As leaders of the shepherding movement have re-evaluated some of their beliefs and practices, so have some of the groups those leaders influenced. One such organization is the Gainesville, Florida-based Maranatha Christian Churches, an umbrella organization of about 70 churches located primarily on or near college campuses in the U.S. and abroad.

As of November of last year, Maranatha dissolved as an international federation of churches, though about 45 churches in the U.S. (representing about 5,000 people) and an additional 25 or so abroad will continue to function independently. An associated organization, Maranatha Campus Ministries, will continue as a service organization to college campus ministries.

According to Lee Grady, managing editor of the Maranatha publication The Forerunner from 1981 until the organization disbanded, all the major personalities associated with the shepherding movement at one time or another addressed Maranatha gatherings. Grady said the concept of shepherding—that believers were under the authority of a spiritual shepherd—was widely accepted within Maranatha as a natural aspect of the Christian faith. “Maranatha was a revival movement,” said Grady. “Any revival movement will usually be characterized by excesses.”

An ad hoc committee of Christian scholars reached a similar conclusion in a 1984 report (CT, Aug. 10, 1984, p. 38), which stated, among other things, that Maranatha “has an authoritarian orientation with potential negative consequences.”

Maranatha spokespersons said the breakup of the federation of churches had nothing to do with the problems cited in the 1984 report, problems Grady and others said had, for the most part, been solved. They said that many local church leaders had come to ...

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