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A Biblical Alternative to The Shepherding Movement

The purpose of this web site is to give a biblical response to a set of teachings popularly known as the "Shepherding Movement," based on both experience with the movement and personal study of all the biblical passages I could find related to the subject. This project started because I wanted to talk to people I knew who were in the movement, but with the development of the Internet the opportunity came up to present this material to a wider audience.

The mention of names and quotes from men who founded the shepherding movement are included primarily to follow the principles of good scholarship to include accurate source material. In fact, I encourage everyone to read the original articles from New Wine Magazine on the subject, which are included on my Links page. Today there are a number of churches and groups which practice various forms of shepherding, and I am mainly trying to cover the ideas of shepherding rather than people and groups promoting them. For most subjects, though, the best source is to read some of the original articles which set forth the main ideas taught by the movement.

Many of my articles are based on the study of widely recognized scholarly works relating to the Bible. A list of these is on the Bibliography page, under the heading "Biblical Commentaries and Lexicons." I found a good collection of these books in the Oklahoma City University library, as well as at other libraries which carry the mainline Christian scholarly works. I believe the key to understanding many of the biblical principles in the topics discussed on this web site is in following the word definitions and interpretations of these scholars.

To me the main issue in shepherding is the idea of "covering," or the concept that we need an elder or someone more mature than us to protect us from falling into spiritual traps. The article entitled Christian: Who Is Your Covering? explores some of the problems with "covering" as taught by the shepherding movement.

The primary biblical answer to the shepherding movement's covering teaching is a simple concept from Psalm 23:1, "The Lord is my shepherd." I state quite often that Jesus Christ is the true shepherd of all Christians, but God the Father equally fulfills this role, as is made clear in Psalm 23. In fact, in Ephesians Chapter 1 Paul gives us an insight concerning how the Lord speaks to us (and thus functions as our Shepherd):

verse 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers;
verse 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

The phrase "spirit of wisdom and of revelation" is really a more accurate description of how the Lord guides us than the idea that we might hear a voice from Him or expect to get a supernatural revelation about small details in our life (although we should expect revelations about the nature and purposes of God, as well as those things which He chooses to show to us). To me it seems that the burden is on us to study the word, get to know God through prayer and Bible study, and make decisions based on this rather than expecting that there be a "shepherd" available to give us easy answers to our questions. At the same time, we have the promise from Ephesians (and elsewhere) that God is there is guide us, protect us, and serve as our Shepherd:

verse 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
verse 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might
verse 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,

God is all powerful, but Jesus Christ makes the Father accessible to us, and my contention is that Christ is the true Shepherd who leads us and protects us. I believe there was a reason Paul wrote these encouraging words to the church at Ephesus, so that they would know that they did in fact have a personal relationship with the Lord and that He would work directly in their lives.

Since we have such clear indications about how Christ leads us and protects us (the role of a shepherd), I am not sure how the shepherding movement gained so much traction in putting so much emphasis on relying on men for this. Nevertheless, I try to present articles that will encourage Christians and explain how true shepherding by the Lord works.

Following is some additional information found on this site:

Please refer to the following topics for more information:

  • Covering: Christian: Who is your covering ... a man, or Jesus Christ?
  • Discipleship: True and false ideas about Christian discipleship.
  • Biblical Response: A list of some of the most egregious teachings of the shepherding movement, and biblical insights about the true nature of discipleship, shepherding, authority, obedience, trusting the judgment of spiritual leaders, and covering.
  • Articles: Index to other articles about the shepherding movement and related subjects.
  • Bibliography of recommended reading material.
  • Links to useful web sites on the subject.

Unless otherwise noted all biblical quotes are from the New American Standard Bible.

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©2005-2013 Steve Coleman

Biblical Response