Excellence Crucified

Back a few years ago, there was a television commercial by a well-known stockbrokerage firm whose catchphrase was, ”When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.” I could say that about quite a few people I know, but there’s one person in particular, a wise and somewhat hidden prophet, who when he talks, my ears perk up; and I listen. Carefully.

His name is Tom Bloomer, and he is International Provost of YWAM’s University of the Nations (UofN)—in fact God told him the new name for what had been called Pacific & Asia Christian University (PACU). I was there when he first shared it in 1988 at a YWAM Gathering in Manila, Philippines. This regional university was about to go worldwide.

Two of Tom’s gifts are wisdom and the ability to ‘see ahead and understand the implications of decisions we make’ (sort of like the men of Issachar, ‘who understood the times in which they lived, and knew what they should do.’ [1 Chron 12:32] Tom, when he speaks, shares carefully and only at the right time and the right place, always accompanied by a beautifully dry sense of humor.

Teaching the Word is the primary thrust of Tom’s ministry; the challenge before him is to discover what it means to love God not just with our heart, soul and strength, but with our minds as well. Tom’s hobbies include aerobic history, extreme gardening, and prophetic fifth-dimensional composting. That’s a bit of Tom for you. Here he is, speaking for himself . . .

“I want to share a principle that marks our university. I don’t think it is written down anywhere or recorded—it came from a revelation that I received when I went to get my Masters degree back in the 80s at a Christian university in America. In all their printed promotional materials (this was before we had websites), they spoke a lot about excellence and it was the same in other university catalogs. This was at the time when we were forming the UofN, so I was looking around to see what other Christian universities were doing—and not doing.

“In trying to figure out what they were saying about education, it seemed to me to be all about Excellence! Excellence! Excellence! ‘We train our students to be excellent; we want to be an excellent institution.’ This started to really irritate me and I couldn’t figure out why, because of course excellence is a wonderful value.

“And then I looked a little bit deeper. We want to be excellent because Jesus is excellent—everything he did on earth was excellent; everything he does now is excellent. And that is why we want to be excellent. I couldn’t argue with that. But it still irritated me. And I have to check these irritations because sometimes they are pretty fleshy. Other times they are like the holy irritation that the Apostle Paul felt when he saw Athens so full of idols.

“I was feeling that excellence was becoming an idol. I couldn’t figure it out. I was getting my Masters at an excellent school. And I wanted to perfect my own training as well. So I asked the Lord, ‘What is it about excellence that is irritating me?’

“And the Lord showed me this; ‘Yes, he was excellent, but he took his excellence to the cross and allowed it to be crucified, broken for the world.’ And that is the difference between wanting to be excellent and being excellent like Jesus, because Jesus took his excellence to the place of death; and allowed it to be broken and multiplied like bread to feed to the nations.

“I realized this is really what the life of Howard Malmstadt—my father-in-law—signified. He was emeritus professor of Chemistry at the University of Illinois, and left it, at the very top—age 55—to start the UofN along with Loren Cunningham. He could have gone to any university in the world and asked for any salary, any budget. But he went to found a new university.

“Howard took his worldwide reputation (he was considered to be the father of modern electronic and computerized instrumentation in chemistry), and let it be broken and buried. The word got out in the scientific community that he had joined a bunch of hippies in Hawaii. But he wanted to use his excellence for the nations.

“And today I think that is what the Lord has done with our UofN; it is a structure where you can become excellent in different fields; but then we can also show you ways to crucify that excellence.

“There was a movement in missions, which I think started in the 80’s (when a lot of other bad things started like disco music), and it kind of went like this: ‘Missions is your career and you should build your résumé.’ Today websites like LinkedIn try to do this for us. Well, I never tried to build my career—I guess I’m not very good at planning. But I ended up with the best job in the world, in the most interesting university in the world.

“I would encourage you that if you find yourself in some forgotten place; if you find yourself in a place that is overlooked by everyone and seems like nobody sees what you are doing, you’re probably right in the middle of the will of the Lord. Burtigny, a tiny village in Switzerland where I live, is to me the center of the world—not a forgotten place. The apostle Paul said it this way: That he was pouring out his life on the altar of sacrifice. It is the same principle.

“When Jesus took human form and came to earth, he did amazing things, yet only a small percentage of them are written down. But he did not stop there . . . “the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” [1 Cor 11:23] Maybe what we are supposed to remember is not just the bread but the fact that his body was broken. And if we follow him on that narrow path we will do the same. And the nations will be blessed.

“I think we have some of the most wonderful and capable people in the world in the UofN. Those who could be building their résumés and be making a lot of money. But that gets to be boring after a while (not that I know for sure, but I can imagine!) I want to encourage you on the path that you have already taken, to continue to follow Jesus in whatever and wherever he leads you. And I hope that he leads you to excellence. And I pray that he leads you to ways and strategies to crucify that excellence and bless the nations!”
Copyright Thomas A. Bloomer, 1990

As Tom said, ” . . . Jesus took his excellence to the cross and he allowed it to be crucified, broken for the world.”

Let’s think about that. Crucify that which my whole purpose in life is heading towards? We’re taught at an early age to aim for excellence, to do the very best that we can (given the ‘tools’ we have).

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame . . . “[Hebrews 12: 1b-2a]

From YWAM E-Touch March, 2016 Edition

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