Apostolic Covering – Old Idea in a New Dress Stop the Madness - Part Two

Apostolic Covering

Apostolic Covering – Stop the Madness

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).

Conclusion

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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This blog is an excerpt of our book: Authority, Accountability and the Apostolic Movement, available at www.stevecrosby.com

Authority, Accountability, and the Apostolic Movement

Authority, Accountability, and the Apostolic Movement

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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.”

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Ibid., p. 55

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Stephen G. Allen, unpublished message.

[xv] Rumble, Apostolic and Prophetic Foundations. p. 83.

[xvi] Ibid., 83.

[xvii] Ibid., 83.

[xviii] Ibid., 84.

17 comments on “Apostolic Covering – Old Idea in a New Dress Stop the Madness - Part Two

  1. I’m so glad you are speaking out against this dangerous heresy. I’ve been doing so for some time. This is such a serious deviation from the truth set out in the NT that one would think it would be obvious that it is error. However, when we start putting the Bible through our theological lens instead of our theology thought a biblical lens, we can get ourselves in all sorts of trouble. Thanks again Stephen for speaking out.

  2. I have a question. If I have the gift of prophecy, should I go in the middle of the service when I believe I have received a word from the Lord and go to the pastor and tell him what that word? It seems to hinder the flow and true essence and anointing. I am in a quandary right now about this. Recently I received a word in the midst of the service and gave it but one member said he didn’t receive it. So I talked to the pastor who is new and he told me come to him first and he would talk to the board about it before releasing it. I want to walk in humility but at the same time walk in truth.
    Can you give me some clarity and wisdom on this? Is this issue similar to what you are writing about ?

    Your sister,

    Janice

    • Hi Janice, I am really not addressing the mechanics and administration of spiritual gifts in a local congregation in this post. I am talking about making life decisions and personal direction on major issues of life that allegedly you are not allowed to do unless you get approval from a covering apostle. I have no issue with various local assemblies administrating the gifts in an orderly way. Those with utterance or prophetic gifts have to pull out of an “anointing” and “flow” and feeling based paradigm. If a thought is a thought from God, it doesn’t “spoil” like a bunch of bananas left on the counter too long! The thought is its own merit, not the associated feelings I may or may not have at the moment. There is no such thing as a magic moment in a meeting when something just “has to happen” or we have “missed God.” those are all old Pentecostal/Charismatic cultural constructs that we have to get rid of. IF it were me adminsitrating the matter practically, I would not submit the “go-no-go” decision to the “pastor”, because most pastors I know are clueless about prophetic dynamics and have a different set of values, not wrong, just different. The other problem I have is that there is nothing in scripture that says you need to submit an utterance in advance for approval. HOWEVER, the scripture DOES clearly speak about publicly evaluating them 2 or three at a time. The reason some pastors require pre-approval is because they want to avoid the embarrasing and awkward moment of having to publicly tell someone their utterance wasn’t God, so they institute a pre-approval model out of fear, and fear of embarassign someone, and “hurting some one’s feelings, and so forth. So, really, it is an unbilbical paradigm, but pretty much a necessity because no one has the courage to do it the way scripture says. Every spiritual gift manifestation is supposed to transition into a teaching moment for the whole Body. I have been doing this 42 years and I only know of one church that does it right, and boy, what a mature bunch they are, and there will be no charismatic nonsense in the congregation, because, the deal is . . . in that church, if you want to manifest a spiritual gift, the rest of us get to evaluate it, and if it is garbage, the rest of us get to tell you so, not to make you feel bad, but because we love you. Western individualistic churches simply do not have the courage to live this way, especially if the fragile person with unresolved ego issues is going to “get offended” and “leave” and take their fat wallet and their friends and family with them! Most pastors I know simply do not have the courage to go there, so they implement the “pre-approval” policy. If that is the temperature of the water you are swimming in, you have to swim there. 🙂

  3. Some of this sounds like a protestant version of Catholic Apostolic Succession. Some of it sounds like a twisted mulit-level marketing scam. Either way it does such harm to the body of Christ, needlessly keeping so many brothers and sisters in the dark as to their capacity to receive from Christ directly in their spirit and to function in the body and in life through the divine life of Jesus in them.

  4. “Apostolic Covering?”

    Introduction

    New, modern spiritual discovery is so called “apostolic covering” – slightly based on another modern term “spiritual fatherhood”. It claims that every pastor should have spiritual father, who – de facto – controls pastor’s ministry. Actually it is very difficult to find in the New Testament something about spiritual “covering”, however it became the doctrine of the contemporary apostolic movements. The founder of the New Apostolic Reformation, Charles Peter Wagner said that “the apostles bring spiritual government (my emphasis) to the pastors of the city so that the pastors of the city can do the job that God has given them in a much more effective way”. What he actually says is that the pastors should be under apostolic covering; it means, they are not enough educated by the Holy Spirit (and the Bible Schools) how to minister on their position and generally, without apostles, pastors are not enough effective. According to Wagner and pleads of his followers-“apostles”, they claim to oversee pastors of the local congregations and through them all church members.

    Almost decade later, J. Lee Grady the editor of Charisma, gives us quit different perspective. Grady writes that “a strange thing happened on the way to recovering genuine apostolic anointing. In true American fashion we began to merchandise it … No sooner had the first book on apostles been written that some men began to claim the title and print it on their business cards. Apostleship became a fad. Before too long, some men were creating networks of independent churches answerable to a governing apostle who took ownership of their buildings and controlled their congregations. Some charismatic apostles became mini-popes who carved out their fiefdoms. Suddenly the independent charismatic movement had more invasive authoritarianism than the denominations these pastors abandoned 10 years earlier. In some circles apostles demanded total allegiance from the leaders who were ‘under’ them. Some required a policy of ‘tithing up’, creating a monstrous organizational structure similar to a spiritual Amway. So-called apostles with huge ‘downlines’ made exorbitant amounts of money. One leader even offered pastors the opportunity to become ‘spiritual sons’ by contributing $1,000 a month to his ministry … False apostles prefer the primrose path over the Calvary road. May God grant us true apostolic anointing that is marked by New Testament courage, unquestionable integrity and Christ-like humility.”

    Matthew 23:9 in contrary to 1. Cor. 4:15

    Mt. 23:9: “call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven”:
    1. Cor. 4:15: “for though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel”.
    Sounds very controversial, isn’t it?

    I have learned in my long-time studies that we have sometimes “controversial” statements in the Bible. Nevertheless, the principle is that there are no real controversies, because God, the Author of His Word, couldn’t oppose Himself. It means that the solution should be found in putting both statements together, studying them in their historical-literate context and ask Holy Spirit for His light! If we will not see the light in such problem, we must accept it and hope that someone else will get it (or maybe already got it). However, there is the challenge.

    So, here we have two verses, Mt. 23:9 “contra” 1. Cor. 4:15. What is the context of both?

    In Mt. 23 Jesus is really angry with all this religious theatre. He “thunders” against religious façade, show-business – and uses very hard words against people practising this. I would conclude here, that such people had/have no right to use the title “father”; how abusers and cheaters could be called “fathers”, when they are not?! They were practising control over people – and that is not the real fatherhood character. Jesus was/is against title-mania!

    Now: 1. Cor. 4:15. Here we have very different context. Paul has planted the church in Corinth and became – by preaching the Gospel – real spiritual father to them. In a similar case, in Thessalonica, he said that he was “like a father” – picture talk. His fatherhood and care for believers in Corinth (and other places) based on the fact (not title) of bringing these local groups to Jesus.

    Abusers (in Mt. 23) claimed to be titled “father” (even they were not), but Paul was real, spiritual father of the church in Corinth (as well in Thessalonica and Galatian churches).

    Who whose?

    The historical and factual introduction we should confront now with the Bible! As stated before, the key biblical term, which grew to such doctrinal monster, was the false and twisted understanding of the “spiritual fatherhood” or “apostolic covering” .
    Here we have the decisive question(s):
    Who was whose spiritual father?

    Firstly, we must note that in the scriptures referring to “fatherhood”, the word “father” occurs only three times (1. Thess. 2:11, 1. Cor. 4 :15 and Philemon 1:10); in all other scriptures we have the term “child/children” (which speaks indirectly about fatherhood). Wouldn’t be more proper to speak about “childhood” instead of “fatherhood”?

    Let us start from John. In his 1 Letter we have six references to the “childhood” of his readers. He was already old man when he wrote his letter and most scholars comment that it was main reason to use this term of endearment “my little children”. The Cambridge Bible for School and Colleges explains it so: “John’s conception of the Church is that of a family, in which all are children of God and brethren one of another, but in which also some who are elders stand in a parental relation to the younger brethren. Thus there were families within the family, each with its own father. And who had a better right to consider himself a father than the last surviving Apostle?”
    Yes, John felt himself like the father of his readers; but still, his main purpose was not to “cover” them, or rule over them, but to share testimony (1:3), proclaim the message (1:5) and expect joy in return (1:4).

    Paul was the spiritual father of the churches in Galatia , Thessalonica and Corinth . He wrote to them like a father, because it was he, who established/planted these churches! We can conclude without any risk, that the members of those churches were led to the Lord directly by Paul. What’s more, Paul’s spiritual children where not the people from other churches. He didn’t call himself “father” in relation to any other New Testament churches. When apostle or other minister plants a church as the fruit of his ministry, he becomes the spiritual father to them.

    Let us notice that we are dealing all time with the picture talk; Jesus was also using picture talk. He said that He is “the Shepherd”, “the Vine”, “the Bread” and so on, but He was not real shepherd (had no sheep), was obviously not the vine or the bread.

    Back to Paul. He was also specifically spiritual father to the individuals: Timothy , Titus and Onesimus . Why he calls himself “father”? It is interesting with Timothy. His grandmother and mother were “believers” (1. Tim. 1:5). The question is, when Paul became spiritual father to Timothy. Most probably it was during his and Barnabas’ first apostolic journey (Acts 14:20-21). The same was with the Grecian Titus. He was not only Paul’s “true child”, but also “brother” (2. Cor. 2:13), “partner and fellow worker” (2. Cor. 8:23). It means that firstly Titus was the “true child”, and later, when he grew up spiritually, he was already Paul’s partner. About Onesimus it is clear: he was spiritually born in prison.

    In all these scriptures we cannot find anything what the contemporary “apostles” emphasize! Nothing about “apostolic covering”. Just opposite. Apostles (and prophets) had/have no controlling or governing rang in the Church, Body of Christ. Bible teaches us very clearly that all believers have the same position though different functions. The key-apostle Peter had to give report (referring his ministry to Cornelius) to the other “apostles and the brothers” (Acts 11:1). Paul wrote about fivefold ministry (Eph. 4:11) not to elevate apostles over others. Surely the apostles’ ministry was of high responsibility, but it doesn’t mean that they where “covering” the rest of the Body. The Head of the Body was, is and will be only Jesus, and only He is in control.

    And spiritual father is the one, who is as God’s tool in leading someone (or group) to the Lord.

    Contemporary application

    Many (but not all!) Christians have one spiritual father (it is not possible to have more fathers!) in such visible/allegorical meaning. Spiritual father could be called only someone, who lead unbeliever(s) to the Lord – so biblical, logical, simply and beautiful it is. And it was never reserved for apostles!

    There are also many, who have no spiritual father, because they had intimate and personal encounter with God. No one led/assisted apostle Paul: his spiritual father was Jesus self, revealed to him near Damascus. No one led me to Jesus, when I was spiritually conceived.
    It means, there are Christians who have spiritual father, and there are Christians who have not spiritual father. However, it hasn’t any doctrinal impact on the fact of becoming and being the child of God (John 1:12 ).

    Otherwise we are/could be the spiritual fathers/mothers in such visible/allegorical meaning to other people. Jesus wants, that we will be “fishing” other people into His boat. Andrew was spiritual father to Peter (he brought him to Jesus), Peter was spiritual father to thousands (even he never called himself “father”), John, Paul … they were spiritual fathers. Reader of this essay could/should be too!

    In conclusion: pseudo-doctrine about “apostolic covering” is not biblical. It is a human teaching , which seems to be positive, but in reality its goal is to rule (govern) over churches and people, and it is derogation from the autonomy of the local congregations.

    Ultimately, it is God-Jesus-Holy Spirit, who is the real Spiritual Father!

    with best greetings and wishes
    Stan Malina
    (sorry for my imperfect English)

  5. Thank you Steve for addressing my question even though it was outside of the topic, I really appreciate your answer and wisdom and receive it!

  6. Excellent blog. We have run into this crappy teaching more than a few times; in fact, it is a good thing that the Lord had us leave a couple of ministries, as we may have become trapped in them! Thank You & God Bless.

  7. Remove the opening statement and go after the issue;
    “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.””
    First, there is no group that self-identifies as the NAR. Thus they have no ‘strongly held beliefs’ because there is no they. The teaching about covering definitely deserves critique. The issue of abuse of power definitely needs exposure. However, the NAR has become the waste basket for careless critiquing. Every time I read a denunciation of the NAR I find that it is as easy to identify as finding Sasquatch.

    For history on the new apostolic reformation all you have to do is read the writings of C Peter Wagner Churchquake and New Reformation and The New Apostolic Churches … Wagner was noting trends not expounding an actual group. Those churches were as disparate as the original reformation.

    I appreciate the critique just not the opening errant caricature.

    • Alan, Would you prefer ICA to NAR? ICA is a group, whereas NAR is as you say, not an “entity” but an appellation applied to those who share many of the similar beliefs and practices, but that does not mean they are organizationally monolithic. NAR is a broad term and as accurate as the term “Protestant.” Disparate, yes, but with common identifying threads. I spent 20+ years in various iterations of those disparate groups and they do share common beliefs, as do many Protestants, so your objection seems pedantic to me. BTW, I have read Churchquake and the other Wagner titles. In fact, when it first came out several years ago, CPW, reviewed the book this excerpt is from and responded positively.

      • Stephen,

        Thanks for the response. I am seeing the NAR used as a broad brushed condemnation brimming with inaccuracies that ultimately do matter. Doug Geivett’s work comes to mind. I participate in groups that are branded with this moniker and none of us practice the critiqued abuse of power. In fact we are relentlessly opposite in our insistence upon personal freedom.

        I heartily agree with your assault on this aberrant doctrine.

        Peace to you sir.

        • I understand Alan. I had to deal with the same phenomenon when I was in those climates. People assumed because of association, that I concurred with these things, rather than realizing that I was an unwelcome voice of dissent in those environments. Peace and blessings to you also.

  8. I totally agree that many of the church’s are unlearned about the roles and responsibilities of a true 5 Fold Ministry. We have become lovers of people and not of the one and true GOD! Church people overall are not been taught nor have many so call pastor’s taken the time to study God’s Word and pray for a true heart to LEAD! ITS ABOUT WORHSHIP ME in many circles. Its about ME,ME,ME,ME! I use to ask GOD in my earlier days in the church, LORD why will judgement start in your HOUSE? It’s WHERE YOUR PEOPLE ARE! Well, it wasn’t long before I got my anwswer “MY PEOPLE PERISH FOR A LACK OF KNOWLEDGE”! In other words many are JUST not being taught and those that are do not have an ear to ear……Many of those that are being taught TEND to have no problem violating God’s Word! They have allow the enemy to curse them with a seared conscious, as having a prayer life is NOT OF any IMPORTANCE. OUR failing to have a PRAYER LIFE has caused our EYES to become blinded. We have entered into the begining of the tribulation period! Where MEN/WOMEN have become lovers of themselves more than lovers of GOD. We have found ourselves blind to the truth and believing a LIE and rejecting THE LEADING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT! We have NO PRAYER LIFE because we just don’t have time! WAKE UP ZION! WAKE UP! The CHURCH IS SUPPOSE TO BE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD! YET WE R SITTING ON THE HILL BUT NO ONE CAN SEE OUR LIGHT AS WE BECOME MORE LIKE THE WORLD! NO ONE HAS TIME TO PRAY, NO ONE WANTS TO WIN SOULS! BESIDE IT DOESN’T TAKE ALL OF THAT! LORD HAVE MERCY ON US ALL!!! THIS IS MY OPINION AND I HAVE A RIGHT TO IT ESPECIALLY WHEN IT HOLD TRUTH!!!! LORD HELP ME AND TRULY HELP US ALL! IN JESUS HOLY NAME!!!!! I.E. My statement is not a reference of ALL CHURHCES in the WORLD.IT’s a REFERENCE OF MOST! HE THAT HAS AN EAR TO HEAR LET HIM HEAR! IF U HAVE SPIRITUAL EYE TAKE A LOOK!

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