Many believers have come face to face with the question:
“Who’s your spiritual covering?”
I understand the heart behind this question, but I fear that it is a fragmented piece of fear-based ideology that is rooted in the now past “shepherding” movement. For many, the question of spiritual covering comes from a genuine place of wanting to know if someone is teachable.
I propose that all believers can be humble and teachable without relying on one human being to direct their relationship with Jesus.
In 1 Corinthians 3:4-5, Paul warns about saying things like “I follow Paul, I follow Apollos” because both are human beings. I know from experience that the faith of many has been shipwrecked because of this very thing. When the “spiritual covering” messes-up… then what? That being said, what is a healthy, new covenant view of spiritual covering?
The “spiritual covering” idea partly comes from one verse of a concluding paragraph that was written to the Hebrews concerning submitting to those who watch over you. Hebrews 13:17 in a simple paraphrase says “have confidence in those who are watching out for you and yield to their counsel because it’s a joy for them to walk with you.”
I implore you to consider context here; The Hebrews were no doubt having trouble listening to Spirit-led counsel when they only previously knew written word and law.
Hebrews 13:17 Message:
Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?”
It is the Holy Spirit that leads us and guides us into all truth, both through each other and in intimacy with Him.
But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things (discern every person/thing). 1 John 2:20
A multitude of counsel is very good, but it should not be a replacement for knowing His voice on a personal level. These two things work hand-in-hand.
Respect for authority, yes.
Mutual submission, yes.
Cooperation between believers, yes.
Mandating a human Shepard for our spiritual lives? No.
Jesus is our only mediator. (1 Timothy 2:5)
So what’s okay?
Wanting to know what ministries you are connected to? Fine.
Wanting to know if there are spiritual leaders that you are in relationship with? Sure.
Wanting to know who you belong to, who you answer to and ultimately who controls you? Not okay.
Honor those who care for you, yes.
“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12
My brain is not the “covering” for my heart. They submit to each other, but the heart is the most vital as it keeps all the other parts moving.
In the new reformation that is brewing among us, expect the “Spiritual Covering” paradigm to shift to a “Spiritual Tribe/Family” paradigm.
Expect to see a drop in excess authoritarianism in the church. Apostles and Prophets will be the greatest servants of all, not the highly ranked and advanced dictators of the lowly believers’ spiritual lives. Keeping all the other parts moving requires humility and mutual submission. Pastors were never meant to be the be-all, end-all of each individual church with all eyes on them. In reality, they are community servant-leaders who do life with the people of Jesus’ Ecclesia. Pastor burn-out will plummet in the coming years!
“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28