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Recommended Reading

Steven Lambert, ThD, Charismatic Captivation.  Real Truth Publications, 2003.

This book presents a comprehensive analysis of the shepherding movement from a Charismatic perspective. It gives in-depth biblical answers to many of the false teachings in the shepherding doctrine. Information about ordering the book may be found at the following link:  Real Truth Publications

Frank Viola, Reimagining Church  David C. Cook, 2008.

Reimagining Church is the updated version of several previously released books, including Who Is Your Covering? published by Frank Viola in 2001. Reimagining Church and the former book on covering deal specifically with many of the errors taught in the Shepherding Movement, and how we must understand the true nature of church authority and structure of the New Testament church before we can effectively argue against modern day false "covering" and "submission" teachings.

Frank Viola's book postulates that the whole idea of "covering" is rooted in the practice of heirarchical leadership in the church--that church members must have someone "over them"--either a person or an ecclesiastical structure (See Chapter 11 on "Spiritual Covering"). This idea is refuted by the idea that we are accountable to God (and therefore "covered" by Him).

One good feature of this book is that it not only exposes error, but also provides practical ways of implementing true biblical practices in the church today. The idea that "the modern clergy system is a religious artifact that has no biblical basis" is also very thought provoking and relevant to the discussion about the false shepherding system (see Chapter 8 under the heading of "The Modern Clergy System").

Note: "Reimagining Church" is available at Frank Viola's web site: Present Testimony Ministry

Ronald M. Enroth, Churches That Abuse.  Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1992.

The author takes a sociological approach to abusive churches, focusing more on the patterns that are found in all abusive groups and the psychological dangers to their members than on any specific doctrinal errors. The examples of abuse come from a wide range of churches, and seek to point out the common threads that lead to churches becoming abusive. The purpose of the book is to answer the question: "When does a church cross the line between conventional church status and fringe status?"

While not focusing specifically on the shepherding movement, the book cites examples from some groups that practice shepherding such as the Boston Movement (Chapter 6). One example given is of a disciple "who obeys his discipler even if he doesn't comprehend what he's told. Because he wants to have a teachable heart, he will fully obey and be totally obedient even if what he's asked to do is contrary to what he would normally do or think" (p. 117). The author demonstrates how members are manipulated into accepting these practices, and the type of psychological pressures they may face if they try to leave.

David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.  Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1991.

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse covers a variety of situations found in churches that could be classified as abusive, and how the believer can use biblical truth and other spiritual resources to counteract this abuse. This book, co-authored by two men in church leadership positions, takes a Christian counseling approach that obviously comes from years of experience dealing with these situations. One of the points of the book is that Christians may have left these abusive groups years ago, but sometimes the after-effects of the abusive situation lingers on until the believer effectively deals with all the issues that were involved in it.

This best-selling book does not specifically deal with the subject of shepherding, but many people coming from shepherding groups will identify with several of the issues discussed. I think this work is a good guidebook for those either wondering whether they are in a truly abusive situation or what is the biblical way to get out of it.

Since this book was published in 1991, I am not sure of its availability in the local Christian book stores. Those who have a hard time finding it, though, can order it from Personal Freedom Outreach, which also has other very useful apologetic and biblically based publications.

Chuck Smith, Two False Doctrines: Shepherding or Dictatorship? and Christian "Possession,"  Answers for Today, Costa Mesa, California.

Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary in Costa Mesa, California, was one of the earliest mainstream teachers to publicly teach against the shepherding movement. This booklet was published as part of a series of doctrinal issues.

Florence Bulle, The Many Faces of Deception.  Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1989.

Originally published under the title "God Wants You Rich" and Other Enticing Doctrines, this was one of the few works in the early 1980's that exposed the shepherding doctrines as not only unbiblical, but potentially dangerous to those involved in them. Chapter Six relates the story of a man who died after being told to quit taking insulin in order to show his "faith" that God had healed him. While I believe this is an extreme example of submission to a leader that would not occur in the majority of Christian groups that practice shepherding, I do agree with the final conclusion that every detail of our life should be under the Holy Spirit's control, and in following the Lord there will be no place for man's manipulation that would take us away from God's will.

Chapter Five, "The Battle of The Sexes--Headship/Submission," provides an excellent insight into the the true nature of submission through the biblical example of Abraham and Sarah and through practical situations that occur to Christians today. The author presents an insightful discussion about true and false "covering," and how following the shepherding movement's teaching will lead a couple into a distorted and unhealthy relationship that the Lord never intended. Through the author's practical examples about married couples, I believe a broader application can be made to anyone in a position of authority or who is under someone in authority. I gained insights from this chapter that I did not see while doing my own research on the shepherding movement.

William MacDonald, True Discipleship.  Walterick Publishers, Kansas City, Kansas, 1962.

William MacDonald has written a concise yet rather complete work on the meaning of being a disciple of Christ. The author means to challenge Christians to follow Christ completely. It is certainly not easy, but Mr. MacDonald offers practical steps, and more importantly, the scriptural basis for taking up our crosses and following Him.

One of the best sections of the book is about faith. The author says faith is based upon some promise of God or portion of His word. The Holy Spirit takes that promise and applies it to the heart of the believer.

Shepherding has misapplied faith by saying we should obey our leaders just because God has put them into a leadership position. Much can be done in the Kingdom of God thorough faith, but true faith is based on God's word and not just the "hope" that if we follow our leaders everything will turn out all right.

It is interesting that in the several chapters of Mr. MacDonald's work, there is no chapter about obeying our elders to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. Instead, we are to rely on the voice of Christ.

Anyone who sets out to follow Christ can be sure that many escape routes will loom up before him. He will be given numerous opportunities to turn back. Other voices will call to him, offering to cut inches off the cross. Twelve legions of angels stand ready to deliver him from the path of self-renunciation and sacrifice. (p. 16)

This quote not only demonstrates what true discipleship is all about, it also assumes that we as disciples can hear the voice of the Lord. We do not need to listen to others to hear what God is saying. The author does not exclude the possibility that God could speak to us through others in the church, but this is not the focus of hearing Christ's voice and being disciples of Him.

The original book is out of print but reprints are available in book stores and on the Internet.

Recommended Reading (Out of Print)

Bob Buess, Discipleship: Pro and Con.  Bob Buess, Van, Texas, 1975.

In this self-published book, Bob Buess takes an early look at the neo-discipleship (shepherding) movement from the perspective of the Charismatic Movement, with an attempt to maintain unity in the body of Christ. The author tends to explain shepherding as a series of "excesses" of bibilical truths, such as excessive authority, submission, etc. Even though the book claims to explain both the pros and cons of discipleship, there are very few "pro" arguments about neo-discipleship. There is a section in the book, however, about "True Discipleship," the kind taught by Jesus in the Bible. One of the things I enjoy about the book is that it lists just about every error taught by the shepherding movement, along with a biblical refutation (even errors and teachings I had not thought about).

Biblical Commentaries and Lexicons

Note: For a more complete list of commentaries see:
Jackson Boyett's Recommended Commentaries

George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Green New Testament with the Authorized Version.  Chicago: Wilcox and Follett Company, 1897.

Colin Brown, ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology.  Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.

Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament: With an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic.  Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1968.

Benjamin Davies, ed. A Compendious and Complete Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, 2nd ed.  Boston: Ira Bradley & Co., 1875.

Matthew Henry, Commentary On The Whole Bible.  Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961.

Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.  Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1967.

James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.  New York: Abingdon Press, 1965.

Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.  New York: American Book Company, 1889.

W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.  Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1940.

John Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (A Commentary by John F. Walvoord).  Chicago: Moody Press, 1971.

Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible.  Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970.

Shepherding Movement's Published Source Material

Note: New Wine articles are available on-line at the web site of Charles Simpson Ministries:
New Wine Magazine


Charles Simpson, "Covering of the Lord," New Wine, Dec. 1973, pp. 28-31.


"Forum: Discipleship," New Wine, March 1974, pp. 27-31.

Derek Prince, "Discipleship, Shepherding & Authority," New Wine, February 1976, pp. 11-15.

Derek Prince, Discipleship, Shepherding, Commitment.  Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: Derek Prince Publications, 1976.

Charles Simpson, "Making Disciples," New Wine, March 1974, pp. 4-8.

Submission and Authority

Bob Mumford, The Problem of Doing Your Own Thing.  Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: Bob Mumford, 1972.

Bob Mumford, "Understanding Spiritual Authority" New Wine, Dec. 1973, pp. 23-27.

John M. Poole, "What a Shepherd Can Expect from His Sheep" New Wine, May 1974, pp. 4-8.

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