Debunking the Myth about “Spiritual Covering” (by Jason and Karen Tay)

Have you had someone question you : who is your “spiritual covering”? Or even funnier still : whose “umbrella” are you under? 

Where did the idea of “spiritual covering” come from? (Jason Tay)

When someone leaves a “church”, the institution they are leaving often warns them about not having a “covering”. The implication is that you need to be under the covering of an institutional church, or its anointed and appointed leadership.

While submission to authority and to one another is important, the concept and practice of spiritual covering teaches that an organization, apostle, pastor, or leader, is necessary to provide “spiritual covering” over each believer’s life, without which a believer is not protected from curses and excluded from blessings.

However this often parroted line is not substantiated by Scripture and is a dangerous claim that undermines the sufficiency of Christ, and each believer’s identity as a child of God. The practice of “covering” results in leaders and organizations being propped up as man-made gatekeepers of each believer’s free access to the Father, and keeps people, not under cover, but under control out of fear, by creating a heretical hierarchy that is essentially against the teachings of Christ.

The concept of “covering” was further popularized by John Bevere, author of the book “Under Cover”, which uses a lot of Old testament examples like the rebellion of Korah towards Moses, to instill fear and control into the hearts of many readers, to have unquestionable submission even to the point of subservience.

What is the deal about “spiritual covering”? 

(Karen Tay)

We are all called to be followers and disciples of Christ, of whom Jesus Himself is our Chief Shepherd and His blood cleanses us as we confess our sins and we receive His forgiveness. When we confess our sins to God, in faith we are cleansed and washed of our sins and covered in the precious blood of Christ.

The real question is not “spiritual covering”, but rather spiritual community, where we are accountable one to another. We are not called to be an island alone, and I certainly do not encourage solo, hurt individuals operating alone. In fact many of these hurt individuals need to be in a spiritual community whom they can journey with where they can heal and they can eventually be released into the ministry of God’s calling, and how others will know of their ministry is by their “fruit”.

First of all, what constitutes real spiritual community? Or let’s explore deeper, what constitutes true fellowship?  

“Fellowship” is the translated from the original Greek word “koinonia” which means to have in common (Acts 2:42), joint participation, partnership, the share which one has in anything, a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution.

There are over 50 “one-anothers” in the New Testament, which one should fulfill as part of a true spiritual community. Attending and sitting in a Sunday church service without being in genuine mutually-accountable relationships with others in the church is not “koinonia”. Very often, attending a cell group or even a house church, does not mean that there is a true spiritual community either. What is important and essential, is the fulfillment of all the “one-anothers” that truly constitute church and true fellowship and “koinonia”. 

To list a few examples of “one-another”, we are called to teach one another, encourage one another, submit to one another, exhort one another, etc., all of which is summed up in the 2nd greatest commandment of “love your neighbour as yourself” (Mat 22:39, Mark 12:31, Lk 10:27), and the new commandment Jesus gave to His disciples, “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13). 

John 13:34-35 (NKJV)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Being the true expression of a disciple of Christ making other disciples of Christ is core and central to our faith in Christ. While organized structures can sometimes help, they can also hinder. It is not the form of church that matters, what matters is whether we are disciples living out the commands of Jesus together. However one must admit that there is certainly more room and opportunities for exercising of “one anothers” in small relational settings compared to large clergy-centric ones.

(Jason Tay)

Being in authentic, vulnerable relationships with one another is what matters. In such relationships, we can “cover” one another as there is confession of sins to one another, sharing our lives, praying for one another, helping one another, etc..

To think that titles, positions, and organizational hierarchy alone provide “spiritual covering” is misguided.

Are you in a spiritual community where members are mutually available to and in vulnerable, and authentic relationships with one another? That is really the question. Not the question of who is your covering. 

An Article that Debunks “Spiritual Covering”

Here is an article from that addresses spiritual covering:

The term spiritual covering is usually used in the context of the Shepherding Movement, though it can have other meanings. In its primary context, having a spiritual covering means being submitted to the authority of another Christian believer. The concept is taken to mean that, for a person’s spiritual life and/or ministry to be valid in the eyes of God, the person or ministry must be under direct submission to a specific person. This might be an elder or pastor of a church, an older or more mature Christian, or some other authority figure. The idea that a “spiritual covering” is required was initially developed within the Charismatic movement. Today, it is sometimes associated with the New Apostolic Reformation and the Hebrew Roots movement.

According to the teaching of spiritual covering, Christians are not only accountable to God but also to their leaders and elders. For biblical backing, supporters of spiritual covering cite verses such as Ephesians 5:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:12–13, 1 Corinthians 11:2–16, and 1 Peter 5:5. In practice, the concept of spiritual covering makes an earthly authority figure an intercessor or a substitute for God in the life of the person or ministry that has the “covering.” This has led some Christians to consult their designated “shepherd” prior to making career or family decisions. In some cases, professing Christians have claimed that, given an apparent choice between obeying God or their shepherd, they would obey their earthly shepherd.

Naturally, this idea is not without controversy within Christianity. The teaching of spiritual covering has been the cause of various levels of authoritarian abuse. Several early proponents of the spiritual covering concept, such as Bob Mumford and Charles Simpson, have since distanced themselves from it and apologized for being involved. Of course, it is not wrong to submit to the authority of a pastor and follow his lead; however, with the “spiritual covering” concept, some groups have taken the basic structure of church authority and moved it far beyond biblical precepts.

Biblically, each person is ultimately accountable only to God (Romans 3:19; Matthew 12:36), not to any other person. Consulting with others for guidance (Proverbs 11:14) and being humble enough to learn from the wisdom of others (Proverbs 5:11–14) are commendable. Our approval comes from God, not men (2 Timothy 2:15). No person, strictly speaking, has the absolute right to declare our service to God valid or invalid (Romans 14:4). Mandating a human shepherd for our spiritual lives not only obscures our relationship to Christ (1 Timothy 2:5), but it can lead to division within the church (1 Corinthians 3:4–9). Jesus, in fact, speaks against excessive earthly authority in Matthew 20:25–28.

Submission to the will of God is necessary for all people and for any activity that claims to be a “ministry.” Respect for authority (Romans 13:1), mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21), and cooperation between believers (John 13:34) are commanded in the Bible. And relying on the experience and wisdom of others is a matter of common sense. However, there is no biblically valid mandate for a “spiritual covering” under a particular person in order for our efforts to be legitimate.