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

The History of Lausanne

Video

The Lord led Loren and Darlene to begin YWAM’s schools in Lausanne in order that we might pick up some pf the mantles that had fallen to the ground here: hospitality, Christian university, nonformal education for sacrificial ministry exemplified in the school of Antoine Court, and teaching the nations. This 1989 video is an introduction to these domains.

One mistake; the original bishop’s residence was the smaller building seen toward the end of the video; the fortress seen at the beginning was built centuries later.

An omission: around the feet of the statue of Justice there are four human heads, representing the Pope, the king, the emperor, and the sultan. The statue was done by a French Huguenot refugee, to emphasize the truth that all people are under the Law and subject to judgement, and that the powerful are not exempt.

Tom Bloomer, Burtigny, July 2019

 

Dissertation summary

I did this summary to highlight some of the problems of our  mission in 1998-99.

The good news is, we took the right fork in the road in 2002-2003, and
we’re headed in the right direction.

Link to full dissertation available here (PDF).

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A CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP

This article is a summary of my Ph.D. dissertation:
“Formative Educational Experiences of Experientially-Qualified Leaders”,
copyright 1999 by Thomas A. Bloomer

A crisis of leadership exists in the world. Many agree on the need for
better leaders, and even on what their qualities should be. A recent
development seen in government, the Church, and especially in business,
is that leadership no longer rests on formal qualifications, such as
diplomas or academic degrees. The practitioners have come to agree with
the theorists, that leadership development is not helped by formal
academic study. What counts are results, the bottom line, and people
everywhere want leaders who can produce.

But the question then becomes, how are these leaders developed? If
formal education doesn’t really help, what does? Research has not shown
any direct links in leadership with heredity, social class, or specific
personality traits.

Since YWAM was one of the first missions which has no education
requirement for its leaders, YWAM’s leaders are a good group to study to
answer the question, How do people who are not educated for leadership
come to be leaders? YWAM has been incredibly innovative over its past 40
years, and another question was, do YWAM’s leadership development
practices favor innovation?

All 35 members of YWAM’s Global Leadership Team (GLT) were interviewed
in August-September 1998 using an ethnographic research strategy, and
the answers were systematically analyzed and summarized.

When asked how they themselves because leaders, almost all said that
they became leaders by being put into leadership. They also said that
they were trusted, believed in, encouraged, and released. Other
important factors mentioned were the calling and enabling of God, and
role models.

Then other factors were asked about. When prompted, many agreed that
suffering experiences, family, and YWAM community were important to
their leadership preparation. Surprisingly unimportant to most were
spouses, local church experiences, and mentors. Leadership theory was
confirmed here: formal education had almost nothing to do with YWAM
leaders becoming leaders.

When asked how they work now with younger leaders, a variety of
different strategies were noted, varying with the gifting and
personality of each one. Most of these strategies were nonformal, and
they could have much potential if followed up, written down, and
multiplied throughout the mission. But systematizing and intentionally
multiplying these experientially-based lessons does not seem to be one
of the strengths of this kind of leader.

The answers given lined up well with the factors that favor innovation
in organizations: relationships, trust, freedom of action, strong
leadership that is not authoritarian, and a high tolerance of risk. And
another question revealed that most of the GLT were visionary leaders
focussed on releasing young leaders.

However, less than half said that they consciously looked for ways to
give leadership to young leaders, even though that was how they were
prepared. Most did say that they consciously encouraged young leaders
whenever they could. But overall, YWAM leaders do not seem to have fully
grasped the value of the way they themselves were released.

HARDER?

Although the mission’s values seem to have been impacted by the
experiences of the leadership, and some of its policies as well (such as
the DTS requirement and structure), its practices have not always been
shaped as much by these formational experiences. When asked
specifically, most GLT members said that the kind of leadership
preparation experiences they had had were not always available to others
in the mission, and also that it was harder to become a leader in YWAM
now than it was when they first came in.

This statement by one senior GLT member was chilling: “If you go to some
YWAM bases, you will never become a leader.”

Although a minority of the GLT was positive about trends in YWAM that
still release young leaders, most recognized that every symptom of an
aging organization that stifles creativity can be found in YWAM:
departmentalization, hierarchical structures, unclear or slow decision
processes, turf-conscious leaders, increasing relationship problems
marked by backbiting and suspicion of others, refusal to accept
responsibility, greater divisions between leaders and staff and staff
and students, increasing distance between policies and values and actual
practice, conflict suppression, risk-taking either avoided or
exaggerated, excess personnel in some places and a cruel lack in others,
tolerance of incompetence, unclear goals, overcontrol,
overcentralization, resistance to accountability, low motivation,
personal stagnation, and obsolescence of products and processes.

Paul McKaughan, head of the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association in
the USA, had this compliment, and question, for YWAM: “It is probably
the most significant seed bed for leadership in the Christian movement
today… So many people of vision now in pastorates and other leadership
positions have been impacted by and have come out of that ministry. It
is this that makes YWAM one of the most influential movements in our
Christian world today. The question is, can they sustain it in the 21st
century?”

And the answer to that sobering question, from the mouths of YWAM’s
Global Leadership Team, is “No.”
Unless changes are made, the processes already at work in our mission
will lead us irresistibly toward increasing fragmentation, stagnation,
and ineffectiveness.

If radical changes are made, we could still fulfill our potential of
becoming a truly transformational global mission.

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