When I wrote my last blog about covering, I had no idea it would become as universal as it did. I had no idea people would send it to the people they covered, I would get called by people to teach on this subject, and that I would continue to receive the same consistent word I had from anyone who knew about the situation which the blog inspired: stand my ground. The more we all discussed, conversed, and shared about this issue, the more I realized how important it is that we start to balance the two issues more. We hear so much today about leaders and being in good leadership. Whether it’s because of our own histories or because we truly want to take people at their word, I’ve noticed that we automatically blame a leader for where someone is in their walk. As one who has spent 13.5 years in ministry as of the time of writing this and a good number of years as a believer, I have had my share of all sorts of leaders: good, bad, and indifferent. I have seen leaders who were just not anointed for leadership, and it was obvious. At the same time, they were unwilling to let go of the prestige of their positions. Some of them are still around from years ago, buy most of them are not. It takes some staying power to remain in ministry year after year after year, dealing with the same issues in people over and over again. It takes a lot to be a leader, and the one consistent thing I am noting from the response from my blog and from those who responded is the resounding realization that people who are not in active leadership don’t understand just how much responsibility leadership is. Everyone thinks they can do it better, be better, handle it better, but the statistics say otherwise. All those people who think they know better than God and have no intention to ascribe to God’s order don’t wind up making it in ministry long-term.
Sometimes it’s not the leader’s fault. We need to stop automatically blaming leaders for where people are. Sometimes people are hard-hearted, stubborn, difficult, and proud. It was not Moses’ fault the people of Israel decided he was gone and they would create a golden idol in his absence. Moses had walked with them for years to the point where he got angry and frustrated because of them. He desired to lead them to a place where they needed to be. In his own frustration, he lost sight of why he was working so hard with them. It grieves me to see leaders who take so much responsibility for where those they cover are that they begin to lose sight of God. Yes, there are bad leaders. Yes, there are leaders who manipulate and control, and hurt people because that’s why they do what they do. Yes, there are problems among leaders in the church. These facts, however, are not an excuse to manipulate yourself around God’s order. Find a leader who is not a problem, and start showing your leader who is not a problem how much you appreciate who they are in your life.
I received some negative feedback from the blog: that it wasn’t of God because it wasn’t “loving” and then there was my favorite one: that when God gives us a revelation, we should keep it to ourselves – we shouldn’t share it. I don’t have time for this nonsense. Anyone who read that blog knows it wasn’t unloving, and I don’t know why any one of us would get a revelation from God so we could not share it. This just proves to me how needed that post was – because it’s obvious the individual responded due to their own lack of order. What these people don’t realize, because they don’t bother to ask or consider, is how difficult it was in my own life to come to a place of accepting leadership and covering. I have experienced bad leadership: leaders who couldn’t handle basic questions, who told me to go to another church, who misused and abused me, who were discouraging and negative no matter what I did. I came out of the Catholic Church, which treats its man-made leaders as if they were gods. I watched abuses of power, ministers run off with their secretaries, and so-called leaders get arrested for inappropriate relationships with children. I wanted no part in that. What I didn’t understand at the time is that that was not God’s order, either. People could tell me it was order, but it wasn’t. It was hard for me to accept God’s order and structure within my own life, and within my own ministry. God wouldn’t move me up until I did, and without getting into all the long-winded details of this aspect of my testimony, God didn’t start to move me into positions of authority and leadership until I accepted those things as just as necessary for me as for others. For me to come on here and post about order and covering would have been unheard of ten years ago – but God moved in my life. God operates by certain principles, and leadership is one of them. It is only because of God’s intervention that I can teach on this topic today.
In speaking about covering, I speak from years of experience learning the ins and outs of order and disorder. I know order by the Spirit when I see it, and I know disorder when I see it as well. In knowing order, we know God. In seeing disorder, we meet the enemy. The battle present in today’s church as pertains to covering and covered is a part of the long-term struggle between good and evil. People want their own way. They want what they have to be enough, and don’t want to have to answer for it to anyone. They want to be anointed and that be sufficient. In terms of building ministry, long-term, it’s just not.
I realize in writing these things about covering and being covered the serious gap we have in today’s church. We don’t understand what covering is and how we are to be covered. Good coverings are afraid to cover well because they don’t want to see their ministries destroyed by vindictive, angry, heard-hearted people. This is a dialogue we need to open up, and open up wide. We need to understand what it means to be someone’s leader and what it means to have someone as our leader. A relationship needs to exist there. We need to abandon the concept of covering just to get by in ministry and say that someone covers us. We need to hear God’s deeper call to us to follow Him and honor one another. It is time to stop being all about ourselves and our own personal ministries and come to a greater understanding of what it means to be the church, connected to one another, and making both disciples and leaders to spread the Kingdom of God far and wide. If we would only get over our petty selfishness, our egotistical tirades, and our own delusions of grandeur, maybe we can see God’s gift present to all of us in leadership and in accountability.
The Lord has continued to speak, and reveal to me about this issue…not just for myself, but for all of us…and in that spirit…here are more things I wish people would recognize about covering:
Don’t “name drop.” – Sometimes we are in events or we are asked by others who our covering is. That is different from what I am talking about here. In those circumstances, people are connecting us to our leaders and seeking a validation for our ministries. On the inverse, I’ve met a lot of people in ministry who are covered by someone, not because they recognize God has drawn them to that person, but because they want to advance their own ministries through the person that covers them. In many cases, I’ve seen it work…sort of. The person may get a preaching engagement out of the deal, but the minister in question gets found out when word gets back to their leader. What I wind up seeing are very, very angry coverings, who are angry for good reason. Your covering has most likely spent many years developing and growing their ministry to reach a point where, at least in certain circles, their name represents a standard of excellence. Trying to claim that for yourself when you haven’t done the work is insulting. Most coverings will recommend those under their ministries when the individuals in question display a certain level of excellence in their own ministries, but I’m not going to lie – it may take awhile. How long it takes depends on you. In the Bible, one’s name represented the fullness of who they were, what they stood for, and what they had. If we apply this to ministry, name dropping is a disrespect to everything a leader stands for.
Presentation is everything. – Nobody would show up to a meeting with Donald Trump dressed in ripped jeans, an old T-shirt, and smelling like they hadn’t bathed since Jesus walked on earth. We get this makes a bad presentation in the world – so why do we present ourselves to our Kingdom leaders like this? If you want to “advance,” for lack of a better term, in the Kingdom, it’s best you present yourself like you do. I’m not talking about wearing robes or $1,000 designer suits, but I am talking about being neat and clean, being hygienic, not being greedy or overstaying one’s welcome somewhere, not eating someone out of house and home – or buying the most expensive thing on the menu, and dressing for Kingdom business – suits, dresses, neat pantsuits, nice shoes, nothing too casual or that says “I’m ready for a weekend off!” If you are working on some sort of community project that demands a casual dress, that’s different from what I am talking about here. If you look like you’re ready for a weekend off in pulpit ministry or other areas of ministry presentation, you’re covering is going to give you an extended leave of absence so you can take that “weekend off.”
If you want to do greater things, be responsible with the little things. – We all know – You’re the next big thing, you’ve got a mega-ministry coming your way, you’re going to publish 3,000 books, you’re going to drive a Bentley, you’re going to get everything right that the rest of us have all wrong, you’re going to be on TV – yadda, yadda, yadda. I tell you, the ego of today’s church needs to put some some ice on it so it can de-swell. Too many people have placed themselves as worthy of having mega ministries when they can’t even go and check a ministry post office box faithfully once or twice per week, or get on the phone once or twice per month for a conference call. Everyone who has ever covered someone else realizes how menial you think the responsibilities you are given to complete are, and every one of us also recognizes you think you are worthy of much, much more. We also realize that ministry is not about what happens in the pulpit, it’s about keeping faithful no matter how menial or minute the issue seems to be….and you still think so highly of yourself, you probably don’t have this revelation just yet. The Bible teaches us the little foxes spoil the vine. It was a friend of mine who is also an apostle who pointed out to me that this is not just a negative statement – it is also telling us that little things make a difference. If little things can trip us up, little things can also make a huge and powerful impact. All those people on TV – whether we agree with what they teach or not – got there because they were attentive to little things. If you are, as you believe, going to be in mega ministry, you better start paying attention to small things. Before we hit big crowds, we work with smaller ones, perfecting details, and yes, even handle little insignificant tasks…and we are just as faithful to God’s details now as we believe we would be then.
You are all about your gifts, but your covering is interested in your fruit. – It’s exciting to recognize the anointing on one’s life. It’s exciting to be developing in the spiritual things of God. One thing you will begin to find out about your anointing: if you don’t get the necessary discipline and order in your life, having an anointing will still cost you a dollar to get on the bus. What I mean by that is simple – just because you’re anointed doesn’t mean you are going to achieve what you want to in your ministry. It’s a great thing to be gifted, but it is more important we do something with that gift. The Lord’s powerful words to the twelve: telling them not to rejoice that demons are subject to them, but rather, that their names were written in heaven, gives us powerful perspective on this topic. Your covering knows you are gifted and anointed and, at the same time, they want to see you make the gifts you have fruitful to the Lord. It’s a process to make a tree bear fruit: there is planting, years of growing, pruning, watering, fertilizing, testing, and shaping to make a tree produce fruit. It’s great to have an anointing, but your covering is more interested in your ability to walk in that covering versus watching your gifts go without purpose.
We are validating your ministry, not the other way around. – Ministry is made by relationship, especially the relationship between covering and those covered. Your covering puts their ministry name and reputation on the line to serve as your covering, especially if they see something within you but you aren’t to a place of maturity yet. I’ve covered people who really thought they were doing me a favor by “allowing” me to cover them – insert obvious joke here. It’s a great thing to train people for leadership, but believe me – your covering is doing far more for you than you are doing for them. Their teaching, love, caring, and concern helps bless you and grow you. To your leader, you are work. It’s a work of love, but it still requires work. Don’t overestimate your relevance. If you break from a leader without God’s direction, your ministry won’t go anywhere. Your leader will most likely go on, with or without you.
We love to edify you…so give us a reason to do so. – Bad leaders who never encourage people but are always negative have given every leader a bad name every time they have to correct something. I love to encourage the people I cover. I love to build up what you are doing right. So do most coverings. Most coverings like to look back at those they cover and really know the people under them are doing their best and living as God has commanded them. What we don’t realize within Bible teaching is that edification is not unconditional. If you are doing something wrong, we can’t build that up in you, because then you will be confused about the truth and we will be responsible for it. If you are doing something wrong, we have to bring it up at some point in time. If you don’t want to be corrected…don’t do things wrong. If you want to be edified, do the right things…problem solved!
You’re not untouchable. – I am so sick of hearing “Touch not mine anointed! Touch not mine anointed!” anytime anything at all comes up. That is an example of misquoting the Word for selfish purposes. Every time I see it, I shake my head, realizing how disordered the church has become. Nowadays people don’t even tolerate being asked a simple question or having a discussion about something without becoming irate and defensive. This is how I look at it: if you are so anointed, then I shouldn’t have to be touching what you do all the time because it shouldn’t all be so wrong. If any one of us is doing something in error, we are all become very touchable. That’s just a Kingdom fact. The purpose of having a covering isn’t to be a person who enables everything and complicit in sin, wrongdoing, or error. If we come to you with something, take it like a grown-up. Don’t revert and hide behind gifts because that isn’t why you have them. If you use your gifts like that, you will lose them. Also, don’t be so defensive; that just lets your leader know that something is indeed wrong and that you are not in the right.
We have our bad days, too – you just never hear about them. – Once someone I covered told me if I was really her covering, I would have been checking up on her constantly. She was angry because I told her she would not be attending our event at my cost if she couldn’t participate with us at mandatory meetings. I knew she was just blowing the meetings off because she was angry that her participation in the event had been notably diminished due to her immaturity and her rude behavior toward me. What she didn’t know is that I was planning the event myself – when she was supposed to be the conference administrator – while she ran around in her bad mood – and was also dealing with chronic back pain, a dislocated shoulder, the death of my husband’s grandfather, personal illness and other problems, stress, other ministry activities, and 8 other people to attend to and cover. Despite all this, I was as available to her as I always am; she just wanted to be chased down because she was being childish. She might have never seen the personal pain and discomfort I was in, but that didn’t change the fact that it was there. It wouldn’t have matter had she known, however, because when she found out about some of it, she blew it off as if I never said it. I can say on behalf of most coverings: we don’t like to dump our problems on you. We don’t like to make you think we aren’t there for you or can’t be there for you because of something that is going on in our lives. Your covering doesn’t use their personal problems as an excuse to escape ministry responsibilities, and neither should you. Yes, we have our bad days and our bad times – which makes it all the more relevant you don’t storm off in a bad and nasty mood every time you don’t get what you feel like you deserve from your leader. Instead of expecting your leader to make the overture, give them a call or note every now and then to be an encouragement and to ask how they are. Don’t just contact them because you want guidance or feel you need something. Keep your leader covered in prayer and refrain from childishness because you just assume what you always see on the surface is how things really are.
Good leaders are also good followers. – I know it’s cliché, but it’s the truth: we learn how to be good leaders by being good followers to those who are in leadership over us. In following, we learn what to do and what not to do; what people who are led need in their lives; how to reveal truth in a powerful way; and how to see God work things in our lives because we ascribe to Him. All of us must work our way through God’s timing and be faithful to all He has put in place. Want to be a better leader? Be a better follower first, and watch God work!
Be courteous. – Your gifts and anointing do not entitle you to be rude. I understand you may be angry at times, but it’s not your place to mouth off to your covering or to others about your covering. Coverings should not be spoken to or of like casual friends; they should be spoken to like teachers, leaders, and guides in your life. Don’t use casual slang, fowl or coarse language, or be rude in your presentation. If you wouldn’t speak to your boss in a certain way, you shouldn’t be speaking to your covering in that way, either.
We do not think we “own you.” – In my own personal opinion, this is the sorriest excuse I have ever heard for insubordination toward a leader – and yet I hear it over, and over, and over again. If you know something is expected of you, then do it. Your covering shouldn’t have to twist your arm to get you to cooperate, only to be accused of thinking they own you and are becoming cult-like. That doesn’t work with me and I’ll tell you where it’s at real quick if you want to go down that road, as I actually have training in cults and cult criteria. Until I require you to memorize the whole Bible, move to an isolated compound in the middle of nowhere, give me all your money, drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid, kill yourself to chase after a comet, dress exactly like the person sitting next to you, and sacrifice your children at my feet – I don’t want to hear it. You aren’t being controlled when you are expected to be present for a meeting, at a service, or meet certain criteria to participate in an event. Your leader is here to help you – but they can’t do it if you don’t cooperate. If you don’t want to, that’s fine, then be mature and honest about it – don’t make accusations that you don’t know anything about.
Don’t get involved when we discipline someone else under the covering. – I’ve not only heard of it, I’ve also experienced it myself: someone is so angry about the fact that they were addressed, they go and tell someone else, the whole time knowing that person is going to come and try and “correct” the covering…indirectly defending the person who feels they were wronged. If you want to remain in good standing with your covering, be direct about things that are going on and if you have a question about something, ask them. Good coverings don’t discuss the people under their ministries with one another, unless there are circumstances which require the covering to literally step in and intervene between two people. Don’t think you have the whole story when you only have half of it, and think you have the right to question leadership decisions. This only causes your leader to think that you’re not ready to lead anyone, anywhere! Gossip doesn’t just hurt others – when you listen to it and then try to defend it, it hurts you, too.
You’re covering knows you – and doesn’t appreciate it when you try to manipulate them. – I know when someone is trying to get me to do what they want me to do. I also hate that spirit. Just because you come on all meek, quiet, and humble doesn’t mean we don’t see through all that. Coverings don’t operate on the “mama’s boy/daddy’s girl” kind of system where you can wrap your leader around your little finger and get whatever you want by flattery, deceit, or the right words at the right time. A good leader checks that spirit of Jezebel quickly, wastes no time with it, and will not only be extra-cautious the next time, but will also not give you the same consideration they might have had you behaved more uprightly.
We’re not psychics, but we do know when something’s wrong. – We don’t know every detail of your life and what you are doing every second of your day. When you say you are busy, that may very well be true. That’s not real descriptive to describe what’s going on; most people are busy. Even though we are not psychics, we do know when we aren’t sensing something as right by the Spirit – whether you are busy or not. Most coverings know when they are being lied to. They also know the signs of someone being upset about something and not being direct about the issue: lack of attendance or presence, lack of communication, etc., especially if this behavior occurs after something obviously happened. Don’t use the “busy” excuse with a leader; if something is wrong, be direct. Lying to a leader only creates more problems and the situation where ultimatums often come into play: either get it together or get out.
Be fully disclosing about matters. – Ever deal with one of those people who tells you about a situation, only to leave out fifteen relevant details that change how they look in the situation? Being honest with your leader about things that happen is the best way to display your accountability toward them. When a leader finds out someone has been deceitful…edification does not happen.
As the Lord continues to reveal more to me on covering, I will continue to write as His apostle, that the dialogue may continue, and we may all grow in our understanding of leadership in today’s church.
(c) 2011 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.