Do simple/organic churches need a “covering”?

Here’s the idea: everyone needs covering–a kind of spiritual protection against the storms of life. If someone moves out from under covering, (as in leaving a particular church, or more specifically a particular leader), they somehow become vulnerable to demonic attack and are likely to end up with all kinds of problems. House churches are especially vulnerable because they don’t have any kind of covering–no one who has spiritual authority over them. Their people don’t answer to anyone.

Covering

I’ve come across a number of people who have been told this by their pastor or spiritual leader when they have brought up the idea of leaving a particular church. When they’ve taken the plunge and moved away from that church, others, who used to be their friends, have even been forbidden to have contact with them in case they are “contaminated.”

I believe this is spiritual abuse.

The idea of covering is totally non-Scriptural! The only reference to covering in this way in the Bible is the story of Ruth and Boaz where Ruth asks Boaz to extend the borders of his garment over her. It’s very far-fetched to apply this to church leadership.

As Frank Viola says, I think in Reimagining Church, it is extraordinary that when Paul writes to the people in Corinth addressing a serious moral problem in the church, he does not ask the leadership of the church to deal with it. One would have expected him to ask the elders to handle the situation. Instead, he addresses the whole body and anticipates they will deal with the problem.

We quite often get asked, “Who is your spiritual covering?” Our response: “Jesus is the authority to whom the church answers! We can all hear him and respond to his call on our lives.” If the Lord calls others to leave us, we give them our blessing and send them on their way. We’ve found that you cannot outgive God.

What do you think

27 thoughts on “Do simple/organic churches need a “covering”?”

  1. The doctrine of covering is over-spiritualization of a legit Biblical principal: submitting to other believers. The whole covering thing hinges on the idea that “pastor” is an office that someone holds. The reality is that the word “pastor” is also a verb, and those who show aptitude in pastoring might be called “pastor” by a few people.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve learned all that from you, Felicity. 🙂

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    1. Joel, there is no place in scripture that “Pastor” is used as someone’s title. The minute you start calling anyone “pastor” you have elevated them above you or others. That is when the rot starts in a church, pride among the leadership, and idolatry amongst the congregation who look to him instead of Jesus.
      I doubt you learned to call anyone “Pastor” from Felicity!

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      1. There’s a difference between a title and a descriptive noun. Ephesians 4 does include the word pastor to describe some believers.

        I have friends who are very good at caring for the spiritual well-being of others. They have spoken encouragement into my life and encouraged me toward great faith in Jesus. They have pastored me. I would call them pastors. That doesn’t mean that they get an office with a name and title on the door. It simply means that God has used them to pastor me as the faithfully follow Jesus’s leading.

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  2. Study church history and you will be amazed about what this so called covering did and about the miracle survival despite of it. Our Good Shepard knows how to take care of His sheep…

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    1. And we can all hear his voice too. It’s sad that so many are caught up in a system of fear and control when Jesus taught us the opposite.

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  3. Yes we walk
    together as family and not independent
    but the foundation below that is love.

    Teaching as
    needing a cover can never be in line with love, because there based upon some
    kind of control, and as we both know another definition for control is fear. Fear
    is one of the enemies of both love and trust. If we try to control things for
    example by covering structures, even if we fool ourselves by putting God on top
    of that chain of covering, we walk away from faith that grace has the last
    word.

    http://www.activegraceministries,org

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      1. Still
        in serving there is calling and that call enquires leadership while serving as
        most powerfully is written in Ephesians 4::11 So
        Christ himself gave the
        apostles, the
        prophets, the
        evangelists, the
        pastors and teachers, 12 to
        equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may
        be built up. Is is by placing yourself as leader in the position of Romans 12
        Therefore, I
        urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s
        mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true
        and proper worship. 2 Do not
        conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
        mind. Then you will be able to test and approve
        what God’s will is—his
        good, pleasing and perfect will.3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of
        yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober
        judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of
        you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members,
        and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the
        others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
        If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then
        teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do
        it cheerfully.

        This way of
        leadership never leaves room for under cover teachings and is indeed an upside
        down pyramid as is written so clearly in Philippians 2: Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united
        with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the
        Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or
        vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above
        yourselves,4 not looking to your own interests but
        each of you to the interests of the others.

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  4. No Jesus is the only covering we need….the idea of needing a pastor or controlling elder is because they really don’t know an actual resurrected lord who is supposed to be living inside of them

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  5. I think that it’s all a matter of control… According to the new testament all believers are equal and all should be involved by using their gifts – teachers and preachers are responsible for raising all believers to the same level as themselves. Nowhere in Scripture, or in my studies of church history, do I see that any believer is subject to any other. Each of us has to work out our own salvation (“with fear and trembling”).
    This attitude of of the typical pastor has, even though I work for a seminary, caused me to abandon the institutional church…

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    1. Mike,
      You are sadly right about it being a matter of control. And I totally agree with you about the 5-fold gifts. The function of apostles, prophets etc is not to showcase their own gifts but to equip others.

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  6. Jesus is our “peribolaion,” or covering. That said the Kingdom of God has always operated out of stewardship principles. In simplification, The Lord provides the means and resources for one to become groomed in his likeness. Usually mentorship of some kind. This model has served God well for eons. Now regardless of church model, we believers need each other for accountability and to spur one another to good works. Recall that with as few as two involved in any type of gathering, that our Lord promises to be involved personally. The gifts the Lord empowered the Church at large with our for the edification of the Saints to “do the work of the ministry.” In Charismatic circles we refer to this as the “five fold ministry.” Not everyone will be gifted for this servitude. However we are all called royal priests by the Lord. My qualification for leadership on any level is attributed to Jesus answer of the subject, that such said person be the first willing to serve and to die (both physically and to self) for the empowerment of their brethren.

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    1. Bob, you hit the nail on the head when you talk about being like servants. If we willingly lay down our own self interests and ambition for the sake of others in the Kingdom, then they instinctively recognize that and want to learn from us.

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  7. Thx. for the shout-out, Felicity. Yes, you are right. It’s in “Reimagining Church” the constructive sequel to “Pagan Christianity.”

    blessings,

    fv

    Psalm 115:1
    http;//www.frankviola.net

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  8. Great post Felicity! That covering teaching or doctrine was going full tilt when God sovereignly called me out of my comfort zone to Ukraine just after she had declared her independence 20 years ago. I wasn’t sure about going until He handled my fleece confirmation request in a miraculous way. If I had waited for an OK from a muckety muck with a fancy collar or mission board I would likely be warming a pew in some seeker friendly entertainment we call, “church.” I wanted to find a covering as it seemed to be necessary according to everyone in the early 90’s. But I KNEW that I was called. My angst was eased at last when Len Sernukian gave me Psalm 91 and told me I could find my covering there. The magic word was right there in verse 4. I stopped looking as I had the absolute best covering I could ask for. The local church from which I was called is no more. The company where I was working is gone. But my covering is eternal.

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    1. David, So true. How many people who would have gone into missions were prevented by the “church” or a “mission board.” My father-in-law was one example. He was turned down by the mission he wanted to go with because he had asthma. But he and his young family went to China (and later Taiwan) anyway and had a very fruitful time there. Gladys Aylwood is another.

      I love the way the Lord answered your desire for covering through Psalm 91. What a great answer!

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  9. I agree and have been injured by “churches” who believe and follow the teaching of pastoral covering. I ask you this…what is your recommendation if there is nowhere else to fellowship except a local church? Also, everyone is always so uncommitted in the home-church groups that I’ve belonged to in the past.

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    1. I’d start something, working with not-yet-believers. We’ve done it a number of times and it’s always a challenge and a blessing. I’m guessing you’ve been a Christian for years. If you decide to go this way, let me know and I’d love to point you in the direction of some resources.

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  10. We the people are the church and Jesus is our covering. Paul says don’t neglect the fellowship of the saints. It says nothing about if you don’t have a pastor over you you are going to be attacked by Demons or go the wrong way. Thank you for this post. I’m kind of dealing with this issue now.

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