discipling/shepherding movement

discipling/shepherding movement
   Discipling is the practice among some Pentecostals in which each member is counseled by a shepherd, a more senior member of the congregation or larger fellowship. As the Charismatic movement spread in the 1960s to traditional non-Pentecostal Protestant churches (as well as the Roman Catholic Church), new congregations emerged among people who withdrew from their former churches but did not wish to affiliate with one of the older Pentecostal churches. Such independent and unattached congregations, some led by people with little formal training, faced the problem of how to lead young converts to a mature life as a Christian disciple.
   In response, a group of older Pentecostal leaders - Don Basham (1926-89), Ern Baxter (1914-93), Bob Mumford (b. 1930), Derek Prince (1915-2003), and Charles Simpson (b. 1937) - founded the Holy Spirit Teaching Mission (later known as Christian Growth Ministries) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There, through the early 1970s, they developed a program called shepherding or discipling, for building leadership and nurturing church members. They promoted the idea through books, tapes, and a monthly magazine, New Wine.
   The discipling program assigned each church member to a more senior member; they in turn would be discipled by a pastor, who might have a shepherd in another city or state. Shepherds were expected to meet frequently with those they were discipling to discuss their progress in the faith and counsel them on important life matters, including school, work, and even choosing a mate. Depending on personalities, such counseling could become authoritarian and demanding.
   As discipling spread, it threatened the unity and cordial feeling that dominated the early Charismatic movement. Opponents charged that shepherds were asking for a form of submission that belonged only to God. The Fort Lauderdale group was charged with building a rigid new denominationalism. In 1976, the Fort Lauderdale Five issued a "Statement of Concern and Regret," promising to correct any abuses.
   After several conferences, the leadership of the Charismatic movement agreed to allow discipling to continue among those who accepted it. It continued to spread quietly, reappearing among various Evangelical groups such as the Christian Crusade and, more recently, the Promise Keepers.
   The International Churches of Christ (ICC) can be traced to the introduction of the shep-herding/discipling movement into the Church of Christ congregation in Gainesville, Florida, by its pastor Charles Lukas, and into a Lexington, Massachusetts, church led by Kip McKean. McKean integrated the practice into his idea that all church members should be actively committed to evangelism and nurturing new members. He also developed a plan for world evangelism, and member churches sprang up across the united States and internationally. ICC congregations were usually the largest Church of Christ in any given location; many attracted thousands of members. In the 1980s, the ICC became a target of the anticult movement, and a number of members were deprogrammed. As the churches did much of their recruitment on college campuses, their relationships with campus authorities were often strained.
   In the 1990s, the ICC moved toward a less authoritarian style of discipling and ended those practices that had attracted most complaints. Meanwhile, discipling has spread worldwide and is no longer limited to Charismatic and independent Evangelical churches. While few people object to a mild form of discipling, watchdogs remain who quickly call attention to overly authoritarian practices.
   Further reading:
   ■ Bob Buess, Discipleship Pro and Con (Van, Tex.: Sweeter Than Honey, 1974)
   ■ Gordon Ferguson, Discipling: God's Plan to Train and Transform His People (Woburn, Mass.: Discipleship Publications International, 1997)
   ■ Derek Prince, Discipleship, Shepherding, Commitment (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: Derek Prince Publications, 1976)
   ■ Charles Simpson, The Challenge to Care (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Servant Publications, 1986)
   ■ Flavil Yeakley, The Discipling Dilemma: A Study of the Discipling Movement among Churches of Christ (Nashville, Tenn.: Gospel Advocate, 1988).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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