Within Charismatic circles, there is a widely influential subset group called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). One of their strongly held beliefs is the necessity of submitting to an alleged “apostolic covering” or maintaining what is called “governmental alignment” to a “covering apostle.” It is alleged that failure to do so, cuts off heavenly blessing and opens the individual to spiritual dangers and demonic attacks. The Protestant forefathers must be rolling over in their graves. They gave their life’s blood to do away with the belief system that required a class of religious professionals to broker or mediate the blessings of heaven to the believer. It is beyond painful to see the resurrected form of this doctrine being espoused in so-called apostolic churches and foisted under the banner of “new revelation,” “restoring apostolic covering,” and “restoring apostolic authority.” It is not new revelation. It is old heresy in a new dress.
The notion is put forth by some in the NAR movement that apostles literally connect the Body to Christ the Head, thereby providing a covering for the Body, and that without this apostolic connection, the full measure of blessing cannot be realized by the believer, because life and power flow through the apostles to the believer.[i] This is not viewed mystically or spiritually, but quite literally, methodologically, and governmentally. Individual apostles allegedly provide divinely designed and necessary protective spiritual covering, and broker divine blessing to individuals “under their covering.”[ii] Variations of the teaching abound. The following are quotes, sourced below:
- We all need spiritual cover over us—a person or group to give counsel or advice when necessary.[iii]
- If we want to remain obedient to God and be blessed, we have but one choice when it comes to delegated authority—submission and obedience.[iv]
- A person who has not submitted to the apostolic structure of authority has already violated God’s authority chain and that person is now ministering without a spiritual covering of protection.[v]
- Such a violation allows the enemy to come in to the work of the Lord.[vi]
- Two major things may happen in the spirit realm when a violation like this takes place. One, the itinerant minister is ministering without any spiritual covering over his life and thereby opening his life and the church he is ministering to for demonic attacks. The other is that the enemy has already gained grounds in the loose structure of that church and with opportunity will find someone to exploit and hold the church at ransom.[vii]
- Remember: stay under cover![viii]
- You need the added protection that a solid spiritual covering can bring your life.[ix] God is under no obligation to protect us when we resist his direction but will guard those who are surrendered and in place.[x]
- Don’t miss this: God’s covering is released to us when we are rightly connected in our families and our churches.[xi]
- When we’re positioned in Him and connected to His provision, the canopy of His protection rises high and strong over us.[xii]
- So in my view, it’s far better to stay covered and connected, if we can keep it balanced.[xiii]
- Apostles are like spiritual umbrellas. They cover and protect those under them.[xiv]
Is it my imagination or is some of this blasphemous? This is terrifying bondage. In the New Covenant era, there is no need of a second head to broker, cover, or protect. The Holy Spirit is the Agent who administers the blessing of Christ to individuals, not covering apostles. Don Rumble says it like this:
The apostolic man who laid the foundation for the local church must not interfere with the headship of Jesus by functioning as “second head” to the work. There is only one head of any expression of Christ’s body: Jesus.[xv]
Some have said that the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in the Church are designed to express the body of Christ, while the leaders (the Ephesian 4:11-13 ministry, the apostles, etc.) are to reveal the headship of Christ! I have heard some declare that so-called modern day apostles uniquely possess and function in all of the Eph. 4:11-13 ministries! What allegedly makes an “apostle” an “apostle” is possession of all the other gifts!
The teaching analogy used is “apostles” are like the thumb of the hand. Only the thumb can easily touch the other four fingers. So it is in the church, allegedly. Prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are like the fingers, and apostles function like the thumb being superior in ability and function. Therefore the four “less than” fingers are designed by God to submit to the superior thumb: apostles. I wish I was making this up. I am not. I wish this was rare and isolated. It is not. I have sat on platforms in seminars next to so-called apostles as more than one has used this analogy.
Instead of leaders seeing themselves as simply part of Christ’s body, with distinct giftings and responsibilities, functioning for the benefit of all in mutuality, they begin to see themselves as uniquely joined to the Head. A basis for clergy/laity distinction is established.[xvi]
God has sent Him (the Holy Spirit) to reveal the Headship of Christ among His people [xvii], not “covering apostles.”
After laying the foundation at Corinth, Paul did not commend the church there to the “ministry team of elders” as those representing the head; He entrusted them to Christ.[xviii] (SRC: I might add he did not commend the believers at Corinth to a “covering apostle” either!)
You can tell a church culture has crossed the line of healthy mutual submission in the realm of advice and counsel into an ungodly spiritual covering paradigm when the common interior language of the church or ministry regarding personal decisions is made up of phrases like this:
- “Have you cleared this with the pastor?”
- “Have the elders approved?”
- “What does your apostle have to say about it?”
- “That sounds good, but did you submit it to your covering?”
- “Brother Bob lost his job because he disobeyed his apostolic covering.” (You can substitute any negative circumstance.)
- “Sister Sue was killed in a car accident because she ignored the advice of her spiritual covering.” (John Bevere closes his book, Under Cover, with a story to this effect–shameful fear mongering).
As we have shown in earlier sections, this is not about looking out for each others welfare in a spirit of mutuality, consent, and freedom. It is not about obtaining sound wisdom and counsel from trusted advisors who have proven their love for us in in laid down lives of service in relationship. That is kingdom basic.
The problem is requiring submission to a mediatorial individual (with whom I may have zero functional relationship in a hierarchy) merely because he or she has a position/rank or an alleged “apostolic” ministry, and accompanying the mandate with threats (veiled or otherwise) for failure to do so. This is all just a grab for power and status as old as the garden. It sure is not “new” or “restored” “revelation.” It is simply a control spirit pyramid scheme dressed in clerical garb.
The doctrine of apostolic covering is ludicrous, dangerous, mania. It is sold and swallowed like candy in Charismatic churches. This is not spiritual junk food: something you can later excrete out of your system that just brings no nutrition. No. This is toxic. This will make you violently ill. Sadly, I know scores of individuals whose lives and families have been devastated as they ingested this doctrinal and relational poison. [subscribe2]
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[i] Alley, The Apostolic Revelation. pp. 39, 83, 134, 135, and 157. I have noticed a commonality among some called apostles. They consider themselves to be gifted in a “revelatory way.” Often, they are exegetically weak. They tend to teach from their inspirations about Scripture rather than the exegesis of Scripture, relying on proof texts here and there to supplement what they believe they have received by “revelation.” In the case of Bro. Alley’s book, though certainly not limited to him, it is especially true. Throughout the book, he regularly teaches from his dreams, visions, and subjective impressions of the Lord’s voice. This is the curse of charismaticdom, a formula for disaster and a completely unsound basis for apostolic doctrine. Dreams and visions are meant for personal encouragement and edification and, at times, guidance, but they are not the basis for apostolic doctrine, nor to be the basis to conform other’s kingdom behaviors, thinking, etc. I am really grieved on this matter. Every group or organization that has started on this road has ended up in the historical ash heap, without exception.
[ii] Ibid., p. 135.
[iii] Kelly, John. Words from a Father. The Networker (April 1997), p.3.; quoted in Wagner, Churchquake.
[iv] Bevere, Under Cover. p.89.
[v] David, Jonathan. Apostolic Strategies Affecting Nations. Malaysia. Privately Published. 1997, pp. 209-210.
[vi] Ibid., p. 209.
[vii] Ibid., pp. 209-210.
[viii] Bevere, Under Cover, p. 227.
[ix] Cannistraci, David. Five Signs of a Solid Spiritual Covering. “Charisma Magazine,” July 2005, p. 54. Of all the authors I have read on the subject, Bro. Cannistraci’s presentation of the topic is the healthiest I have seen as he defines covering by prayer and relationship and lists many legitimate pitfalls to avoid (some mentioned in this text). I just wish the term covering would go away because of its unfortunate implications and misuse, including the image in the article of an umbrella as the instrument of “covering.”
[xii] Ibid., p. 55
[xiv] Stephen G. Allen, unpublished message.
[xv] Rumble, Apostolic and Prophetic Foundations. p. 83.
[xvi] Ibid., 83.
[xvii] Ibid., 83.
[xviii] Ibid., 84.