By Lynn Green
I really like that picture! It is a picture of chaotic creativity but the first chapter of the Bible reveals that God began His creation with chaos. He then went on to bring order and harmony from the chaos. That’s a pretty helpful way to understand YWAM and leadership in YWAM: loosing creative initiatives and then working to bring harmony and some order to what has resulted.
At any given time, about one in every five YWAMers is someone who has joined the family in the past six to twelve months. For these, and many other wonderful members of our family who may not have followed the discussion about leadership changes very closely, I will try to explain briefly.
In the 1960s and early 70s, most everyone in YWAM knew everyone else and it was easy to think of ourselves as a family. When very rapid growth began in late 1972, Loren sought council from mature men and women of God and chose a few others to join him in a leadership group known as the International Council. These seven or eight people were not chosen because they represented a certain part of the world or a particular group of people; they were the leaders who clearly had the respect of the YWAMers and had exercised international leadership in some measure even at this early stage of growth. Most of all, they were godly people. In Biblical terms, they were elders (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, etc.).
For many years, YWAM’s leadership structure, such as it was, was built around relationships and ministry gifts. Gradually, some years later, we began to describe ourselves using organisational terms and concepts.
The words we use to describe ourselves are very important because they will shape who we become and organisational terms led us to think more organisationally.
I am not intending to say that organisational concepts and terms are bad or wrong. They just don’t describe who we are meant to be. We are not a business. We are a part of the worldwide Body of Christ, the Church, and God uses family language to describe His people in both the New Testament and the Old Testament. We are all brothers and sisters, not bosses and employees.
In 2002, God began to bring correction to us—to call us back to our roots and to prepare us for growth. Loren describes what that means in an article that is posted on ywamlife.com. This is a very important message to help us understand what God is doing amongst us.
But this was not just a word of correction from the Lord, He was also saying to us, “Get ready for growth!” From several reliable sources we had the same message, “Growth is coming if you will get ready.” I heard that message from several people whom I knew heard from God, but I wondered, “How do we get ready?”
Over the past few years, some of the answers have become much clearer. God was calling us to return to a Biblical understanding of who we are and how we organise ourselves. We are not an institution with an international hierarchy and we don’t have a headquarters. We have leadership teams in regions, in nations and in various ministries, but they are servant leaders and mutually accountable, not “directors” or “bosses”.
We function as body. Everyone can and should hear from God for themselves.
We know that some of the Biblical terms don’t communicate well to others, so we are still grappling with terms. The idea of “elders” for example, will be understood by some, but will not work in other contexts. In other languages, there will be terms that work perfectly well. We must keep working to find the terms that communicate well in our language and setting.
This does not mean that we are doing away with all organisational characteristics, especially at the local level. We have to be accountable to governments and to law, so in any location we need legal boards, proper accounts, policies and procedures as the law mandates. These are essential and good, but must be developed in a way that encourages loving relationships and the opportunity for each person to obey God in a team or community.
So, we are constantly changing so we can make room for:
- Extraordinary growth
- Apostolic anointing
- Freedom for all to hear and obey God and the protection afforded by mature, servant leaders.
Now, how does that work where you live?