by Steve Coleman

Many Christians are asking "Who is my covering?"

Until recently, the word "covering" was not found in most
Christian literature. The popularity of the discipleship and
Shepherding Movement, however, has brought this subject out in
the open.

The Shepherding Movement arose in the early 1970s in an attempt
to solve shortcomings in the modern church. Many newly converted
Christians were not properly "discipled," or taught how to grow
in the faith. They were largely on their own to study the Bible,
learn how to pray, and to learn how to live a lifestyle that is
pleasing to the Lord. As a result, many converts became
"casualties," and dropped out of the church.

Shepherding was an attempt to correct the situation by saying
that each Christian should have a shepherd for everyday guidance.
This shepherd became the person's spiritual leader, counseling
him and even making decisions for him. It was taught that the
shepherd was "God's delegated authority" and therefore his advice
was always to be followed. The shepherd was like "God's
ambassador" who communicated God's messages to the disciple. To
disobey God's messenger would be to disobey God, and therefore a
person was to trust in the shepherd's judgment rather than his

Because of the tremendous amount of authority given to a
shepherd, Christians were taught to seek God to find the shepherd
that the Lord wanted for them. It was stated that when the right
shepherd was found, he became the person's "covering," or
protection. Because of the "divine relationship" with this
shepherd, a person was supposed to be protected from his making
wrong decisions affecting the disciple. The shepherd is also
supposed to protect the disciple from Satan, who might influence
a person into making a bad decision.

One of the leaders of the Shepherding Movement summed it up
like this:

"We are protected by the authority to which we submit:
Unsubmitted, we are unprotected." [1]

What does the Bible say about this subject? Has a "shepherding
doctrine" been hidden? What does the Bible say about "covering"?


The Shepherding Movement is presumably trying to use the word
in a biblical sense, since all major shepherding teachers use the
Bible as their basis of authority. If the Bible is the basis for
Christian doctrine, then we must say that any doctrine contrary
to the Bible is heresy.

What we must do, then, is to use the word "covering" in the
context in which it is meant.

There are three major Hebrew words which have been translated
as "covering." For someone to act as our "covering," this must
encompass part or all of the meaning of these words, depending on
the sense which is intended.

The first Hebrew word, sakak, means "to cover or hedge in." [2]
Figuratively, the word means "to protect," having the meaning of
"to cover, defend, hedge in, join together, set, or shut up." [3]
In other words, men can protect themselves by joining together,
shutting themselves up or fortifying their position, or hedging
themselves in so that the enemy cannot see or reach them.

The Bible says the Lord, and not a man, is our covering in the
sakak sense. Psalm 91:3 says the Lord does the following things:

"He rescues you from the snares of fowlers hoping to destroy you;
he covers you with his feathers, and you find shelter underneath
his." (Jerusalem Bible)

The second Hebrew word that means "to cover" is kasah. The
primary meaning of this word is "to cover for clothing or
secrecy." [4] It also means "to cover over, conceal." [5]
Proverbs 10:12 says that "love covers all offenses" (JB). A
leading biblical commentator says that by love we will "overlook
the offense that is given us, and cover it, and by this means
strife is prevented." [6] The sin thus is not removed, but
merely concealed.

The third Hebrew word we find is kaphar. The King James Bible
translates this word as "to make atonement," and from the same
root word we get Yom Kippur, or "Day of Atonement." This root
also means to "cover over, pacify, make propitiation." [7] As
opposed to kasah, which means "to cover something over," kaphar
means to completely "wipe it out, annul it, and make it non-
existent." [8]

The word kaphar is used in context with the blood offering of
the Old Testament. Aaron, the first high priest of Israel, was
commanded to slaughter the goat as the sin offering for the
people, bring its blood inside the veil, and sprinkle it on the
mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. This was to make
atonement for the holy place because of the sins of Israel
(Leviticus 16:15, 16).


What sense of the word "covering" are people referring to when
they say, "I am the covering"? In material published by the
Shepherding Movement, it is apparent that "covering" is used in
the sense of "protection" (sakak). According to the teaching,
having a shepherd is like having a "divine insurance policy."
Losses suffered as a result of mistakes are "covered" because a
person is in submission to a shepherd.

Although the Shepherding Movement does not guarantee that a
shepherd will never steer a person wrong, it does say that God
will make things right because the disciple was "in submission."

It is obvious, however, that the claims of shepherding are not
only for sakak covering, but also for kaphar covering.

Derek Prince, in his book, Discipleship, Shepherding,
Commitment, says:

"Also, as Christians, we do not obey those in authority because
they are right; we obey them because they are in authority, and
all authority ultimately stems from God Himself." [9]

If this is true, then the implication is that people could do
something that is normally considered sin, i.e. something that is
out of God's will. A person may know it is sin, but does not have
to worry about it because he is "covered" by a shepherd. A person
will not be judged for the sin, but for his submission to the

If this is the case, then how would a sin become an act of
obedience? The only answer is that this transformation occurs
through the process of "covering."

In summary, then, "covering" works like this:

We obey our shepherd, but our action is against God's will.

We are "covered" through our submission to a shepherd

Because of our submission, the sin becomes an act of

If our sin could be transformed in this way, it could only be
through kaphar covering. Only through kaphar, or atonement, could
sin thus be removed, annulled and wiped out.

In other words, the Shepherding Movement teaches that atonement
or propitiation comes through the shepherd and the authority to
which we are submitted.


These Hebrew words are important because they have different
meanings. It has been confusing to the church because we have
only one word, "covering," which describes all three of these
meanings. Christians should ask, however, what kind of "covering"
they are being asked to accept.

God wants Christians to cover (kasah) people's sins through
love. Christian's still acknowledge that a person has sinned, but
forgive the sinner just as God forgives each Christian.

However, the idea that a shepherd can protect a Christian
(sakak) is unscriptural. The Bible says: "The Lord is my strength
and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped..." (Psalm
28:7). It also says, "Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in
whom there is no salvation." (Psalm 146:3).

As unscriptural as the teaching about sakak covering is, it is
a far worse error to say that a shepherd is a Christian's
atonement (kaphar). Imagine how grieved Jesus Christ is when
others claim to be the "covering" after He gave His life to be
the covering for sins.

1 Peter 1:18-19 says, " were not redeemed with perishable
things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited
from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb
unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (New American
Standard Bible). The Christian's allegiance thus belongs to the
one who paid for redemption, and He is the one who must be

Romans 3:25 says that Jesus Christ was publicly displayed by
God "as a propitiation in His blood through faith."

It has been shown that the words "covering," "atonement," and
"propitiation" have the same meaning, and are expressed by the
same Hebrew word (kaphar). Thus, if these synonymous words are
substituted into Romans 3:25, it can be seen that:

Our propitiation comes in the blood of Jesus through faith.

Our atonement comes in the blood of Jesus through faith.

Our covering comes in the blood of Jesus through faith.

It should be apparent why the Shepherding Movement is in such
error: it has applied to men what rightfully belongs to God.
Instead of saying the Lord is the covering, it claims that
shepherds are the covering. While the Bible says people can trust
God for strength and guidance, the Shepherding Movement says that
a man is necessary too.

In short, the Shepherding Movement casts doubt on God's ability
to care for the Christian.

Let us trust in the Lord as our covering. Proverbs 3:5-6 says:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight." (NASB)

When people put their total trust in the Lord, then other
Christians can give the help and advice they need to learn how to
grow as a Christian.


1. Charles Simpson, Covering of the Lord, New Wine, Vol. 5, No.
12, Dec. 1973, pg. 29.
2. Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible, Grand
Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970, pg. 209.
3. James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, New
York: Bingdon Press, 1965, pg. 82 of the Hebrew and Chaldee
4. Strong, pg. 56 of the Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary.
5. Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew
and English Lexicon of the Old Testament: With an Appendix
Containing the Biblical Aramaic, Oxford: The Clarendon Press,
1968, pg. 491
6. Matthew Henry, Commentary On The Whole Bible, Grand Rapids,
Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961, pg. 749.
7. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, op cit., pg. 497.
8. John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (A
Commentary by John F. Walvoord), Chicago: Moody Press, 1971, pp.
221, 222.
9. Derek Prince, Discipleship, Shepherding, Commitment, Ft.
Lauderdale Fla.: Derek Prince Publications, 1976, pg. 18.

(c) 1981 by Steve Coleman. Reprinted by permission. For
additional information on The Shepherding Movement write, Street
Ministries, P.O. Box 31126, El Paso, TX 79931