My two most infamous internet postings are both about covering: The Things I Wish People Knew About Covering and More Things I Wish People Knew About Covering. Initially, it was a surprise to me that these two notes took off like they did. In hindsight, I understand why they were so popular: they touched on a universal topic. The issue of covering is a controversial one, and yet an important one, in today’s church. The reason why it is so common and important is because on both ends, we are seeing people totally out of control. We are quick to point out out-of-control leaders and, on the other hand, out-of-control individuals under a ministry. Seeing extremes means that we must take heart to understand what covering and being covered is about in a deeper way.
Recent experiences have caused me to step back and think more about covering. When I say “recent,” I am recalling events that have happened within this past year as pertains to those I cover and the result of those events. In my day, I feel as if I have seen every childish temper tantrum in the book by people who supposedly have a “calling.” I’ve been lectured on how anointed they are, how they see things in people I don’t, and if I don’t do it their way, they just won’t participate anymore. I won’t get into the depth of witchcraft I am seeing: that will be for another note. What I am realizing is the opposite of order is not simply disorder, it is witchcraft. It is believing one’s self to be above any semblance of order, therefore disordered, but believing one has the power to decide that they do not need to be subject to God’s order. Therein lies the essence of power and control: it is Satan’s “I WILL” statements, believing they can do better than God. No matter what they may claim to believe about God, they are not subject to God in their own lives. They have not learned submission to Him and do not know how to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading in their lives. As a result, they carry what some call a “bastard spirit.” In order to become sons and daughters, we must know order, which breeds maturity.
It is the covering’s job to work toward this maturity. This is a difficult task in our modern church, where people gather leaders to themselves who tickle their ears and entertain them, right in accordance with the prophecies of this time. In my recent note, “Decency and Order,” I point out the modern-day phenomenon that people pick leaders who deliberately tickle where they are rather than challenging them…or at least they think will not challenge them. In other words, what they are working is a manipulation of God’s system: they look like they are in order, when they in actuality are not in order. They are working witchcraft and trying to look all holy and saintly in the process. And today’s coverings don’t know what to make of it. I think in some ways, coverings today are grossly unprepared for the level of spiritual warfare that comes simply from agreeing to be somebody’s leader. We expect it from the nasty woman who doesn’t like us, we expect warfare from the man who doesn’t think we should be where we are, but in other places…we miss it. Sometimes the witchcraft and demonic activity that touches us the closest is that which comes from our so-called spiritual sons and daughters. As a result, a covering needs to guard themselves spiritually, and refrain from breaking faith with all God has called them to be and do.
I want to say that this is not a post about bad coverings or debating things about covering. We all know about bad leadership, about what to look for, what to say, and how to handle it. What I am attempting to do here is help good coverings guard themselves spiritually from people who intend to do them harm by getting close to them in the spiritual realm. Here we are looking at the practical aspects of covering that, in some way, may defy our logic and thinking about these matters. We’ve been trained to love and give until we have nothing left…and now too many coverings literally have nothing left. They risk their reputations, health, well-being, and even their ministries to cover people who need to be cut off quickly and cleanly. Here are some ways for coverings to maintain discernment in the process, and realize spiritual parenthood is not for the faint of heart.
Operate an unspoken “trial period” – When someone comes to me for covering, we “feel” things out for the first four-to-six weeks. I don’t explain it like that to them, but use that time frame to watch them for a few weeks before I allow them to start formal training with me. How they behave during this period is very tell-tale to how they will be later on. If I notice things within them that will cause harm to my ministry or its reputation, or they don’t seem as if they will be a good fit with the ministry I operate, they are usually politely and quietly informed of this. Not every leader is right for every person, and some people just aren’t to a place where any covering will be right for them. If they are already failing to meet up with established requirements and already making a ruckus, they are dismissed before either one of us has become too involved.
You’re not their best friend – I have met two extremes in covering, and have yet to find a lot of balance between the two. One extreme is the “best friend:” they go shopping, lunching, to social events, to movies, and do everything together. The other extreme is the covering who won’t even let you eat at the same table with them. I think, as with all things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. A covering is a friend in the same concept that God is our friend: it is a friend but, at the same time, is an authority. A covering should make themselves available to those they cover for discussion and issues, and the person should feel comfortable going to their covering. There are limits and boundaries to this, however. A covering should not be treated like a girlfriend or guy friend. They should never be “paling” around with those they cover. Above all, a covering needs to maintain their position as having authority and exercising that authority as applicable. Years ago a pastor over a church I attended used to say that if he was invited, he’d go fishing with you because he wanted to go fishing, but you still needed to remember he was your pastor. I think this is an interesting comparison, so I am going to use it as the model for what I am talking about here. Don’t be using the people you cover as your friends. it’s fine to relate how events and things went, it’s fine to talk about stuff, I’ll even say it’s fine to go out to lunch once in awhile to discuss spiritual matters…but don’t let them forget who God has appointed you to be in their life. It is not fine to treat covering like a gigantic trip to the mall.
You can’t make personal choices for them – One of the most frustrating things to me about covering is watching those I cover fall into certain behaviors or paths that I know will be destructive for them. It can be as simple as watching them cut people out of their lives, knowing they are in the wrong by doing so, or watching them take more drastic actions, such as with their well-being or relationships. I remember going to a person I used to cover with a situation such as this: she had someone in her life who was a friend, who she tried to cover, and when the woman made a personal choice she disagreed with, the woman I covered decided she wanted to cut her off. I did everything I could to encourage this woman I used to cover that she shouldn’t cut her off – but it didn’t matter, she did what she wanted anyway. If we release ourselves from trying to intervene in this way – we are releasing ourselves from a lot of stress and heartache. It’s the same as when a natural child brings home a date we don’t like – unless some sort of impending harm is coming their way, it’s our place to back off and let them work these personal matters out for themselves. In the same way, the reverse is true: they do not get a say about your personal choices, friends, acquaintences, etc., either.
Don’t believe everything they tell you about their past leaders – Spiritual witchcraft is clever from the start. How these people get you is by coming to you with some sort of crazy horror story that appalls every sense of leadership a good leader holds dear and claims for their own. Then you are so shocked from what you hear that you start addressing the leadership issues rather than the reason why those things came up. They manipulate us by shocking us and detract from the real issue at hand – which should be, “Why were you told that?” or “Why did they handle things like that?” Even in asking those matters, we may not find totally honest answers – but we can tell a lot about them from how they answer when they are put on the spot. Leaders, I am the first to acknowledge both good and bad leaders are out there – but we need to respect the leadership decisions made by other leaders until we have concrete evidence to the contrary. Evidence to the contrary isn’t a dramatic story told by someone who wants us to become their leader now.
Beware flattery – Leaders today face a tough job. It’s difficult to get people to tithe, to encourage, to even say “THANK YOU” most of the time. We work long hours as jacks of all our trades and then face personal lives that often have their own difficulties and challenges. A covering that is trying to manipulate you will come to you with flattery. They’ll do everything everyone else doesn’t, then some: all the time, all over you, thanking you, mentioning you by name, recommending you to all their friends, and trying to draw you further and further into a world that they can orchestrate via control. I don’t want to make leaders feel like they need to be suspicious of every compliment, honor, or dignity move those under them make, because they don’t. What I am talking about are the ones who are ALWAYS doing it, every time you turn around, without any cause or warrant. Not only are they doing it, they are doing it publically, in front of others, and to be noticed and get noticed.
Don’t be bullied – People who are covered today know that they can get whatever they want in the “buffet church.” They can have a little dessert over here, a whole lot of whipped cream, a cup of soda, and a pile of candy rather than meat, potatoes, milk, and vegetables. They know if their leader doesn’t do what they want, they can find a leader somehow, some way, somewhere, who will do what they want. So they bully their leaders: if the leader doesn’t do what they want, they won’t do something. If the leader doesn’t handle things the way they want, they won’t be covered anymore. Leaders give into this time and time again because they don’t want to watch people leave their covering, for whatever the reason may be. All giving in to this kind of behavior does is lets someone know all your weaknesses and weak areas – and exactly what buttons to push, when and where, to get what they want. Giving in once means they will expect you to give in again…and again…and again.
Watch control and manipulation – Akin to bullying is control and manipulation. Don’t allow someone you cover to come and tell you what’s wrong with all your friends, what’s wrong with your group or ministry, or somehow offer to help you ‘fix’ some of these problems. Be sure to sit back and watch how those you cover interact not just with you, but with one another. Are they always trying to pick a fight? Do they overstep boundaries of order in other ways in their lives? Do they understand there is a time and a place for things? Do they operate in a sense of self-control? Do they know their own positioning within order? Do they have to have the last word all the time? No matter how they interact with you, how they interact with others is also key to how they will handle being under you as their covering.
Their anointing and sixty-five cents will get them on the bus – It’s easy to be enamored with someone who is very gifted and anointed, or even someone who has the potential to make their gifts and calling very great with the right training. It’s easy to want to promote that anointing and place it above the problems in character you may be seeing as a leader. What we need to keep in mind in all things is this: being anointed is great. Having a calling is great. Being gifted is great. If we don’t align ourselves with God’s order, the gifts, anointings, and callings we see in someone will go to waste. I have seen some of the most anointed people fall by the wayside because they won’t get their acts together. Don’t be bewitched by gifts or anointing – because they are empty without substance.
Beware subtle attempts to rebuke you – Some of the people we cover can be the most vicious…and we won’t even see it coming because they spew their venom in the form of a question or the form of an opinion. “Well Apostle, don’t you think…?” or “I would do this….” or my favorite, “This is what you should do…” Excuse me? I don’t recall asking for an opinion! This is a rebuke in disguise: it’s a subtle way someone under your covering is trying to usurp authority and get in their own form of control within your work. If you ask, that’s one thing; if it is unsolicited, it is something else entirely different.
Beware those who seek to make an ally out of you – Then there are those who come to you requesting covering who walk in the spirit of Jezebel. They come and very much cotton to you as their leader. They seem to be all about you and about learning from you and how important you are to them…until you start to notice things. They start criticizing other people you work with…they find something wrong with your friends….they start criticizing others under your ministry…and it’s all done in the name of “God put us together so I have to be careful about myself.” Hmmmm….suddenly the people you’ve worked with forever aren’t good enough for your “spiritual child” and you should get rid of all of them and just pioneer it with Jezebel…never and not in any uncertain terms! This individual isn’t looking for a covering, they are looking for an ally: they want their leader to endorse them and attempt to isolate them from everyone who might suggest to the leader that they are behaving in a manner that requires disciplinary action. When this happens, MARK THOSE THAT CAUSE DIVISION. Don’t leave your friends, ministry acquaintances, advisers, and those you’ve worked with forever. Either that individual can keep their mouth shut or can grow up. If they can’t, they can find a new covering.
Don’t tell them everything you notice…at least not right away – My mother used to say to me, “Just because I don’t say anything doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on.” I never understood what she meant by this until I started covering people. As coverings, we want to show people things and fix it right away. What we need to do instead is sit back and watch for a bit before we bring something to someone. It is possible that a misunderstanding can come about, or that we misread something – and beyond that, it’s possible that we can identify the root of a problem much better and with much more accuracy if we have all the information. Don’t talk about everything all the time, run tale-bearing…wait for God’s timing and His handling of every situation.
Enforce your guidelines – Sometimes I wonder why we go through the trouble to establish guidelines when we don’t enforce them. If you have requirements that people must follow to be covered by you, ENFORCE THEM. If they don’t follow them, they can stop being under your covering or they can face certain disciplinary options. Stop letting these people run your leadership. They can measure up or they can leave.
Know those who labor among you – We use this verse to mean a lot of things, and we usually use it to justify knowing anything and everything we want to know about a minister’s private life. This is not the context of the passage. We are commanded to know those who labor among us – know their strengths and weaknesses, who they are, and what spirit they operate by. We need to recognize things when we see them and stop pretending they aren’t there. We need to know when someone is for us, against us, and how to tell the difference. This is true for those under our ministries as it is for those we submit to in leadership as well.
Remain in order – It can be difficult for a leader to remain within God’s order and observing God’s principles for handling various situations when we get so angry, we are ready to set someone that we cover on fire. I’ve had times where all I wanted to do was send someone a letter using every curse word in the book – but that was me in the flesh, not God. I’ve learned to wait on God’s timing when that happens, and wait for His order to manifest. As leaders, we too have to remain in God’s order, timing, and tone when things arise. If something is questionable, we seek out wise counsel or we take it before the Lord, or both. If it just doesn’t feel like the right time to do something, we wait it out until it is. In the meantime and handling the situation, we do all things decently and in order.
Know when it’s time to disassociate – We, as leaders, fear disassociation. We think dismissing someone from ministry or disfellowshipping them will cause us dissatisfaction with God, with others, or a bad reputation. We fear that disassociation will make us hypocrites because we talk all the time about unity. We can’t keep people around because we fear they will harm us by disassociation. The Bible itself upholds there are people we should dismiss from the ministry, there are people we should not unite with, and people we should break a unity from for our own spiritual well-being. If someone is going too far, behaving badly, causing disunity and disruption, or somehow acting unseemly – especially after they have had the proper time and counsel to order themselves with the disciplines of God – it’s time to address the behavior, wish them well, and keep on moving. Holding onto someone like this only hurts your unity with the genuine Body of believers.
Covering is a process. Being covered is a process. Walking in decency and order means being agents of decency and order…in all that we do…and not fearing the call to walk in the godly disciplines of the Lord.
(c) 2011 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.