Tagged in: YWAM

Why I left YWAM (Youth With A Mission)?


I use to be part of YWAM for a few years but I have seen left them and took the vision I had while in YWAM and developed it into what is now Herrnhut. I loved being there and did not plan to ever leave the movement. However, for reason that I will lay out here, I felt required by God to do so.

For those who don’t know what YWAM or Youth With A Mission is, it was started by Loren Cunningham back in 1960 as a result of an open vision that he had while on a mission trip to the Bahamas. He saw waves of young people taking the gospel message to the ends of the earth. This became a major movement that today has about 15,000 missionaries to so across about every nation in the world (or we were told).

Out of that came their hallmark program, Discipleship Training School, and adding to that was their mercy ministries and evangelism. They have been quite effective at getting people to join the DTS as they call it. There is hundreds of thousands in the programs around the world at any given times.

However, there is some major issues with YWAM and that is what I plan to discuss. For the sake of clarity, I want to breaks this down into three areas: theology, spirituality, and philosophy.

Theological Concerns

The biggest concerns is theological. There is some bad doctrines being presented at YWAM bases around the world that people just do not want to talk about. It is not pretty and this is above all why I left Youth With A Mission. If you get what you believe about God, his story, and his character wrong; you will get everything wrong and that includes missiology.

YWAM believes in Moral government. This teaching goes by many names. Some call it Kingdom Now. Others call it Dominion theology. Many call it Moral Government. No matter what name you use for it, it is clearly wrong and goes against scripture.

The concept is that we have been given ” power of contrary choice” and it denies God’s knowledge,  goodness and power. Many that do believe this hold that Jesus died for the sins of the world but not your sins. (Only collectively) They also believe that was no original sin in the garden of Eden. These are just a couple of the problems with the doctrine of Moral Government.

Some leaders in YWAM try to point to historical thinkers like Arminius and Wesley to justify their shaky doctrines. However, neither of these men would defend or teach anything remotely close to moral government of God. There would never deny God’s plan to redeem every person in this world.

YWAM believes in Open Theism. This is the idea that is shared by some thinkers like Calcidius, Socinus, Samuel Fancourt, Andrew Ramsay, Clark Pinnock, Greg Boyd, Dallas Willard, and Winkie Pratney. The connection and inroad into Youth With A Mission was mainly Winkie in the early days as a bible teacher for schools.

This belief suggest the affirmation of God that respect our total moral responsibility yet inviting us to saving faith in Christ. The God of creation knows the past to the numbers of hair on your head and He knows everything that is happening right now. However, He can only “guess” what will happen in the future based on the pattern of history.

As I am completely against Calvinism on all points, I do not support an extreme view of Arminism such as Open Thiesm that has some serious theological challenges, especially concerning biblical prophecy. (How could God foretell if He can only “guess?”)

YWAM believes in ecumenicism to a fault. As a movement, they believe in diversity. This is among the Catholics but they try and open the doors to everyone from the Pentecostals to the Baptists to the Amish! While this sounds great on paper, it presents a problem when you start to flesh this out.

The moment that a demon manifest, all the discussion of “Christian unity” goes out the window and people turn to what tradition they are part of. The Baptist girl thinks it is just mental illness; the Methodist thinks they just need confirmation and the Pentecostal are ready for a old fashion deliverance like they are the second coming of Smith Wigglesworth.

The reason this is a problem is the more radical people (Pentecostal and Charismatics) are often the ones that have to give in to those who are more evangelical. The biblical balance is radical obedience is all areas, not reduction of fervency in one reason to build another.

While this is not a completely exhaustive list of theological inquiry that ones needs to do within Youth With A Mission, it is the same challenges and you can deal the lesser issues after these.

Witchcraft in the Camp

The biggest problem with YWAM is not anything that many have not said but it needs to be address again. It is the spiritual control that some leaders operate under. It is demonic and it is witchcraft. The spirit of control is the spirit of multiplication and that is witchcraft. You can even make the case for leaders operating in the spirit of Jezebel.

Part of the problem is when they start their Discipleship Training School. It was within two years of the who Shepherding movement mess in American evangelicalism. There was a group of leaders headed by Bob Mumford and Derek Prince that took all the “each other” passages of the New Testament to the extreme. This became the norm of discipleship. It was not out of the ordinary for people to basically become servants of pastors. It was a sick time in the Charismatic movement that anyone that was involved in it needed some serious deliverance and emotional healing.

YWAM took much of the same attitude towards how they ran their school and it does not create freedom in the Spirit. Many become convinced that serving the mission base is their calling unto God. This is dangerous at best. It puts people under the yoke of bondage.

This mentality does some serious psychological damage. Some of what goes on in these discipleship schools borderlines on brainwashing depending what mission base we are discussing. Total submission changes how the person thinks and relates psychologically.

The control can get quite crazy. I know of one case where the leader was telling staff members where to go to church and what translation they should study from. In some ways, it was like the old legalism from the Pentecostal churches from the 1930’s revived.

In some cases, they use spiritualization and mental hypnosis to get complete control over the person. This has long been discussion concerning the movement and it is one reason the word cult get thrown around so often with YWAM!

Click here for an article about John Bevere and the spirit of legalism. 


Philosophy differences

Now, with all that said, I want to highlight a few philosophical differences that Youth With A Mission and Herrnhut has. You could say that is differences that I have with them. These are not really theological differences but they are more philosophical. Click here for the Genetic Code of Herrnhut.

The first would be private scholarship. While we do have fundamental truths that govern our beliefs, we celebrate people questioning instruction. If a teacher is teaching something that you feel is wrong, call them out on it. Question it and question it more. We want people to draw deep in intimacy with the Lord by questioning what they hear, read and see. This is not in operation at most YWAM bases.

The next thing is prophetic ministry. While they believe in on prayer and even believe in it if one of their favorite leaders is giving it, we celebrate people hearing from God for someone else. Even if they get it wrong; we still celebrate it. It does not matter if it is from a guy that just got saved to a pastor.

That leads to the next point of philosophical difference. We believe as John Wimber would put it, “Everyone gets to play.” It is not about this leader or that leader. It is about anyone who says “yes” to the great commission and wants to be a vessel of the Kingdom. Any and everyone can be the one God uses to move powerfully in our meetings.

One thing that we differ on is having renewal meetings. YWAM hold that they are strongly a para-church group and does not have church planting in their vision. We disagree. We hold church meetings every week and any future mission bases will hold renewal meetings every weekend. Church Planting is part of missions.

A final area that I find difference is how finances are handled. They tend to try and control how much each person has and doesn’t have. We want everyone to have as much as they can raise. We do not run our school for profit and much of the cost is underwritten by ministries in the United States that believe in reaching the South Pacific.

I am sure we have some other differences but these are the big ones!


Is YWAM a cult?

This is the question that always come up when discussing movements like this that do have some challenges theologically, spiritually, and philosophically. While they could do better in these areas (they must do better!), I am slow to throw around the word cult because they are truly trying to see the Holy Spirit in their lives and they do love Jesus.

The marks of a cult are not there besides the controlling issues and at some point, that is going to have to dealt with. However, I do not feel it has reached the level that warrants being labeled as a cult. I just do not. Sorry.

A cult has the following elements to it and each of these questions must be asked.

  • Do they celebrate critical thinking?
  • Do they place community over communion with the Spirit?
  • Do they slander those who leave?
  • Do they feel they speak for the Holy Spirit?
  • Do they seek to control you?
  • Do they overvalue themselves?
  • Do they believe they are more anointed than everyone?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you need to consider if you are following a cult or not.

A message to the YWAMers

If you are in YWAM or going to a discipleship training school, I am not telling that you should not be there. I am telling you to do with eyes and ears wide open. Realize the issues facing the movement and do not get sucked into the challenges they have. If you know the strengths of the movement and focus of them, you can get a lot of being on a mission base. There is much good to be found.

I know some will say a little poison will kill you and that people should not be part of anything that is not spiritually pure. The problem with this is they actually believe they are pure when they probably disagree with themselves just a few years before. I know some of my views have soften and others have become stronger than they was when I was in my twenties. We are all in process.

I know dozens of people who was really blessed by doing a DTS. I did not get a lot of it but I was coming out time at the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry and finishing bible college at Central Bible College (Assemblies of God). I was mainly there because I did not want the red tape of becoming an Assemblies of God missionary.

One thing I would suggest is make you are accountable with people who can make sure your spiritual life and your doctrine is in tact. If something does get odd, someone who can tell you “wait a minute.”

All in all, I love YWAM and I love the missionaries with Youth With A Mission.

YWAM and “Friend Raising”

I was part of YWAM or Youth With A Mission in Kansas City as well as Kona (where they are globally based) and I found the teaching on Friend Raising to have a hidden secret that no one tells people.

I am in no way mad or angry at YWAM, I am just saying wanting to tell people who might think about joining the mission group what they might be looking at. Friend Raising is a great concept on paper.

The ideal behind it is that missionaries are funded by friends not groups. It seeks to put a personal and human touch on missionary support. It is needed and critical for a young missionary to understand this. Raising support is next to impossible without having those personal connections with people back in your hometown and across America.

To be clear, I believe the book Friend Raising that YWAM Publishing put out is amazing and it is a textbook for anyone trying to become a missionary, especially without a missions group with deep pockets like the Assemblies of God or the Southern Baptist Convention.

If you do not have the book, I do recommend getting a copy of it.

My issue with Friend Raising

If you are Loren Cunningham, John Dawson, Floyd McClung or another global leader, you have a platform to raise support than many do not. It is a no brainer to say that Loren Cunningham is going to be able to raise money for his needs a lot easier than some guy in the Discipleship Training School at some base in Kenya.

This is what they do not tell you when they talk about friend raising in YWAM. A lot of people think they should have these amazing stories of provision as well. They feel like failures because they do not see the checks roll in like the speakers told them they did for him.

The reason for this is because of the platform. A major leader has the capacity to raise support that is not a reality for most YWAM missionaries. Your run of the mill staff member is not getting calls to speak at missions conferences around the world.

The reason that this must be addressed is that when people realize that capacity and platform are factors in your friend raising, the guilt and shame of not having great stories of provision is removed from your heart. Having this knowledge will set your heart free from the spirit of failure. God does not bless Loren Cunningham more than you. He just has the microphone and you do not. That’s all.

I raise this issue because I see so many people leave YWAM thinking they are failure but no one told them that they have an uphill battle to get the capacity to raise large amounts of support. A girl from a village in Africa is not going to have the family and friends to raise $2,000 a month. She just won’t so she never tries to be a missionary as a result.

I still believe in friend raising!

I believe that our old church driven model of support raising is dead. It is completely lacking any type of productivity for the long term missionary. Missionaries under the old system of support raising, missionary work, furlough, missionary work, support raising and repeat is harming the missions movement. Many of my friends spend more time speaking in churches about missions than they do actually being missionaries. 

The best way to fund missionary work is friend raising but there needs to be some honesty about the how it works. It is not as cookie cutter as some people make it out to be.

The truth of the matter is most missionaries remain under funded for many years and it take a long time to build the friend raising support base to do what you feel called to do the night you answered the call to preach the gospel in some village in the jungle of Africa.

It works. There is no debating that we need to remove the guilt that comes with it so people can understand the grace of fund raising using human contacts, not mission committee that are all business. People helping people is this missionary model of Jesus (Luke 8:2).

Many missionaries will never have the funding they need right away. I know many that started on the mission field with $200 a month in support. It was not under many years later that they had the $2,000 that they really needed. It was a lot of ramen noodles for them in the early years.

Does Facebook change the process?

It does not really change it but it does put it on steroids to a degree. I am able to communicate with people that I know at a rate that people a generation ago could only dream of. In that regard, it does change the way we do friend raising but it did not change the concept of doing it. Personal contact is critical. Facebook just makes it more often.

Here is a few tips I have learned along the way about Facebook and Friend Raising

  1. Update your status about missionary work daily. People are really “out of sight, out of mind.”
  2. Tell stories, stories and more stories. People move testimonies. They really do.
  3. Pictures, pictures, pictures. People connect with images more than text. Studies show this.
  4. Be careful doing teaching on Facebook. You don’t want to say something wrong to someone.

The best thing for a missionary to do is update his/her Facebook status about what is happening on the mission field at least a few times a day. People need to hear about the mission often or they forget you are living in Sri Lanka.

Tell stories and testimonies about how people have come to Christ or received a miracle in your daily life. This really remind people about the calling on your life as a missionary.

I found that the greatest impact on Facebook seems to be pictures. This is an easy one for me as I am a photographer but people react to pictures for some reason. Oddly, pictures are more effective than even videos. However, starting a daily vlog on Youtube could be very effective.

My last bit of advice is be careful posting deep theological stuff on Facebook that might get people calling you a heretic. I will admit that I do not follow this advice myself but I am kinda safe. I did spend seven years in theological training. Most young missionaries would be best to not try and be the next Stanley Horton.

I hope this helps people in their journey into friend raising!

True Discipleship is not happening today.

Many do not understand the Great Commission and this is partly due to the fact that Matthew recorded a very different version of it than Mark, Luke and John. I am not saying that Matthew was wrong (after all, it did make the Cannon), I am saying his point of view is different with that whole discipleship thing.

What do I mean by that? If you read Matthew 28:19 besides Mark 16:15-20 or Luke 1:7-8, you will see that there is something very different. Mark and Luke put emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit to heal the sick and set the captive free as proof of the gospel. Matthew did not speak of miracles but what we call discipleship.

In my spiritual heritage, the emphasis has always been that miracles confirms the gospel. After all, Mark did say, “…the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” The stories of John G. Lake, Smith Wigglesworth, Aimee Semple McPherson, Oral Roberts, and John Wimber were common around the table.

We always knew that Matthew 28:19 was there but we kinda just left that to the Baptists who did not believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. They could nothing but discipleship. After all, they didn’t believe in healing the sick and raising the dead. Harsh as it sounds, it is how much of the Pentecostal movement sees this passage in light of the difference between Matthew and the rest of the passages.

Discipleship is best done by fathers

I remember hearing a man from New Zealand speak when I was in a meeting during the Toronto Blessing. His name was James Jordan and he spoke of the Fathering nature of the gospel. He kept talking about 1 Corinthians 4:15. It is a passage that really messes up our whole idea of what discipleship really is.

Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.

The maturity of the believer should be done by fathers, not teachers. This changes everything. Most churches are trying to discipline by teaching but are they raising up spiritual sons and daughters. If a church claims to be a “family” and they are serious about mentoring the young believers as spiritual children; something is wrong.

The problem we have is when we do not focus of spiritual fathers and mothers, we reduce the idea of discipleship to a mere academia practice that is just like learning biology or chemistry. It is about learning information and the application of it for a designed purpose. It makes the whole experience one of education, not spirituality.

Discipleship is not something that can be done in Sunday School and it can not be done in our cell groups (that we ripped off from South Korea). It happens when people have the Elijah and Elisha relationship. Paul had a spiritual fathering role to Timothy. That is how it works best. One on one around the barbeque pit; not from the pulpit.

Discipleship as we know is brainwashing

I have long believed there was a fine line between the two. I went to what YWAM calls a “Discipleship Training School.” It is a course that is several months long that is focused on the fundamentals of the faith. The problem is it is based on information and not impartation. It is mostly teaching and required reading. This borderlines brainwashing. It is not just YWAM doing it, either. Almost every major mission group has the same unbibical concept.

When I went to bible college, I expected to have an educational experience. When I went to seminary, I am paying for the educational experience. When I am do discipleship, I expect to be more about mentorship than I do education. This is the problem with the model we have in most churches.

The Bible declares that God will turn the hearts of the Fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. I am not sure how we think this will work when we are more focused on developing students than spiritual children in our churches. The reality is a pastor can not father a church from the pulpit; he can only present information and release impartation.

Churches that focus on training them with information are like a man that goes around town, getting women pregnant but then leaving town without being a parent to the child. We just end up with a generation that is very educated in the scriptures but have no fathers to guide them in spiritual things.

Raising up spiritual sons

I was saved in the Brownsville Revival. The main speaking in the meetings was Evangelist Steve Hill. He was mentored by Leonard Ravenhill. It was from that relationship that Steve became the man that could lead the greatest revival in American history. It was not going through school and getting information. It was that mentoring relationship that made the difference.

People wanted to share in Ravenhill’s mantle and carry his mandate to the Bride of Christ but they did not want to share in his sackcloth and ashes. They want to stand with him in the pulpit but they did not want to weep with him in the prayer room. Sons and daughters are those who also share the sackcloth and ashes with their spiritual fathers and mothers.

It was because of those times in prayer and mentorship that the Brownsville Revival broke out on Father’s Day 1995. It was an outpouring of everything that Steve Hill received from his spiritual father, Leonard Ravenhill. That is how true discipleship works.

I look back at the several things that I know that I am anointed to do and I received what I have from men that operated in that mentored me, not just reading books and watching videos. It is true that anointing can only be caught but not taught.

God opened the door for me to be mentored by the pastors that had the fastest growing church in America back in 1999-2001. It was a mentoring experience to be there and to be close to the leadership. It was about being a spiritual son. Due to that relationship, I learned the practicals of planting a mega-church in one of the most saturated markets for faith in the United States.

Discipleship is about spiritual sons and daughters. That’s all I am saying.

Floyd McClung is a missional hero!

When I was on staff at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, I use to still attend Metro Christian Fellowship when it was pastored by Floyd McClung. He was a great leader that put the emphasis on emotional healing and living in community. I was not much into community then (still am not) but Floyd was what Metro needed after 20 years of non-stop praying and prophetic meetings. Continue reading…

Loren Cunningham is critical to revival!

I would hope that most people know who Loren Cunningham is but if you do not know, he is the founder and key leader of YWAM (Youth With A Mission). He is probably the strongest link to revival today and has the ability to take revival to the nations more than anyone.

YWAM has around 14,000 staff is about every nation. A move of the Spirit could spread to the ends of the earth in no time through their mission bases. A few staff could go to a meetings in Nashville with a revivalist and within days, it could spread to Hawaii, Hong Kong, and even North Korea. Continue reading…

Missionaries are humans too :)

While many love to carry the title missionary around, I do not. The reason is missionaries is not a biblical office. I also believe we have a theological issue when we consider people missionaries. It is something deep in our culture, especially in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.

Normally, a young person gets radically saved and delivered. They want to see everyone born again and the power of God hit them. They are more excited about the gospel then the pastor is. The pastor does not know how to deal with this so he tells the young person to go to some distant nation as a missionary.

The young person will get a little training from a place like YWAM or Victory Bible College in Tulsa and off then go, with a bible in hand and a testimony burning in their heart. All they know is Jesus saves, heals, delivers and fills. The good thing is they know the simplicity of the Cross. They have the basics right.

The problem is the pastor sees sending someone that makes him uncomfortable into a spiritual warzone full of all types of devil as “getting rid” of believers who make him look less spiritual.

Missionary thinking is unbiblical

There is Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Teachers but where is the missionary? It is not listed anywhere because the office of the missionary is not for leadership but it is for all believers. Every Christian is a missionary. If you do not believe that, you have a theological problem.

The idea that people are “called” to go to some tribe in Africa and you are not is heretical at best. We are called to preach the gospel with signs and wonders following. Every single one of us.

Keith Green, the late prophetic psalmist, had it right when he asked, “The question is not if you are called to go. The question is are you called to stay?” The truth is many have no desire to embrace the gospel in a different cultural context than what they grew up in.

The issue here we like to check out of doing the gospel because we think by sending a little money to someone in Africa, we are off the hook. This is completely unbiblical. Everyone is called to be a missionary and everyone should do at least one mission trip in their life.

When we start to see everyone as the missionary, we are partaker of the gospel. We share in the grace of our fellow believers in Mongolia and we share in the suffering of our fellow Christians in Brazil. It is truly about being the Bride of Christ; one global Church.

While we have the “here is some money, go for me and don’t come back” mentality of the missionary, we will never step into the calling of Christ for the souls of humanity. We have to admit that alot of our thinking about world missions is just backwards.

The sooner we repent of this ungodly belief, the better we will be spiritually.

Why I do not call myself a missionary

Part of the reason is biblical and part of it is that I find the term just cheesy. It would be like calling someone Trashman Tom or Secretary Julie. A missionary is what I do but it is not who I am. I am me. I do not find my identity is what I do but I find it in Christ Jesus.

When I sit next to a street kid in the Philippines, I am there because I care; not because it is my “job.” When it becomes a job, the whole thing is messed up. I am just being a employee to some church at that point. It is not not about the heart; it is about duty. I do not want to love out of duty but desire.

Another reason that this is important is when someone attacks the work (and they will), I do not take it personal. It is what I do but not who I am. I know what God says over me and how He sees me. The attacks are real but they are not as real as the love of God singing over me. I know the His banner over me is love (Song of Songs 2:4) and that God has raised a standard against the attack to protect me. (Is. 59:19) I also know I have a hedge of protection surrounding me. (Job 1:10)

Dealing with haters

Alot of people attack people and do not realize those who are loving people in the Philippines or Africa are just as human as those loving people in Dallas or Kansas City. I have been the center of attackers of the haters more times that I can remember but people forget that I am a human as well. A missionary might live somewhere else but the call is the same: love God and to love sinners. Only the location is different.

In many ways those who are “haters” are just upset at the truth that you carry, they do not like you raining on their sin party, or they are reminded of a call of God on their lives. For whatever reason, the heart of God is not revealed by their words of the haters.

That means that either the source of their words is either from the flesh and their own rebellion or it is from the evil one. Some of the words that I hear thrown at me daily by people are simply attacks of the devil using carnal men who have lost all connection with the Holy Spirit. If I believed the words they spoke over me, I would be suicidal.

The good news I do not believe the report of the evil one. I choose to pick up my sword in one hand and my plowshare in the other. It is harvest time for the nations. We have the great end time revival in front of us. It is revival time!