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Youth With A Mission (YWAM)

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Youth With A Mission (YWAM)

ChristianGrey Zone, Unsure, or OffkeyAberrational, Heretical, Heterodox, Suborthodox or Unorthodox Youth With A Mission (YWAM)


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Youth With A Mission is an international, Christian missions organization operating from nearly 600 locations in over 130 countries. The organization includes more than 9,500 long-term staff members, and over 28,500 short-term workers. YWAM is involved in trainingOff-site Link, evangelismOff-site Link, and mercy ministriesOff-site Link. Whether you're a carpenter, a surgeon, a cook, a computer operator, or someone who's all thumbs, you can find one or more ministries in YWAM where can use your skills.

That said, though YWAM does lots of good work, the organization is not without its critics. At one time, a CRI fact-sheet pointed out the organization's cultic tendencies (primarily due to the many complaints received about abuses within YWAM's leadership structure).

Harold Busséll, in his book "Unholy Devotion - Why Cults Lure Christians," (later renamed, ''By Hook or by Crook : How Cults Lure Christians'') wrote about his experiences with the organization:

While living in Europe, my wife and I were involved with an Evangelical youth mission based in Switzerland. We were with the group only six weeks, but it was almost seven years before I had overcome the psychological damage caused by their cult-like control and spiritualization.
Source: Unholy Devotion: Why Cults Lure Christians, Harold Busséll, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1983. page 116

And, a little further down the page:

Questioning a leader was considered an act of rebellion against God and His chain of command.

And:

Although the group I was in was thoroughly Christian in doctrine and in motive, they were blinded to the manipulative controls being placed on team members.

In the early eighties, while dealing with the aftermath of my own experiences of abuse by a YWAM leader, someone suggested I interview Harold Busséll. Busséll confirmed that, while he does not mention them by name, the organization he referred to was YWAM.

At the time, I was interviewed by Brian Onken, who was a research associate with the Christian Research Institute (CRI). Onken assured me my own experiences were echoed by many others, and that similar reports had been received regarding YWAM bases around the world.

Problems with YWAM were not just limited to cultic behavior of some of its leaders, but included the teaching of aberrant theology. Alan Gomes, in his book "Lead Us Not Into Deception: A Biblical Examination of Moral Government Theology," wrote about YWAM's staunch support of the "Moral Government" theology (said to no longer be taught within the organization), and in the process also addressed some of the abuses some were subjected to. While doing research for his books, Gomes himself was subjected to a smear-campaign directed by the highest leaders within the organization.

These are serious issues not limited to just a few isolated cases.

I, the publisher of Apologetics Index, have personally experienced spiritual abuse within YWAM from Floyd McClung, who at the time was one of YWAM's top world leaders. He demanded unquestioning obedience, claiming that God would bless us for our obedience to leaders, including himself, even when we knew them to be wrong. That is an unbiblical teaching found in many abusive churches. (See "Enforcing authority").

While I have forgiven the spiritual abuse and accepted his reluctant apologies (he denied much of what he had said and done, even though there were a number of witnesses, including two other leaders) the abuse has had far-reaching consequences, the scars of which I still bear.

McClung later contacted me because he heard I was planning to write an article on YWAM's support for the Moral Government Theology. While simple research showed that at the time it was promoted on several bases, he insisted it was taught at just one base - and suggested he was trying to deal with it.

More recently, the Momentus training was popular at the YWAM Hawaii base.

As mentioned, YWAM does much good work throughout the world. Generally, most people have good experiences with the short-term ministry opportunities YWAM offers. However, it is best not to make decisions regarding further involvement with YWAM (e.g. commit to attend one of YWAM's schools) during or immediately after such trips. A long-term commitment to YWAM, starting with the attendance of one or more of its mandatory schools, is usually served in a foreign country, away from your family, friends, church and other familiar points of reference. Your lifestyle will be much different from what you are used to at home, with less personal freedom, independence and outside input than you are used to. You may not be able to communicate in the language of the country you are staying in. In such circumstances it is so much easier to give in to spiritual pressure (real or imagined, and from leaders as well as peers).

Two books that should be read by anyone joining YWAM or similar organizations, are The Subtle Power of Spiritual AbuseOff-site Link by David Johnson and Jeff Vanvonderen, and Healing Spiritual AbuseOff-site Link, by Ken Blue.

At the very least, these books will help you be alert for potential problems (in YWAM or any other Christian ministry).

Again, all this does not mean such things are going on in all YWAM bases. (Note that years after my negative experiences, I again volunteered at a YWAM base in Amsterdam, and had a wonderful time). One thing to keep in mind is that YWAM is a huge organization within which you can encounter many cultural and spiritual differences, as well as many leadership styles. Even in a small country like the Netherlands there are huge differences between the ''feel'' and approach of the various YWAM bases.

Should you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.
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- Articles -
Moral government theology (hereafter MGT) first began to spread rapidly when Olson and Conn became regular speakers for Youth With A Mission (YWAM), which has since become one of the larger youth missionary organizations in the world. Contrary to YWAM's repeated denials that MGT was an important part of its teaching, it was in YWAM training that tens of thousands of students from the late 1970s through the 1980s, and some even into the 1990s, learned MGT (although today some YWAM leaders speak against MGT).3

Christian Interview with Dave Andrews: Advocating Christian AnarchyOff-site Link See these brief excerpts relating to Dave's excommunication from YWAM in Abuse in the ChurchOff-site Link
Christi-AnarchyOff-site Link, the provocatively titled new book from Australian author and Christian community leader, Dave Andrews, has fired much discussion both inside and outside the Christian community. In it he describes in detail his excommunication more than 20 years ago from worldwide Christian mission organisation, Youth With a Mission (YWAM). This narrative provides the impetus for Andrews's call for a total deconstruction and reconstruction of what it is to follow Jesus.

From his home in Queensland, Australia, Dave Andrews spoke to Shoot the Messenger's editor, Paul Mitchell.
Source: Shoot The MessengerOff-site Link, Dec. 1999

Christian Is That Really You, God? Hearing the Voice of GodOff-site Link Evaluation, quotes and comments by Rev. Greg Robertson
Christian My YWAM dazeOff-site Link Greg L. Robertson's testimony, as printed in Alan Gomes' book ''Lead Us Not Into Deception''
Christian Saturated in Abuse at YWAM MauiOff-site Link Walter Jones [pseudonym] recounts his experiences at the YWAM Maui DTS
Christian The ''Spiritual Mapping'' of YWAMOff-site Link Collection of articles and links: "There are certain corner stones which have made the "casting about by every wind of doctrine" and "spiritual abuse" possible in YWAM. It is important to understand some of the things on this web page if you really want to understand present, confusing trends and movements in YWAM and other organizations."
Christian Youth With A Mission and Theology: A HistoryOff-site Link by Walter Jones [pseudonym]
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- Books -        Click On Titles To Order At Discount           » More Books
Christian Christi-AnarchyOff-site Link by Dave Andrews. ReviewOff-site Link
Christi-AnarchyOff-site Link, the provocatively titled new book from Australian author and Christian community leader, Dave Andrews, has fired much discussion both inside and outside the Christian community. In it he describes in detail his excommunication more than 20 years ago from worldwide Christian mission organisation, Youth With a Mission (YWAM). This narrative provides the impetus for Andrews's call for a total deconstruction and reconstruction of what it is to follow Jesus.
Source: Interview with Dave Andrews, Shoot The MessengerOff-site Link, Dec. 1999

Christian Lead Us Not Into Deception: A Biblical Examination of Moral Government TheologyOff-site Link by Alan Gomes (Due to the large size of this PDF file, which is also hosted on a slow server, it may be easier to download it and read it locally than to read it online)
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- See Also -
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- Sites -
Christian Youth With A Mission - YWAMOff-site Link YWAM's official site
Christian YWAM AmsterdamOff-site Link Includes a DTS (Discipleship Training School), various international outreach ministries, an excellent youth ministry, "Light The City" (Street Evangelism), and STEM (Short Term Evangelism Ministries), etcetera. Very nice base and highly recommended.
Christian YWAM WarningOff-site Link Walter Jones [pseudonym], a former YWAMer, provides a strong warning about "Youth With A Mission" practices and theology. His site is currently offline, but two pertinent article are mirrored here:
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About this page:
Youth With A Mission (YWAM)
First posted: Nov. 1996
Last Updated: Dec. 2, 2001
Copyright: Apologetics Index
Link to: http://www.apologeticsindex.org/y05.html
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