“Heavy shepherding” (also referred to as the “Discipleship Movement”) is a method of psychological control used by abusive churches and cults. It came out of the Shepherding Movement of the 1970s. The International Churches of Christ from the Boston Movement is perhaps the most well-known group that practices heavy shepherding. Another infamous group to come out of the Shepherding Movement was Christian Grown Ministries in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Heavy shepherding churches and cults can be identified by the following practices:
- Submission to “discipleship partners” or “shepherds” and those in authority
- Obligation to confess sin to “discipleship partners” or “shepherds”
- Unquestioning loyalty and obedience to all those in authority
- Obligation to intensively recruit others to join the movement
- Authoritarian leadership and group experience
- Conformity to the movement’s standards
- Spiritual manipulation and intimidation
- Hierarchical system of accountability
- Legalism and control over members
- Prohibition against reading any literature not approved by the leadership
- Whistle-blowing on members suspected of being nonconformists
- Total dependence on the movement and the leaders for approval
- Fear of punishment or humiliation for questioning the leadership
Any leader who demands blind obedience and submission is building on a false basis of authority. True authority comes only from God and cannot be seized by men who simply seek power and authority over others, who want to be in charge and admired. If a group or a person assumes authority based solely on role, office, or position, then he is abusing his position. Heavy shepherds are religious power brokers who control others through fear. They preach about authority, submission, judgment, prosperity and end-times. These false shepherds present themselves as the source of all knowledge and authority. They punish people who do not meet a certain standard and ostracize them as not earning God’s approval. They ignore the fact that Christians already have God’s approval through the shed blood of Jesus Christ—no person can “earn” God’s approval.
There is a biblical basis for structure within the church. Hebrews 13:17 tells us to obey our leaders and submit to their authority because “they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” But when leaders tell their flock not to think, not to ask questions and to ignore problems, they are abusing their position. When people who think, ask questions and confront problems are branded as un-submissive, unspiritual or divisive, then they are being abused by false prophets who “come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
John 10:1–18 shows that the church should be modelled on Christ Jesus, who is the good shepherd. When He calls His sheep, they recognize His voice and follow Him. And, most importantly, Jesus says, “I lay down my life for the sheep” (verse 15). A good shepherd leads his flock to safety and guards them from predators that seek to hurt them.
Jesus instructs His disciples to obey His commands, just as He obeyed the Father. But there is nothing heavy-handed about this command! “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you … I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me but I chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit … This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:9–17). Nowhere does Jesus suggest that we have to blindly submit to men. Instead, we must submit to Christ, who is the head of every man (1 Corinthians 11:3). And in all things, we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
This is how shepherding should be done: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.… All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:1–7). A heavy shepherding pastor is the exact opposite of the humble servant-leader whom Peter endorses.
Jesus told His disciples, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (Luke 22:25–26).
Christian leaders are under obligation to follow Jesus’ example of humility and compassion. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
Beware of any religious group that practices “shepherding,” “submission” and “covering” concepts. We have been bought by the precious blood of Christ Jesus and “brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
 Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
Ancient Sumer-Babylon, like many cultures of antiquity, produced mythologies to explain the world around them. The Epic of Gilgamesh is one such mythology. Several versions of the epic poem exist, but the 12-tablet Akkadian version is the best known. The story centers on the friendship between the principal character, Gilgamesh, and Enkidu. Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, is two-thirds god and one-third man. He has oppressed the people of Uruk, so the gods create Enkidu to distract Gilgamesh. Their unlikely friendship results in a journey of fantastical adventures resulting in the death of Enkidu.
An important feature of this epic is a “flood” story in which a character named Utnapishim and his wife survive a great flood and obtain immortality. The existence of this flood story, with its many similarities to the Genesis account, indicates a common source. Rather than the Genesis flood account being copied from the Epic of Gilgamesh, both accounts are entirely separate records of something that actually occurred, namely, a global flood.
The gods who appear in the Epic of Gilgamesh are the Anunnaki, a name which probably means “those of royal blood” or “princely offspring” in the ancient Sumerian language. In contrast to this pagan mythology is the biblical account of the Nephilim. Who were the Nephilim? Biblically speaking, the Nephilim were the descendants of the sons of God and daughters of men (Genesis 6:1–4). While there are differing interpretations of this passage, GotQuestions.org believes it involves the fallen angels (sons of God) taking on human form and mating with the daughters of men (human females), thereby producing a race of angelic-human half-breeds.
Is there a connection between the Anunnaki and the Nephilim? Perhaps. It is definitely interesting to note that both the biblical flood account and the Epic of Gilgamesh mention supernatural, god-like beings interacting with humanity in connection with a global flood. So, it is possible that the myths regarding the Anunnaki originate in the reality that was the Nephilim.
 Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
The Bible is a work of literature. Literature comes in different genres, or categories based on style, and each is read and appreciated differently from another. For example, to confuse a work of science fiction with a medical textbook would cause many problems—they must be understood differently. And both science fiction and a medical text must be understood differently from poetry. Therefore, accurate exegesis and interpretation takes into consideration the purpose and style of a given book or passage of Scripture. In addition, some verses are meant figuratively, and proper discernment of these is enhanced by an understanding of genre. An inability to identify genre can lead to serious misunderstanding of Scripture.
The main genres found in the Bible are these: law, history, wisdom, poetry, narrative, epistles, prophecy and apocalyptic literature. The summary below shows the differences between each genre and how each should be interpreted:
Law: This includes the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The purpose of law is to express God’s sovereign will concerning government, priestly duties, social responsibilities, etc. Knowledge of Hebrew manners and customs of the time, as well as a knowledge of the covenants, will complement a reading of this material.
History: Stories and epics from the Bible are included in this genre. Almost every book in the Bible contains some history, but Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Acts are predominately history. Knowledge of secular history is crucial, as it dovetails perfectly with biblical history and makes interpretation much more robust.
Wisdom: This is the genre of aphorisms that teach the meaning of life and how to live. Some of the language used in wisdom literature is metaphorical and poetic, and this should be taken into account during analysis. Included are the books of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes.
Poetry: These include books of rhythmic prose, parallelism, and metaphor, such as Song of Solomon, Lamentations and Psalms. We know that many of the psalms were written by David, himself a musician, or David’s worship leader, Asaph. Because poetry does not translate easily, we lose some of the musical “flow” in English. Nevertheless, we find a similar use of idiom, comparison and refrain in this genre as we find in modern music.
Narrative: This genre includes the Gospels, which are biographical narratives about Jesus, and the books of Ruth, Esther, and Jonah. A reader may find bits of other genres within the Gospels, such as parable (Luke 8:1–15) and discourse (Matthew 24). The book of Ruth is a perfect example of a well-crafted short story, amazing in its succinctness and structure.
Epistles: An epistle is a letter, usually in a formal style. There are 21 letters in the New Testament from the apostles to various churches or individuals. These letters have a style very similar to modern letters, with an opening, a greeting, a body, and a closing. The content of the Epistles involves clarification of prior teaching, rebuke, explanation, correction of false teaching and a deeper dive into the teachings of Jesus. The reader would do well to understand the cultural, historical and social situation of the original recipients in order to get the most out of an analysis of these books.
Prophecy and Apocalyptic Literature: The Prophetic writings are the Old Testament books of Isaiah through Malachi, and the New Testament book of Revelation. They include predictions of future events, warnings of coming judgment, and an overview of God’s plan for Israel. Apocalyptic literature is a specific form of prophecy, largely involving symbols and imagery and predicting disaster and destruction. We find this type of language in Daniel (the beasts of chapter 7), Ezekiel (the scroll of chapter 3), Zechariah (the golden lampstand of chapter 4), and Revelation (the four horsemen of chapter 6). The Prophetic and Apocalyptic books are the ones most often subjected to faulty eisegesis and personal interpretation based on emotion or preconceived bias. However, Amos 3:7 tells us, “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” Therefore, we know that the truth has been told, and it can be known via careful exegesis, a familiarity with the rest of the Bible, and prayerful consideration. Some things will not be made clear to us except in the fullness of time, so it is best not to assume to know everything when it comes to prophetic literature.
An understanding of the genres of Scripture is vital to the Bible student. If the wrong genre is assumed for a passage, it can easily be misunderstood or misconstrued, leading to an incomplete and fallacious understanding of what God desires to communicate. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), and He wants us to “correctly [handle] the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Also, God wants us to know His plan for the world and for us as individuals. How fulfilling it is to come to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep” (Ephesians 3:18) is the love of God for us!
 Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
A generation of older, baby-boomer, not-so-hipster worship leaders are in the last decade or two of their full-time ministry. And a new generation of younger, Generation X, youthfully vigorous worship leaders have taken (or are about to take) the wheel. They are determining the trajectory of worship in music all around the world and will be at the helm for the next 20-30 years.
As a card-carrying member of this generation, I say that we have some very important decisions to make. Can this trend towards performancism be reversed? Can we spend “our turn” stewarding our ministries in such a way that orients the worship of the church more strongly towards the glory of God in Jesus Christ and away from the performance of the people on stage?
It’s important to know the wrong turns that have led much of the evangelical worship world to where it is today: embracing a trend of performancism in worship.
Edward Snowden. You know the name. He’s the guy who exposed the NSA for spying on Americans and has said he doesn’t think things will change but will only get worse.
He’s right, and we can thank ourselves for that.
Now everyone knows the abuses of the United States government under Barack Obama. Now everyone knows just how much our liberties and freedoms under this usurping, non-American criminal who has, again and again, committed treason against the people of the United States, gotten away with so much without even a whisper of opposition from the representatives of the people of America itself.
It is criminal. There is no justice in the land, none whatsoever.
I feel like Amos of Scripture, but no.
Listen people. Thank Edward Snowden – after you thank God for him – for revealing the corruption of your own government.
Lament and wail at your…
View original post 245 more words
The worst kind of poison is the kind that poisons you without you realizing it. There’s no bitter taste, no pain, no sudden weakness, nothing to alarm; yet, the poison is slowly and steadily doing its deadly work.
In such a dangerous condition, our only hope is some kind of test that shows what is undetectable to normal human senses, maybe a scan of sorts that shows up the extent of the poison in our systems. Only then can the antidote be found, prescribed, and taken.
Although the vast majority of Christians don’t realize it, we are being slowly yet steadily poisoned by virtually undetectable toxins. No, this isn’t about chemicals or biological agents; it’s ideas, worldviews, philosophies, and ideologies that we are unknowingly absorbing into our systems every day of life, and that are eating away at the vitals of our spiritual vitality.
What is Love? [Infographic]
Well worth spending a few minutes praying over this.
Identifying The Cause of Mental Illness
Brad Hambrick continues his helpful and balanced series on this complicated subject.
By Chuck Lawless
I’m writing this post for me as much as for anyone. In the past months, I’ve re-read Jim Collins’ How the Mighty Fall and Tim Irwin’s Derailed. Both of these gripping studies review the process of decline in leaders and organizations, especially in leaders who perhaps once thought themselves invincible.
These studies challenge me because I know I’m prideful. I also know that “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18, HCSB). With me, use these potential markers of arrogance to avoid such a fall.
As you are likely familiar with, there has been a fairly large-scale discussion taking place recently within evangelicalism surrounding the doctrine of sanctification. And that’s demonstrated that there is widespread confusion about what the doctrine of sanctification is, how it relates to our justification, and how God’s role and man’s role work alongside one another.
But if there’s a doctrine that we can’t afford to be confused about, it’s the doctrine of sanctification. And I say that because it’s where we all live. We all live in between the time of our past justification and our future glorification—in the present pursuit of Christlikeness. And so we need to get this right. If we are concerned to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Phil 1:27), if we desire to please the Lord in all respects (Col 1:10), if it’s our ambition to put the sanctifying power of Christ on display, then we need to be clear on how we go about growing in holiness.
So over the next few days, I want to look into what Scripture has to say about these issues, with the hope that I might be able to add something helpful to the discussion, and to help us align our thoughts with the biblical teaching on the matter.
End Times Prophecy Report
May 27, 2014
SWITZERLAND: Swiss to allow for assisted dying for elderly who are not ill – A recipe for disaster? A generation raised on the insatiable appetites of “Me, me, me” meets the inconvenient elderly. Of course, the generation of the elderly were raised on sacrificing inconvenient babies on the altar of convenience, so perhaps it’s poetic justice?
IRAN: Supreme Leader: Jihad will continue until America is no more – The puppets in Iran and the puppets in Washington are all on the same team. The puppet in Iran’s statement was intentionally provocative. The statement was intended to stir up fear and loathing in Americans.Are you scared? Are you angry? Do you hate Iran? Do you hate Muslims?
View original post 2,062 more words
One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is: what are some signs of a spiritually abusive church? My book, “Girl at The End of the World,” tells my story of growing up in an abusive church. But I thought it might be helpful if I shared a list of “red-flag” warning signs here on my site as well. Thank you, as always, for reading and sharing. EE.
Liberty University in April stirred controversy with seemingly endorsed appearances by Mormon talk show host Glenn Beck and the world’s most famous “faith healer” Benny Hinn.
The main page at BennyHinn.org featured a video showing Hinn holding up a framed Liberty University diploma and asking, “How would you like your name to be on a diploma that says Liberty University?”
Appearing on the video with Hinn and long-time Liberty donor Dan Reber is Ron Godwin, Liberty University’s senior vice president for academic affairs. The text announced that Hinn and the Liberty University Institute of Biblical Studies in Lynchburg, Va., were forming “a powerful, worldwide ministry connection.” Reber’s company markets the Institute.
The global derivatives bubble is now 20 percent bigger than it was just before the last great financial crisis struck in 2008. It is a financial bubble far larger than anything the world has ever seen, and when it finally bursts it is going to be a complete and utter nightmare for the financial system of the planet. According to the Bank for International Settlements, the total notional value of derivatives contracts around the world has ballooned to an astounding 710 trillion dollars ($710,000,000,000,000). Other estimates put the grand total well over a quadrillion dollars. If that sounds like a lot of money, that is because it is. For example, U.S. GDP is projected to be in the neighborhood of around 17 trillion dollars for 2014. So 710 trillion dollars is an amount of money that is almost incomprehensible. Instead of actually doing something about the insanely reckless behavior of the big banks, our leaders have allowed the derivatives bubble and these banks to get larger than ever. In fact, as I have written about previously, the big Wall Street banks are collectively 37 percent larger than they were just prior to the last recession. “Too big to fail” is a far more massive problem than it was the last time around, and at some point this derivatives bubble is going to burst and start taking those banks down. When that day arrives, we are going to be facing a crisis that is going to make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic. (Read More….)
Will Israel be the first cashless society on the entire planet? A committee chaired by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff has come up with a three phase plan to “all but do away with cash transactions in Israel”. Individuals and businesses would still be permitted to conduct cash transactions in small amounts (at least initially), but the eventual goal is to force Israeli citizens to conduct as much business as possible using electronic forms of payment. In fact, it has been reported that Israeli officials believe that “cash is bad” because it fuels the underground economy and allows people to avoid paying taxes. It is hoped that requiring most transactions to be conducted in cash will reduce crime and help balance the national budget. And once 98 or 99 percent of all transactions are cashless, it will not be difficult for the Israeli government (or any other government) to go the rest of the way and ban cash transactions altogether. But is a cashless society actually desirable? This is a question that people all over the world will have to start asking as governments increasingly restrict the use of cash. (Read More…)
Last week, Michelle Obama made headlines when she exhorted graduating high schoolers in a commencement address to monitor their families for politically incorrect thoughts and behaviors. To one journalist, this was more than an off-hand comment made by the first lady. In the opinion of Cheryl Chumley, a reporter for The Washington Times and the author of “Police State USA,” Michelle Obama’s remark reflects a growing trend in America to target and attack individuals for committing “thought crime.”