Membership Covenant Red Flags

It is madness for sheep to talk peace with a wolf.      Thomas Fuller


US Sheepherding Experiment



While crowds of protesters in the Middle East are clamoring for freedom from oppressive dictatorships, it appears that some Christians who live in the land of the free are being coerced into signing membership covenants based on a Moses Model of Old Covenant “rule”.

Perhaps without realizing it, these brothers and sisters in Christ are renouncing Paul’s teaching to the Galatians and reverting to Old Testament law, which we believe is being imposed on them by their church leadership. This is a hybrid form of Christianity that the Apostle Paul warned against.

Let’s take a look at the membership covenant featured in yesterday’s post for evidence of hybrid Christianity. Did you spot any RED FLAGS? Here are the five that greatly concern us. For clarification, quotations from the membership covenant are in italics.


RED FLAG #1 – Faulty Theology Regarding the Bride of Christ

“Membership is the difference between a couple living together and marrying – both experience the rewards, only one includes commitment. Membership asks the congregation to pledge themselves …”


“Membership defined. Put simply, a member is “an individual belonging to a specific group.” Therefore, a church member is a person who belongs to a specific church. They key term in this definition is “belongs to”. My wife belongs to me and I to her; we made commitments to one another on our wedding day. My children belong to me and my wife until they are the appropriate legal age to belong to themselves. Family members belong to each other, through struggles and triumphs, for the sake of each other. Church members belong to one another. They commit to one another to live according to the New Testament principles of togetherness – bearing burdens, weeping rejoicing, edifying, encouraging, etc., together. They agree to love each other and be loved by each other.”


Why does this membership covenant use a word picture of “marriage” to describe the relationship between an individual and the local church as well as relationships between church members? Aren’t we collectively the BRIDE OF CHRIST? We’re NOT married to each other, except for husbands and wives. This is faulty theology!

When someone chooses to leave a particular congregation of believers to affiliate with another congregation, he/she has NOT left the body of Christ. Belonging to a particular church should not be described in terms of marriage, and leaving it should not be viewed as a divorce. This is an inappropriate analogy. For example, when Dee and her husband decided to leave their former church, one elder remarked: “I am sorry for your loss” in an effort to prevent them from leaving. Dee and her husband do not view their resignation of membership as a divorce because they continue to maintain friendships with members of their former church.


While church hopping is not ideal, sometimes it is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of the individual Christian and to preserve the unity of the local congregation. As some of you know, Dee and her husband are Old Earth Creationists. Since the leaders at their former church were not transparent about their dogmatic embrace of Young Earth Creationism, it was better that they join another church that views creationism as a secondary issue. Unity at their former church has been preserved by their leaving.


We believe the reason some church leaders utilize the marriage and divorce analogy to describe church membership is to control the flock. There is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving a church, especially when doctrinal positions are altered or the “rules” change after you have joined. A great analogy is Ronald Reagan’s famous quote in 1962. He stated: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.” Sometimes changing church affiliations is necessary in order to preserve one’s Christian liberty.


RED FLAG #2 – Elder / Parental Authority

“Every Christian is expected to be under elder authority. By committing to membership, believers publicly declare their consent to the elders, and elders gain a firmer grasp on those for whom they are responsible.”

“Christians are under elder authority”

“Those who commit … will enjoy the following benefits: regular shepherding care, protection, and discipline from … elders…”

“The following will be expected of members… Submission to, and respect for, the elders…”

“They submit themselves to their Christ-ordained “parental” authority – the elders…”


After reading this membership covenant, does anyone have any doubt whatsoever that members in this church must be submitted to their elders? Words are powerful, and the phrases that are disturbing include: “elders gain a firmer grasp”, “elder authority”, “regular shepherding care, protection, and discipline from elders,” “submission to, and respect for, the elders”, and last but definitely not least “submit themselves to their Christ-ordained ‘parental’ authority – the elders.”


Wait a minute! What kind of dysfunctional marriage is this anyway? Are church members married to their dad – the elder who rules and reigns in their lives? Please see our postYou Are the Child, Your Pastor Is Your Dad” 



RED FLAG #3 – Mandatory Small Group Participation

“The following will be expected of members: …
Small group participation (Although exceptions will occur, our constant encouragement will be for all members to join small groups.)”


Believe it or not, there are churches that actually use small groups as a means of control. In Sovereign Grace Ministries, for example, it has been reported that Care Group Leaders take copious notes when group members confess their sins. Such information has subsequently been used in a punitive manner by pastors and elders. What appears to be a time of fellowship and encouragement can end up being a control mechanism implemented by the elders of the church.


At one SGM church a member who worked the late shift was unable to attend his care group meeting which was held in the evening, and he was disciplined for his lack of participation. Furthermore, some SGM churches “assign” members to certain small groups. What is wrong with this picture?

To be clear, we ARE enthusiastic supporters of small groups when they are used for fellowship and encouragement – NOT FOR CONTROL. How do you know the difference between healthy and unhealthy small groups? Just look at the church leadership structure. We view hyper-authoritarian church leadership as highly suspect.


RED FLAG #4 – Non-members Must Submit to Elder Authority and Discipline

“We will not allow you to continue in known sin without corrective measures. Regular … attenders will be required to sign a document acknowledging their submission to elder authority and discipline.”


Can you even fathom this? So those who are attending the church as seekers are subject to church discipline? Note the words “submission, “elder authority”, “discipline”, and “we will not allow you to continue in known sin”. Finally, we have discovered a church with sinless leaders!


RED FLAG #5 – Disenrollment and Leaving

“We ask that any member who desires to leave … discuss the reasons thoroughly with his/her elder(s) before doing so. While there are legitimate grounds for leaving, some people abandon their church for selfish purposes and leave behind damaged, unreconciled relationships. The shepherds of … care for the spiritual well-being of our flock. On the other hand, if the reason is legitimate we will send you off with our blessing and the assurance that we have worked to please Christ in the decision-making.”


Have you heard the phrase “leaving well”? It means that you MUST meet with your church leaders and obtain their “blessing” in order to transfer your membership to another church. Again, using Sovereign Grace Ministries as an example, some SGM members have left their church only to be pursued to another church. SGM pastors have been known to contact the pastor at the church a former member wishes to join and declare that said member is “under church discipline”. We know this to be true because when Dee and her husband left their former Southern Baptist church and sought to join another congregation, they were not offered membership because their former pastor said that they were “unreconciled” with him.


As soon as I read this Membership Covenant, I realized that this church is utilizing techniques from the abusive Shepherding Movement. Exactly 35 years ago Derek Prince – one of the Fort Lauderdale Five – wrote an article entitled “Discipleship, Shepherding, and Authority” which appeared in the February 1976 issue of New Wine Magazine, which you can read here

Here are two excerpts from Prince’s article:


In New Testament congregations, all Christians (i.e. disciples) were expected to be under the rule of duly appointed leaders. The leaders of each local church were always referred to collectively, in the plural. They had three distinct, but related, titles: elders; overseers (or bishops); shepherds (or pastors).” (pp. 11-12)



“Among Christians, those who rule must not impose or enforce their authority, in the way that authority is frequently enforced in the world…. Therefore, if Christians are to be ruled in the church, they must make this possible by voluntarily submitting themselves to their leaders.”

As our loyal readers know, Derek Prince and Bob Mumford publicly apologized for the abusive practices of the Shepherding Movement. Sadly, another generation has arisen that has no knowledge of Shepherding aka “Discipleship”. We fear that they are the “target market” of these hyper-authoritarian churches. After all, what age group will knowingly enter into a relationship with a church leader who is their “parental authority”?

What is especially disturbing about this membership covenant is that the church utilizing it belongs to a denomination never mentioned before at The Wartburg Watch. In other words, this church is not part of the SBC, PCA, or SGM. Hyper-authoritarianism is definitely on the rise!

Yesterday morning both Dee and I received an e-mail from a young lady in a nearby state with questions about finding a new church home. Here is just some of what she wrote:

“You both have provided me a safe place to explore other viewpoints and be challenged in my own viewpoints and I am most appreciative. Also your warnings about SGM were very timely as I was just beginning to look at their movement when I read your articles and I was able to warn one of my sisters about them as well and point her to your blog.


I do have a question for either/both of you. I am starting to look for a new church family, your recent blogs on finding a church have been helpful but I was wondering, when looking at a church’s website are there some key words/phrases that would improve my chances of finding a grace teaching church? … Part of the problem is that the reformed/Calvinist movement, esp. the so called Young Restless and Reformed group have adopted “grace” as one of their key words, unfortunately when they talk about grace it is more along the lines of “you’re lucky God in His holy plan has decided to show you grace you dirty, rotten, no good sinner, now shape up and show your appreciation for that grace!”… Any help or advice you could offer would be very much appreciated.”


Dear sister in Christ, in response to your important question, I hope this Final Exam on Membership Covenants and our identification of Red Flags has been beneficial to you. It’s important to be able to recognize what is a healthy church looks like, and in our view, this “SOS Church” is extremely unhealthy. That’s why one of its former members alerted us about the Membership Covenant that was recently adopted.

For those of you who are curious about the acronym “SOS” it means SHEPHERDS OVER SHEEP. We believe it’s an appropriate name for the church in question.

Someone in the blogosphere (whom we do not know) read yesterday’s TWW post and featured the SOS Church’s Membership Covenant on his blog, which you can read here.


He concluded the post as follows:

“And on and on it goes, a relentless list of reminders that you are to be obedient, generous — as dumb farm animals who do as they’re told. I know how this goes: “That’s not real Christianity,” somebody will object. It’s not the religion of Jesus, for sure, but it sure as hell is historic Christianity — and it stinks and does harm. Presentation of this ‘membership covenant’ is all any sane adult should need to see what these predators actually are.”


Yep, some so-called Christian leaders treat their flock as “dumb farm animals” who are supposed to do as they are told. Where’s my copy of Animal Farm? Apparently, protesters in the Middle East have been reading George Orwell’s masterpiece. In conclusion, always review membership covenants very carefully… Some are really BAAAAA……..D !!!



 In loving memory of Numo, the Olympiad Hedgehog


Lydia's Corner: Numbers 28:16-29:40 Luke 3:23-38 Psalm 62:1-12 Proverbs 11:18-19






Membership Covenant Red Flags — 34 Comments

  1. I’ve become firmly convinced that emphasis on authority in the church (of the church, the elders, the pastor, etc.) is never a good sign. The emphasis on being under the authority of the elders (#2 above) is also very reminiscent of Gothard’s umbrella teaching (another huge red flag!).

  2. Amanda,

    Yes, this church was clever enough not to use the term “covering”.

    I couldn’t agree with you more. An emphasis on “authority” is extremely problematic, and that’s why we’re making such a fuss here at TWW. I really hope our brothers and sisters in Christ are paying attention.

  3. Unfortuantly, I am old enough to see this shift in the SBC from Jesus Christ as the authority in the Body to mere men as the authority in the Body. Believe it or not, Baptists were big time into Priesthood of Believer and soul competency. It defined them.

    Al Mohler tried to get “priesthood of believer” taken out of the BFM 2000. He did not win but was able to get it diluted.

    Mohler is a patient man and as time goes by he has fewer who are willing to stand up to him.

    I must constantly ask: How is the Holy Spirit to function in a believers life when mere men strive to take that function for themselves? This is one reason there is so little teaching on the function of the Holy Spirit these days.

  4. Since writing this post, I’ve had a song stuck in my head – “Message in a Bottle” by the Police. Here’s a video of their first performance of the song in public.

    Dee and I are sending out an S.O.S. to the world warning about the SOS (Shepherds Over Sheep) churches that are cropping up all over the place. We hope that someone gets our message via the blogosphere…

  5. Lydia said, ” How is the Holy Spirit to function in a believers life when mere men strive to take that function for themselves?”


  6. Yep. You ladies saw pretty much what I saw. Last night when I read that part about the non members being subject to elder authority I nearly jumped off my seat! The note I made to myself was, “this is way beyond the bounds!”

    The small group thing too, in this context, is a red flag. That can be a good thing, a great thing even, if it occurs in the midst of a healthy setting. But this is clearly not a healthy setting.

    I’m not sure what I think about the dual membership idea, either. That’s not something I have ever heard of so I don’t know how that might be done traditionally. But they clearly expect THIS church to be the big boss church of such members. These members only have their names on the rolls of the other church so they can continue to receive support as missionaries, which seems unethical to me, and disrespectful of the other church. Why couldn’t these people just be regular attenders? It seems like they are being required to abandon their home/sending church, except for the goodies they get in financial support. (?)

    Really, it’s hard to say what part of this covenant is the worst. It is all the worst!

    Just this morning I was thinking a little more on the submit-to-elders-as-though-they-were-parents issue. It occurred to me that, while the marriage idea is wrong, at least it is a relationship between adults. The elder-as-your-parent-to-whom-you-must-submit relationship is not. They are treating adults like children here. God help the adult who goes along with this! Even the real parents of adults do not carry their authority over their grown children anymore. Those who try to are universally regarded as dysfunctional. Grown children still respect and honor their parents (ideally), but they certainly do not submit to them. This is again a violation of Genesis 2:24 among members who are married (to each other, not the church). I will have to read your post on the pastor as your dad.

    This whole thing is just horrible and only gets worse the more it is thought about. God definitely cannot and will not bless this.

    Judging from your post on this yesterday and the fellow’s account, this is apparently a recent change. This brings up a whole host of questions. How was the church run before? In this membership covenant they make mention of voting rights. Is this church historically a voting church? If not, how strange to include voting rights in this totalitarian covenant! But if so, then why was this covenant not brought before the congregation for a vote? Instead, everyone must either sign or leave, and judging from the covenant, leaving automatically casts the leaver as the defendant in a system where they will be held guilty until proven guilty as there is really no good reason not to submit as required for membership (or just plain regular attendance!). Was there even any discussion with the congregation about this prior to its being drafted?

    I wonder what happened to this church and who got to this leadership? Where did they learn that all these years they have been doing church wrong and this is how it is supposed to be? Why are they changing like this? Was this thing done to them first? Did they attend any conferences or anything like that in the last year or so? If so, which one(s)? What books have they been reading? Which authors/teachers have influenced them?

    I would love to know the background of this and how and why it came about.

    There is a reason why this stuff has become so prevalent. Who is behind it? Who is propagating it? Who is recognized as having the authority to teach these leaders these things? Who are the teachers of teachers/leaders/pastors out there? Is that where this is coming from?

    And among those teachers of teachers who see this is wrong, which of them are ACTIVELY OPPOSING these things? Which leading pastors today are acting as pastors and defending the sheep from these wolvish ideas and the wolves that propagate them? And which are not?

  7. Doctor JanH

    I am very interested in something that you said. I would be most interested to see how a church go through a transition from normal to hyper authoritarian. Most people don’t catch the subtle clues until very far along in the process. I am wondering if there is a way to get some input from some folks around the world who come to this blog.

    I know one lady who was a 28 year member of her church. They hired, unbeknownst to them, a Calvinista. He denied it and hid it during the pastoral search. Within one year of his arrival, he had changed the bylaws and basically given this lady, along with others, the right boot of disfellowship.

    I need to think about this. Could we have an ongoing blog page in which people could write in some signs that they now understand when the look back?

    This could be very, very insightful.

  8. They hired, unbeknownst to them, a Calvinista. He denied it and hid it during the pastoral search. Within one year of his arrival, he had changed the bylaws and basically given this lady, along with others, the right boot of disfellowship.

    That is very disturbing. It is also another element to consider: Did the church of the fellow who sent you this membership covenant hire a new senior pastor before this happened? If so, where did that pastor come from/what is his background?

    I hope you get lots of responses to your inquiry. I think it would be useful to know what the etiology of this thing is. Though I suspect the reason most people don’t catch clues until it is basically too late is because under this hyperauthoritarian system there is really no reason for them to know, unless they are already in leadership. They are just the sheep after all (never mind that it’s the hard earned dollars that these sheep are supposed to “generously” give that fund all the church’s programs and salaries) so they don’t really need to be in on it as though they had any impact on what decision was going to be made. By the time the “sheep” learn about it, the decision has already been made for them, whether they like it or not–and if they were really spiritual they would surely like it just fine. Right?

  9. I am an elder in an elder led SBC congregation. I don’t recognize any of the stuff that is in the membership covenants that you have cited, and I would not join a church that had a covenant that said all of these things.

    We have a very bare bones Charter and a very bare bones set of by laws. I would never recommend putting this stuff in a document, nor would I recommend organizing a church like this regardless of whether these things are written down or not.

    Mohler would not like the way we have organized our church because it is elder led. Mohler, like Mark Dever, disagrees with elder rule. If we had to remove someone from the church, the elders would do that. We have never had to do that, threaten that or even talk about that possibility. The elders and church members should try and help people who are struggling in their discipleship, not spend their time figuring out how to kick them out of the church.

    I have never seen people who are not in agreement with a church or are not happy there, for whatever reason, leave on their own. The only exception may be a congregation where someone leads a political charge that is contrary to the will of the congregation. He or she doesn’t get his/her way, but won’t give it up, and becomes disruptive. Churches who face that have a hard way to go, I suppose. We have been fortunate and have never had to deal with that.

    By the way, I see posts here from time to time about Pastors changing by-laws, church constitutions etc.

    Are there churches were pastors can do that? Or is it that the people vote to change the bylaws and/or constitutions on the recommendations of pastors?

    If the pastor can do that on his own, get out of that church.

    If the people vote to do that, they may be dumb, but the priesthood of the believer gives them that right.

    The pastor may still be a bad leader for suggesting it, and the people may have chosen unwisely. But if one believes the people ultimately get to choose those things, we can’t really chide the pastor for the unwise choice of the people.

  10. I meant to say I have never seen a situation where someone in his church who was unhappy did not go ahead and leave on his own – before. Most people whom I have seen who become disenchanted leave on their own.

  11. I thought it was interesting that “attenders” aren’t really treated any differently than “members.” If I am an attender I am still subject to church discipline. By their own “grasping” comment they are not responsible for non-members. Stupid logic.

    One way I have found to identify a Calvanista or at least an aspiring one:

    If they read all of the Resurgence books without measuring them against the scripture, go to all of the Acts 29 conferences, and follow Mark Driscoll’s tweets so close that they know the last time he went to the bathroom…. more than likely a Calvanista.

  12. Doctor ReallyAnonymous

    I looooove you definition of a Calvinista. We may add it to our permanent definition. Therefore you now have been awarded an honorary doctorate from our highly rated unaccredited institute.

    On a more serious note: Do we want people to explore the Gospel or not? Do we want them to come to church to listen and learn? This is one of the most dadblasted pieces of idiocy I have ever seen. I agree with you wholeheartedly. i wonder if these elders know that we are discussing them.

  13. Anonymous 7:59

    I have been in several churches that were excellent and elder led with congregational voting on issues. I was also in one that was “elder led” with the pastor calling the shots.Over the years he had gotten his “yes” men in place and they did his will.

    You have made several good points. I agree with many of them. Here is a situation in which such bylaw changes occur. I know of one well-known church in our area that needed a new pastor. The new guy came, claiming he wasn’t into the extreme hyperauthoritarianism. Basically, he lied. Slowly, over the curse of a year, he requested changes to the bylaws, claiming that these changes were minor and innocuous. The church leadership, way, way too trusting believed him. He was smart. He began to muscle good people out of there positions and groomed people internally to take their positions. By the time the good guys realized what was happening, he had effected a coup.

    He forced people who had been in the church for years to leave, stating they were disruptive. Many people who stayed were confused and had no idea what had happened.

    So, you are right. The average church goer was not aware of these things. To be truthful, before my little hiccup in a church, I had only been in good churches like yours. I couldn’t believe such goings on could happen.The problem is two sided. Power hungry pastors and poorly educated sheep.

    This blog is doing its darndest to warn people to wise up, understand the Bible, and to speak up as things happen.And to look for a church with elders like you.

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

  14. JanH

    You are so right! They are supposed to like what the pastor does because he is the pastor and ordained and all that other stuff. Except they forget that he is just as much of a sinner as they are. Most people refuse to consider such a thing. One hyperauthoritarian pastor I know is referred to as “just a good old boy.” I retorted to a friend to remember, many “good old boys” were members of the Ku Klux Klan.

  15. Anonymous,

    I believe changing church by-laws has become a fairly common occurrence in recent years, especially in hyper-authoritarian churches. I hope some of our readers will chime in on this issue.

    Mars Hill Church is probably the most well-known church that has changed its by-laws. If Mark Driscoll is doing it, his sycophants will likely follow in his footsteps. Sad but true…

    Here’s a brief excerpt from a Seattle Times article entitled “Firing of pastors roils Mars Hill Church” (written in 2007). I hope you will click on the link and read the entire article.

    “The recent firing of two pastors is causing turmoil at Mars Hill Church, Seattle’s largest congregation. About a month ago, Paul Petry and Bent Meyer were fired from their staff positions. Some Mars Hill members contend the pastors were removed because they challenged proposed changes in church structure that those members believed would consolidate power in the hands of top church leaders.

    A current church leader disputes the interpretation, saying the church intends to share power, not hoard it. The firings and changes to church bylaws, passed last month, have prompted lengthy exchanges in an online members-only church forum.”

    Here’s are some YouTube videos featuring Mark Driscoll. I believe they are insightful with regard to the firing of two beloved pastors at Mars Hill Church.

  16. “Mohler would not like the way we have organized our church because it is elder led. Mohler, like Mark Dever, disagrees with elder rule”

    Do you have any resource for that assertion about Mohler? I believe you are quite wrong. In fact, his own church has been in the process of going elder led but I do not believe they announced it to the congregation. It was a back door sort of process.

    It could be that they don’t call them elders. Many call them a board or something similar.

    This is the same church that claims it is not Calvinist but has Calvinist preachers like Russell Moore.

    Also, teaching the plurality of elders is quite common at SBTS.

  17. “The pastor may still be a bad leader for suggesting it, and the people may have chosen unwisely. But if one believes the people ultimately get to choose those things, we can’t really chide the pastor for the unwise choice of the people.”

    That really depends on what the pastor has been teaching them. Which is why this blog promotes knowing scripture.

    People forget that Jim Jones was once a respected and trusted pastor before he became a nutcase cult leader..

  18. Dee, Deb and Lydia:

    All great comments.

    I am generally aware that more churches are considering having elders than in times past. I don’t know currently of any churches that have elders that are going to no elders. I am sure they are out there. I have just not heard of them.

    I have said in the past that each form of leadership has its problems and its strong points.

    Having said that, there are various polity arrangements that I would not have a disagreement with, as they have some support in Scripture.

    I am finding more SBC churches using a plurality of elders, but I could not tell you how many of those retain congregational control, even though they have elders.

    Dever and Mohler do not agree with Elder’s ruling the church. They believe that the congregation should rule. They don’t disagree with what they call “elder-led” churches.

    Dever has written books about it. Mohler has not, but some of our elders have talked with him.

    I forget the name of the church Mohler attends (Highview, maybe?). If Higview goes to elders, I supposed Moher would support that, but I don’t think he would support the elders ruling. The congregation would be voting. Who knows about what?

  19. The church that has written the covenant or membership policy did not seek the input of its ‘members’ during its formation. The ‘first among equals’ (as he called himself in one sermon) spent the summer and fall (from the pulpit and emails) hammering home elder authority and often used false dichotomies, arguments from silence and applications foreign to the text. He addressed the whole church in one meeting, exhorting all there to ‘marry’ the church. He has a Church of Christ background, but the denom he is a part of is the C & MA.

  20. The denom is the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The church never voted to approve the membership policy. It was approved behind closed doors and made known to the church months later.

  21. It’s depressing to think about the kids that grow up in these churches and what will happen to them. There are so many stories about there being less Christians now in America than there were 20 years ago, 60-80% of evangelicals lose their faith in college, etc, etc.. At this moment in American history we really need better pastors and churches to make a comeback, but they seem to be getting worse.

  22. JanH
    Interesting-what happens when a Church of Christ hyper comes in touch with hyperauthoritarian Calvinists-another perfect storm? I need to read a bit about this.

  23. I am trying to figure out how all these things came to converge. I found a few sources that lead in several directions. The most obvious one is the Ft. Lauderdale Five. But then there is Bill Gothard also, which easily explains the connection at SGM with Mahaney and the FL5, and Josh Harris of the Gothard lineage. But how the ICOC is connected I don’t know. And how Gothard got it I’m not sure either. Someone mentioned a possible connection with both of them through Watchman Nee.

    Also, I think (though I haven’t done enough research yet to be sure) that the Purpose Driven covenant connection can be traced to C. Peter Wagner, under whom Warren earned his doctorate at Fuller Seminary. Wagner, et al are in and of themselves largely responsible for legitimizing the Moses/Apostolic model that have been wildly popular, though mostly among Charismatic/Vineyard churches*. However, Wagner knows how to sanitize his views for conservative evangelical consumption as he did in his book Churchquake. You would never know his extreme Latter Rain ideas from reading that book, yet they are a major impetus behind it.

    Warren readily picked this governmental idea up, as well as the covenant thing, apparently from Wagner, who seems to have gotten it from the FL5 and their ilk, as he has many connections in that direction. Warren is huge on these covenants. All Purpose Driven churches have these covenants. You were even supposed to sign 40 days of your life over to Warren in a covenant at the beginning if you went through his Purpose Driven Life book. And of course, Warren is a Southern Baptist boy. And he did not pick up the charismatic teachings as far as gifts and such, which would give him credibility in the SBC and other non-charismatic evangelical churches.

    *I know the Calvary Chapels have the Moses model authority structure too, but as far as I know, they do not have membership covenants. You just go or don’t go to one of their churches.

    The way it looks now is, the FL5 converge with Gothard via SGM, and the SBC via Warren/Wagner and now SGM. But how the ICOC fit in is still unclear to me. I guess that would depend on who mentored Kip McKean and whether he was around the FL5 or anyone who was strongly influenced by them.

  24. As to the question about are churches moving toward ‘no elders’. Interesting tid-bit of information: Each year, Ed Young of Fellowship Church in Dallas, hosts a conference called Creative Church Conference, “C3”. At that conference, there is always a time for the ‘senior pastors’ in attendance, and only the senior pastors, to attend a special luncheon. At that luncheon, Ed always has a session where he implores those in attendance to ‘change immediately’ the by-laws of their church and get rid of the lay-leadership. (He even offers to ‘sell’ them a sample by-laws document for the price of joining the new C3 affiliation of churches.)

    His reason? “It would be like if you were a dentist, and before you could do anything in your dentist office, from decorating it to pricing your services, you would have to run all those decisions past a group of people that had control over you, but no real responsibility, and worst of all, they weren’t even dentists and therefore could not possibly have great insight.”

    11-12 years ago, Ed did just that at Fellowship Church. He changed the by-laws, eliminating any lay-leadership (elders) and replacing them with only “staff elders”. That’s right, the elders of the church are the ministers, all of whom look to Ed for continued employment and salary modifications. Bet there’s a lot of questioning that goes on in those staff/elder meetings, don’t you think?

    But here’s the sad part, Ed’s been preaching this “no lay-leadership” to thousands of preachers every year, at C3, for the last 10-12 years. How many of those preachers take that notion back to their churches and how many authoritarian umbrellas are they now holding? For all of the wonderful teaching that has occurred at C3 over the years, that one little bit of teaching from Ed has probably led to more heartache in churches than any of the other wildly creative things that those pastors brought back to their home churches.

    And it’s all ego.

  25. “But here’s the sad part, Ed’s been preaching this “no lay-leadership” to thousands of preachers every year, at C3, for the last 10-12 years.”

    That is interesting. I remember the Creative Church Conference and the seeker staffers and ministers I was with at the time kept calling it the “Ed Show”. :o)

    But Ed does not understand scritpure (wink). There are no ‘laypeople” in the Body of Christ. All are priests and all are ministers in the Holy Priesthood…if they are saved. The “clergy/laity” distinction is a lie.

  26. Anonymous,

    That’s very interesting! We’re gonna have to look into Ed Young’s denouncement of lay-leadership at C3. Did you know that Joyce Meyer came and spoke at this year’s C3 conference that took place very recently?

    If you’re new to TWW, did you know that Dee attended Fellowship Church (probably right before the by-law change). I’ve never heard her mention that Ed changed the by-laws. Also, we have written extensively on Ed Young. Just look for his name on the right side of the page under “Categories”.

  27. Yes, Deb, well aware of Joyce Meyer “in the house” this year…wow.

    And I am a mid-term reader and well aware of Dee’s sojourn in DFW and FC. She and I have touched base many times. I need to adopt a ‘name’ so you ladies can keep all the anonymous’ straight…I think I will go with “FormerFellow” from now on…keep up the good work, I have learned so much over these past 3-4 months.

  28. Anonymous,

    Thanks for clarifying your identity. Dee has spoken of you to me several times, and “FormerFellow” is a great moniker for you!

    I really appreciate the information on changing by-laws, and I plan to investigate for a future post.

  29. He sells the Bylaws to people? You have got to be kidding. There is no magic in any set of bylaws. Sounds like he is giving legal advice, too.

    And the staff members are elders? So, some 22 year old rolls into town, can become an elder, and you have a 50 year old couple who have been there 20 years, have given $1,000,000, have taught or served for years – and that guy can’t be an elder?

    Young’s analogy about the dentist is not totally off. Lay leadership is absolutely necessary, but not every layman or woman is as qualified for leadership as every other layman or laywoman.

    I bet Young has some educated and knowledgeable laypeople in his congregation who can serve.

    But he goes and gives the positions to staff people over whom he has complete control.


  30. FormerFellow,

    I talked with Dee, and she confirmed that Ed Young changed the By-Laws AFTER she and her husband left. But she said that during the time she was a member of the Fellowship Church Ed was definitely “in charge”. In some ways I feel sorry for the members, but then they should have seen this coming…

    How do Christians vote? With their wallets and their feet!!!

  31. Yes, anon 3:36, that 22 year old scenario happens all the time. You cannot believe the ‘youthful arrogance’ that comes from that group of ministers, most of which are rather young, because that ‘next generation’ idea is very important to Ed. Probably because they make him feel younger too.

    And because there is an almost disdain for the wants/wishes of the congregation, those young ministers can, within reason, do/change almost anything they wish with the “complete support of my Sr. Pastor.” And that is a quote after an authority dispute.

    And Deb, I really believe that Christians at FC are voting with their wallets and their feet right now at FC. The budget spiral is obvious, the more people leave, the less money that comes in, the more Ed talks about tithing, the more people leave…

    It really is sad. I loved that place.