THE CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT
The last root of the discipling movement as it has appeared among churches of Christ is seen in the charismatic movement. This movement developed outside traditional denominational structures. Similar doctrines had been taught earlier in Pentecostal denominations such as the Assemblies of God, the Church of God, and the Pentecostal Holiness Church.
In the late 1950s, however, a Neo-Pentecostal charismatic movement began. There was no structure to this growing movement. To this loose and amorphous group came five men offering leadership with a capital "L." They were known as the Shepherds of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, or the "Fort lauderdale Five" .
These five leaders were Don Basham, Ern Baxter, Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, and Charles Simpson. These men formed the "Holy Spirit Teaching Mission," later renamed "Christian Growth Ministries." They began producing tapes, books, and a monthly magazine called New Wine.
A 1975 article in Christianity Today discussed problems that followed in the wake of the new charismatic shepherding movement.
A dispute is taking place over issues of authority and discipleship. Powerful figures in the movement have built up a chain of command linking many local groups around the country to themselves. . . . Discipleship involves submission to the shepherd as he points the way-and points out flaws in behavior. . . . Some travel to Ft. Lauderdale to receive training directly from Mumford and his colleagues. . . . Those being discipled must consult with their shepherd about many personal decisions. In some cases, shepherds forbid marriages, reject school and vocational plans, demand confession of secret sins. . . .(9)
The five Shepherds of Fort Lauderdale taught and practiced a style of leadership that they called "shepherding. " They used this term to describe attempts to control the private lives of their members.
In 1972, shortly after they added the authoritarian tone to their teaching, Juan Carlos Ortiz came from Argentina to Fort Lauderdale. His presentations in Fort Lauderdale had wide reception--including some from the churches of Christ. Ortiz taught the same thing as Watchman Nee about one congregation to a city. He also taught authoritarianism to the point that he said disciples should be told which individuals they should take home with them for meals. (10)
Russell Hitt's article on the top religious news events of 1975 went beyond the discussion of Watchman Nee that was mentioned earlier. That article also discussed problems with the shepherding movement.
The charismatic movement's oneness in the Spirit has been badly strained by a disagreement on the nature and methods of discipleship training between Bob Mumford of Christian Growth Ministries, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and a variety of charismatic VIPs....Mumford is charged with constructing an overly rigid, denomination-like hierarchy of "shepherds" whose spiritual authority over their charges is called a threat to . . . the interdenominational character of the charismatic movement itself. Mumford denies wanting to form a new denomination, but his opponents so far haven't had ears to hear. (11)
Bob Buess attributes many of these problems in the shepherding movement to the influence of Juan Carlos Ortiz. In his book Discipleship Pro and Con, he wrote,
Juan Carlos Ortiz came from Argentina to America and is now traveling in various parts of the world spreading his version of discipleship. . . . The shepherd is treated like an earthly father would be treated. . . . In neo-discipleship groups there is absolute submission to the shepherd. Everyone is submitted in a regimented (army type) authoritarian chain of command. Someone is between you and God at all times. (12)
In an earlier work, Buess had warned, "Some pastors and elders set themselves up as little 'Hitlers' over the flock. . . . Some even go so far as to demand submission to themselves rather than to the Lord. . . . You cannot make a decision for yourself." (13)
Pat Robertson wrote an Open Letter to Bob Mumford on June 27, 1975, in which he complained about abuses associated with the discipleship-shepherd-submission teaching.
He mentioned indivIduals who submit to shepherds instead of becoming responsible church members. He mentioned those who have little to say about Jesus but much about their relationship and submission to their shepherd. He told of a secretary at the Christian Broadcasting Network who had been turned into an emotional cripple by this movement. He said that she scarcely could type a letter without a long distance call to her shepherd.
Robertson went on to tell about wealthy Christians being forced by their shepherds to reveal confidential details of their financial and family life. He told of one individual who was warned that he would miss out on the Kingdom of God and be ruined spiritually, physically, and financially if he did not submit to the shepherd's authority.
Finally, Robertson quoted a key figure in the shepherding movement who said that if God spoke to him and he knew that it was God speaking, but his shepherd told him to do the opposite, he would obey his shepherd. (14)
The Shepherds of Fort Lauderdale met in Oklahoma City in March of 1976 and issued the following "Statement of Concern and Regret."
We realize that controversies and problems have arisen among Christians in various areas as a result of our teaching in relation to subjects such as submission, authority, discipling, and shepherding. We deeply regret these problems and, insofar as they are due to fault on our part, we ask forgiveness from our fellow believers whom we have offended. We realize that our teachings, though we believe them to be essentially sound, have in various places been misapplied or handled in an immature way; and that this has caused problems for our brothers in the ministry. We deeply regret this and ask for forgiveness. Insofar as it lies in our power, we will do our best to correct these situations and to restore any broken relationships. (The statement is signed by Don Basham, Em Baxter, Bob Mumford, John Poole, Derek Prince, and Charles Simpson.) (15)
Over the years since this statement, the men who were the Fort Lauderdale Shepherds have attempted to distance themselves from the negative image the shepherding movement acquired. Charles Simpson might be the one who is still most involved with covenanted leadership relationships. Even Simpson, however, has made strong efforts to clarify his former situation as a leader and advocate of shepherding. In a recent book he said,
When the biblical qualifications for making disciples are ignored, bad things can happen. The Jim Joneses of history, the introverted cultic groups, the groups that produce serious perversions of the faith are not the results of true spiritual authority but of perverted authority. The qualifications for making disciples and the proper kind of accountability in the ongoing leadership of God's people are necessary to healthy discipleship. In 1985, I published a public apology through New Wine magazine because I felt that my teachings had been misused on some occasions. I felt I had not sufficiently guarded the truths of authority and that abuses had occurred. Disciple-making without accountability and a corporate mentality should be considered intolerable in the church for biblical and historical reasons. (16)
Then Simpson added this important warning,
The discipling relationship is not static. Hopefully, both the leader and the disciple are growing and maturing. Any possessiveness by the leader stifles this process. As I have said, it is easy for the leader to become possessive of a disciple. He may even use the phrase, "My disciple." The terminology may have a biblical basis, but it is loaded with poor connotations. A disciple belongs to the Lord. A leader only serves as a steward to help a disciple grow and mature in the Lord. (17)
The discipleship/shepherding movement has surfaced in other forms, as well. In a Christianity Today article, Edward E. Plowman said,
One of the most colorful and effective Jesus-movement groups was the Christian World Liberation Front (CWLF). It was founded by Jack Sparks and a handful of fellow Campus Crusade for Christ staffers as a Crusade front in Berkeley in 1969. . . . Two months ago CWLF suffered a serious rupture. . . . Sparks was also allied with other former Campus Crusade staffers who head shepherd-disciple type ministries with a heavy emphasis on authority. A clash occurred among Sparks' house group in August on questions of authority.... The former Crusade staffers with whom Sparks is now "mutually committed" in an "apostolic band" . . . see themselves as apostles or missionaries called to set up and oversee small church groups patterned after biblical discipleship. ... A chain of command already exists between the groups and the apostle-missionaries. This has already led to the same kind of criticism as that leveled against Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, and others in the charismatic-oriented Christian Growth Ministries of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (18)
Strangely, the heirs of the parachurch organization known as "Campus Crusade" and the charismatic shepherding movement out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are thus seen to be using the same system of authoritarianism and, consequently, receiving the same kind of criticisms. The CWLF has since gone through other name changes and has finally affiliated with the Syrian Orthodox Church.[See the complete article at Banner Ministries UK http://www.banner.org.uk/res/shepherding.html ]
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