André Baard

“The End of the Discipleship Era”

I worry about some of the over-accountability (control?) demanded by some churches out there. Have they not learnt the lessons of the Discipleship Movement lead by Bob Mumford in the 70-80s? Great article taken from the cover story in Ministries Today, January 1990 authored by Jamie Buckingham, pg 46-52.


For many years Bob Mumford was looked upon as one of the most respected teachers and leaders in the charis­matic movement.

In 1974, at a teaching conference at Montreat, North Carolina, spon­sored by Christian Believers United (CBU), Billy Graham called Mum­ford “my favorite Bible teacher.”

Few teachers were able to com­mand the respect that Mumford had among all Christians.

Then something happened that changed all that. Believing the charismatic movement lacked sub­stance and needed accountability, Mumford and four other well-known Bible teachers-Derek Prince, Charles Simpson, Ern Baxter and Don Basham-formed an organization designed to call the movement into accountability. Although offi­cially known as Christian Growth Ministries, critics immediately dubbed the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida­ based group the “discipleship” or “shepherding” movement.

Thousands of men and women­ mostly  young  Christians-joined the movement. They were eager to be “discipled,” to be held “account­able” by these mature teachers. But the movement quickly became elitist, exclusive. Operating on the basis that everyone needs to be ac­countable to a pastor, “sheep” were assigned to various “shepherds”­ many of whom were young, immature, sometimes arrogant and often proud of their new authority.

The leaders published a popular teaching magazine called New Wine. Their tapes were sold and circulated by the millions. Great conferences were held in key American cities, at­ tended by thousands eager to be “discipled.”

Havoc followed and horror stories abounded. Families were sometimes forced to relocate from one city to another at the whim of a shepherd. Churches split. The entire charismatic movement was thrown into turmoil.

Mumford and Simpson in particular took the heat from the critics, who charged they dominated those under them. They were accused of setting up a spiritual chain-letter in which everyone was under some­one, who was under someone, who was finally under “the Ft. Laud­erdale Five”-forming a sort of charismatic episcopacy.

Critics cited numerous examples of “shepherds” who required their “sheep” to ask their permission be­ fore they dated, changed jobs or made major decisions.

Mumford and his friends responded that they were teaching a renewed biblical understanding of God’s government, delegated au­thority and covenant loyalty.

National leaders took sides. Pat Robertson called Mumford, Simpson and Prince false teachers. On a live “700 Club” broadcast, he likened the discipleship movement to the cult led by Jim Jones, saying the only difference was the shepherds had not yet served Kool-Aid (a reference to the mass suicide of more than 900 people caused when Jones told his followers to drink poisoned Kool-Aid).

In a widely circulated memo, Robertson banned the five men from his 54 radio and television outlets across the country and ordered his employees to erase all tapes featuring these men or “risk serious consequences.”

When Logos International invited Mumford to speak at its Second World Conference on the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem in October 1975, Kathryn Kuhlman refused to attend unless the invitation was with­ drawn. Mumford backed out.

After discovering some of her fol­ lowers were tithing their incomes to Derek Prince, Miss Kuhlman used her national radio program to call Prince a false prophet.

Full Gospel Business Men’s Fel­lowship International president Demos Shakarian decided none of the Ft. Lauderdale men could speak at any of the FGBMFI conventions.

What began as a needed emphasis-calling believers into personal accountability-quickly turned into a disaster.

Robertson wrote Mumford an eight-page letter attacking the discipleship teaching point by point, then made the letter public.

Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel in California, also fired off an angry letter: “When I see the con­ fusion and the division in the body of Christ, not only here but in Swe­ den and Hawaii and wherever the message has gone, I feel this is ample evidence to cause me to reject the so-called truth as another de­ ception of Satan.”

A number of “summit meetings” were held and the discipleship/ shepherding leaders were con­ fronted by national Christian lead­ers-many of whom had worked closely with them before the move­ment became exclusive. The teach­ers grew defensive, building higher walls of exclusivity.

The center of emphasis shifted when Simpson moved from Ft. Lauderdale to his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. Mumford, Baxter and Basham followed. Prince refused to make the move and in 1983 became the first to break from the group.

The base was crumbling.

But except for a letter to a few personal friends, Prince did not make a public statement. The other discipleship leaders covered up his departure, simply saying God had called him to a broader ministry.

New Wine was losing huge amounts of money and despite a frenzy of last-minute activity trying to keep it solvent, the magazine fi­ nally closed shop in December 1986. In one of its last issues, Simpson printed an apology for the excesses of the discipleship move­ ment, but did not admit that it (or he) had been wrong.

Basham, disillusioned and sick, left Mobile and moved to Ohio. He died in March 1989. Baxter moved to the San Diego area of California. Mumford, in an effort to break from the bondage brought on by the movement, moved near San Fran­ cisco.

All the men except Simpson and Baxter “released” their disciples to find their own way without the benefit of a shepherd. Simpson re­ mained in Mobile, quietly building his local church with about 150 “branch churches” around the na­ tion still following the old disciple­ shipline, but without the extremes. The “discipleship heresy,” for all in­ tents and purposes, was dead.

Yet no official word of apology or repentance had been spoken. That is, until Bob Mumford issued his moving statement of repentance in late November 1989.

Mumford’s “repentance” began in mid-1988 when he visited Jack Hayford during a time of personal crisis. Hayford told Mumford the reason he was having problems was that he had never been reconciled to Jesus. Hayford felt Mumford’s problems were a projection of the problem he was having with God over unresolved aspects of the disciple­ ship movement. Mumford took this to heart and in early November contacted Hayford again, asking if he could attend the annual pastors· conference at The Church on the Way for the purpose of reading a statement of repentance.

“I felt he was doing the right thing,” Hayford says. “but did not feel the statement should be read at the beginning of the conference. He left it with me and trusted me to read it (or not read it} in his ab­sence.”

Roy Hicks Jr. was the speaker at the last session. He had already planned to speak on breaking down walls. When Hayford told him he wanted to read Mumford’s state­ ment just before he spoke, Hicks asked him to read it at the close-as an illustration of what he was talk­ ingabout.

There were 1700 pastors and spouses in attendance. They repre­ sented 700 churches and 34 de­nominations in 41 states and 17 nations.

Hayford says: “l read it at the close of the meeting with sensitivity since l felt I knew Bob’s heart. I made  two initial observations:  First. I had occasion to deal with Mumford prior to the 1974 problem and felt disposed to assist him on the way back. Second, many don’t know the history of this but many do. It was a distressing thing which happened, causing huge problems in the body.

“I then said, ‘In light of the mes­sage you’ve just heard [from Hicks). This is an illustration of God breaking down walls. His agenda is to break through and remove walls as we end this decade.'”

Hayford says the statement was received with “general murmurs of agreement.”

The next night at Ridgecrest, North Carolina, Mumford was on the platform at the CBU Teaching Conference-the oldest and largest teaching conference in America. As one of the principal speakers, he had requested personal privilege to read the same statement Hayford had read the night before in California – a public apology for his part in leading people into deception.

Derek Prince was scheduled to speak that night. Among the 3,500 packed into the auditorium was Alice Basham-widow of the late writer/teacher Don Basham.

Mumford was visibly shaken when he came to the platform to read his statement just before Prince spoke.

As Mumford finished speaking, the audience rose to applaud. But Derek Prince stepped forward, si­lenced the crowd and followed with his own statement – not of repen­tance but of explanation.

Although admitting he had been an integral part of the disciple­ship/shepherding movement, Prince said, “I never was involved in asking people to submit to me … I tend to let people go their own way…l don’t believe it was ever God’s intent to start a movement. All of us have to share the responsibility, however, of failing God and failing the body of Christ.”

Prince went ahead to say, despite his involvement with the movement; “It was not long before I began to feel uncomfortable. But I felt God had put us [the five men) together.” He concluded by saying, “I allowed loyalty to my fellow ministers to su­persede my loyalty to God.”

Alice Basham told Ministries Today that she commended Mum­ford-“with all my heart.” She said that had Don Basham still been alive, he would have echoed the same words. ■


The following is the text of the Mumford apology:

In 1974, Jack Hayford and two other brothers expressed concern about the concepts of discipleship. Others also gave similar counsel.

While it was not my intent to be willful, I ignored their input to my own hurt and the injury of others.

This statement of apology has two known motivations. First, I feel as  though I have offended the Lord Himself, resulting in His resistance and continued conviction. Second,  I am deeply convinced that only by my stating the truth can those who have been adversely affected be healed and released. The following statement represents my personal convictions and I do not presume to speak for any other person.

The independent part of the charismatic renewal was, in my opinion, much in need of the principles I taught in the early ’70s, namely spiritual authority, discipleship and shepherding care. The absence of those needed biblical guide­ lines and the loss of personal sanctification were evident at that time.

Predictably, the extremes and injuries began to appear where they always do, that is, in the widening gap between what was taught (orthodoxy or right doctrine) and what was actually happening (orthopraxy or right practice). The distortion and self-serving application of these principles were wrong and injurious.

Accountability, personal training under the guidance of another, and effec­tive pastoral care are needed biblical concepts. True spiritual maturity will require that they be preserved. These biblical realities must also carry the limits indicated by the New Testament. However, to my personal pain and chagrin, these particular emphases very easily lent themselves to an unhealthy submis­sion resulting in perverse and unbiblical obedience to human leaders. Many of these abuses occurred within the spheres of my own responsibility. For the in­jury and shame caused to people, families and the larger body of Christ, I repent with sorrow and ask for your forgiveness.

May I personally encourage everyone directly affected by these doctrines to re-examine how they are presently being applied. We all need the courage to take whatever steps necessary to return to a Christ-centered life.

Bob Mumford San Rafael, California


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