the weblog of Alan Knox

Who is your spiritual covering?

Posted by on Aug 25, 2011 in elders, office | 15 comments

Who is your spiritual covering?

Recently, someone (and I don’t remember who) asked me if I had ever written anything about the concept of church leaders (especially the senior/head pastor) being a “spiritual covering”. (If you asked me that, let me know, so I can give credit where it is due.)

My answer was that I had not written about that topic, but perhaps I should. But, where should I start?

This is a huge question, and it reaches down into the depths of our understanding of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the church. For example, in the way that I understand God and the church, the concept of a “spiritual covering” doesn’t make sense. So, when I read Scripture, it’s hard for me to see any suggestions that one person acts as a “spiritual covering” for another person.

So, I’m throwing this question out to you. Whether you agree with the concept of a “spiritual covering” or not, what arguments or Scripture have you heard/seen to support a “spiritual covering”?


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  1. 8-25-2011

    We often get asked this question along with “don’t forsake meeting with the bretheren” etc etc.

    I can’t see anywhere in scripture where it talks about Spiritual Covering. But I can see all over the place where it talks about “one another” covering and mutual accountability.

    I used to speak great sermons from the stage and had a few (and I mean a few) people who could ask me questions in my life. Now we have made steps towards being involved with a more simple way of being church together – anyone (and I mean anyone) can ask me any question they like. And they come to my house and see with my wife and children (ouch!)

    No “ministry” to hide behind. No “pulpit” to hide behind. And every relationship I have is one of mutual covering and accountability.

    Having said that – are there trusted brothers in Christ who I share more deeply with – of course. But I cannot escape the fact that Jesus lived out his life in front of his disciples 24/7. Church was a shared life around Jesus.

    Now when people ask me about Spiritual Covering – it’s clear that I have more spiritual checks and balances in place now than I ever did in institutional church.


  2. 8-25-2011

    I am deeply pondering this concept, but it was especially brought to my attention today as I looked into a charismatic-leaning healing ministry. I first heard about “covering” at a church that, though not a cult, had very cultic tendencies – I do think that the concept of “covering” is a very authoritarian policy, yet I do also see that there may be Scriptural indications of its use: e.g. how, when Hymeneaus and Alexander (names?) were exceeding sinful, Paul “gave them over to satan” – a verse which I take to mean being put out of the Church, hence no longer “covered” by the Church body. Yet this pertained to the Catholic Church (using “Catholic” correctly and not meaning exclusively Romanism) and not to any one local church and especially not a single church elder.

    I shall pray and ponder on this some more – it is important for me, as I have decisions to make at this time as to both seeking help for some issues and for a type of “covering” for my ministry (I certainly believe we should have an accountability structure, even if not “covering” as such).

  3. 8-25-2011

    This is a subject of much interest to me. I discovered a church in the denomination I was in teaching “Covering theology” as espoused by John Bevere. I spent over a year researching and writing on the subject. Eventually I put it all up in a website. The notion of covering as it is commonly taught is that blessing and protection from evil are made available to us through submission to God’s delegated authority (pastor, elders, small group leader, husband etc…) When a subordinate in the church is rebelious than they move outside of the protetive umbrella of God’s covering and put themselves at risk. The two most commonly used passages are Heb 13:17 and Romans 13:1-7 as well as the story of David and Saul. They use Hebrews to convince people to submit, usually using the NIV’s rendition as they throw the word authority in there. They use Romans 13 to convince people that all authority in the earth comes from God. If you rebel against “delegated” authority you are rebeling against God Himself. They appeal to David’s story with Saul to reinforce the idea that we should stay submitted to authority even when authority mistreats us.
    It is very difficult to even make a case for this as they really have to twist the main passages they use to get them to fit. Hebrews lists the benefits of submission/obedience right in the passage and in Romans 13 it is clear Paul is referring to the government. David didn’t stay submitted to Saul in the meaning of huupotasso, he just refused to kill him.

  4. 8-25-2011

    Coming from the traditional church I have heard of the idea of spiritual covering. The Church and life are about community. In a social setting there will always be various people. I always want to be sensitive to what God might be saying to me but reverent of the fact that I should be able to submit under proper leadership and or authority outside of myself.

    As a leader and a strong personality type if I do not feel the latter and I do not feel the leading or authority to be in charge it usually means I am out place. The scriptures that came to mind in answer to the question posed here are Hebrews 13:17 Where it reads by ESV “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account…” & 1 Peter 5:1-5 ‘Elders feed the flock…submit to elders…’

    I hate to see and hear of people that think they do not need anyone or have need of community outside what they can created. It should always be global and open to whoever God wants to place in our sphere at any given time.

    I think there are things we can be called to do that will take the connection of a large network in the Body. It also makes sense that to infiltrate or participate in the well known public Christian community people need to make connections. Not that God cannot raise up someone out of no where but usually there are well respected people in the Body who know them. Successful secular people have mentors and others they respect and can look up to. It should be no different in the Body of Christ.

  5. 8-25-2011

    Thanks for the comments everyone! This is an interesting topic that I’ve encountered here and there, but that I’ve never studied.


  6. 8-26-2011

    I see this term used a lot around my sect of people. More than not I am under the impression that it is used more as a means of manipulation, and for the building of one’s own kingdom. I like the word “submit.” There are people, for example, that see me as a man sent from God to lead them – much in the same way a shepherd leads a people. They understand that as one who is gifted as a pastor that I am by no means in authority to them. Rather, they choose to submit to what they see God doing in these relationships. Therefore, in a sense, I am their covering. I have someone in my life that I submit to as well.

    I like what Ben had to say, “Now when people ask me about Spiritual Covering – it’s clear that I have more spiritual checks and balances in place now than I ever did in institutional church.”

    I wonder sometime if there was a covering in the time of Jesus. Luke 9:1 might be a form of covering.

    Overall I must concur with the flow of comments that there is no spiritual covering as most understand it.

  7. 8-26-2011

    Great post!

    Years ago I wrote a book entitled “Who is Your Covering?” … the book handled every text used to promote the covering teaching, traced its origins and history, and responded to those texts biblically, using the original languages, context, etc.

    A few years ago and I revised and updated the book, and it became the second half of “Reimagining Church.” I don’t believe there’s any aspect of the “covering” doctrine that “Reimagining” doesn’t “cover” and address. 🙂

    Those who are interested can find it at



    Psalm 115:1

  8. 8-26-2011


    A friend of mine is reading your book. After I published this post, he asked me about “spiritual covering” because he came to that part in Reimagining Church. 🙂


  9. 8-30-2011

    I hadn’t encountered this growing up as a Southern Baptist™ and read Frank’s book several years ago (as vol. 2 after Rethinking the Wineskin). I was surprised at some of the things argued. Couldn’t conceive that being necessary. Then I met some brothers from an Independent Baptist™ background. Their experience (in multiple assemblies)was much as Leighton has described and was part of a long line of legalism and control (except the NIV version would be considered heretical). It is standard fare teaching along with “touch not mine anointed”, the force-field of the clergy class.

  10. 8-30-2011


    I encountered it occasionally, but only as an encouragement to “attend church,” and as an explanation of why groups of believers outside of “church” are not actually church. But, I’ve run across many people who have had the same experiences that you describe.


  11. 7-9-2012

    I believe it is a false doctrine that quenches the spirit. The only time it is used is if there is a move of the spirit that has come out from under the noses of the “heirarchy” that unfortunately exists in so many instituionalized churches. Then suddenly everyone wants to know ‘who’s your covering.’ The Pharisee’s asked Jesus the same question, “by whose authority do you do these things? It’s an old question asked by religious hierarchy, just has a different name. Jesus is the only covering we need. Paul consulted no ‘human being’ after his revelation of Jesus Christ in the first chapter of Galations when he went to Arabia to minister to the Gentiles, in fact it was after 17 years of service, without so called ‘protection’/ ‘covering’ that he finally met all of the apostles. He just followed The Lord, who is the Head of the church.God equips, enables and protects his ministers. The covering is another way to control believers and turns the church into a political institution rather than a spirit filled body of believers that are all free to follow the Lord and the call that He has on the lives of all His children. BTW Godly submission is not blind obedience, it is a consequence of a loving and ongoing relationship. No one should submit to anyone that does not love them , it’s an open door to abuse. God does not invite us into obedience with Himself….He invites us into relationship. THat is the template. This pyramid type leadership seeks to control the sheep from above, rather than feeding them from underneath. ……………I’ll stop talking now!! lol

  12. 8-1-2013

    I believe there is spiritual covering in the bible. It is scriptural. Elijah was a cover to Elisha and that was why the sons prophets said somewhere in 2 kgs 2: 1-6 : ” do you know that your master will be TAKEN OVER YOUR HEAD TODAY? That tells me that Elijah was a spiritual cover to Elisha. When Michal uncovered her covering by making jest of David who was her covering as her husband, she was barren for life! I may throw more light into this topic later.Thank you.

  13. 8-4-2013


    I’m sure there are many who agree with you. But, for me, in the New Testament it seems that God himself is our “spiritual covering” via his Spirit (the Holy Spirit) who dwells in each of God’s children.


  14. 8-5-2013

    I did an in-depth study of covering once – it is very edifying. From Adam and Eve covering themselves with fig leaves – to the Lord covering them with garments of skins – to the ark being covered inside and out with pitch (look pitch up in the Hebrew if you really want an edifying look at what covers us from God’s judgment) – to the priestly garments – to David’s ephod – to clothed with rainbows….

    Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ…. kind of sums it all up. We really are clothed, covered quite awesomely (is that a word).

    The whole idea of one man/woman covering another is really fig leaves – especially when compared to Christ – our true covering – His life – His blood – His righteousness – His works – His promise. He is our mercy seat (the covering of the ark) If you want a wonderful study – go thru all of the things that cover in the scripture !!!!

  15. 8-6-2013


    “Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ…” I agree, that does sum it all up nicely.