YWAM 60th 2020, A Time to Die

“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.

One hundred-fold.

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!

More light!

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

The Farm

The farm… what images surge into the memory, mostly ­forgotten faces and
moments now recalled and bittersweetened by the impending sale of the old
place. Watching the three cousins run into the old house, out to the big
shed, over to the huge old cottonwood that now shelters the Boys’ Club, down
to the riverbank, one thinks of other pictures in earlier years…

Marty riding out into the hills on her horse after school, big dog by her

Janet and Ellen giggling over girls’ secrets by the trumpet vine that ran
all over the old henhouse.

Petey peeing over the edge of the roof, the yellow stream falling just a few
feet in front of his big sister and her date getting romantic on the porch

Granddad walking out to the pasture with his huge hoe, declaring total war
on the last of the thistles.

Grandmom ringing the big bell on the hill so that the men would come in from
the fields for dinner.

The pig roasting under the lean-to all of one night, only to be declared
uncooked by the ladies, the following day. Pete and Jack, having stayed up
all night with the pig, not in a mood for raw pork jokes.

Four cousins marching in a file over the hill, none of them yet four feet
tall, a small militant army bent on the conquest of a summer morning.

Three city kids trapped in a barn by a bunch of hungry cows, trying to get
rid of them by throwing ears of corn down at them — they couldn’t figure
out why it didn’t work.

Granddad on the porch swing on a summer evening, telling stories about the
river, stories we’d heard many times before and wanted-to hear again.

Five cousins looking for snakes or river-pearls or fishooks or other
treasures along the riverbank, finding mostly mud.

Women in the kitchen, cooking and serving in the oldest dance, the arcane
rituals that determine who does what, partners changing with the
generations, equipment fancier, no more hand pump or flour barrel in there,
but the same purposeful bustle,the same loading of the table to its limit
with midwestern feasts.

You can see the new daughters-in-law, or the young girls, trying to work
their way in to this dance, anxious about it or not according to their
temperaments… this is one way a girl starts to leave childhood, at least
in our family, and starts to learn how to serve, the longest lesson and the
hardest we ever have to learn over and over and over again. The women new to
the family fit in here, in the kitchen, get over the surface politeness, do
one thing well and then find their place among the others.

It’s good training, because few of the men and none of the boys notice the
hours of work that go into these meals. It helps the young women to get
ready to raise their own kids, who won’t notice either what they do for
them, for at least thirty years (if then) after the violence of their
births. The women learn, and it is one of the sources of their incredible
strength, that you don’t serve for the recognition or the gratitude or to
get something back… you serve because that’s the way it is, the women have
got to care for the men, and the children too, and that’s how the world
runs. Hungry people need to be fed, and that’s what you do first, not second
or third or when you feel like it or when your self-actualization program
can schedule it in.

The kitchen at the farm has seen so many of these meals, seen the women turn
in their graceful minuet from stove to counter to sink to table, heard the
call to dinner, the chatter of the children arguing about where to sit, then
finally the silence of Grace as the table creaks under the good things and
the family eats together again, one more time.

Fire, air, earth and water were said by the ancients to be the primal
elements of existence. Are these why the Farm exerts such an attraction,
especially for small children? Many of the well­loved activities there are
actually quite uncomfortable: riding in the back of a bouncing pickup truck,
hiking through the stifling and scratchy woods, swimming in one of the more
polluted rivers of America, playing in buildings and corners beloved of
wasps and spiders. Why do so many children prefer the primeval discomforts
of Calhoun to the sophisticated pleasures of the suburbs?


Water is the River, the life, always there and ever changing, home to
myriad fish, birds, snakes, mussels, and even stranger creatures, especially
on the weekends: the waterskiers, houseboaters, and non-serious fishermen
who come out then to play on its waters. But its real work is carrying the
huge barges on its shoulders, pulling the solitary logs downstream,
supporting the ‘river rats’ who would do anything on or in or about the
water, as long as it didn’t seem too much like work. The River bounds off
this county on three sides, isolating it so that its identity is that of
another Kingdom, whose residents, most of them, are so independent in their
existence that they fiercely resist the building of a second bridge: the
bribe of mere economic prosperity is not at all worth having a Trojan horse
just to the south, a suspect structure that will bring in city folk and
other undesirables.

When the River surges out of its banks and sullenly invades the fields,
houses, and even the towns of the people of the Kingdom, it is treated as
the hulking unruly adolescent of the family. People don’t criticize it, or
even think it’s the fault of the River — it is there, to be lived with and
reckoned with, an elemental reality of their existence. Riding the ferries,
living out the floods, talking about the levees and the bottom land, that’s
what we do here. And you know you’re almost home when you cross the one
bridge, or pull your car onto one of the four ferries, and see the River
under you, flowing surely and silently in its power and constancy.

Water is also the pond on the farm, the spring, the old wells now covered
over where Granddad taught boys not to be impatient and drink the can of
water down, but to use it to prime the pump and have cool water, lots of
water, as much as you want on an August day. What a lesson. Did we remember
all that we should have of that one?

The one goldfish lived in the water tank for the cattle, staying there
through several winters, eating Lord knows what, until another Lord knows
what ate him. Water is running down to that brown river after haying all
day, jumping off the dock and into delicious coolness.
Before air conditioners, jumping into the river water was about the only
alternative to the tropical heat and summer humidity that sometimes engulf
the valley of the Illinois.


Earth is the farm, the rich black dirt of the bottom land, the fine gray
glacier dust that just covers the limestone hillsides. It is learning the
abacus of hoeing a field, stacking hay, plowing. The mingled terror and
exhilaration of learning to drive a tractor, then a truck, then even a car.
Granddad teaching as he walked about the plants, the birds, the Indians who
were not so long gone from the land.
He could find more arrowheads than all the rest of us put together, could
fill his hat more quickly with berries, could capture the mushrooms
single-handed. (He said it was because we made too much noise in the woods,
and the mushrooms heard us coming and hid. We knew that was ridiculous,
being teenagers by then and too grown up for many of his stories; but
somehow our sophistication didn’t help out there on the edges of the old
orchards, when we couldn’t find a single one and he came home with pounds
and pounds of them.)

Understanding the lot of the farmer, the despair at falling prices or
drought that burns up the young plants… the fierce pride of not having a
boss or a time clock to punch. Nobody tells you what to do, and you can work
18 hours a day for less than the minimum wage, with zero benefits, to your
heart’s content. That’ll show ’em. But Granddad did know how to stop and lie
down in a pasture with his hands behind his head and look at the cloud
shapes for a while. (Did this have anything to do with his living to age

Cattle are of the earth, beautiful in their way, stupid also, interested
mostly in eating. We saw Granddad bang their horns with a shovel when they
started pushing too close around the feed wagon. But when he went to move
them to another pasture, he stood by them and called. Then waited. Then
called again. Then waited. They looked up him from their grazing, then
returned to it. He called a last time, and started walking, not looking
back, and they followed. We boys wanted to drive them, with shouts and
sticks at least (lacking horses). But he didn’t have to drive–just called.
Wish we’d all learned that lesson,too.

Fire is another thing we learned at the Farm. Building them on the beach of
Rocky Bar, whether for a family meal or to burn up the trash down there or
just to have a fire. The family fish frys were an intense kaleidoscope of
experiences, rides in the boat, jumping off the dock, smelling the fish and
hotdogs as they were cooking, eating watermelon on the beach it was OK to
spit seeds at your cousins then you threw the rinds into the river. Dozens
of people around, most of them relatives, but others too, because neither
Grandmother nor her daughters could stand to let lonely people sit home by
themselves. Afterward, much later, it was time to roast marshmallows, burn
yourself a bit too, turn them into glorious carbon torches and protest that
you liked them that way. Then you’d see an aunt toast one to a perfect
golden brown and think ‘I can do that’ and try it, and realize that there
are levels of patience that lie beyond, far beyond, where you are or even
want to go.

Fire was fireworks on the Fourth of July, on a lot of other days too.
They’re not too legal on this side of the state line, but Missouri is just
across the other River. Boys don’t make jokes about Missouri, knowing full
well that God put it there because of the Cardinals, Jesse James, and
fireworks stands: Missouri is necessary to existence.
After all, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn lived just over thataway, didn’t they?
At the Farm the boys get to light their own fireworks, girls too, if they
want to. None of this watching distant displays, or infinitely worse, having
your parents do it while you have to stand so far away that you can’t feel
the sting of the fuse burning near your hand.

The Pied Piper and the Fourth-of-July uncle, who was born that day and
appreciates its essence more than anyone else, combine their considerable
energies on the Fourth to produce wondrous bags full of enough bombs,
rockets, flares, candles, sparklers and other explosives to supply a
hyperactive army. The air is thick with smoke and explosions — must have
been like this at the Battle of Gettysburg. The rocket’s red glare is no
longer just a phrase in the old song, but reality as one zips past your ear.
Finally, after your head is ringing and your hands slightly burnt, peace
comes again to the Farm, broken only by the mothers’ sighs of relief, and
the plaintive eternal lament of the kids, “Aren’t there any more

Rifles fire. And the Farm is where you got to learn to fire them.
Granddad and the fathers and uncles suddenly serious, no longer tolerant of
any horseplay at all, the weight of the gun heavy on your mind. Once more
the crack of the explosion, the smell of powder, the small burn as you pick
up an ejected shell too quickly. Power… the main interest of boys. Power
and adulthood all wrapped up in a rifle.
You start to get convinced of the destructive capacity of that thunderstick,
as cans and bottles and targets are pulverized. The Farm is where you learn
about fire.


Air in your face as you zoom down the highway, hanging onto whatever seemed
most solid on the old tractor… after a long hot day in the field, looking
forward to the big oval table covered with serving dishes, proud inside to
be counted as one of the working men of the family, no longer just a boy.

Air hammering your body as you hang on for dear life to a towrope behind a
speedboat, trying to stay upright as most of your relatives watch your first
try on waterskis… the tremendous pull of the centrifugal force as you dare
to go outside the wake for the first time, arms surely ready to come out of
their sockets by now, finally getting upright and running and a little
confident, managing a wave to the folks on shore, then whap! the skis hit a
submerged stick and you flip end over end onto the unforgiving surface of
the water . . . but the family forgives.

Air of a soft breeze coming off the river at dusk, the colors of the water
changing as the sun sets behind the ancient bluffs, air gently stirring the
ashes of a dying campfire as the conversation, no more confrontational or
even teasing, slides toward reflection and longer thoughts.

Air of a sudden summer thunderstorm jumping over the western ridge, coming
at you with the unexpected force of a freight train arriving on a quiet
track. The smell of the rain stronger at the Farm than anywhere else in the

The Pied Piper is a personage of indeterminate age who lives somewhere near
the farm, owns lots of fascinating motorized vehicles, and is ever ready for
Adventure. Parents are always uneasy in his presence, sensing with their
God-given radar his lack of concern for Appearances, Standards, Rules, and
Seriousness. Not that he’s a bad person: he worked all his life, provided
well for his family, ushers at church, votes Republican (says he does,
anyway), belongs to the VFW… it’s just that parents know that certain
guys, or gals, that their kids want to hang out with are not bound by the
regular conventions. Nor certain uncles. Sometimes parents are wrong about
these things, but more often than not, they’re right on target.
Because the Pied Piper is serious about play. He learned about it early
(from his father?), and, contrarywise to other adults, never forgot how.

Kids know this, somehow, because they have radar too, and will follow him
anywhere. Especially, but not only, the boys. Funny that someone who deeply,
naturally, instinctively in the fiber of his very being understands boys so
well never had a son; or was this deprivation God’s giving, and his, to so
many nephews, cousins, boyfriends of his four daughters?

Would you like to go hunting frogs at midnight? Shoot a chicken and barbecue
it at 2 A.M.? Go to a ball game in St. Louis? Have a real good argument? Do
donuts on the ice in a pickup truck? See how close you can come with your
motorboat to a moored barge? Race a heron across the river? Just jump in the
truck or boat or on the tractor or whatever, and we’ll go try it! Bedtime,
dinnertime, sadtime, all evaporate in the presence of the Pied Piper …and
he’s one of the reasons the kids love this place.

Water, Earth, Fire, Air — the elements of existence. On the Farm you learn
about these things in ways you never can in the cities, or in the ‘burbs.
The limits imposed on children in civilized places necessarily fence them in
closer: you swim in a pool, build a fire in a fireplace only, drive when
you’re 16 and not before. But protecting children from these things just
postpones the inevitable: isn’t it better for them to learn the true limits
a bit earlier, surrounded by aunts and uncles and cousins and Farm? The
nagging and persistent rules that so hamstring children seem to be fewer at
the Farm, mostly, and there’s an air of freedom to go hiking, rivering,

Family — the fifth elemental reality. At the best of times, our family has
been marked by acceptance — something we learned (or were sposed to) from
Granddad. You could go there, and there was no school, no homework, nobody
caring how you dressed (except for Church, that was another elemental
reality the children had to reckon with, and Grandmother who in some
undefined way seemed to be in charge of Church, not just for us but for
everyone else on Sunday morning too).

At the Farm you were home…you belonged, because you were part of the
family, and you felt in some way that the house and the barns and the land
and the river beach all belonged to you, too, and to the whole family. You
never felt like you were intruding on someone else’s space or time or
program… this was a place where there was space and time for kids, in ways
that didn’t exist back where you had just come from.
You were accepted at the Farm because you were you, no other reason, that
one was good enough, really it was the best one, in fact the only one that
counted. There was no place else in the world where you had that feeling,
and sometimes you needed it, and missed it, pretty badly in fact.

Sometimes our family forgets the how and the why of unconditional
acceptance, and the dark tensions, unspoken hurts, half-understood
aloofnesses can make the Farm a place to flee rather than to want to come
to, a Victorian pressure cooker rather than a homely house of refuge. Are we
already starting to forget what Granddad taught us, not in formal lessons
but in aimless talk around the table, in smiles, in greetings, in hugs? When
the Farm is sold, will we retreat into our own spaces and times, and reach
out even less?

Steering a truck down a country lane for the first time, in the lap of his
father who has his feet on the pedals and his hands an inch from the wheel,
an eight-year-old cries “Yippee! I’m a man!” He realizes in his mind that
it’s not true, he’s a long ways from there; but there’s a feeling you get
when the limits are pushed back, when you can do things unthinkable in other
places; when the fear is moderated by the security of acceptance: that’s the
feeling of pure joy that seems to be resident more at the Farm than anywhere
else in the wide world

Water, Earth, Fire, Air — and Family. They exist everywhere, there’s
actually no escaping them anywhere. But they swirl together and meet in
different ways on the Farm… the bluffs and currents form a vortex for
growing up not just fast, but well. The best crop at the Farm is children.

How Did YWAM Love Feasts Begin?

In 1971 at YWAM Lausanne, there were a couple of serious accidents on Sunday afternoons. When Loren and Darlene Cunningham sought the Lord as to the reason, they understood Him to be saying He would restore His protection when there was a new commitment to His holiness, especially concerning Sabbath observance.

There were a few other key influences during the same period.

One was a visit from two sisters of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Darmstadt, who were surprised at the unruliness of mealtimes. They suggested that meals should be times of peace, quietness, and relationship.

Another teaching from the sisters that deeply marked us was their emphasis on never letting the sun go down on one’s anger. Before going to bed, each one of them would check with the Holy Spirit to see if forgiveness should be asked of anyone else in their community. And they would write notes making things right, and slip them under the person’s bedroom door.

This teaching fit perfectly with a teaching of Joy Dawson’s message on “The Sin of Achan” (Joshua 7), that the sin of one person can prevent the Lord’s blessing on the community. We were so hungry to meet with the Lord at each Love Feast, that everyone would take time to seek Him on Friday afternoon to ask if there was any unconfessed sin in their lives, especially anything hindering relationships. And on a nice day, you would see people sitting two-by-two on the front lawn, asking forgiveness of one another and praying together.

And the Lord honoured these small steps of obedience, and met with us powerfully as we made time and space for the Holy Spirit at the Love Feast.

Reona Peterson-Joly had been teaching Orthodox Jewish children. She shared how these families observed the Sabbath: the house was cleaned from top to bottom to purge it of leaven; there was no work on the Sabbath day; the Sabbath began the night before with the best meal of the week, and most of all, there was a total focus on the Lord.

Another key influence at that time was Joe and Judi Portale’s return to the base from Czechoslovakia. There they participated in a 250 – year old Moravian tradition: the ‘love feast’, which consisted of passing around bread and telling each person what they meant to them, and how they loved them.

The Cunninghams proceeded to restore the Sabbath by adapting the Jewish traditions to YWAM Lausanne:

No work on Sunday — so the noon meal was usually cold, to reduce the kitchen work.
No sports or hard play — this wasn’t a legalistic rule, but an outworking of the commitment to ‘turn your foot from your own pleasure on the Sabbath’.
The Sabbath was a day of quiet, rest, walks in the forest, and concentration on the Lord.
To prepare for the Sabbath, we had a love feast on Saturday evenings.
The tables were beautifully decorated with candles, centerpieces, and flowers. The best meal of the week was prepared, everybody dressed up, and we set place cards so people wouldn’t always sit next to their same friends all the time.

There was a sense of expectancy and holiness that whole day. Students and staff both prayed for hours during the afternoon for the love feast. People would go and knock on each other’s doors, to confess things to one another and ask forgiveness. Nobody wanted to be an obstacle to the Lord’s meeting with us that evening.

The children also had their own special meal with decorations, but it was earlier so they could be put to bed and the parents could be free to fully participate in the love feast.

Each week a different group would take responsibility for serving everyone else. Sometimes there were special songs and music but it was oriented toward worship, not entertainment. At the end of the meal, the love feast leader gave a meditation on one aspect of the character of God. Then we went straight into a time of worship, still seated around the tables.

The worship was not directed from up front, anybody could lead out in prayer, read a passage of Scripture, start a song, etc. The worship would last at least an hour, or even two. Nobody wanted to leave. We waited upon God together, in His Presence. In other words, it was a vertically, and horizontally, oriented meal.

YWAM Lausanne learned to worship God during the love feasts (because as late as 1974, we didn’t know how to worship yet, we had ‘singing’).

From Lausanne the love feast spread to other YWAM bases, then in 1974 the Cunninghams took it to Hawaii, and it went around the YWAM world. Later, as Jannie Rogers has said, “The god of the weekend stole it away.” He’s pretty powerful …. and it’s true, it was a tremendous amount of work. The hospitality crew would spend most of Friday to prepare the tables, and they prayed about the seating, even which singles to seat together (really!). Just folding the napkins took ten people a full hour. As base leader, I took the whole of Friday afternoon to prepare the meditation for the love feast.

In more recent times in YWAM, ‘love feast’ has come to mean any meal that’s a bit different from the normal ones. Such as the ‘love feast’ we attended at one base which consisted of a buffet, then everyone sharing their most embarrassing experience. No worship, no mention of the Lord; and the Holy Spirit didn’t even visit that one.

Fun nights are great. Most bases could use more of these kinds of evenings, they’re tremendously important in community-building. But let’s not call them ‘love feasts’, OK? Throughout the history of the Church, that term has meant a community meal which is lived in true fellowship and in the presence of the holiness of God.

Loren and Darlene did a great job of adapting the Biblical and Jewish Traditions to the YWAM culture of the early 1970’s. Now we need someone to re-adapt them for postmodern youth. What could a love feast look like for Millennials? It should be different from what we had going for those years in Lausanne, but it would of course include the emphasis on beauty, fellowship, solemn joy, and the holy Presence of God.

When you receive the vision from Higher Up, please invite me once. I’d like to see what it looks like.

Love Feast Beginnings: Thomas A. Bloomer, 1998;
Printed February 23, 2005
2019 UofN Reference Guide. Copyright © 2005 by YWAM/UofN;
Revised 2015, 2017 - Page 128

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