I just came back from a small gathering of Christians who arranged a meeting with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) to find out more about their organization. Besides the great food, great fellowship and great discussions (including how we Christians in Singapore ought to be treating the migrant workers in our midst), I was so glad to hear a bit more about what YWAM is all about. I’ve encountered YWAM a lot of times in the past year or so (including in Perth last year), but never really had the desire to find out more about the group. I came away from the meeting last night really attracted to this group. I’m definitely going to find out more about them and maybe get more involved with them in future.
Here are some of their values which I love:
– One thing that straightaway attracted me is their focus on hearing God’s voice. This is something that I’ve been looking into and working on in the past half a year or so. To actually make “Hear God’s voice” one of their foundational values is impressive. In fact, it’s third after “Know God” and “Make God Known”. I think a large part of their success is due to them hearing from God and obeying Him. I received a free book written by their founder Loren Cunningham entitled “Is That Really You, God?”, subtitled, “Hearing The Voice Of God”. And I think it’s going to be an exciting and challenging read!
– Another thing that attracted me is its value of decentralization and interdenominationalism, both of which I value highly. I think these two values make sure that authoritarianism and narrow-mindedness are avoided. There have been a lot of criticisms about YWAM being authoritative and abusive and like any group I’m certain it’s not perfect – and there have been a lot of abuses. But the fact that they value decentralization means that at least in some ways they are not all about controlling everybody and making everyone believe and act as they do. There is also a great diversity of doctrines being taught in YWAM which I think is good. The fact that this is allowed (of course, I think within limits) means that they know it’s not all about one’s doctrines, but about one’s relationship with God. We can all have different ideas, different beliefs (within limits) and be from different denominations (they even work with Catholics) because in YWAM’s eyes these are not as important as many other groups and Christians make them out to be. What’s most important is one’s relationship with God and doing His work. It seems that YWAM knows what’s important and knows the importance of majoring on the majors and minoring on the minors.
– YWAM doesn’t pay any of their staff members. Each person has to raise money by himself. I think that’s good because in the first place these people there are not overpaid as most likely it means they’re not going to get a lot of money. But more importantly, it means each person has to be dependent upon God to provide. They need to go by faith. That’s radical. And there are many stories of God’s miraculous provision in response to His people’s radical faith and dependence.
– YWAM also emphasizes a lot on mercy ministry – i.e. helping the poor, needy and marginalized. It’s one of their three main ministries along with Evangelism and Discipleship. I think this is in line with a more balanced and holistic view of what God’s mission in this world is about.
– I’m glad to see “inner healing” as one area that’s touched upon in their foundational DTS (Discipleship Training School) that all YWAMers need to go through. This is one area that has also been on my mind that past year or so because of various people in my life. I think there is a big need for this ministry.
If there’s any concern I have with YWAM, it is that their radicalness can easily result in legalism and abuse. But this has always been the problem when the organizations’ beliefs (churches included) are radical and they seek to promote such radicalism in their members. Any intensive pursuit of God without a strong foundation in grace can turn out badly. Pursuing God wholeheartedly often entails a lot of introspection (i.e. looking inside and searching one’s heart) and too much of that can be legalistic. On the other hand, no introspection at all can lead to stagnation and complacency. And there’s a fine line between the two. But all this is not so much a specific criticism of YWAM as it is a recognition of the danger one needs to be aware of with all organizations.