What Doctrines came out of the Shepherding/Discipleship Movement (SDM)?

Some important New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) heresies we haven’t addressed in the past include the following:

  • Spiritual Covering Doctrine
  • Spiritual Fathers Doctrine
  • Submission Doctrine
  • Spirit of Sonship (SOS) Doctrine (aka Sonship Doctrine. NAR Apologists even call this ‘Father Son Theology’)
  • Orphan Spirit Doctrine.

In our recent coverage of Dr Michael Brown and Edgar Mayer, they briefly touched on these heretical NAR doctrines. Specifically the Spirit of Sonship heresy.

We call them heresies because this is what these false doctrines do – they divide Christians by pitting an elite set of Christians against other Christians. We will be publishing a future article that summarises why these heresies are problematic in the church. However, in this article we specifically address the Spirit of Sonship and Spiritual Fathers Doctrines and how all these other doctrines work around these essential heresies.

But where did these doctrines come from?

Rather than quote other researchers who have analysed the rise of these doctrines. we thought it best to hear NARpostle Jan-Aage Torp talk about some of these doctrines and how he sees them fit within NAR theology. In the first article below, Torp talks about the Spiritual Fathers doctrine, the Submission heresy and the Covering Doctrine which he also rightly calls ‘Apostolic Covering’. In the second article, Apostle Torp informs us of where the Spiritual Fathers and Sonship heresies come from.

It is important to remember while reading that Jan-Aage Torp was part of C. Peter Wagner’s International Coalition of Apostles (ICA) and started ICA Europe which is now known as European Apostolic Leaders (EAL). He is the top NARpostle of the EAL.

Jan-Aage Torp writes,


“Extremes are easy. Strive for Balance”

Having been a passionate follower of Christ since I was a teenager, I have a lifetime in ministry, and I am still not old. Even though I have experienced difficult things, I am enjoying life and ministry. But a question that I have made my own, is the question below that Pat Robertson asked Bob Mumford in an open letter of June 27th, 1975

“Bob, why do charismatics always have to take simple Bible truths and push them to such ridiculous extremes that they become unbalanced and heretical? Why is it that these teachings invariably exalt man and his activities and powers above Jesus and His powers?”

I wrote an article in 2014 called “Apostles learn Balance”, and it is getting more and more relevant.

“Extremes are easy. Strive for Balance.”I love the plaque that I found on the internet: “Extremes are easy. Strive for Balance.” That sounds Biblical, actually.

Pat Robertson asked Bob Mumford about simple Bible truths, and that´s what they are. But a genuine truth may become un-truth when it is the ONLY truth and the EXTREME truth.

Let us learn balance.

Here are some examples:

1) “Spiritual warfare”: In my opinion, this is a missing ingredient in the European Church. But if we make it the ONLY ingredient in prayer, then we will totally miss out. As I wrote in an article on “Prayer”:

“Prayer is a beautiful array of communicative ways with God: Worship, praise, loving, thanking, repenting, listening, speaking, knocking, meditating, conversing, seeking, groaning… All of this is foundational, valuable and necessary. A prerequisite for maturing in prayer!”

2) “Courts of heaven”: This is another aspect of prayer that I believe is important for apostolic leaders in Europe to embrace. Our friend and brother, Robert Henderson, will focus on this dimension at our 3rd European Annual Fellowship & Vision Gathering in Oslo, Norway next year. However, that does not make it the only aspect of authority in prayer, but it will certainly help us as we learn to be more effective and wholesome in our mandate to pray.

3) “Spiriual fathers”: This is a vital aspect of the apostolic environment that we encourage, and which there is ample Biblical models of. At our 2nd European Gathering in Lisbon this year, our Serbian brother Viktor Sabo made a beautiful presentation about this. Viktor models it admirably in the Balkans, but as I underscored in my article on “Spiritual Fathers”: “there is no “office” or “ministry” or “Christ gift” that in any way or fashion implies that someone should call themselves “a spiritual father”. But it is a dimension that we need to embrace. That´s it. Balance, folks!

4) “Submission”: In my harmonious life with Aina since we married on December 18th, 2010, we have emphasized together our mutual submission to each other, in accordance with Ephesians 5:21: “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”. That does not negate that there are aspects of our life together where one of us might have the lead, but that happens in an environment of love, honor, respect and communication. It is even logical! My missionary parents, Aage (1924-1983) & Anne (1922-2007) Torp were married for 30 years (1953-1983), and modelled this for us at home, so I know it is possible. The same is also true in ministry: One inidividual should never have powers to dominate and “lord it over” others!

5) “Apostolic covering”: This is another “extra-Biblical” truth that is a positive, but it becomes a negative when over-emphasized and pushed to the extreme: When we demand absolute compliance instead of encouraging and modelling mature discussion and reflection. Apostle Paul never made such claims viz-a-viz the Timothy´s, the Titus´, and the churches that he “covered”. Why then should we do that in 2015-2016? Is it our desire for control?

6) “Anoint apostles over nations and continents”: As I wrote in 2013: “Sometimes I hear that somebody is considered THE apostle over a city, a nation – or even a continent. Let me say immediately: That is RUBBISH!” This is another extreme that actually can be perceived and done correctly. Undoubtedly, Christ anoints 5-fold ministers today (Ephesians 4:11). When He does that, God backs up the calling and ministry, even when opposed by man. But why should this be exaggerated by man – and even declared in the public arena as a POSITION of authority? In 2000, a high-level and recognized US apostle came to Norway as my guest and literally threw his jacket over five Norwegian leaders and declared that we are apostles. He left some days later and I had to clean up his mess, even being brought before the top ecclesiastical leaders of the nation, and it was on the cover pages of Christian newspapers. He never even bothered to help. In 2004, a high-level Mexican apostle came  to Oslo and – again it happened! She wanted to anoint me with oil in front of 200 leaders and declare me as the apostle of Norway. I stopped her! But she created lots of problems. Extremes!!!!

7) “Tithing”: Tithing is God´s ingeneous plan to finance the ministry of the Church, both locally and globally. The Old Testament admonition in Malachi 3:8-10 applies to the New Testament Church as well, and the principles were clearly affirmed by Jesus. But nowhere does the New Testament show specifically HOW it is to be done. I do not believe in “personal tihing upwards to your covering” as the one and only way for apostolic leaders, but I believe it is an acceptable practice that works when it is handled lovingly and transparently. Let us give room for variations and not push to extremes.

8) Israel:I love the Jews, I even believe they are the chosen people of God. I am against Replacement Theology. However, that does not imply that I cannot acknowledge as genuine Christians those who believe that the Jews have been replaced by the Church. I understand, acknowledge and respect their rationale, and I will gladly work with them in a multitude of areas. We can agree to disagree.

9) “Seven Mountain Mandate”: This powerful visionary grid was formulated by Loren Cunningham and Bill Bright in 1975, and is a helpful tool in our modern age. However, it is not the only helpful language that we can use. Equally helpful, and perhaps even more so, are the concepts of “the Creation Mandate” and “the Great Commission”. There is no problem with using these grids interchangably. Let us avoid the extremes of exclusivity.

10) “Apostolic centers”: One of the Holy Spirit-led focuses of the 21st Century seems to be “apostolic centers”. Dr. C. Peter Wagner introduced me to this 3 years ago, and in our Oslo base, we have embraced this. It is a cutting-edge strategy that is applicable whether large or small, Anglican or Pentecostal. Brother Ioan Ceuta of Bucharest will make a presentation of this at our Annual Gathering in Oslo in March 2016. However, if this should lead to a dichotomy between “apostolic centers” and the Church, then something would be seriously wrong. “Apostolic centers” are simply an effective way to organize and communicate important aspects of the Church in the 21st Century. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not a new doctrine!


In the 1990´s in Norway, I led a fine prophetic movement that was genuinely involved in the lives of people. But we lacked balance. I led a church, which was more like a prophetic community, that was genuinely involved in the lives of people: For the unborn child, for unmarried mothers, for the gender-confused, for families in disarray, for holiness, for truth, for prayer, for world missions +++  The list was long.

A prophetic movement attracts prophetic people. And prophetic people are seldom balanced. The only time a prophetic person is balanced, is crossing over from one assignment to the next!

However, God never intended that prophetic people should be on their own. Prophets and prophetic people are meant to be included in the community of love and wisdom – the Church!

Even today, we will find that the true apostles have been through many things that God has permitted for the longterm soundness and blessing of God´s Kingdom. We should thank God for every trial and persecution.

Remember that apostles are called by God at an early stage, but that does not make them automatic apostles. Without God´s supernatural training and maturation, many of us would just have been “potential apostles”. Some are too eager to call themselves “apostle” too soon, only based on some prophetic word.

All apostles go through many necessary stages, most often taking them through the various offices that Christ has given to the Church: Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher. If we have been faithful in all of this, then the time may come for God to promote us. In His time. In His way. Don´t decide for God. Let HIM do it!

Source: Jan-Aage Torp, PUSHING TO EXTREMES?, European Apostolic Leaders, http://europeanapostolicleaders.eu/structure/jan-aage-torp-director/director-blog/read3/article/1374017, Published 30/12/2015. (Accessed 23/05/2017.) [Cached]


In this next article, Jan-Agge Torp tackles the issues of ‘spiritual fathers’ (Apostles). You will notice that he starts progressing into the Spirit of Sonship doctrine:

“In Paul´s writings. the concepts of spiritual Sonship and Fatherhood are exclusively meant for our relationship with the Godhead.”

Whenever Christians hear this sonship language, it should warn them how this teacher views Christ and His Church.

This doctrine pits Christians against Christians.

Real ‘Christians’ realize they live from a Spirit of Sonship (SOS) while other Christians who confess Christ only operate from an Orphan Spirit (OS).

SOS Christians know how to walk without fear. They walk in supernatural love and authority while OS Christians walk in fear, condemnation and defeat.

The SOS Christians find intimacy, true love and living faith with the Father and believe that in this new intimate alignment we can NOW hear the voice of God in our life. The OS means you can’t hear God and believe you can bound by sickness, poverty and demons. (We saw Dr Michael Brown foster this SOS/OS culture in his recent Facebook dialogue with critics.)

In spite of how pious this sounds, these ‘spiritual fathers’ (Apostles) teach that these SOS Christians need to place themselves under a spiritual covering and authority to exemplify they are true Spiritual Sons of God. While this sounds good, these ‘Spiritual Fathers’ have now switched the goal posts where they now ask their NAR converts to now place, position or align themselves to their Apostleship. This is so that SOS believers have better examples to follow. Nevertheless, these Apostle have usurped God’s authority with their own.

It is now the job of the Father’s to raise up the true sons of God who operate from this SOS.

However, a Christian’s covering is God Himself, their authority stemming from His Word.

And this is where it gets ugly.

Because Christians are not aligning themselves to Apostles, their relationship with God is questioned by Apostles and SOS believers. As a result, they are stereotyped (religious, traditional, backward, spiritually dead) and demonized (have Jezebel, religious spirit, critical spirit, poverty mindset) by SOS people because they submit to the bible and not Spiritual Fathers. OS Christians are just people who are traditional and religious, who live by confession only. They can be portrayed as the critical son in the story of the ‘Prodigal Son’ who are not in a personal relationship with God the Father.

A brief summary on how to spot an NARpostle

Furthermore, the Spirit of Sonship heresy teaches that we can commune the same way Jesus does with the Father. This means when we talk to the Father, ‘Daddy’ talks back and we can have intimacy with the Father the same way Jesus has.

Because Jesus cries Abba – we can cry Abba.

Because the Father says of Jesus, “This is my son, whom I am well pleased.” The Father now says of us, “This is my son, whom I am well pleased” as individual believers.

They love using ‘abba’ verses, verses where God speaks to Jesus or Galatians 4 and Romans 8 to peddle the Sonship doctrine.

This doctrine can then prepare people to embrace the false NAR Kenotic Jesus, the New Breed belief system and Spiritual Fathers/NARpostles. It perverts the cross by obscuring the nature of God the Father pouring out his wrath on His Son to forgive us our sins, and perverts church discipline, accountability and responsibility and sears the conscience of believers when considering the laws of the land. (This is because all forms of fear are their to hinder your spiritual relationship with God the Father. Thus there is no concept of healthy or Godly fear).

Through this doctrine, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar came to conclude that we are “Little Gods.” Therefore, we have reasons to believe that the ‘Kings Kids’ paradigm was a result of this SOS theology.

The Spirit of Sonship doctrine leads believers down the NAR/NOLR road to eventually believing the New Breed / Little God Heresy.

Furthermore, because these Fathers/NARpostles elevate their teachings and prophecies above the Word of God, they are literally encouraging people to repeat the mistakes of the 1970s shepherding movement.

Jan-Aage Torp writes,


The first time I met the concept of “a spiritual father” in real life, was in 1979 in England through “the shepherding movement”. But is it based on New Testament teaching? And is it meant for today?

After my sad encounters with the British versions of “the shepherding movement” in 1979 and onwards, I also encountered the same control and manipulation in the US versions of that movement. During my study days at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1981-83, I met several who had been micromanaged in every area of their life. The concept of “spiritual fathers” was being presented as the solution to our walk with God. The “father” would decide on who you married, what clothing you wear +++ Some were sounder, others were much worse.

Needless to say, these movements crumbled in the following years, but the family and personal tragedies were numerous.

In the UK and US, I have since met several of the former leaders of these movements, and they seem to have repented, learned and moved on, while retaining the key principles from the New Testament about spiritual fatherhood.


But is the notion of “spiritual fatherhood” rooted in the Bible?

First, Abraham is the father of faith: “…those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16). The greatness of Abraham´s fatherhood was the simplicity of his faith and obedience. He lived so transparently that generations have been able to follow him as an example.

Second, Jesus was utterly dependent on His Father. Jesus never created an earthly category of gifts called “spiritual fathers”. His gifts to the Church in Ephesians 4:11 were 5-fold, not 6-fold. Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19). He said: “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:11).

Third, but Jesus did not condone every father figure. He repudiated the scribes and the Pharisees who claimed that Abraham was their father: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).


In the apostle Paul, we find a modelling of spiritual fatherhood that is worth observing and following today. Apart from a few references to this in his teachings and in the New Testament narratives, there is no “office” or “ministry” or “Christ gift” that in any way or fashion implies that someone should call themselves “a spiritual father”.

Paul´s great emphasis is to connect every believer to God the Father through Christ Jesus, not through himself: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6). In Paul´s writings. the concepts of spiritual Sonship and Fatherhood are exclusively meant for our relationship with the Godhead.

Paul conveyed the notion of spiritual fatherhood to the Corinthians because he had personally brought them the gospel: “though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me” (1Corinthians 4:15-16). He then exemplifies how his fatherhood works by describing Timothy: “That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church” (1Corinthians 4:17).

Timothy is again highly commended as “a son” by Paul in Philippians 2:19-24: “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also”.

Note the love for Timothy that Paul conveyed. He was neither “using” or “abusing” him, but sending him with love – to lovingly serve the Philippians!


But what about today?

I have had numerous learning experiences from 1979 onwards, even until today, and some of these experiences have simply been bad. But a lot have been good as well.

Gladly, I can affirm that there are some great father figures in the Church today! I meet them all the time, in Europe and other continents. Most of these don´t even talk about themselves as “spiritual fathers”, but they simply function as such.


First, does “a spiritual father” want to control you? The test is if he cares and supports you even when you don´t agree, and when your ministry expands. Will he then discard and remove you? “Submission” as a requirement and demand is utterly despicable. Submission as a loving choice, based on respect and freedom, is totally in line with New Testament theology. It is like in marriage: The New Testament admonishes husband & wife: “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). In marriage, family, church and ministry – this is the test: Mutuality and honor.

Second, does “a spiritual father” limit you, or does he expand your territories? My successes have been because of Christ´s work in me; the encouragement and counsel of several men and women of God; and the loving faith, support, and wisdom of my wife, Aina.

Third and most important, does “a spiritual father” lead you beyond his own limitations? That is the litmus test. We all love to follow the example of Abraham and Paul because of their greatness and the principles that guided them. When you find a spiritual father with that level of greatness and soundness, that would be the spiritual father to follow!

Fourth and lastly for now, does “the spiritual father” base his relationship with you on Christ Jesus, or does he create dependency on himself? Needless to say, if this is not the case: Flee for your life! Christ Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Nobody comes to the Father in heaven except through Christ Jesus.

Source: Jan-Aage Torp, WHAT IS A SPIRITUAL FATHER?, European Apostolic Leaders, http://europeanapostolicleaders.eu/structure/jan-aage-torp-director/director-blog/read3/article/1262631, Published 15/03/2015. (Accessed 23/05/2017.) [Cached]

Categories: European Apostolic Leaders (EAL), New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)

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