I was part of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) for years and before that, I was at the International House of Prayer. However, I have some very serious concerns about what is happening at YWAM around the world. It is the theology of many years that caused me to ask questions.
One of the challenges is that many bases have different ideals and one base could teach hyper calvinism, while another case could be hard core Arminism. However, there seems to be a few common theological themes that pop up at many, if not most, mission bases.
As I said before in Why I left YWAM, they was started in 1960 by Loren Cunningham, a son of an Assembly of God pastor and he met with Thomas Zimmerman about making it an official arm of the Assemblies of God. However, he had a different vision for missions and they left the corporate fellowship with blessing.
My story is much like Loren’s. It is just about 40 years later. We went to the same bible college and was called to missions much of the same way. The only difference is I was not in the Bahamas but on the floor of the church during the Brownsville Revival.
YWAM and Open Theism
The most serious issue that many, including myself, have with many YWAM bases is the teaching of Open Theism or what they call Moral Government of God. The truth is that many are still teaching it, even though it has been rejected by most of the Charismatic Church for three decades. It has gotten a second wind by the teaching of Greg Boyd and it is very popular in YWAM today.
In Open theism, God can not know the future but can only make educated guesses based on full knowledge of the present and the past events. As you can see, this presents quite a few theological challenges. One of them being about the writers on the New Testament concerning Eschatology. So is Revelation just a bunch of guesses by the Lord? I think not!
According to Greg Boyd,
Much of it [the future], open theists will concede, is settled ahead of time, either by God’s predestining will or by existing earthly causes, but it is not exhaustively settled ahead of time. To whatever degree the future is yet open to be decided by free agents, it is unsettled.
The issue here is that missions become very hard as God does not have a plan for the harvest. We can not commit our lives to an educated guess or wish. In the end, Open theism is heretical and God does not every detail of the future and He is very committed to seeing through the gospel of the Kingdom being preached to the end of the earth and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
False Unity at YWAM
There is what many see as “unity at all cost” but it is really a false unity. It is a stripping of one’s identity for the cause of the group. This takes what is done at basic training in the Army to a whole new level. The difference is the Army does it for a short time and you are free to be who you are when not on the clock. When it comes to YWAM, they want to strip your identity from you for their purposes and you are “on the job” around the clock!
This is hidden behind things like servant hood. While it sounds good to serving people, we are actually to serve God. We are called to be friends of God, not servants. The problem with an emphasis on serving each other, it becomes spiritual control very quickly. Once that sets in, blackmail is the next step and people lose touch with the Holy Spirit and trust their YWAM leaders to hear from God for everyone.
In this discussion, they also are against anything they determine to be divisive. While YWAM started with a group of Assemblies of God people, they are far from being Pentecostal today. In the quest to be friendly with the Baptists and the Methodists, they have taken about anything Charismatic or Pentecostal out of the daily expression of faith. I raise eyebrows more than a few times by casting out a devil from a student or two.
Real unity is when everyone is more devoted to their expression, not when everyone compromises to have a fake sense of unity that is so popular in groups like Youth With A Mission.
The passage of Mary and Martha should be a concern for anyone thinking about YWAM in my opinion. Be a Mary, not Martha.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Elevation of leaders with YWAM
This is another very dangerous theological position that seems to be widely accepted in the bases. They value leaders to the point that is basically man worship. Many of the leaders, even ones that live on the bases are not among the people and they are not incarnate. This is a major issue. It is very rare to see base leaders to have dinners with the students, for example.
I have met Loren Cunningham a few times and I have spend some time with him. However, this is not normal for people within Youth With A Mission. Very few of them people around the world have met him and if they have, it is a simple “Hello, my name is….” thing. I am not saying that everyone should based on location but there was people in Kona where he lives that hardly know him. That is not acceptable.
They take the passage of “Touch Not the Anointed” way out of context and use it to make excuses for the worship of leadership. It is completely unacceptable. It grieves the heart of God and it is downright idolatry.