Sunday, February 25, 2007

Who Is Your Covering?

A Fresh Look at Leadership, Authority, and Accountability
By Frank A Viola

©2001. Present Testimony Ministry

Permission is granted to those who wish to copy and distribute the material in this book,
but it must not be sold or re-published without the express permission of the author.



Remember the children's story, The Emperor's New Clothes? In it, a child verbalized that which the adults already knew but were hesitant to admit. Frank Viola, in this revealing treatise on 11 church authority," is like the small boy who finally blurted out, "But the emperor has no clothes on!"

Most believers probably already suspect that all is not well in Zion, but they are slow to question the status quo. After all, who wants to get branded as a troublemaker? The appalling fact of the matter is that most systems of church polity are utterly without Scriptural clothing!

So exactly who has authority over whom in the church? Should a pastor or even a plurality of elders control a church? What is accountability all about? Do denominations afford protection from doctrinal error and moral failure? Do we need modern day apostles to tell us what to do? How does the spiritual gift of "ruling" fit into things?

When I was a career pastor, I struggled with these issues. Surprisingly, none of them were really dealt with during my time in seminary. Once in the ministry, I discovered that most of the pastors with whom I discussed these things had never really thought through them either. It was a major paradigm shift for me just to go from believing that there should be a single pastor in every church to believing in a plurality of elders. As it turned out, that was just the tip of the iceberg-there is so much more to this issue of leadership that the number of elders becomes almost irrelevant, Frank's expos6 is both thorough and Biblical. Every relevant passage dealing with leadership and authority is considered. I promise that this book will enrich your understanding of authority in God's kingdom.

May our Lord be pleased to use the truth contained herein to free the legions of followers and leaders who are trapped in the bondage of hierarchical church systems. As Jesus said, "the truth shall set you free "

Steve Atkerson
Atlanta, Georgia



n my last book, Rethinking the Wineskin: The Practice of the New Testament Church, I set forth the fundamental principles that governed the practice of the early church and contrasted n with those that characterize the modem institutional church. The book was favorably received and has managed to influence the birth of a number of New Testament-styled churches in this country and abroad.

As expected, some of these fresh and budding testimonies have home the brunt of misunderstanding and opposition from leaders in the organized church. In particular, they have generated acute questions regarding ecclesiastical authority. Namely, they have been asked the same question religious leaders asked our Lord centuries ago: "By what authority do you do these things, and who gave you this authority?" (Matt. 21:23).



"So who is your covering?"

This is the terse query raised by many modern Christians whenever they encounter those who meet outside the institutional church. But what is at the heart of this inquiry? And what Biblical basis undergirds it?

These are the questions that will engage us in this book.

It is my contention that a great deal of confusion and subnormal Christian behavior is connected with a modern teaching known as "protective covering." This teaching holds that Christians are protected from doctrinal error and moral failure when they submit themselves to the authority of another believer or organization.

The painful experience of many has led me to conclude that the "covering" teaching is a matter that greatly troubles Zion today. And it desperately begs for critical reflection.

In the following pages, I attempt to cut through the fog that surrounds the difficult issues attached to the "covering" teaching. Thorny issues like church leadership, spiritual authority, discipleship, and accountability. I also seek to outline a comprehensive model for understanding how authority operates in the ekklesia (church).

Is "Covering" Covered in the Bible?

Strikingly, the word "covering" only appears once in the entire NT. It is used in connection with a woman's head covering (1 Cor. 11:15). While the Old Testament uses the word sparingly, it always uses it to refer to a piece of natural clothing. It never uses it in a spiritual way. Nor is it ever used in connection with authority and submission.

So the first thing we can say about "covering" is that there is scant Biblical evidence upon which to construct a doctrine! Yet despite this fact, countless Christians glibly parrot the "who-is-your-covering" question. Some even push it as a litmus test to measure the authenticity of a church or ministry.

If the Bible is silent with respect to "covering," what do people mean when they ask, "Who is your covering?" Most people (if pressed) would rephrase the question to be: "To what person are you accountable?"

But this raises another sticky point. The Bible never consigns accountability to human beings! It consigns it exclusively to God (Matt. 12:36; 18:23; Luke 16:2; Rom. 3:19; 14:12; 1 Cor. 4:5; Heb. 4:13; 13:17; 1 Pet. 4:5).

Consequently, the Biblically sound answer to the "to-whom-are-you-accountable?" question is simply: "I am accountable to the same person you are-God!" Strangely, however, this answer is usually a prescription for misunderstanding and a recipe for false accusation.

So while the timbre and key of "accountability" slightly differs from that of "covering," the song is essentially the same. And it is one that does not harmonize with the unmistakable singing of Scripture.

Unearthing the Real Question Behind Covering

Let us widen the question a bit. What do people really mean when they push the "covering" question? I submit that what they are really asking is: "Who controls you?"

Common (mis)teaching about "covering" really boils down to questions about who controls whom. And the modern institutional church is built upon such control.

Of course, people rarely recognize that this is what is at the bottom of the issue. For it is typically well clothed with Biblical garments. In the minds of many Christians, "covering" is merely a protective mechanism.

But if we dissect the "covering" teaching, we will discover that it is rooted in a one-up/one-down, chain-of-command style of leadership. Within this leadership style, those in higher ecclesiastical positions have a tenacious hold on those under them. Oddly, it is through such top-down control that believers are said to be "protected" from error.

The concept goes something like this. Everyone must answer to someone else who is in a higher ecclesiastical position. In the garden-variety, post-war evangelical church, this translates into the "laymen" answering to the pastor. In turn, the pastor must answer to someone with more authority.

The pastor typically traces his accountability to a denominational headquarters, to another church (often called the "mother church"), or to an influential Christian worker. (The worker is perceived to have a higher rank in the ecclesiastical pyramid.)

So the "layman" is "covered" by the pastor. The pastor is "covered" by the denomination, the mother church, or the Christian worker. Because each is accountable to a higher ecclesiastical authority, each is protected ("covered") by that authority. So the thinking goes.

This "covering-accountability" template is applied to all spiritual relationships in the church. And each relationship is artificially cut to fit the template. No relationship can be had outside of it-especially that of "laymen" to "leaders."

But this line of reasoning generates the following questions: Who covers the mother church? Who covers the denominational headquarters? Who covers the Christian worker?

Some have offered the pat answer that God covers these "higher" authorities. But such a canned answer begs the question. For why is it that God cannot be the covering for the "laymen"-or even the pastor?

Hmmm . . .

Of course, the real problem with the "God-denomination-clergy-laity" model goes far beyond the incoherent, pretzel logic to which it leads. The chief problem is that it violates the spirit of the NT! For behind the pious rhetoric of "providing accountability" and "having a covering," there looms a system that is bereft of Biblical support and driven by a spirit of control.


Excerpts from "Renewing the Wineskin," by Frank Viola

"Straight Talk to Elders," by Frank Viola

May 17, 2001, August 15, 2001. March 21, 2003.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Worship at the River February 11, 2007

Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi started every season with a team meeting. With all eyes on him, he simply said: "Gentlemen, this is a football."

When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, He replied:

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

We believe people are moving from spectators to players, and the unique contribution the Lord created in each is a reflection of the nature of God, which is an essential part of "being in the game."

Prophetic worship is about connecting heaven and earth. It is worship that is both heavenly and earthly. Prophetic and life changing – God desires to penetrate the culture around us.

What does prophetic worship involve?
_ Singing
_ Dance
_ Mime
_ Symbolic actions
_ ‘Supernatural sounds’ and ‘new’ music – Romans 8 vs. 22-23, 26-27
_ Art

Ephesians 5 vs. 18-19.
.. be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Christ.


My word goes out to a thirsty world and it goes to quench that thirst. Yet the world doesn’t even know what it is thirsty for. My word will water the earth like rain and snow, bringing fruit and bread. The word will accomplish what I desire, this word that I have placed in your heart and in your mouth….
Josh Hubbard

Part one: I am here, I want to invade you.
Part two: I am calling you higher. Come into a new place with Me!
Part three: Get ready, I am going to present you, my Bride!
Vonnie Wheelon

Trumpets Blowing, Trumpets Blasting !!!, Trumpets singing MY Song, singing MY Love to you. Hear how clear it is, how sharp it is, how it blast, and pierces into the space. Sounding of MY Love for the Bride. Come, Come,all yee to the Wedding Feast. For it is time to be Wed, Married, and Covenanted into Fullness.
Marsh Maddox

“Worship, by its very nature, is prophetic. Worship engages an omnipresent God who spans the dimension of time. Inherent in worship is a prophetic declaration of what has happened, what is happening now, and what is to come. When we worship, we are suddenly thrust into an eternal realm, where worship is being offered up continually before the Lord. In those moments, we are literally catapulted into the future, joining those from eons past, in worshipping the Ancient of Days. Worship flows from revelation about God.” John Paul Jackson

Majesty (Here I Am)

Here I am humbled by your Majesty
Covered by your grace so free
Here I am, knowing I'm a sinful man
Covered by the blood of the Lamb

Now I've found the greatest love of all is mine
Since you laid down your life
The greatest sacrifice

Majesty, Majesty
Your grace has found me just as I am
Empty handed, but alive in your hands
Majesty, Majesty
Forever I am changed by your love
In the presence of your Majesty

Here I am humbled by the love that you give
Forgiven so that I can forgive
Here I stand, knowing that I'm your desire
Sanctified by glory and fire

Now I've found the greatest love of all is mine
Since you laid down your life
The greatest sacrifice

Written by Stu Garrard/Martin Smith (c)2003 Curious? Music UK
On Christ the Solid Rock
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus' name
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

When darkness veils his lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In ev'ry high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

Psalm 66

G D/F#
Shout With Joy Un-to The Lord
Em C
Sing Glory To His Name
All The Earth Will
D/F# C
Bow Before His Name
G D/F#
How Awesome Are Your Marvelous Deeds
Em C
The Greatness Of Your Power
Come And See
D/F# G
What The Lord Has Done

Praise His Name 2X
C Em
Praise Our God
C Am D
Let The Sound Be Heard

We're Fascinated By Your Glory.

Gm F Ebmaj 7
We're Fascinated By Your Glory.

We're Fascinated By Your Grace.

We're Fascinated By Your Presence.
Bb F/A C
We're Fascinated With Your Face.

Dm F
We Come Before You Lord
We Come To Extol You Lord
You Are The Fairest Of 10,000
Humbly We Seek Your Face

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Proclamation of ‘2007 Year of Prayer for North Korea’

We give God all the honour and praise that the Great Revival which broke out on 14th January 1907 in Pyongyang was the greatest demonstration of God’s powerful plan of salvation for the Korean Peninsula.

As we mark this centenary day of the outbreak of the 1907 Pyongyang Great Revival, we desire to see love, freedom and peace restored in Korea. We thus proclaim 2007 as a Year of Prayer for North Korea and call the global Church and Christians worldwide to join the South Korean Church in actively praying for North Korea this year.

A hundred years ago God started the flames of repentance and revival in Pyongyang Jang Dae Hyun Church, but His work did not stop there. As the miracles of the revival spread from Pyongyang across the Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang became known throughout the worldwide Church as ‘The Jerusalem of the East’.

We are aware, however, that in this day North Korea is in a time of deep suffering; that her people face great hardship and that many have died as a result. We mourn with those who mourn and are deeply concerned for the welfare of the North Korean people.

In light of the current situation, we call on all churches and Christians around the world to pray urgently for North Korea during 2007. We urge for fervent prayer for an end to the deprivations and sufferings, and for the day to come when the love of God and the blessing of salvation breaks out once again throughout the nation and touches the lives of the people of North Korea.

Furthermore, the South Korean Church lays before God the pain caused by the division of Korea and proclaims the week of 25th June, the anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, as the ‘Global Week of Prayer for North Korea’.

We hereby call on denominations and ministries around the world to promote the ‘2007 Year of Prayer for North Korea’. We urge for intercession to be rallied for 2007 to be the year in which walls of darkness fall in North Korea, crosses are restored in every corner of the land and a historical tide of repentance and revival breaks out and brings peace to Korea and beyond.

The centenary day of the outbreak of the 1907 Pyongyang Great Revival

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A woman is lying on a bed in bridal clothes, in a bedroom in a house. She is exhausted, feels defeated, and that she is incapable of doing anything. Out in the house, kids are roaming around hungry. More kids are coming in, and they are mostly kids she doesn’t want in her house. She doesn’t like them. They have reputations for being troublemakers, misfits and oddballs, and barely have homes of their own, if any at all. They are coming because they need mothers and fathers. Most can’t yet admit that they can’t “make it” on their own, but they know in their spirit that they need something. Her own kids keep bringing these kids into the house, and she is overwhelmed.

Jesus enters through the door to her room. He grabs her by the arms, lifting and shaking her. He begins to speak to her. “Get up; I have a new paradox at work. I’ve called you to rest in the spirit, but in the natural, it’s time to get up and do the housework. These kids are my kids, and they are coming hungry. My spirit will feed them through your body. They have gone through your cupboards and are crying, “We keep looking and find nothing to eat.” There is abundant food to eat that I have prepared. You get up and serve, and you will be fed in feeding. These kids are poor in spirit. You speak to the treasure and potential I’ve placed in them. Their spirit will align with mine as a compass needle to magnetic north. My light is the attraction; just point them in my direction. This is the Kingdom season. You are more than conquerors for the Kingdom. Go out with a new provision of my favor.