In our recent “Redefined” blogs we’ve been exploring issues such as Leadership and Church and challenging current popular assumptions on them. Today it’s time to take on one of the foundational pillars of modern institutional religion, the concept known as “covering”. The word itself may be less frequently front and centre but believe me the belief system is alive and well.
Have you ever heard or been told the following or something similar:
“I’m not interested in your vision until you serve my vision.”
“You need to be in a good bible believing church under the oversight of a pastor who is mature in the faith.”
“Which organization/individual are you accountable to?”
“Who is your spiritual authority?”
If you have heard one of these things, you are bumping up against the covering concept in different forms. Most of the people operating in this deception have adjusted their language away from using the word “covering” since it was so thoroughly discredited during the excesses of the Shepherding Movement in the 1980’s. However, the underlying belief system still exists in many places disguised with different language.
If you are still unsure if you are dealing with the influence of the covering deception ask yourself a few simple questions like:
“Do I believe that I need someone’s permission or approval to make a major life decision?”
“Do I feel it is necessary to be under another person’s permission or authority to speak, preach, pray for the sick/demonized or help the poor?”
If the answer to either or both of these questions is “Yes”, you are infected with the covering deception. To eliminate this toxin from your mindset, let’s look at just a few foundational things that will get you started on the road to freedom.
1. In the Garden of Eden, after creation, man was given dominion over the “fish in the sea, birds in the air and every living thing that moves on the ground”, in other words every living thing except one – each other. This was before the fall at the time when “everything was good”. The conclusion is that men and women were never meant to “rule over” or “have dominion” over one another, including marriage (see our blog on Man and Woman Relationships for more).
2. Jesus made the following radical statement to his disciples, which sets a pattern for us to follow:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt 28:18-20.
He had been given all authority and he freely gave it to his disciples to go and teach like he had done and more importantly they were to repeat the cycle by releasing others to do the same. The ultimate goal is to reproduce him in them and then for them to reproduce themselves and him in others. Who was Jesus accountable to? Who was his covering? Who was the apostle Paul under when he was in the desert for 14 years or during his ministry?
The answers to the Jesus questions are hopefully obvious. His Father in heaven was his covering. After all, did he not teach us to pray to this “covering”?
In Paul’s case, when his apostleship was challenged he didn’t defend himself by noting who he was “under” or whose authority he was sent in but rather offered his persecutions, suffering and homelessness as evidence of his apostleship (reflect on 2 Cor 11 and 12). This is how he differentiated himself from the false apostles of his day who were placing themselves above everyone (including Paul).
You are probably thinking right now about Paul’s trip to Jerusalem to appear before the council (James, Peter, etc.) concerning his teaching of salvation by faith alone and also whether the Gentiles were welcome in the thing God was doing. Note Paul’s own words describing this meeting and ask yourself whether this sounds like someone who was operating “under the covering” of the Jerusalem leaders.
“As for those who were held in high esteem–whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism–they added nothing to my message.” Gal 2:6
Paul was seeking to determine whether he was running his race in vain preaching a Jesus that others were not preaching. Meditate further on Galatians 2 (his description of the event) and ask yourself whether Paul was “under” anyone in that meeting. Also, ask yourself if you find a false sense of protection by following or being “under” those who are held in high esteem today?
3. Perhaps this very often quoted passage is the final nail in the coffin of covering,
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Eph 4:11-15.
Interestingly, this passage is often used by the purveyors of the covering deception (especially the modern day apostles and prophets) to justify the need to submit to their leadership and oversight. However, this passage says the exact opposite. The purpose of these gifts or functions is to raise others to maturity so that they are not forever dependent on them to function. The ultimate goal is unity, maturity and fullness in a direct relationship to the head – Christ. While we are all in process and certainly not fully mature, our direction in life should be towards greater dependency and connection to the head (Christ) and less dependency and connection to other human beings (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers). Is this true of your life and mine or are we “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming”?
How often do you “like” the most recent Facebook status of one of the celebrity religious leaders of our day? Perhaps you regularly post or retweet the latest “wind of teaching” from one of these or other such superstar on the worldwide speaker’s circuit. While occasionally quoting another’s wisdom is certainly not wrong or sinful, should it be your regular habit?
Another way to look at whether you are being impacted by the covering deception is to ask whether the modern day apostles and prophets are teaching you and others to be less dependent on them or more dependent on their approval, teachings, websites, books, facebook posts and twitter feeds. Are you being encouraged to grow up into maturity or remain dependent?
Ultimately, the covering issue comes down to us and our relationship with the Creator of the universe. Do we really believe that it is enough to be in relationship with God alone? What are the implications of the torn veil in the temple when Jesus was crucified? Do we really believe that we have direct access to God ourselves or do we insist on someone else doing this for us like the Israelites asked of Moses?
May we remind you that at Back to Eden Group our mission and our heart is to encourage you on a journey back to the ancient path that leads to the garden of Eden to experience direct, divine interaction with our Creator, Father, Saviour, brother, lover and friend. Our one and only covering. The head of the body of Christ. Jesus.
We have been greatly influenced, challenged and encouraged on this issue by our friend and forerunner, Arthur Burk. We strongly recommend that you take the time to listen to his insights, which will further challenge your belief system. (Download CD2 “Perspective on Accountability and Covering” at https://www.theslg.com/SearchResults.asp?Cat=169).
Also, our fellow alien and sojourner Paul Leader has written an excellent blog coming at this issue from a slightly different angle but arriving at very much the same conclusion. (you can find it here).
Take the time to reflect on this foundational issue. Meditate on the scripture referenced and on Arthur and Paul’s thoughts. Let us seek the covering of his presence.