Three Fatal Flaws

of Sam Soleyn’s “Spiritual Oversight” Teaching

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Psa. 23:1 π Ezek. 3:17-19 π Dan. 11:35 π Mt. 5:46-47 π Mt. 10:1 π Mt. 12:36 π Mt. 18:15; 2nd π Mt. 23:9; 2nd π Mt. 28:18 π Mt. 28:20 π Mk. 3:14-15 π Mk. 6:7 π Lk. 6:32 π Lk. 9:1-2 π Lk. 10:19 π Lk. 17:1-3 π Lk. 17:3; 2nd π Jn. 13:2 π Jn. 13:27 π Jn. 14:23 π Jn. 15:5 π Jn. 17:12 π Jn. 17:20-21 π Acts 5:27-29 π Acts 12:1-2 π Rom. 13:1-7 π 1 Cor. 10:24 π 1 Cor. 12:24-25 π 1 Cor. 12:25 π Eph. 4:13-14 π Phlp. 2:4 π 1 Tim. 2:5 π 1 Tim. 4:12 π 1 Tim. 5:20 π 1 Tim. 5:21; 2nd π Jas. 2:1; 2nd π Jas. 2:14-17 π Jas. 3:1 π Jas. 5:19-20 π 1 Pet. 2:25 π 1 Jn. 2:27 π 1 Jn. 3:17-19 π Rev. 2:6 π Rev. 2:15

Every so often it becomes the sad duty to write of erroneous teachings from a man whom God was once using to bring revelation and insight. Sam Soleyn claims to be an apostle – indeed he may be. But the path he has set his ministry on is just as unhealthy for the people he ministers to as that of any “church” pastor. At the risk of oversimplifying the problems Sam’s ministry raises, simply recognizing the truth of something Watchman Nee said would solve many of those problems. Nee wrote, “If apostolic meetings take the place of [the local, personally interactive ekklesia] meetings, then the [ekklesia] members become passive and indolent [lazy], always expecting to be helped, instead of seeking, in dependence upon the Spirit, to be helpful to the other members.” (The Normal Christian Church Life, chapter 9, The Organization of Local Churches)

There are two reasons for placing this rebuttal out for public consumption. 1) Sam is wrong and needs to repent of having been flattered and diverted from the path of truth and light. 2) There are people who follow him without recognizing his error. These need to be warned so that they might also not be diverted from the path of truth.

Sam Soleyn’s teaching on “Spiritual Oversight” has been given on so many occasions now and each version seems to have its own peculiarities so it is hard to say this is exactly what he is teaching now. But this rebuttal of Sam’s error is made in response to the teaching as it was presented in a transcript of Sam’s message. In general, we can safely say this teaching suffers from three fatal flaws – each of which, single-handedly, let alone collectively, is sufficient to cause us to immediately reject the teaching and the man as truly speaking as God’s messenger and, as the Lord leads each individual, to even consider stepping away from the man as a brother in Christ. Let each do as the Lord so leads.

The three flaws are:

1) It is based on intellectual reasoning and is not based on divine revelation;

2) It relies heavily on several traditions of men handed down through various times in church history; and

3) it is insufficient to sustain the full life of the body of Christ in several ways.

Let us look at each one of these.

1. Logic and Reason

“Spiritual Oversight,” by a curious coincidence, suffers from three flawed logical premises as well. The first is that, because the “church” “pastor” system (in which one man lectures to a crowd of passive “pew potatoes” and erroneously calls it “feeding the sheep”) is obviously flawed, Sam believes that the “personal pastor” system (which when practiced with genuine agape love has some features which are vast improvements over the demonic “church” “pastor” system) must be God’s plan for His people. Though Sam tries to imply otherwise, it is clear from his message that his teaching is simply a backlash against the demonic “church” “pastor” system.

Sam says:

So we go to church in the hope that the preacher would tell us what to do. (p. 1)

The idea that your pastor is the one who stands up in front of groups of thousands of you or even hundreds of you and speaks to you in general terms – the idea that that is your pastor is totally bogus. It’s unbiblical. It doesn’t work. (p. 7)

The reason why we keep thinking about church and pastors is: our model is this institution where you have a CEO and subscribing members to this corporate entity. As long as you subscribe, you get the CEO. But what you get is not somebody who actually talks to you, someone who knows who you are in the Lord, someone who knows your gifts, someone who knows your calling and who is raising you up, helping to direct you according to the way of the Lord so that you will actually grow up. That’s not what you get. You get somebody who gets up and gives you a lecture and calls it feeding you. (pp. 8-9)

Clearly his message is a logical protest against the inadequacies, fallacies, errors and even heresies of “church” – a system which begs for rebuttal on many levels. But, as we will see, Sam’s notions of how the body ought to function is almost as limited as the “church” is – as the quote from Watchman Nee with which we started also indicates.

The second flawed logical premise is that, as Sam says, there are only two “poles” or extremes: lawlessness and abusive authoritarianism. Sam says:

The two poles that we began with – one is to address the question of unlawful use of godly authority; that is, for you to be ruled over in such a manner that is inconsistent with the character and purposes of God so that you are smothered in that kind of rule. The second extreme was, “I don’t need anyone to watch over me. I’m fine. Jesus is my Shepherd.” (p. 11)

Implied here is that the “personal pastor” system, which has no clear Scriptural basis (only vague applications gleaned from Sam’s peculiar understandings of various Scriptures), lies somewhere between these two extremes and is therefore the correct way to live for Christ. This is, again, only a logical interpolation and in no way relies on divine revelation and truth.

There are indeed those who use the truth of the Lord being our Shepherd as an excuse for lawlessness – doing their own thing, following their own ideas and agenda for their life and using the name of Christ only as a cloak to cover up their life or self-will. These people only make the overall truth that Christ is our Shepherd into a lie in their own lives. One practicing only his own agendas is truly his own shepherd, his own “God” and Christ is no longer his true Shepherd.

But Sam has missed that there is a third group of people who are at least somewhat mature in the Lord who do maintain, “The Lord is my Shepherd (Pastor) and I shall not want for another.” (see Psa. 23:1 ; 1 Pet. 2:25; top ) These people are not lawless (doing what is right in their own eyes) but rather have their will surrendered only to the will of God for their lives. These don’t just take any notion that comes to mind and say, “That’s God’s will for my life.” They pray, they seek the Scriptures, they counsel with spiritual brothers noted for insight and wisdom and they pursue the inexplicable peace that God gives in the midst of life’s circumstances. Such ones as these have not attained to even this level of spiritual maturity by practicing lawlessness, doing only what they have wanted to do or what they thought was right or good for themselves. Many times their will has been surrendered on the altar of God’s will. Truly, the only place where Sam’s two extremes (lawlessness vs. abusive authoritarianism) exist is in the “mixed multitude” the “church” caters to (that group of people who claim to follow Christ but whose lives are marked by casual indifference to things like holiness and self-denial) and it does not exist in the mature portions of the body of Christ.

This is Sam’s third flawed logical premise: that the mixed multitude (anyone claiming to be a follower of Christ but who still practices one form of self-agenda or another – i.e., lawlessness, false-religion, etc.) is to be received as a brother in Christ, carte-blanche with no reservations and no questions asked. No fruit of the Spirit need be discernable, the mere claim of following Christ entitles that one to the title and privileges of “brother in Christ.” It is this blind acceptance (ungodly tolerance) of any and all that produces the observation of there being only two extremes of lawlessness and abusive authoritarianism and it is the false premise which blinds those who buy into this lie to seeing how the body of Christ ought to be.

Sam says:

Some will say, “Well, in the body of Christ, anyone can correct me.” That, to me, is the most pathetic of all statements because, in practical fact, that person knows that, unless someone will specifically, as a duty to account to God for you, no one will. No one will. (p. 11)

It is the duty of every believer to watch out for all his brothers and sisters in the Lord (see 1 Cor. 10:24 ; Phlp. 2:4; top ) – not just the duty of a select group of clergy. (see Jas. 5:19-20 ; Ezek. 3:17-19 ; etc.) Here Sam sees the indolence (laziness) that having replaced ekklesia meetings with apostolic meetings produces and takes the fact that no one seems willing to obey these righteous requirements of the Lord as an excuse to manufacture yet another system of clergy over the laity. This is inexcusable in one who otherwise possessed such wisdom. This is one of the clearest examples of Sam having reasoned away the truth about how the whole of the body ought to be functioning. In addition to the above Scriptures referenced, the Lord still says to His disciples – that is any and all who seek to obey God and the Scriptures – “If your brother sins against you, you go to him…” ( Mt. 18:15 - emphasis added. It is also interesting to note that many ancient manuscripts do not have “against you” in the text.) and “If your brother sins, rebuke him…” ( Lk. 17:3 - NIV; emphasis added; top)

The “Spiritual Oversight” adherents speak of a “chain of command” and act (some even teach it!) as if these passages read, “If your brother sins against you, you must first find your brother’s personal pastor (his oversight) and, if he agrees with you, the personal pastor will confront the sinning brother and you are out of the picture. If the brother’s personal pastor doesn’t agree with you or the brother doesn’t want to repent, you’re out of luck so suck it up and ‘love’ (tolerate) your brother as if he has done you no wrong.” This is one of the bases of the “gentleman’s club” rules that abound in post-“church” circles but it is patently not the way the body is supposed to function. Anyone in the body of Christ is supposed to reprove or rebuke anyone else as is needed and appropriate. ( Mt. 18:15 ; Lk. 17:3 ; consider also young Timothy being instructed to publicly rebuke sinning elders – compare 1 Tim. 4:12 with 5:20; top ) Sam’s mistaken notion that the mixed multitude is the body only causes him and his followers to reject the truth about how the body should be functioning with one another. This rejection of the truth is one of the most pathetic things about Sam’s false teaching. Just because supposed (not even genuine) and/or misguided followers of Christ refuse to grow up and practice mature obedience to the ways of Christ is not a valid reason to discount the mature requirements that are upon true followers of Christ and give them to yet another version of clergy. The brothers and sisters who have always practiced confronting the sins of their brothers and sisters easily recognize the fallacy of Sam’s assumptions.

In addition to the mixed multitude masquerading as the body of Christ, the “gentleman’s club” rules further inhibit even the likelihood of a brother standing up and rebuking his brother’s sins. The “quiet understanding” of the “gentleman’s club” is “We all have our own differing agendas, doctrines and practices. You tolerate mine with a good ‘Christian’ silence and I’ll do the same about yours. After all, God only knows – or cares – which of us is actually right – and maybe you or I just haven’t received the other’s revelation yet.” These monstrous deceptions beget an ungodly tolerance – not genuine, self-sacrificing agape love. And then Sam uses this “gentleman’s club” tolerance to justify his false teaching and degrade how the body of Christ is supposed to be! Such circular reasoning is most unusual in Sam and completely foreign to our Lord Jesus Christ.

2. The Traditions of Men

One of the clearest instances where this teaching draws upon the traditions of men is where Sam teaches that pastors should train up the sheep in just the same way fathers are to train up their child. Many falsely religious expressions of the Christian faith still look to a priest and call him “father” (in direct contradiction to Christ’s commands – Mt. 23:9 ) Here, in Sam’s system, we don’t call them “father” but we are to treat them as one. In fact, Sam and his followers are very well aware of Christ’s command but they think it sufficient to refuse the label while they still embrace the underlying attributes. This is only a subtle form of Nicolaitanism, lording over the brethren - expecting the laity, the people of Christ, to receive a “recognized leader” as a superior expression of Christianity (whether he actually is or not) – that is part and parcel of the clergy/laity distinctions that are the abominable heritage left to us by the “church fathers.” Jesus clearly says, “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” ( Mt. 23:9 ) If God is our Father – in the same way that Christ is our Shepherd (Pastor) – what need have we of another? Inserting another father or shepherd is only instituting another mediator between God and men. (see 1 Tim. 2:5; top )

There is no place in Sam’s “personal pastor” system of attaining to true maturity because, according to this false teaching, even a mature person still needs the care and guidance supplied by the “personal pastor.” Though a person outgrows the need for apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers ( “…until we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children…” – Eph. 4:13-14; top - something which many “Spiritual Oversight” adherents and even Sam himself has taught on many occasions), for some reason, we need a personal pastor for all our days. I believe Sam would say that this because we need the care more than the guidance, but you can’t get one without the other in Sam’s system.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, however, that, “God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” ( 1 Cor. 12:24-25 - emphasis added) When God composed the body of Christ, it would systematically produce members who would have equal care one for another. Under the “personal pastor” system you must submit to one of the recognized “pastors” (who are often also called “elders” whether they are truly qualified as such or not) or you are not entitled to be loved and cared for. Rather you are to be excluded and avoided as one who is “not under authority.” I can personally vouch that this is standard treatment of those who are not “pastured” by one of the recognized “leaders” around Sam. This preferential treatment is prohibited in the New Testament ( Jas. 2:1 ; 1 Tim. 5:21 ) and only perpetuates the clerical elitism that has plagued the body since Nicolaitanism (lording over the people – Rev. 2:6 , 15; top ) was first introduced in the 2nd century.

Another tradition relied upon heavily is that Christ acted as “personal pastor” to the Twelve. That He was their Shepherd, there is no doubt – it is the “personal” part that is added to the Scriptures and the modern method is projected onto the Scriptural texts as if what Sam and company are doing is exactly what Jesus and company did then. The notion of a “personal pastor,” according to Sam, is that “of very involved caring.” (p. 3 – of course, this is the same Sam who has told others, usually those without great financial resources to tap into, that they would languish under neglect if Sam were to be their “pastor”!) But apparently, Peter, James and John – the three disciples Jesus kept closest to Him throughout His ministry years – received greater, more personal care and the other nine disciples only needed second-rate care while the Seventy needed only sporadic, third-rate care! Equally apparent then is that God must have been satisfied with this arrangement as well for nothing was said about it when Jesus “gave account” for what He had done to keep the Twelve. (see Jn. 17:12 ) No, there was another dynamic involved here. James (the brother of John, not the brother of Jesus) would be the first martyr ( Acts 12:1-2; top ) and Peter and John would write and/or influence significant portions of the New Testament – in contrast to the other nine and Seventy who would fade into relative historical obscurity. These three needed the intense experiences of being closest to Christ to fulfill the ultimate purpose for which Christ had called them. Christ’s level of involvement in their lives for those three years had very little to do with “very involved caring.”

It should be carefully noted that Christ was not “held to account” for keeping the Twelve. If He had been, then He was a failure because He lost one – Judas Iscariot. No, He was “held to account” for doing everything He saw the Father doing to keep the Twelve. That is to say, the loss of Judas was not “charged to Jesus’ account” because Judas chose to betray and abandon Christ. Christ did nothing to push Judas into that role – Satan did that when Judas left his heart’s door open to Christ’s enemy. (see Jn. 13:2 , 27; top ) Rather, Jesus did everything to draw Judas toward Him – even seating him in a place of honor and serving him with love at the “Last Supper” in addition to all the acts of love that were part and parcel of just being around Jesus for those years.

The accounting which will occur in leaders’ lives is for their actions toward younger, less-mature followers of Christ. Did they take positions as clergy, lording over the younger or were they servants bent on helping the younger fulfill his destiny in Christ (even if that meant pushing the disciple on further than he himself had gone)? Did they force their own agendas on the younger or did they truly lead them into the fullness of Christ’s plan for their lives? It is much like what James said of teachers: “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” ( Jas. 3:1 ) And, as Jesus said, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves.” ( Lk. 17:1-3 ) Leaders are not held to account for what the followers do or don’t do. Leaders are held to account for what they themselves do that influences the younger, more vulnerable followers of Christ. (also see Mt. 12:36; top )

Another clear instance of Sam relying on traditions of men is the mistaken notion of “delegated authority.” Sam says:

Jesus, as our Shepherd, has delegated authority to others to watch over us. (p. 2)

Neither the phrase nor the notion of “delegated authority” are anywhere to be found in the pages of the New Testament. The only time in the New Testament where Jesus directly gives authority to men is when He sends out the Twelve and the Seventy to heal the sick and to cast out demons. ( Mt. 10:1 ; Mk. 3:14-15 ; 6:7 ; Lk. 9:1-2 ; 10:19; top ) In these passages, there is no authority given to “watch over” their brothers. And, a few chapters later, Christ gives these very same men a gift that would vastly overshadow this granting of authority for their spiritual training – they would receive an outpouring of the very Spirit of God!

Here is the flaw of supposing Christ’s authority is delegated to men: a delegate goes on a mission or an errand in the place of the one sending him. Christ, His Spirit and even the Father live in the heart of the true believer. Right after Jesus told His disciples that He had all authority in heaven and earth, He said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” ( Mt. 28:20 ) He also said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” ( Jn. 15:5 ) It goes even deeper than this. Jesus instructed His followers, “If anyone loves me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our Home with him.” ( Jn. 14:23 ) Then, in His priestly prayer for all His followers, He prayed, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” ( Jn. 17:20-21; top ) As Sam is fond of saying, “What are the chances that this prayer didn’t get answered? None!”

there is neither need nor reason for Christ to delegate His authority to anyone. He is here in us – wherever the need for authority or power arises, He is there in the believer. Thus, when we operate out of our oneness with Him, we have authority. When we step away from that oneness, pursuing our own agenda and not His, we have no authority – though we may cling tightly to some position or title!

In another version of this teaching, Sam has said, “The first thing you will note is that someone who has all power [referring to Christ’s statement in Mt. 28:18; top ] doesn’t leave any power for anyone else to have any. So we have none. But does that mean we are powerless? No. He is in us. How? By His Holy Spirit.” But then Sam gets derailed by his authority paradigm and goes on to say that Christ is in heaven and must delegate His authority to us and that we are then entitled to command our brothers in Christ as best we see fit. Watchman Nee’s teachings, which closely parallels Sam’s teachings, even goes so far as to say, “Whether the one in authority is right or wrong does not concern us… [The Lord] will hold the delegated authority responsible…” (Watchman Nee, Spiritual Authority, p. 71)

If this were true, then the apostles should have obeyed the Sanhedrin (a legitimate governing authority as defined by Rom. 13:1-7 ) and stopped teaching in the name of Jesus Christ. Instead, the apostles displayed rightful disobedience and boldly proclaimed, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” ( Acts 5:27-29 ) It is still true that we must abide in Christ’s truth and righteousness, which His Spirit teaches us in our inner man ( 1 Jn. 2:27; top ), even when men claiming authority – even in His ekklesia – command us to do otherwise. God will not overlook our sins on judgment day if we try to use the excuse, “My pastor told me to do it.” To believe that it might be so is absurd.

A delegate, by definition, is one sent apart from the sender to accomplish a certain objective. Why would Christ ever send someone apart from Himself when He knows that, apart from Him, the one sent would never be able to accomplish the intended purpose? This is one of the hinge pins upon which Sam’s false teaching falls apart at the seams.

3. Unable to Sustain Life

We have already touched on the root of deception that causes the “personal pastor” system to be inadequate to sustain the life of the body of Christ. Sam says:

What the words, “pastor” or “shepherd and sheep” (in that arrangement) suggest is one of very involved caring – caring. It’s not somebody lording it over another or somebody rebelling. It’s about an intimate relationship of caring between two people. (pp. 3-4)

But again in contrast, Paul says that we should all have the same care one for another! ( 1 Cor. 12:25; top ) The one who submits to one of these recognized “personal pastors” is entitled to receive greater care than those who are not “assigned to and in submission to” this deceptive system of clergy and laity.

Sam also says:

If no one will come to your aid in the day of your trouble, then, quite simply, you don’t have a pastor. (p. 11)

Actually, if no comes to your aid in your day of trouble (which even some of Sam’s recognized “personal pastors” have failed to do even for sheep who have submitted themselves), what it really means is that no one is being taught to love one another with the love of Christ. There is no real love (other than a love for “one’s own” which even the pagans have, often in an even greater degree than do these “personal pastors” for the people they supposedly pastor – see Mt. 5:46-47 ; Lk. 6:32; top ) in the hearts of those in positions of leadership when they are able to see those in need and do nothing for them just because they are not “their” sheep. John wrote, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth…” ( 1 Jn. 3:17-19 ) James told us that such impotent “faith” is dead. ( Jas. 2:14-17 ) Not only does the “personal pastor” system promote favoritism – something we are commanded not to practice ( Jas. 2:1 ; 1 Tim. 5:21; top ) – it actually produces a lethal effect upon our agape love, faith and life in the truth.

A Personal Footnote

Sam Soleyn is not just another itinerant television preacher to me. I have devoted hours and hours of labor to transcribing, editing and publishing his messages both as booklets and on the web. I worked on his messages as a labor of love, requesting funds and assistance from him only when absolutely necessary. I worked this way because Sam was speaking what the Lord was saying. I have been forced, because of his departure into error, to speak up in opposition to his message of “Spiritual Oversight.”

There are those who think I should just quietly “love” (tolerate) the man and wait until the Lord reveals the truth to Sam. These “gentleman’s club” rules are not how the Lord is leading me to deal with this whole situation. In fact, God has led me and my family into “poverty” to expose Sam’s kingdom and covering religion-club for the loveless lie that it really is – a demonic system designed to ensnare those escaping the snares of the spirit of religion (“church”) into another system of lies under the control of the spirit of antichrist. Sam and the “Spiritual Oversight” adherents would say (have said) that I am “rebelling” against Sam and his delegated authority (which he has supposedly received directly from God) and that I am now due for dire judgment from God for having dared to oppose him and his false teaching. Instead of this actually happening, when we rejected Sam’s authority from our lives, our poverty has begun to be reversed and we are seeing God’s will for our lives come into existence in ways it never could before. In short, our very existence and sustenance is a direct testimony against Sam’s kingdom and covering club and a promise that God will not, as Sam has threatened so many, be judging them for not coming under the power and sway of one of these “personal pastors.”

But why do I name the spirit of antichrist as the source of Sam’s deceptions? Because that is precisely the evil spirit who wants to see us put anyone or anything in any rightful place of Christ or His Spirit. The idea of delegated authority, that is coming in the place of Christ as His apostolic representative and the idea of needing another head or shepherd in lieu of Christ being our Head and Shepherd – both of these fall squarely into the tactics of the spirit of antichrist who does not care who is your head, your shepherd, your source of authority and power – so long as it is not Christ.

When the shepherding movement came into vogue in the 1970s under such teachers as Derek Prince (who has since publicly repented of being involved in that fiasco), it was largely a backlash against cold dead churchianity. The manna for that day was the simple truth that the shepherd (pastor) was to be something more than a distant lecturer held at arm’s length behind his podium. That manna quickly rotted. Sam’s system, being only a regurgitation of the shepherding movement, is only yesterday’s manna full of worms, rotting and stinking. In my opinion, it is because Sam has refused to be satisfied with having the Lord as his Shepherd and has instead hired on a well-intentioned thief and robber to be his “personal pastor” that, as a result, he has been given over to a spirit of delusion so that he can’t see the truth about what he is teaching. (see Dan. 11:35; top )

It is for the safety of vulnerable sheep that I dare not remain silent. For Sam’s sake, I call on any and all who read this that they join me in praying that there will soon come the day when Sam comes to his senses and laments, “What the hell was I thinking?”

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