“…But the hearts of men are easily corrupted… And the ring of power has a will of its own.” Lord of the Rings– JRR Tolkien
Peter Derek Vaughan Prince is arguably the most recognized member of the “Fort Lauderdale Five”. The “Fab Five”, as they have been called, have the dubious distinction of being credited with establishing the Shepherding Movement. Derek Prince was born in India in 1915 to British parents. He was a highly intelligent man who was educated at Eton College and Kings College, Cambridge. While he excelled in Greek and Latin, he chose to study Philosophy, focusing on logic. His MA dissertation earned him a fellowship at the age of 24.
Prince became an international Bible teacher who was most revered in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles, although his Bible teaching is considered to be non-denominational. During his lifetime, his ministry adopted the slogan: “Reaching the unreached and teaching the untaught.”
Here’s what the Wikipedia article on Derek Prince has to say about his first marriage:
“While serving in Palestine, Prince met Lydia Christensen, a Danish woman who ran an orphanage in Ramallah and who had adopted eight girls (six of whom were Jewish). Despite Lydia being 25 years Prince’s senior, they married.” According to a biography on Derek Prince, written by Stephen Mansfield, this is how Prince came to reside in Fort Lauderdale prior to the establishment of the Shepherding Movement (as retold in the Wiki article): “In 1957 he and Lydia moved to Kisumu in Kenya, where he became a school principal and adopted a Kenyan baby. He claimed to have been instrumental in raising two people from the dead during this time. In 1962, the Princes moved to Canada, and from there to a pastorate at Peoples Church in Minneapolis, becoming US citizens. From here they moved to Broadway Tabernacle in Seattle where he ministered along with James A Watt whom he had met in Canada. During this time Prince was becoming widely known through his cassette-tape Bible lectures, and he became involved with the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International. This led to a move to Faith Tabernacle in Chicago, and then to Good News Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. In May 1971 Derek Prince Publications opened offices in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.”
Why did the Princes relocate to Fort Lauderdale? The Wiki article (I know some of you don’t respect this online encyclopedia, but these facts are well documented) reveals that Derek Prince joined the “Holy Spirit Teaching Mission (HSTM)” in 1968, which connected him to three other Charismatic Christian pastors who were living in Fort Lauderdale. These men were Don Basham, Bob Mumford, and Charles Simpson.
According to the article:
“The HSTM had been founded by businessman Eldon Purvis; but after the discovery of Purvis’s homosexuality the leadership team of the HSTM asked Basham, Mumford, Prince, and Simpson to help in managing the crisis.”
They responded to a moral failure in a charismatic ministry in South Florida. Is this the moral failure that led these four men to establish the Shepherding Movement? Keep in mind that Ern Baxter would later be added to make it the “Fab Five”. Surprise, surprise! These four men changed the name of the ministry from HSTM to “Christian Growth Ministries (CGM)” in 1972. CGM worked hard to counter what were seen as excesses within the Charismatic movement by putting greater emphasis on discipleship and pastoral care.
The Wiki article explains that
“CGM continued with the publication of the New Wine magazine which began under the HSTM in June of 1969. David Moore, author of The Shepherding Movement, states "Essential for an accurate history of the Shepherding movement is a complete collection of New Wine. The magazine, published from 1969 through 1986, was the principal publishing voice of the five teachers and the movement." The group was joined by Ern Baxter, and the five men became known as the Fort Lauderdale Five. Their ministry became known as the Shepherding Movement. Different factions of the movement began to emphasise submission and authority.”
As we have discussed before, the relationships that were formed became known theologically as “covenant relationships”. Those involved had to be submitted to a “shepherd”, who in turn were submitted to the “Fab Five” or their representatives. Sounds an awful lot like a pyramid scheme, doesn’t it? Multi-level marketing comes to mind…
Some have estimated that as many as 100,000 individuals across the United States were involved in these Shepherding networks. It is extremely important to point out that Prince’s wife Lydia strongly disapproved of CGM’s over-emphasis on submission. Sadly, Lydia died in 1975 – just a few short years after the Shepherding Movement began. Now widowed, Prince had met a woman named Ruth Baker, who was fifteeen years his junior. Ruth had been married and then divorced due to her husband’s infidelity. She was struggling to raise her three children on her own. Ruth’s first husband was Jewish, and after the divorce she was struggling with her Jewish identity. Then in 1970 she became a Christian. Some time after Lydia’s death, Prince wanted to marry Ruth Baker; however, his fellow shepherds forbade him.
Want to know how shepherds operate in their “covenant relationships”? Here’s how Derek Prince was counseled by the other four men, according to Prince’s biography:
“Later that evening, Derek explained that he now had to check his feelings for Ruth with his brothers in Ft. Lauderdale. "We've agreed not to make major personal decisions without consulting one another," he explained. "For that reason I'm not free to go any further with my commitment to you until I've spoken to my brothers. [. . .]" It did not go well. When Derek explained to Basham, Simpson, Baxter, and Mumford what seemed so obviously God's will to him, they saw only problems. [. . .] The men would not approve the marriage. [. . .] He thought seriously of casting aside the counsel of his fellow leaders and pressing ahead with what he believed was God's will. Yet to do so violated all that he had taught and all that their movement was built on. He relented. He called Ruth and told her what had happened. Later in Jerusalem again, he sat with her and explained all the objections the other men had. "I feel we need to break off all contact with one another," he explained, "except the contact we can have by prayer." Ruth agreed, and when Derek saw her drive off in a taxi, he felt a bit of winter return to his soul. [. . .] Unable to let the matter rest, Derek continued to press the men to reconsider. Some of Derek's friends took this as a godly appeal. Others thought it was arm-twisting, an unrighteous attempt to wrest consent where it had not been given.” (243-244)
It wasn’t until 1978 that Prince’s “shepherds” finally gave him permission to marry Ruth. Some time after that Derek Prince left the group and repented in public for his involvement in the Shepherding Movement. In preparation for this post, I came across an excellent explanation regarding the Shepherding Movement, which I believe is crucial to share with our readers. Here it is:
“At the height of the cultural revolution of the 1960s, some hippies started getting saved. Soon, through the powerful anointing on Lonnie Frisbee and the organizational skills of Chuck Smith, this became a major movement now known as the Jesus People or Jesus Movement. The Spirit of God literally swept the youth of the nation from coast to coast as kids who had left their parents for “freedom” found it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. In this context, a group of older, more experienced charismatic ministers came together to bring a corrective. The occasion of their meeting was a moral failure of a ministry in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Believing themselves to be equally vulnerable to moral failure apart from better accountability they mutually submitted themselves to one another. When this happened, they described themselves as having a supernatural experience binding their ministries together for life. Initially the group was made of Derek Prince, Don Basham, Bob Mumford, and Charles Simpson. Eventually, former Branham campaign manager Ern Baxter was added to the group, and they became known as “The Fort Lauderdale Five.”
The five very talented men immediately began to teach on authority, submission and discipleship. Although there were a number of important doctrines, the central doctrine—the one that reshaped the church—was that every person must be submitted to another person (Shepherd/Pastor/Discipler), and that all of your major life decisions should be submitted to this person. Effectively, if unintentionally, this put the individual in the position of having two masters– Jesus and a personal shepherd. With time the personal shepherd gains more power, as Jesus gets less. And in time, this creates a system where those who have unquestioning obedience to man are promoted. All kinds of ungodly things came in through these doors.
Several books have been written detailing the kinds of abuse suffered as a result. The scary thing about the whole system is that it started out with the intent of promoting accountability, and eventually enslaved people. When someone says “Who is your covering?” They are asking the basic Shepherding question. Ironically, Jesus was asked this same question by the Pharisees: “By what authority do you do these things?” His ministry was not submitted to them, and they didn’t like that so they tried to shut him down, but the work of the Spirit was the validation of His ministry. Paul deals with the issue more theologically when he says “the head of woman is man, the head of man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God.” The covering for a man of God is Christ himself, and the covering for a (married) woman is her husband. The second dangerous doctrine had to do with “Covenant” relationships or “Spiritual Family.” If being absolutely submitted to another person was an imprisonment, then the covenant relationship was the iron padlock on the door. The idea here is that when you enter into these discipleship relationships, they are permanent, and more broadly that your association with a specific group of believers is permanent. You were in a “Covenant” and if you left the relationship or the fellowship group, you were breaking a covenant. This quickly becomes a very dangerous situation: no matter how terrible your experience becomes with a group or person, you can not leave, and if you do, you believe that you’ve broken a covenant with God, so to get right with God you’d have to go back to the abuse! You slowly become enmeshed with the other members of the group and separated from the outside world. Your “spiritual family” becomes more important than your natural family or other believers you’ve had relationship with. You slowly become more and more isolated and more and more dependent upon the group or leader. At a certain point if your leaders do not check the pattern, it becomes a full fledged cult. Normally, however this pattern is held in tension with Biblical expectations so these groups rarely become true cults, while still exhibiting cult-like features. Scary.”
Another blogger, who started a website called “No More Shepherding”, had this to say about the Shepherding Movement.
“I believe that the entire premise of shepherding is wrong at the very root, and that it will always go too far. Those who are familiar with the next generation of shepherding-discipleship movements, including the one I was involved with, may, even if they don't agree, at least understand how and why I believe this since the same excesses often crop up again and again and again even years later. I recently heard a second-generation leader in one of these movements say, "I thought we cut the head off this monster 15 years ago," but I contend that it's more like weed-whacking. If you cut the top off the weed, it will look ok for a while, but it will eventually grow back because it's still very much alive below the surface. Pull it up at the root though and it's gone for good. And in order to do this, one first has to acknowledge that the root is there in the first place and that it won't just magically grow into a cultivar next time instead of the same old ugly weed.”
This blogger goes on to review Derek Prince’s biography, which was published a couple years after his death. Here’s part of his commentary:
“People who were hurt by shepherding, particularly those who were required to submit marriage partners for prior approval or those who are in marriages initially arranged despite their wishes will certainly find this scenario painfully familiar. Yet, Prince concluded, "I must say that I believe that God ordained the Discipleship Movement, but that the response of some people to it was very carnal. It was right in its original motivation, though. Ultimately, selfish ambition destroyed it" (223). In sharp contrast, Prince's first wife, Lydia, outright called it a "cult" among other things (223). Reflecting on when I left my former church, knowing that it was very possible my husband might be convinced to choose loyalty to our church's leaders over me and stay behind, Lydia's words struck my heart at the core… "They've got my Derek" (223). "They've got my Derek." That says it all.”
There were several commenters who chimed in about their involvement in the Shepherding Movement. Here are just two of them.
Walking Wounded said: “I grew up in the Shepherding movement. Just like any one who has grown up in abuse, perspectives of what is normal, loving and correct are skewed. Healing has come so very slowly. This movement affected four generations of my family, my grandmother, parents, an aunt and uncle, myself, cousins and my children. The wounds are deep and serious. It has felt like we have been so wounded that we needed a spiritual ICU, but there isn’t one. My older child is now practicing non christian beliefs, wanting nothing to do with Christianity. My cousins have battled drug addiction as a means to try to forget. A day does not go by that I do not feel the searing pain left on my soul. The Shepherding movement was not of God in any way shape or form. If the Bible states we will know people by their fruit I would have to say that there certainly are a great many bad apples that went on to injure others that might otherwise have been good fruit”.
“Hard to even talk about this still without weeping. Our church was a wonderful growing Spirit filled church where one was fed richly! Then one Sunday and for every Sunday for 6 months the sermon was on rebellion! We started to wonder why the pastor kept on and on. The Shepherding doctrine was then introduced and we were told to disobey was REBELLION! And discipline would follow (disfellowship) women and children were told what they could and could not do without any biblical support, in short we were treated as lowlife. I knew that this whole thing was a perversion of biblical truth taken to the extreme and I tried for two years praying and attempting to get my hubby to see that this wasn’t a good thing. Final straw was the adultery of my hubby. I was not mature enough to take this, yet another uppercut, my love grew frozen for both my hubby and God! I went back into the world and was divorced. The toll this Movement and my “rebellion” took on my family (3 kids) was disasterous and still is. Jesus has truly saved me now but my three children want nothing to do with Christianity. I pray the Lord in His Sovereignty changes this. I have left out much for brevity and this is the first time I have told my story. May God have mercy on us!”
Derek Prince died in 2003, and now his teachings are being broadcast to half the world’s population through a daily radio program called Derek Prince Legacy Radio. However, it’s extremely important to point out that Prince has another legacy. It’s the shattered lives of those who have been spiritually abused by the destructive Shepherding Movement. Lest you think this is a sad chapter from the past, think again… The Shepherding Movement went underground in the 1980s and is slithering through many congregations today. Stay tuned for further “revelation” about one of Satan’s most powerful tools in the 21st century church. Lydia's Corner: Numbers 2:1-3:51 Mark 11:27-12:17 Psalm 47:1-9 Proverbs 10:24-25