In all my years in the Charismatic church world (since I came to faith in 2004) I’ve seen the devastating effects of the “spiritual covering” doctrine first hand. This false teaching really emerged in the 80’s and was also known as the “Shepherding Movement.”
If you’re unfamiliar with this teaching then…good! Nonetheless, this teaching basically and essentially asserts that “the people” of a church, ministry, etc. are under the “covering” of the minister/leadership and thus they must FULLY “submit to” and obey the “spiritual covering” that God has placed you under and that failure to obey your “spiritual covering” is literally failure to obey God Himself. Here are some of the ways that this teaching is propagated:
-God would never disagree with your Spiritual Covering that He has placed you under. Therefore, to disagree with your Covering IS to disagree with God.
-Jesus is the Shepherd of the Church and the pastor of your church is your “Under Shepherd.” So you must obey your Under Shepherd just as you would your Shepherd (Jesus).
-If God ever wants you to leave the ministry that you’re currently at, He will tell the Covering/Leadership first.
-If you disobey your Spiritual Covering then you will get outside of the umbrella of God’s protection and you will be an open target for the devil.
These kinds of statements essentially encapsulate the idea of this teaching but the effects of it can be very far reaching. It goes so far sometimes that some Spiritual Coverings decide who can marry or not marry whom in their congregations, which cars the parishioners should buy, etc. It also gets into silly mindsets and ideas such as:
-the “anointed” leaders are too anointed, holy, and special to be around the “sheep” b/c if they do then the “sheep” will get “too familiar” with the “Covering.” (Of course, if getting close to a leader causes you to lose respect for them then the problem lies with the “Covering” not the “sheep”)
It gets so bad that people can’t even visit other churches or conferences b/c the Covering is scared that “their people” will be drawn to those other churches/ministries instead of staying “under their Covering.”
In a nutshell, this completely unbiblical teaching is nothing more than a form demonic witchcraft that gives leadership complete control over people’s lives. And when you experience and see it firsthand you realize that it’s no small matter to say the least! This false teaching has a MASSIVE list of casualties!
In one sense it’s kind of baffling and inexplicable that people buy into this absurd, false teaching because of how thoroughly, completely, utterly unbiblical it is. But, then again, it is understandable because people generally have some kind of trust and respect for the leadership that they find themselves under the influence of. And it’s more understandable given that it’s so prevalent in Charismatic churches b/c people see the Gifts of the Spirit operating through the ministers so they naturally assume that whatever they say must be endorsed by God, b/c after all, He does miracles through them.
Of course, by no means do all Charismatics teach this doctrine. For example, Bro. Hagin spoke out against this false teaching on his Ministry Gifts series and referred to it as “bunk and bologna.” Pat Robertson also spoke out strongly against it saying that this teaching was ‘witchcraft’ and said the only difference between the discipleship group and Jonestown was ‘Kool-Aid.’
So, i would highly recommend and strongly encourage anyone to stay away from this dangerous, demonic false, unbiblical teaching. There are indeed true, legit spiritual mothers and fathers out there that will love you, help you, guide you, encourage you, etc. without the baggage of manipulation and control. There are leaders who will serve you instead of demanding that you serve them. If necessary, pray for the Lord to bring such people into your life and He will. And we should also pray for all the people caught up in this terrible and unsound teaching, both the leaders and the congregations.