Charismatic Renewal” occurred which brought many testimonies of miraculous conversions, signs and wonders. With this renewal arose a need for teachers. After a profound Holy Spirit encounter, Eldon Purvis, a businessman saw the need to teach about the Holy Spirit’s power. Joined by a group of other businessmen and professionals they formed the Holy Spirit Teaching Mission (HTSM) holding its first conference in June 1965 to great success. Out of this mission was birthed a nationwide Christian Magazine known as New Wine. The success of this mission began to attract followers worldwide to include Derek Prince ad Bob Mumford. Unfortunately, due to financial issues, lack of accountability and a moral failure on the part of Eldon Purvis the HTSM’s mission came to a close. Five men were asked to come together to try to resolve the crisis and see what could be salvaged.
Their conclusion was that it was not good that ministries (no matter how big they got) had no accountability or no one to which they are submitted. They also recognize that even though Eldon Purvis failed morally, that they were all susceptible to the same kind of moral failure. With this in mind they begin to devise a system of accountability and submission one to another (in accordance with Ephesians 5) starting with themselves. They devised plans to begin to revise and reform the current church structure citing that there were many Christians but few disciples. With that, the Shepherding /Discipleship movement came into existence. It was a hierarchical-type system where Christians were made “disciples” in cell groups under leadership of a pastor or shepherd with a system of submission and accountability that demanded total transparency to include approval from the leaders in life decisions. In return, the people would enjoy community and “spiritual covering” which would afford them strong Godly counsel and protection from the enemies tactics. But what started as an honest heartfelt attempt to protect and facilitate spiritual growth in both layman and leaders, inevitably turned into a complete mess of authoritarianism and control. With accusations of coercion, threats of being “uncovered”, to hyper control over private decisions, this movement went down in infamy with a disheartened Derek Price quoting, “what began by the spirit we tried to perfect with human effort.” I have illustrated two different ministries, with two different schools of thought on covering. Both ordained by God with the potential for great success only to end in ruin. What happened and what can we learn from these two regarding spiritual covering?
Biblical Evidence of Spiritual Covering
First, is spiritual covering biblical? Indeed it is. From the beginning God has always modeled what it means to be covered. Throughout the Old Testament you see God’s protective covering over the Israelites. In the Psalms of David he speaks of being covered by the shadow of His wings and that He is a strong tower that gives safety and refuge (Psalm 91:4, Psalm 61:3). God has always provided coverage for His creation. How is one covered? They are by choosing life. In Deuteronomy 30:19 it says He sets before you life and death and asks you to choose life. God is life and to choose it is to attract the things of life to yourself, by His design (John 3:6). It is important to note that God does not “withdraw” coverage, we are however “carried away” from that coverage by our desires (James 1: 13-15). So you may be asking, “why then do I need spiritual covering if I’m choosing life in my decisions”?
Currently within the mystical movement (for example), there is a strong movement toward not needing covering by any man or institution. The heart in this movement is to train mature sons who are not in need of man’s covering with the express purpose of advancing the kingdom and “terra forming” the earth. This is a great movement and I believe it was started by the Spirit, but the issue is many who have been hurt by the church are entering this movement and casting off covering prematurely. On the other hand, despite what happened with the shepherding movement and others like it, many people put a very high premium on being under a church covering, namely for protection from spiritual attack. But they fail to understand that the cover is to grow you into maturity not to become a law unto itself. Both schools of thought serve great purpose, but I believe there are a few key components missing regarding the depth of spiritual covering.
Please visit us again for Part 2 of this article where I share awesome revelation from the Word on God’s model for spiritual covering.
Allan Clare; Bill Hamon, Ern Baxter; et. al. A Little History- [The Truth About] THE SHEPHERDING MOVEMENT, https://archive.org/details/ALittleHistory-TruthAboutTheShepherdingMovement. 2012. Web. 6-27-207
Moore, S. David. The Shepherding Movement: History, Controversy, Ecclesiology. London: T & T Clark Intl, 2003. Print.
Wikipedia contributors. “Derek Prince.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 24 May. 2017. Web. 27 Jun. 2017