“We are praying for more fruit, that is our deep desire. But there are conditions for bearing more fruit, and one of them is dying.
Another is pruning, to change the image – any experienced gardener will confirm that correct pruning is the key to bearing much fruit – and pruning is also the only regular maintenance needed for mature plants.
YWAM is mature, at 60, and we have also been in a season of rapid growth – actually, wild and unchecked growth. The factor that concerns me is the number of small ministries and tiny bases that are not bearing much fruit. They should be pruned.
We are called to work in teams
For example, I know personally one committed, lovable couple who have been trying to pioneer a base in a European country for several years now, with no staff. They have teenage children, work outside jobs due to inadequate support, and have tried to run DTS’s with 2-3-4 students. They have 2 apartments for the ministry, which has worked until now because they house DTS outreach teams targeting their big city and that’s how they have paid the rent.
But that phase is over . . . and not just for a few weeks. The world has turned . . . and will never again be the way that it was. We have not been this way before.
The other worrying trend is small teams, sometimes only a couple, going out to pioneer YWAM in some place. Sometimes they have children, and/or one of them has to work at least half-time. They proclaim that they are pioneering YWAM, but in too many cases it’s not working. There is no fruit.
Both trends are failing because they are trying to operate outside of our anointing: YWAM is teams. Not a couple. A couple all alone in a city cannot be YWAM, by definition. Apparently, each of these couples has been “released” by a YWAM leader somewhere; but letting people do what they want to is not leadership. It is irresponsible.
All of these so-called ministries should be pruned. The people should be recalled to join growing ministries and bases, or released to begin the long and difficult preparation to be influential in the spheres.
Are you called, knowledgeable and equipped to impact other spheres?
Most YWAMers are not qualified to have an influence in a sphere: they have nothing to say. A symptom of this lack of preparation is the unprofessional manner that many betray when they try to sign up on LinkedIn. It would be funny, if it weren’t so pitiful.
In September 2019 I gave a word at our big (for Switzerland) charismatic conference, to the effect that a wave of judgment would soon sweep the world; and that this time, Switzerland would not be spared (as it was in 1914-18 and 1939-45). This word was well received, and I was able to lead in a time of prayer for 90 minutes afterward, consisting entirely of confessing the sins of the nation. I shared this word with the leaders of YWAM in francophone Switzerland a few weeks later, and it was well received by that group also.
What I did not see, nor never imagined, was that the coming economic judgment would be precipitated by a worldwide pandemic.
Sometimes smaller means more fruit
So, YWAM is now being pruned: conferences, schools, outreaches, everything. It is not a selective pruning of our choice, it is massive, universal, blunt-force pruning.
My conclusion, and hope, is that we would not resist the pruning. We need to be ready to let ministries and bases die, and not try to keep them on life support.
The severe pruning has already begun; but if we collaborate with the Master Gardener we will enter into a season where we are smaller and more nimble, but able to bear much more fruit.
Since the whole Church, and our nations, are also being severely pruned, wide doors of ministry will open up rapidly. The potential in this new season is mind-blowing.
We need to be praying, and acting, to see that our Redeemer will do what He does best. We know that our Redeemer lives.
What is meant by pruning?
Which branches should be pruned, both in our lives and in our ministries?
First, the dead and dying: what is not bearing fruit? Are all of your activities actually reaching and ministering to people? Even if there is growth, activity and noise, they do not necessarily mean fruit, they may even mask the lack of it. We love vision and challenges and mobilization in YWAM, but is this exciting thing we are hearing about actually bearing fruit?
Resolving intractable conflict (like Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15)
Second, branches rubbing against each other: they will eventually scape the protective bark off and open the plant up to disease. Do you see two people continually in conflict? Healthy disagreement if fine (iron sharpens iron), but constant conflict hurts morale and eventually destroys hope. How to tell when one of them has to go? When their conflicts start to negatively affect those around them, one of them has to go. In Genesis 13.5-11, we see that Abram and Lot had to separate because of constant conflict between their followers. Separation is not a sin; it can often prevent a situation from degenerating to the point of bitter infighting and jealousy.
Some of our oldest activities should be closed down
Third, pruning often consists of not just shortening a bush, giving it a haircut; but for many bushes, especially mature ones, we remove one third of the oldest growth every year, cutting from the bottom. So, the bush is opened up to air circulation, reducing the risk of airborne diseases. Check out your oldest ministry activities: are they still bearing fruit?
A caution: avoid the temptation of immaturity, to simply sweep away everything that went before, to be able to start over with a clean slate: the old wine is best!
Fourth, the opening up of a plant lets the light in; and new growth occurs where light can strike the branches. In recent years, a new pruning technique is being recommended, called ‘well of light’. For fruit trees and for most free-standing roses, it involves cutting out the centre branches completely, leaving a basket-shaped plant whose walls are the exterior branches. To get an idea, hold out your hand palm up, and spread your fingers: you see how the light can now easily reach the centre of the plant, and bring forth new life on the branches.
In our early days, we used to talk a lot about ‘walking in the light’, in other words keeping short accounts with our sins. In many of our staff and community gatherings, we would wait before the Lord and ask the Spirit to show us if we were holding anything against a brother or a sister; and we would not go on with the meeting until everyone had the opportunity to go and quietly ask forgiveness. When was the last time you did this in your community? Are you walking in the light? Or in old hurts and misunderstandings and suspicions?
Jesus said the Sabbath was mandated for our sake
There is an enormous amount of travel, meetings, conferences, constant scurrying about in the Church; when I teach young leaders, they are always amazed to hear me emphasize the Sabbath. Many of them have never heard any teaching about it. I was struck by the Facebook post from Al Akimoff: “We neglected the Sabbath for so many years; and now the Sabbath has come to us.”
Yes, we are all in an enforced season of rest, of pruning. I saw it coming last December but saw it an only an economic judgement; never imagining that the worldwide recession (or depression) would be kicked off by a pandemic. I also thought that It would be somewhat voluntary, and that we would have time to put it into place.
Instead, it is involuntary, brutal, and massive.
It may seem brutal, but…
Beginning gardeners underestimate just how severe a good pruning job must be. We have a saying: “Let your neighbour prune your rosebushes.” This is because we are all tempted to be sentimental, and to not prune nearly enough.
The Master Gardener is not sentimental, He lives in a ‘well of light’. In His love, He will prune and even judge severely: see Isaiah 5.1-7. Sometimes this is the only thing that can bring us back to total dependence on Him.
Already, our conferences, schools, seminars, outreaches, and community life meetings are being severely pruned. But we must be ready to accept the pruning away of many of our ministries, and even bases.
Let us embrace what the Lord is doing: the final result can be that we will be able to bear more fruit than ever, much more.
Burtigny, 27 March 2020”
Copyright 2020 Thomas A. Bloomer
Dear Mr Bloomer
Thank you for sharing with us the word of the Lord regarding pruning on April 13th. It was good also to read your statement above.
I am a South African, 13 years your junior. I was in Ywam during the 80’s, went along some other roads and returned about 30 months ago.
As I was listening to you speak, I could identify with pruning, as I am a Horticulturist by education.I do not wish to add to the word of the Lord, but may I share some insights regarding this. Maybe some other angles that might be useful for us as a mission to explore.
When we talk about pruning, there are a number of factors involved, many of them you mentioned already. Each can be explored for its own richness of interpretation.
1. Cutting away of dead and diseased wood
2. Pruning to allow sunlight in
3. Pruning for shape and form. If the tree gets too big, we are not able to pick the fruit or too wide, we do not have access to the other trees.
4. Quality and quantity of fruit. Less fruit on a tree often equals better quality of the rest. Often fruit numbers are reduced after the formation of fruit, especially where a cluster develops.
5. The number of fruit is also reduced to prevent over bearing, causing branches to get heavy and break.
But the other angle I would like to put to you, is that of the farmer not only focussing on an individual tree, but that of the whole orchard (farm).
In Southern Africa, most of our fruit trees are grafted onto a rootstock, that has proven itself to be drought resistant, disease resistant and well-suited for our soil conditions.
Now what sometimes happen, is that this root stock, not known for its great fruit, but its root system itself, with a good graft is planted. As time goes by, it sprouts a branch. This branch is then allowed to grow (due to ignorance or mismanagement) and overtakes the rest of the tree. While this will not happen on a productive farm, because the people are trained to recognize this shoot and then nip it in the bud. On small holdings and in villages, where fruit is not grown commercially, people are reluctant to cut off a branch or shoot that grows so well, thinking it must be part of the fruit tree itself, just to discover that very little, if any and poor quality fruit is produced.
The other scenario is the following. Many people (not aware of grafting), eat a lovely peach, then they plant that seed, hoping to get delicious fruit from it. But due to a poor root system, the tree carries diseases, is not drought resistant and therefore produces a poor specimen of a tree. Needless to say, the quality of fruit is not great.
In the first scenario, a farmer can cut it back to the rootstock and graft another branch onto it again. This is however very risky and needs a lot of tender care, as it is exposed to the elements. This is not impossible, but very time consuming.
The second scenario: You can prune and cultivate this tree as much as you like, but it will not produce the desired fruit.
A farmer would rather remove both these trees from his land. This reduces the risk of disease and unwanted labour and expenses on these trees. The land can be better utilized or new trees, with the right grafting, can be planted.
Deep, aggressive pruning, might not be enough in many situations.
I trust that this might help some people to make some of those hard decisions. I have not even touched on the whole aspect of the specific location of the tree, even a good tree, can be severely affected by its micro environment.
May the Lord help you to make sense of this information. It may or may not be applicable to Ywam.
Yours in Christ
Thanks Flip for your insights. Yes, when I have more time to talk on ‘Kingdom Principles from my Garden’ I emphasize the right choice of plants for each situation, and the necessity to be ready to move plants if necessary. Even though my garden is small, around 150 square meters, I have 10 different micro-climates which vary widely in terms of sunlight, temperature, wind exposure, etc.