Friday, August 03, 2007

Apostles Mean Fathers!

It is very significant to me that after writing my post last night; "Apostles Today!" - I read a few chapters of my new book before going to bed. It is called "Understanding the Fivefold Ministry" and is edited by Matthew D Green. There is an outstanding chapter within it called "Cover Me" by S David Moore. David Moore also wrote; "The Shepherding Movement—Controversy & Charismatic Ecclesiology" so is well equipped as a historian to bring out the objective aspects to the Shepherding Movement. Whatever one's final assessment of what Charles Simpson, Bob Mumford, Don Basham, Derek Prince and Ern Baxter tried to do - their heart was to bring relationship into church accountability structures.

I was very concerned with one statement that the anti-Apostle commenter wrote in response to Terry Virgo's post on Apostles. He said;

"This said, a ministry may be apostolic ... without interfering with the independency of the local church".

My question remains - is independency such a good thing? Is it biblical that a church should be run by one pastor with a few elders and a congregation demanding everything from him?

Here are some key extracts from the excellent chapter "Cover Me" by S David Moore.

Historical Summary of the Shepherding Movement.

"One of the most controversial and also most influential movements within the Charismatic Renewal in the early 1970's and early 1980's was born out of a similar quest for for accountability. There were many wonderful aspects to the Charismatic Movement; however as with any renewal, it had its share of problems. Believers often went from one Charismatic conference or prayer group to another seeking a new experience or a new teaching. Many of these were not in any church or accountable to anyone.

They read magazines, listened to tapes by the hundreds and eagerly awaited each new book on the Spirit's renewing work. Unfortunately many were left unchanged. As the renewal mushroomed, it was marked by a rugged individualism in some of it's leaders. A number of itinerant teachers and leaders who were regular speakers at various conferences and meetings were not accountable to any organization or network. Lone rangers abounded and moral failures were all too frequent.

Disillusioned by what they were seeing - problems much the same as today - four popular teachers, Don Basham, Bob Mumford, Derek Prince and Charles Simpson decided to band together for mutual submission and accountability. From this association in October 1970 emerged the Shepherding Movement, sometimes called the Discipleship Movement.

With New Wine magazine as a powerful mouthpiece, the four Charismatic teachers, joined in 1974 by Canadian Ern Baxter, began teaching on the importance of the local church, submission and spiritual authority and the need for accountability. This accountability was accomplished as each believer was "covered" in a committed relationship with a personal pastor or "shepherd".

Significantly they taught that God was restoring biblical church government, delegating His authority through the fivefold ministry offices, including apostles and prophets. What was also unique was the Shepherding Movement's call that every spiritual leader needed to be under authority before exercising his or her own spiritual authority.

The challenge and call tapped into a leadership vacuum as hundreds of leaders, many young and untrained, responded to their teachings by submitting to one of the five or a designate. Though Mumford and the other four men originally had no intention of starting local church networks, they felt responsible to lead what their teachings had created and so, the Shepherding Movement was born.

Each of the five leaders pastored a group of pastors, forming networks of churches under their oversight. These networks of churches never became a formal denomination, since the goal was always to make the association relationally based. Keeping the movement organic and relational proved difficult as growth forced more organisation. Many felt the Shepherding Movement had become functionally and practically a small Charismatic denomination, despite their claims otherwise.

Lessons For Today.

The Shepherding Movement admittedly missed many of it's ideals and it's extremes are well known ... Charles Simpson who leads a major segment of those who continue in the legacy of the movement, has said that human carnality won out all too often.

While many were hurt as some leaders improperly exercised spiritual authority, mostly ignored are those who benefited from the movement and those who continue in it's varied expressions today. The covenant movement led by Simpson, maintains a commitment to many of the Shepherding Movement's founding principles of accountability, covenant relationship, spiritual fatherhoodand spiritual family - principles they believe have matured and moderated over time.

What has also been missed in the rancour surrounding the Shepherding Movement's excesses is an acknowledgment that they were legitimately challenging the extreme independence and spiritual superficiality in segments of the Charismatic Renewal. They were seeking to discern their times and formulate God-ordained answers for spiritual lawlessness. Both Mumford and Simpson believe they were catching and riding a wave of authentic spiritual renewal. Simpson commented that "the bigger the wave, the more debris it can carry in".

So as flawed as their application might have been at times, they were convinced it was the medicine Charismatics needed.

I recently spoke to Bob Mumford and Charles Simpson to see what they had to say. Both men, older now and tempered by time and trial, are humbled by the realisation that they are the only two living members of the original five Shepherding leaders. Mumford and Simpson having felt the pain of criticism were cautious in their assessments but very willing to share insights that might serve a new generation of leaders.

1. Seeing a spiritual truth is never enough.

According to Charles Simpson, "Believing you see something is one thing but building something with it is another matter". He thinks he and the other four leaders had a "naive enthusiasm" and did not fully understand what would happen once they started teaching on submission and accountability. "If you teach something, people will come to you for it", he recalls.

The momentum their teachings created caused the movement to grow beyond their ability to manage. They simply had not planned on the response they provoked.

2. Relationships must be authentic.

Both Mumford and Simpson point out how easy it is to say that something is "relational" and yet how hard it is to make those relationships truly authentic. Many apostolic networks make the claim they are based on relationships and thereby they are accountable to one another ... Mumford contends that "relationships must be more than functional and superficial if there is to be any kind of real accountability".

3. Structures alone will not produce accountability.

The Shepherding Movement had personal pastors, cell groups, church councils, regional presbyteries, pastor's networks and an apostolic council, all with the aim of producing mature disciples of Jesus but these structures alone could not produce the desired results.

Accountability was something that fundamentally could not be enforced or coerced - it was voluntary and an outflow of personal integrity.

4. Titles Can Be Misleading.

Simpson and Mumford believe there is a need to make sure leaders are manifesting the works of an apostle before being labelled one and that they are also evaluated by biblical standards. They caution against pride that easily follows being given title and privilidge. Simpson once said; "If you are treated like a king, before long you start thinking you are one". Humility and servanthood come before title and position.

5. Remember the human condition.

No matter one's theological position on the degree on the degree of man's depravity, it must be admitted we are deeply flawed by Adam's fall. Simpson has lamented the "carnality that power and resources brought out in some of us". Mumford wishes he had better listened to critics even when they acted uncharitably.

Self-righteousness and self-justification may too easily be excused and garbed in religious terms. Current leaders need to honestly admit their fallibility and potential for missing the mark. This is why accountability is so essential.

Both Mumford and Simpson have learned from their past and so can we ... We need present-day apostles and the New Apostolic Reformation is a genuine expression of God's renewing work in His Church. However as Simpson and Mumford note, there is great danger in triumphalism - seeing one's movement as the "cutting edge" of what God is doing today.

Accountability must be more than a circle of like-minded friends. We are accountable to God, to Scripture and to the Christian story over the centuries. We are accountable to those in this "century of the Holy Spirit" which stretches back to Azusa Street.

1 comment:

Don said...

I'm just reading this "Apostles Mean Fathers" post about a month after you wrote it, and am surprised to see mine as the first comment! Thank you very much for pointing this out.

This shepherding/discipleship is part of my foundational Christian understanding, as CLC was founded on these principles. There were definitely excesses by immature & overzealous leaders, as the 5 guys here admit. However, it's also rather scary that some people were so naive, broken or eager to please (God or man?) that they just turned the running of their lives and futures over to their "covering."

I was always (and still am) leery of allowing leaders who were not really my good friends (that's the relational aspect needed for good shepherding) to tell me what to do with life-issues that didn't directly deal with sin-obedience-holiness -- especially if a leader has had no personal experience in the area in which he's expressing concern. In the early 1980s, there were a lot of overzealous charismatic home-group leaders (and pastors) in their 20s and early-30s, trying to teach and disciple others using wisdom that, for them, was book-learned rather than *experienced* and Holy Spirit-taught. It resulted in a lot of harshness and inflexibility in discipling, and there were many, many casualties.

Some of these casualties I still know personally -- though they love Jesus, they don't trust organized religion of any kind. Some have started or joined house-churches *not* for positive reasons, but from hostile resentment toward traditional, pastor-led church congregations. What's sad is that they've never received understanding and healing ministry that allow them to forgive, receive God's Father's heart, and move forward by looking to Father (through the Spirit) instead of to human leaders for their ultimate discipleship.

Even though God blessed me to escape the injury that many others suffered, the Spirit showed me some years ago that I was, nevertheless, looking to leadership for guidance in my walk with God, rather than relying primarily upon the Holy Spirit to guide me. I was used to submitting to leaders and their vision, rather than listening to the Spirit telling me what he was teaching *me* (which didn't always parallel the teaching du jour). It took some revelation to show me how I needed to transfer ultimate trust for my spiritual well-being from human leaders, and place it in God by "hiding myself" *in Christ*.

I'd be happy to see some more comments here about the effects of shepherding - especially on the positive aspect of apostles being fathers. What I found was that "shepherding" did not automatically equate to loving, fatherly advice and guidance. That fatherly quality usually comes out in mentoring, rather than shepherding.