If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, NIV
During a phone call yesterday (many thanks to Apostle Diane Robinson!) and then being on a conference call today with specific words of prayer spoken over me (many thanks to Prophetess Yolanda Davis-Greggs!), I realized for the first time ever that covering is an assignment. It is more than just something that we do to look good in ministry or something that we do to impress people: it is a true drawing (which I have already described covering as, for many years) between the covering and the individual who is covered. Such a relationship comes about by revelation, as God brings the two together for His purpose and His edification. God assigns people for us to cover. He entrusts them to us and, as a covering does, we work in that walk of ‘perfect love’ that covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 1:22). As a covering, we are called to walk in prayer, in intercession, in true love, and in true concern and care for those we cover.
I have written extensively on covering over the years: the good, the bad, the ugly, the indifferent, and the organizational. For the most part, most of what I’ve written is about the way that we should handle those we cover and the proper conduct for those that we cover. Today I am writing a little differently, because I am writing on the heart of the covering. We can’t cover as we need to if we don’t love those that we cover, and if we don’t have the proper heart for it. I have met many, many gifted apostles, prophets, and pastors who were brilliant with scholarship, brilliant in instruction and revelation from the Word, even great with vision and organization. They are often sincere people who may be equipped from God…but they are missing something. They have difficulty covering others, either operating as tyrants, or with a constant rotational flow of people under them because they can’t keep covering people. I myself was covered by someone like this for awhile. She was brilliant in the information, brilliant in the scholarship of the apostolic, but terrible with the people, myself included. My current apostle even warned me about my former leader – but at the time, I didn’t listen because I was trying very hard to be fair and unbiased…big mistake (but that is neither here nor there anymore). There are so many who I see, even now, like this in the church: they are gifted, even anointed…but missing something essential in their walk, because instead of loving those they cover, they treat everyone as a taskmaster.
I have covered people in my ministry since 2004. Learning how to cover as an apostle has been an interesting process in my life. When I started out covering, I didn’t understand what covering was. I made many mistakes over the years and organized, reorganized, and reworked what I was doing many times over to bring it into understanding of the office and the revelation at hand. In the past eight years, I’ve seen people come and go. The first person I ever covered is still under the covering of this ministry, eight years later. I’ve had to dismiss several people from my covering over time. Some people just became distant and I never heard from them again. My dirty little secret for a long time with covering was that I simply hated it. It was a chore, a bother, the people were difficult and disobedient, a stress factor, and often a nuisance. One of the women I used to cover became such a problem, I used to avoid answering the phone because she called everyday – sometimes two or three times per day – with personal issues to discuss, people to gossip and complain about, and a defiant, nasty attitude. I tried to work with her, I tried to act with grace – I was an incredibly tolerant and patient leader with her – until the time came when she saw fit to simply stop talking to me and never return a phone call again. There were the ones who appeared to be everything someone studying with a leader should be – everything from calling me “Godmommy” (which please, those who are currently covered by me – don’t do!) to claiming revelation and purpose – only to turn on me with a venomous spatter and see fit to disgrace me with vile and slander. Then we had the ones who just never seemed to get it together, no matter what I did – equally frustrating and challenging. Watching those who covered others was also difficult, especially when I would try to guide and correct their leadership skills, to no avail.
For a long time I thought I was just not graced to work with people as their leader on the level of covering. Given the above examples, I am sure you can see why. I am not the world’s most patient person, and I don’t tolerate a lot of nonsense. I don’t like seeing people’s gifts go to waste as they spend time pursuing endless nonsense, and I seriously dislike watching people mistreat others. I wrote guidelines, revised the guidelines, revised them again a few months later, and kept trying to find the perfect avenue for dealing with covering. It seemed like no matter what I did, people were seeking to take advantage of me, or seeking to get by with a free ride, thinking they wouldn’t be disciplined when they behaved in an improper manner.
Then, one day, things began to change. The first thing that changed is I looked around and realized a large number of the people I was working with as their covering were no longer with me. I didn’t lose everybody, but the majority of them were gone. For the first time in years, I was able to sigh and step back. The other thing that started to happen is I was able to start looking at covering differently. I never called it an “assignment,” but I saw the drawing, and the heart that God gave me for certain people. I didn’t realize it was for covering, at the time. I never went to anyone and told them they were supposed to be my covering (I never have and never will – I let God reveal to those who are to be covered and then we talk about it when they are ready). I just did what God asked me to do. I interceded for people in my life, some of them, for many years. I was on my face in prayer as they went through their trials. I cried with them, I supported them, I talked them through it, I gave them advice. I gave them the Word, both Logos and Rhema. I grieved as I watched many of them mistreated by bad leaders and people who were just trying to take advantage of them. I stood by through their situations, be they spousal abuse, unemployment, divorce, issues with their children, issues with their call, and the like, as they took their first steps into the true calling God had for them. I encouraged them and spoke to them whatever God gave for me to speak. I was there when they needed me, and backed off when it wasn’t my place to speak up. I did, and continue to do, for them what my apostle did with me during the years that I spent under someone she knew, in the long run, wasn’t going to be good for me, because she saw the former leader as a leader.
Many of these people are now a part of the work, covered by me, however they may describe that (as we all know people use different terms to describe leadership in their lives). They are now covered upfront, where everyone can see, but the real work of the covering began when God placed them on my heart. I am realizing that the relationship God gives to a covering is about more than being acknowledged as someone’s leader. It is just as much about what we go through with and for those we cover that is never spoken about. It’s about the true love that we have for these people and our willingness to stand with them and see them through, even if we aren’t ever called their “covering” on the surface. I don’t hate covering anymore. It might have taken me a long time, but God revealed to me that the reason I disliked covering is because I kept trying to cover people who I was not assigned to lead. I kept trying to forge something that was not placed there by God. While I certainly loved and cared about those that I covered, I didn’t love and care about them as one who was called to cover them, in the way I needed to for the relationship to develop in them and in me. I learn as much from those I cover as I do now from anywhere else, and realize that in Christ, the leader not only brings something to the student, but the student to the leader, as well.
We can be brilliant minds in the apostolic, in the Bible, in scholarship. We can be the best preachers you’ve ever seen. We can take the world by storm with our fancy words and ways. If we don’t have love, we are just a lot of noise, and we have no right to call ourselves anyone’s covering or leader. It is definitely something that develops as God works within us through our own experiences with our leaders and with those who follow our work who are often difficult. It is something that is either within us, or it is not. We will never get there if we think of covering as a have-to chore that must get done or something whereby we require people to follow us so we can have large throngs of people under our ministries. Somehow, when God draws the people to us and places that true love within us for them, it all works out right. The regulations don’t seem so important; everyone just does what they are supposed to do, even without asking. The work gets done, because both covering and the one covered are ready for work and ready to help, one to another. Accountability doesn’t seem so difficult, because no one is judging anyone else. Everyone is ready and willing to work, and a trust exists that doesn’t if a leader is busy trying to cover up for the fact that love is not there. Covering is not a system; it’s not a dictatorship; it’s a relationship that God entrusts us with, to develop and grow His leaders and His people into all they are destined to become. It’s an assignment He gives us – one where the heart we have for those we cover (the Holy Spirit working within us) guides us in correction, education, and empowerment.
The sooner we recognize this…the sooner we will get to a place of understanding on leadership…and the Kingdom of God can turn the world upside down, everywhere one of God’s servants steps down.
(c) 2012 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.