The Haywagon Story

I realize it’s a bit long, but if you’ve never heard this it’s worth the read. The beam I’m holding, below,is the last remaining piece of the haywagon.

Since it’s a perfect example of the death-of-the-vision principle, it’s a resurrection tale as well.

In early 1974 Loren was in prayer at the Lausanne base, and received what seemed like an unusual word from God: to pray for a farm. Unusual, because farms in Switzerland were virtually impossible to come by; they are almost always family-owned, passed down through the generations and very rarely ever sold. Without any possibilities in sight, Loren nevertheless held fast to what he believed God had told him.

Then he heard that all the equipment of the farm across the road from the YWAM base was going to be auctioned off. The Lord spoke again: “Go to the auction, and buy some farm equipment; because I’m going to give you a farm.” In obedience, Loren took a step of faith and bought a milk can, a roll of barbed wire, and an old, run-down hay wagon. The last item would prove to be more than simply symbolic.

One of the young Swiss staff members at the Lausanne base saw the hay wagon being pulled into the base parking lot. She was shocked to learn that Loren had paid 1,000 Swiss francs for it (as were several other staff). The next weekend she told her parents about Loren’s word about the hay wagon, the ridiculous price paid for it, and the word about receiving a farm in Switzerland. Her father listened with great interest, because he was on the board of a certain orphanage in a village called Burtigny! It was none other than La Maison. He approached the other board members, informing them that YWAM was praying for a farm and asked if they would consider the organisation as a possible candidate. This began a lengthy five-year process, during which the orphanage director repeatedly rejected the pastor’s proposal.

Loren left Switzerland in late 1974 to begin the Kona base in Hawaii, then Joe P. left Lausanne for Kona in 1976. But the francophone staff at the Lausanne base were convinced that the property and its farm was God’s provision and continued to press forward in prayer over the next years.

To make a long story short, the property was turned completely over to YWAM in 1979. It was debt-free, the freezers were full of food, and there was money in the bank. The property included a large central building, a fully-functioning small farm, a large professionally-equipped garden, a carpentry shop, a garage, a stone bread oven, several apartments, four barns, 18 Swiss cows, and their cowbells.

Four young Swiss couples left the Lausanne base and moved to Burtigny in November 1979. They held their first DTS there in 1980 and from the outset had a clear vision to see the training up of francophone youth into missions. YWAM Burtigny has strong links to French-speaking Africa. In keeping with the strong social legacy of the orphanage, the base also took to heart its call to Mercy Ministries on the local front. They took care of the aging staff who had faithfully worked in the orphanage, set up a counseling centre, worked in programs for the restoration of drug users and held regular Summers of Service and ministries with local churches.

The buildings were run down (the school wing was actually condemned), and we have been doing non-stop renovations ever since 1980, some quite extensive. YWAM has used the now modernized former orphanage as a training centre for short- and long-term missionaries, and by the time of the centennial of the buildings in 1999 we had trained as many young people as the number of orphans who had been sheltered here during the 80-year life of the orphanage.

Here’s the point: that small, seemingly insignificant step of faith (in reality a step of obedience) of Loren’s buying the hay wagon was the thing the Lord used to put us in touch with the board member who became our link to the orphanage director. And that first investment of 1,000 Swiss francs has been multiplied many thousands of times over. God is good!

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500 ans après la Réforme . . . et maintenant ?

Tom Bloomer
05/04/2017
Notes prises lors d’une rencontre communautaire

Nous célébrons le 500ème anniversaire de la réforme de Luther, et bien que beaucoup de personnes tout autour du monde prient pour une nouvelle réforme, la plupart ne savent pas réellement pourquoi ils prient. En quoi ce qui s’est passé il y a 500 ans nous concerne-t-il aujourd’hui ?

En tant que missionnaires, nous devrions étudier ce qui s’est passé durant la réforme, particulièrement à Genève, car il s’agit là de la transformation la plus profonde et la plus rapide d’une nation qui se soit produite dans toute l’histoire des missions. Ce n’est pas une chose facile que de transformer une nation, mais cette équipe de Français l’a fait. Ils n’étaient pas parfaits. Ils ont commis un bon nombre d’erreurs, mais ils ont accompli beaucoup plus qu’aucun autre groupe de personnes après eux durant ces 500 ans !

Réforme ou réveil ?

Qu’est-ce donc qu’une réforme ? En termes simples, « c’est lorsqu’une nation est transformée sur l’espace d’une génération, avec de nouvelles institutions, de nouvelles lois, une nouvelle vision du monde. » Une réforme est très différente d’un réveil. Un réveil devrait logiquement être la première étape de la transformation d’une nation. Mais dans la plupart des cas répertoriés par l’église, le réveil a profondément affecté l’Église, mais pas la nation dans son ensemble.

Un des premiers orateurs de nos écoles a été Duncan Campbell. Il avait pris part au réveil des Hébrides, en Écosse, où en allant dans une certaine vallée, on pouvait entendre chanter le chœur des anges. Et l’église était ouverte chaque nuit. Les non-chrétiens aussi bien que les chrétiens, lorsqu’ils se rendaient à l’église, tombaient à terre sur le bas-côté de la route sous la puissance de la présence du Saint-Esprit et la conviction de péché.

Beaucoup d’entre vous ont entendu parler du réveil au pays de Galles il y a environ 100 ans. Lors de ce réveil, on enseignait la restitution : en d’autres termes, si vous aviez volé quelque chose à quelqu’un, vous deviez le lui rembourser. Il y a eu aussi une puissante série de réveils avec Charles Finney en Amérique au 19ème siècle. Le plus puissant a eu lieu à Rochester, dans l’état de New-York. On dit qu’après ce réveil, durant plusieurs années les prisons étaient vides, tout simplement parce qu’il ne se commettait plus de crime. Les bars fermaient, parce que plus personne n’allait y boire. Récemment encore, Rochester était connue comme la ville la plus généreuse d’Amérique, celle qui possédait le plus haut niveau de libéralité par habitant.

Un réveil peut donc agir très profondément. Une définition du réveil est que les chrétiens sont « enflammés pour Dieu » et que les incroyants qui viennent les observer brûlent aussi. Dans un réveil, il y a aussi généralement une profonde conviction de péché et la confession. Certains réveils ont donné naissance à des institutions charitables telles que des hôpitaux et des orphelinats. Mais les lois et les institutions politiques ne sont que peu touchées, et le réveil ne dure souvent qu’une génération.

Coup de projecteur sur l’Écriture

Durant la 18e année du règne du roi Josias (2 Rois chapitres 22 et 23), alors qu’il était âgé de 26 ans, il s’est rendu compte d’une manière ou d’une autre que l’argent qui était censé servir à réparer le temple n’arrivait pas à destination. Il a donc pris les choses en main et mis de l’ordre dans le financement et l’exécution des réparations de tous les bâtiments du temple. Comme on nettoyait le temple, on a trouvé le livre de la loi dans la maison de Dieu. La plupart des commentateurs pensent qu’il s’agissait des cinq premiers livres de Moïse et de la Bible (le Pentateuque). Le roi a ordonné que ces rouleaux lui soient lus et, quand il a entendu ce qu’ils disaient, il a déchiré ses vêtements et a commencé à mener deuil, parce qu’il réalisait que les Israélites ne vivaient pas d’une manière conforme à la loi de Dieu. Le Seigneur a maintenu le jugement qu’il avait prononcé sur la nation, mais il promit d’épargner Josias à cause de sa justice. Alors Josias a commencé à briser les idoles un peu partout, et a purifié la nation de son idolâtrie. Josias a aussi restauré la Pâque.

Mais l’œuvre de Josias est restée pour l’essentiel limitée à ce que nous appelons aujourd’hui la sphère de la religion : Il n’y a pas eu de réforme du secteur des affaires, des achats et des ventes ; il n’est pas fait mention non plus d’une aide apportée aux pauvres ou aux orphelins. Cela a été un moment puissant de l’histoire d’Israël, mais comme beaucoup de ces moments, il n’a duré que le temps que ce seul roi a vécu. On peut trouver de meilleurs exemples de ce que nous disons, dans les histoires d’Esdras et de Néhémie. Esdras a reconstruit le temple. Il était plus petit que le premier, et beaucoup moins glorieux, mais il l’a reconstruit. Néhémie est arrivé un peu plus tard et a reconstruit la ville. Beaucoup de personnes voient en cela les deux étapes de ce que Dieu fait dans une nation. Il doit d’abord reconstruire et purifier l’Église, rétablir l’adoration au milieu d’elle, et la purifier de la corruption. Mais la seconde phase, celle que nous ne voyons pas assez souvent, intervient quand la nation elle-même est reconstruite.

Les Frères Moraves et Calvin

Il y a eu dans le passé à Genève une noble tentative d’amener chacun des domaines de la vie sous la seigneurie de Christ, de prendre la parole de Dieu comme seule autorité, non seulement pour l’Église, mais aussi pour la nation. Aujourd’hui le Seigneur conduit beaucoup d’églises à sortir pour aller vers leurs communautés. L’adoration et l’intercession à elles seules n’amèneront pas la réforme. Elles peuvent amener le réveil – par exemple en ce qui concerne le réveil qui s’est produit à Genève au début du 19ème siècle, il y avait eu des générations de prière avant que ce réveil éclate. Une dame anglaise était venue s’installer à Lausanne et avait prié pour Genève pendant des dizaines d’années. Pendant trois générations, les Frères Moraves avaient envoyé des équipes à Genève pour prier pour le réveil. Mais Calvin ne s’est pas contenté de travailler avec l’Église ; il voulait commencer avec l’Église. En commençant par l’Église, il a commencé en cherchant à ce que chaque personne de la ville expérimente une rencontre personnelle avec Dieu. Et il y a eu une complète réforme de l’Église.

Calvin et son équipe croyaient avoir découvert le modèle néo-testamentaire exact de l’Église. La plupart d’entre nous ne pensent pas que cela ait grand-chose à voir avec des robes noires et des couvre-chefs comiques, mais c’est ce qu’ils ont établi à Genève. Calvin avait vécu sous un roi et un système judiciaire très injustes, et personne, particulièrement l’Église, n’était intéressé à savoir, par exemple, si les pauvres avaient assez à manger. L’Église travaillait avec le roi et les autres nobles à institutionnaliser l’injustice, et des milliers d’amis de Calvin avaient été mis à mort.
Ce genre de choses semble se produire de la manière la plus sévère dans des systèmes de pouvoir centralisé, où de plus en plus de pouvoir est aux mains d’une personne ou d’une famille. Cela crée une structure spirituelle où des puissances mauvaises peuvent prendre le contrôle. Durant ses années d’études à Paris, Calvin avait certainement réfléchi à toutes ces questions. Comment les gens devraient-ils vivre ? Si on pouvait recommencer avec juste la Parole, et tout reconstruire selon les principes de la Parole, à quoi cela ressemblerait-il ? Et si on pouvait prendre soin des réfugiés et des pauvres ? Des sans-emploi ? Si on pouvait assurer une éducation à chaque enfant, même aux filles ? Et si on traduisait la Bible dans le langage des gens et qu’à partir de la Bible, on enseignait à chacun comment vivre ? Comment les familles devraient-elles fonctionner, quelles sont les responsabilités des pères et des mères ? Et si on pouvait fournir à chacun un emploi et/ou la possibilité de démarrer une entreprise dans sa maison s’il n’a pas de métier ? À quoi ressemblerait un gouvernement juste ?

Calvin a dû fuir pour sauver sa vie. Mais parce que le roi de France et ses forces avaient essayé de les tuer, lui et tous les Français qui l’avaient rejoint à Genève, Calvin avait l’avantage de ne pas seulement avoir étudié la théologie et le droit. Il avait aussi expérimenté ce qu’était vivre sous un gouvernement injuste, et savait donc ce qui ne marchait pas.

Dieu avait conduit Calvin à Genève, où régnait un vide. Le pouvoir politique s’était désagrégé, dans l’Église aussi bien que dans l’économie, la plupart des dirigeants étaient partis, et la ville était sans défense en face du duc de Savoie. Les gens aspiraient désespérément au changement, et c’est alors que le réveil se produisit. (Pratiquement tous les réveils dont nous avons connaissance par l’histoire se sont produits dans une nation où se ressentait un immense besoin de changement.)

Calvin introduisit le système de diffusion du pouvoir. Le pouvoir n’allait pas être concentré dans une seule ni dans quelques familles. Aujourd’hui, dans la plupart des nations du monde, le pouvoir est concentré dans quelques centaines de familles. Elles constituent ce qu’on nomme l’élite. Elles s’efforcent à tout prix de conserver le pouvoir et la richesse pour elles-mêmes et ne pas permettre au reste des gens de les partager. C’est ce que nous trouvons en Amérique. Nous avons une petite élite, qui tient littéralement entre ses mains 100 milliards de dollars, sans se soucier du fait que certaines personnes n’ont pas assez d’argent pour acheter de la nourriture pour leur famille.

Le point crucial de l’histoire est que Calvin et son équipe avaient étudié en profondeur, non seulement la théologie, mais aussi chacun des domaines de la société. Calvin avait étudié le droit. Pierre Viret, le seul Suisse de l’équipe, était pasteur à Lausanne et avait également étudié la pédagogie. Il a écrit des livres sur la théologie biblique de l’éducation, de véritables pavés qui sont de nouveau imprimés aujourd’hui après avoir été indisponibles pendant plusieurs siècles. Pierre Viret était aussi un homme de prière. Ils avaient fait leurs « devoirs à la maison » – des années d’étude intense – pour les préparer à faire passer à la nation le message sur la manière de vivre. Par exemple, ils ont dit aux banquiers qu’ils ne pouvaient pas demander des intérêts si élevés parce que cela maintiendrait le pays dans la pauvreté. Et ils disaient que les valeurs à cultiver étaient la famille, l’éducation et le travail sérieux.

Ces principes que Calvin et Viret ont enseigné aux banquiers durant la réforme à Genève sont les mêmes que la Banque Mondiale enseigne aujourd’hui au monde entier. Mais Calvin a été le premier à introduire ce système et à le mettre par écrit. Une grande partie de la pensée de Calvin s’est développée sur la base de la théologie de l’importance de chaque individu. Jusqu’au 16ème siècle, l’Europe était une société fondée sur le groupe. Toutes les décisions importantes étaient prises par le groupe. L’individu n’avait pas d’autorité, et très peu de valeur, surtout les femmes. Mais les féministes européennes reconnaissent en Calvin le premier homme à reconnaître que les femmes n’étaient pas moins importantes que les hommes.
À la base du système éducatif de Calvin se trouve sa conviction théologique que chaque être individuel a été créé à l’image même et à la ressemblance de Dieu. Chaque individu a besoin de pouvoir lire la Bible lui-même. C’était la base de sa théologie de l’Église : il n’y a pas de prêtres parce que chaque croyant est un prêtre. Cette conviction était à la racine de sa pensée au sujet de la démocratie. Il a tiré la démocratie de la Réforme française : chaque citoyen convenablement éduqué, y compris les femmes, devrait être capable de participer aux décisions concernant la nation.

Le prochain pas

Nous sommes allés trop loin sur le chemin de l’individualisme. Notre prochain pas est de redécouvrir ce que signifie la vraie communauté. L’isolement et la solitude sont un de nos plus graves problèmes sociaux. Beaucoup de gens considèrent Paris comme la ville de l’amour, mais Paris a le plus fort pourcentage de personnes vivant seules. Nous devons redécouvrir dans nos groupes chrétiens ce que peut être la communauté. Je pense que c’est la raison pour laquelle, à JEM, Dieu nous a donné des équipes et des bases : pour comprendre comment marchent les communautés, ce qui peut les détruire, comment nous pouvons améliorer les choses. Nous avons appris certaines leçons, mais globalement, en ce qui concerne le développement de nos communautés, nous en sommes encore au niveau EFD. Dieu a beaucoup à nous apprendre concernant la communauté. J’ai récemment lu un livre appelé « Communauté de pardon ». C’est un livre puissant. L’auteur a compris que beaucoup d’entre nous avons une compréhension superficielle du pardon. De ce fait, nous ne demeurons pas dans le pardon de Dieu, et nous ne vivons pas non plus dans le pardon avec nos frères et nos sœurs. Dans beaucoup, beaucoup d’églises, le problème majeur est la médisance et la division, que ce soit en Suisse ou aux États-Unis, et j’en ai également entendu parler dans beaucoup d’autres pays.

Nous avons besoin d’imaginer plus de manières d’ouvrir nos communautés aux personnes qui cherchent Dieu. Comment pouvons-nous mieux le faire et avec sagesse ? Certaines de nos minstères à JEM font ce genre de choses dans leurs villes. Ils travaillent avec les jeunes gens, les enfants, la municipalité, pour faire de la ville un endroit plus agréable à vivre, et ils rencontrent une ouverture remarquable à leur message.

Je pense que le Seigneur veut que nous pratiquions plus ce genre de choses, mais cela a un prix. Vous ne pouvez pas transformer une nation sans offrir votre vie. Si vous vous engagez sérieusement à ce sujet, vous courez à la confrontation avec des puissances mauvaises. Certaines ont été au pouvoir depuis longtemps et n’abandonneront pas le terrain sans combattre. Elles contre-attaqueront. Elles mettront à profit toute faiblesse, toute ouverture dans nos vies, toute fissure dans notre fondation, pour nous balayer.

Je crois que nous arrivons à un temps où plus d’entre nous offriront leurs vies de manière très littérale, comme l’Église copte en Égypte. Les attentats à la bombe dans deux églises lors des célébrations de Pâques, et la décapitation de 21 d’entre eux dans le Sinaï ont été pour eux un appel à se réveiller. Beaucoup de chrétiens coptes qui ne fréquentaient pas l’église ont commencé à s’y rendre, et les églises sont bondées. Ils témoignent de leur pardon à l’égard des musulmans violents. Et ils déclarent qu’ils sont prêts à offrir leurs vies.

J’ai visité le Musée du Désert, dans le sud de la France. Cette communauté de croyants engagés qui vivaient à l’époque de la deuxième vague de persécution en France à la fin du 17ème siècle a traversé une persécution incroyable de la part du roi de France. Ils chantaient tous les psaumes, et un des psaumes qu’ils chantaient disait : « C’est ici la journée que l’Éternel a faite. Qu’elle soit pour nous un sujet d’allégresse et de joie ! » Pour nous, c’est un chant d’acclamation, mais dans ce temps-là, si quelqu’un était pris à exercer le ministère pastoral dans cette église en France, il était soit immédiatement exécuté, soit envoyé aux galères du roi, des vaisseaux de combat à rames utilisés en Méditerranée. Ramer était si pénible qu’ils en mouraient au bout d’une année au plus. Si on exécutait les pasteurs sans attendre, ils montaient les degrés de l’échafaud en chantant : « C’est ici la journée que l’Éternel a faite. Qu’elle soit pour nous un sujet d’allégresse et de joie ! » Et les protestants tout alentour se mettaient à chanter avec eux. Se réjouir ! Alors même qu’ils voyaient leur pasteur être pendu ! C’était un témoignage si puissant que l’armée faisait tout pour les empêcher de chanter. Les soldats étaient bouleversés de voir que des gens puissent marcher à la mort de cette manière.

Lorsque nous parlons d’une nouvelle réforme, nous ne parlons pas simplement d’un travail acharné, d’une étude sérieuse, ou de quelques versets de la Bible à apprendre concernant le domaine où nous voulons travailler. Nous parlons de maîtriser le mieux possible ce domaine professionnel, pour avoir quelque chose à dire quand la porte s’ouvre. Le Seigneur a dit que si vous êtes fidèle dans les petites choses, il vous donnera autorité sur dix villes. (Et dans un évangile, il dit : « Je vous donnerai autorité sur beaucoup. ») Je connais très peu de chrétiens qui se préparent sérieusement pour prendre autorité sur dix villes. Pourtant, si nous croyions réellement ce que Jésus a dit, nous étudierions des sujets tels que les systèmes de distribution d’eau et de traitement des déchets, le compostage urbain, l’éducation ou le gouvernement. Nous étudierions sérieusement comment faire toutes ces choses, et nous deviendrions des références dans chacun de ces domaines. Bien sûr, il existe des personnes qui ont cette autorité, mais il faudrait que plus d’entre nous prennent cette tâche au sérieux et comprennent ce que signifie être un bon prochain.

Nous voulons prendre au sérieux ce que Jésus a dit quand il nous a enseigné à prier que la volonté de Dieu soit faite sur la terre comme elle l’est au ciel. Nous avons prié cette prière toute notre vie, des centaines ou des milliers de fois, mais pour quoi prions-nous en fait ? À quoi cela ressemble-t-il concrètement quand les choses sur terre commencent à devenir plus comme elles sont au ciel ? Est-ce que cela signifie que nous chantons mieux ? Avec des instruments plus sympathiques ? Pourquoi pas, mais je pense que cela signifie beaucoup plus que cela.

Nous honorons la mémoire des centaines de milliers de croyants consacrés qui ont abandonné leurs maisons et leurs terres pour pouvoir adorer librement le Seigneur, parce qu’il représentait pour eux plus que toute autre chose. Nous savons qu’ils font partie de cette grande nuée de témoins qui nous regardent du haut du balcon des cieux et espèrent que nous irons plus loin qu’eux. Alors que Dieu nous conduit de plus en plus à prier pour une nouvelle réforme, faisons-lui confiance pour nous enseigner ce que cela signifie, ce que cela coûte. Puissions-nous voir quelques-unes des incroyables bénédictions qu’il veut apporter à nos villes.

Tom Bloomer
Recteur Émérite de l’Université des Nations

Version anglaise

500 years of Reformation, and now?

Message given on April, 5th, 2017
Copyright 2017 by Thomas A. Bloomer

We are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran reformation, and although many people around the world are praying for a new reformation, many of them don’t really know what they are praying for. What does something that happened 500 years ago have to do with us today?

We as missionaries should study what happened during the reformation, especially in Geneva, as it was the deepest and most rapid case of nation transformation in the history of missions. It is not an easy thing to transform a nation, but that team of Frenchmen did it. They weren’t perfect. They got a lot of things wrong, but they did far more than any other group of people has done since them in 500 years!

Reformation or Revival?

So what is reformation? In simple terms, “It is when a nation is transformed in one generation, with new institutions, new laws, and a new worldview.” A reformation is very different from a revival. In a revival, there should also be the beginning of a nation’s transformation. But most of the time, as seen in history, the revival has affected the Church deeply but not the entire nation.

One of our first speakers in our early schools was Duncan Campbell. He had been in the Hebrides revival in Scotland, where they would go to a certain valley there and hear choirs of angels singing. And the church was open every night. Both the non-Christians and the Christians walking to the church would fall on the side of the road under the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit and under conviction of sin.

Many of you have heard about the revival in Wales around 100 years ago. In that revival they taught restitution; in other words, if you had stolen anything you had to pay back that person. There were a powerful series of revivals with Charles Finney in America in the 19th century, one of the most powerful being in Rochester, NY. They say that after that revival, the prisons just emptied over a period of years because there was no new crime. The bars shut down, because no one went drinking anymore. Until very recently Rochester has been known as the most generous city in America, the highest ratio of giving to the population.

So a revival can go very deep. One definition of a revival is that Christians “get on fire with God” and the unbelievers come around to watch them burn. But in a revival there is usually deep conviction of sin and confession. Some revivals have given birth to charitable institutions like hospitals and orphanages. But the laws and political institutions remain relatively untouched, and the revival usually lasts only one generation.

A Snapshot in Scripture

In the 18th year of King Josiah’s reign (2 Kings chap. 22 to 23), he was about 26 years old. He guessed somehow that the money that was supposed to be going to repair the temple was not going there. So he took charge and ordered the financing and general repair of all the temple buildings. In cleaning up the temple they found the book of the law in the House of God. Most people believe that this was the first five books of Moses and of the Bible (the Pentateuch) that they had found. When the king ordered that the scroll be read to him, he went into mourning and tore his clothes, because he realized that they weren’t living according to the law of God. The Lord pronounced judgment on the nation but promised to spare Josiah because of his righteousness. At that point Josiah started tearing down the idols all over the place, bringing a purification of idolatry in the nation. Josiah also reinstituted the Passover.

Josiah’s work was largely limited to what we would call it today the sphere of religion. There was no reformation of the business sector, of buying and selling. There was no mention of help for the poor or the orphans. It was a powerful moment in the history of Israel, but like many of these moments, they lasted for the lifetime of that one king. Better examples of what we are talking about are found in the stories of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra rebuilt the temple. It was smaller than the first one, not nearly as glorious, but he rebuilt it. Nehemiah came along a bit later and he rebuilt the city. Many people see this as two stages of what the Lord does in a nation. First he has to rebuild and purify the Church, reestablishing worship at its center and cleaning out corruption. But the second phase, the one we haven’t seen enough, is when the nation itself is rebuilt.

The Moravians and Calvin

In the past there has been a noble attempt in Geneva to bring every single area of life under the Lordship of Christ; to take only the Word of God as the authority, not just for the Church, but for the nation. Today the Lord is leading many churches out into their communities. It is not just worship and intercession that will bring reformation. These can bring revival — in the revival that happened in Geneva in the early 19th century, there were generations of prayer before that revival broke out. There was one English lady who came to Lausanne and prayed for Geneva for decades. The Moravians sent teams to Geneva for three generations to pray for revival. But Calvin was not satisfied to work just with the Church; he wanted to start with the Church. In starting with the Church he started with seeking a personal encounter with God for every individual in the city. And there was a total reformation of the Church.

Calvin and his team believed that they had discovered the exact New Testament pattern for the Church. Most of us don’t think that means black robes and funny caps, but that’s what they came up with in Geneva. Calvin had lived under a very unjust king and judicial system, and nobody, especially the Church, was interested if, for example, the poor even had enough to eat. The Church worked with the king and other nobles to institutionalize injustice, and thousands of Calvin’s friends had been put to death.

This seems to happen most severely in systems of centralized power, where more and more power goes to one person or one family. This creates a spiritual structure where evil powers can take over. During his student years in Paris, Calvin would have thought about this. How should people live? If we could start over with just the Word, and rebuild everything on the principles of the Word, what could that look like? What if we could take care of the refuges and the poor? The unemployed? What if we could educate every child? Even the women? What if we got the Bible into the language of the people and taught everyone from the Bible how to live? How should families function, what are the responsibilities of the fathers and mothers? What if we could get jobs for everyone and/or start businesses in their homes if they didn’t have a profession? What would a just government look like?

Calvin had to run for his life. But because the French king and his forces were trying to kill him and all the Frenchmen who joined him in Geneva, Calvin had the advantage of not just studying theology and being educated in law. He also experienced living under an unjust government, so he knew what didn’t work.

So then in Geneva the Lord led Calvin into a vacuum. The political leadership had crumbled, most of the Church and economic leadership were gone, and the city had no defense against the Duke of Savoy. People were desperate for change, and that’s when revival happened. (Just about every revival we know of in history has come into a nation where there is a huge felt need for change.)

Calvin came up with the system of diffused power. The power was not going to be concentrated in one family or in a few families. In most of the nations of the world today power is concentrated in a few hundred families. They call this the elite. They work very hard to keep the privileges and wealth for themselves and to not allow the rest of the people to share it. This is what we have in America. We have a small elite taking literally 100 of billions of dollars for themselves, with no concern that people do not have enough money to buy food for their families.

The point is that Calvin and his team had studied not just theology but each of the areas of society very deeply. Calvin had studied law. Viret, the only Swiss man in the team, was a pastor in Lausanne and had also studied education. He wrote massive books of biblical theology of education which are being reprinted now after several centuries of being unavailable. Viret was also a man of prayer. They had done their homework — years of intense study — to prepare them to bring a message to the nations on how to live. For example, they told the bankers that they cannot charge so much interest because that will keep a country poor. And they said that what they need to value are the family, education and hard work.

These principles which Calvin and Viret taught the bankers to do during the Geneva reformation are the same principles that the World Bank is teaching to the world today. But Calvin was the first one to come up with the system and to write it down. Calvin developed a lot of his thinking through the theology of the importance of each individual. Until the 16th century Europe was a group oriented society. Every important decision was taken by the group. The individual had no authority, and very little value, especially women. But the feminists of Europe look to Calvin as the one who first started recognising that women were no less important than men.

Calvin’s theology of the importance of each individual being created in the very image and likeness of God was at the basis of his educational system. Everyone needs to know how to read the Bible for themselves. It was the basis of his theology of the Church; there are no priests because every believer is a priest. It was at the root of his thinking about democracy. He gave us democracy out of the French reformation — that every well-educated citizen, including the women, should be able to share in decisions concerning the nation.

The Next Step

We have now gone too far in the direction of individualism. Our next step is to rediscover what true community means. One of the main social problems we have is isolation. Loneliness. Many people consider that Paris is the city of love, but it has the highest percentage of people living alone than any other city. We need to rediscover in our Christian groups what community can be. I think this is why the Lord has given us teams and bases in YWAM. To figure out how communities work. To figure out what can destroy them, to figure out how we can do things better. We have learnt some things, but on the whole, we are still at DTS level in terms of developing our communities. There is a lot that the Lord wants to teach us about community. I just read a book recently called, “Community of Forgiveness”. It is a powerful book. The author realized that many of us have a shallow understanding of forgiveness. As a result, we don’t dwell in the forgiveness of God and we don’t live in forgiveness with our brothers and sisters either. In many, many churches their biggest problem is gossip and division, both in Switzerland and in America, and I’ve heard about it in many other countries.

We need to figure out more ways to open up our communities to people who are seeking God. How can we do that better and do it wisely? Some of our YWAM works are doing these kinds of things in their towns. They are working with the young people, the children, the municipality, to make the town a better place to live, and there is tremendous openness to their message.

I think the Lord wants to do that a lot more, but this all has a price. You don’t transform a nation without laying your life down. If you are serious about doing that, you will be facing some evil powers head-on. Some of them have been in charge for a long time and they are not going to give up any territory without a struggle. They will counter attack. They will find any weakness, any opening in our lives, any cracks in our foundation, to blow us away.

I believe we are coming to a time when more of us are going to have to lay down our lives literally, like the Coptic Church in Egypt. The Easter bombing in two churches and the beheading of 21 of them in the Sinai was a wake-up call for them. Many Coptic Christians who hadn’t been going to church have started to go to church, and the churches are overfull. They’re declaring their forgiveness of the violent Muslims. And they’re declaring that they are ready to lay down their lives.

I visited the Museum of the Desert in Southern France. This church of committed believers that lived through the second wave of persecution in France at the end of the 17th century, went through unbelievable persecution by the other king of France. They sang all the Psalms, and one of the Psalms they sang was, “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” For us this is a cheerful song, but at that time, if someone was caught pastoring that church in France, he was either immediately executed, or sent to row the king’s galleys, longships with huge oars used in the Mediterranean. The rowing is so difficult they died after a year or so. If the pastors were to be executed on the spot, they would go up the steps to be hanged singing, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The Protestants all around would start singing with them. Rejoicing! Even as they watched their pastor being hung. It was such a powerful testimony that the army wouldn’t let them sing it anymore. It shook up the soldiers that people could go to their death like this.

When we talk about a new reformation, we are not just talking about hard work, some serious study or some bible verses to learn about the area you want to work in. We are talking about mastering that professional area as well, so that you have something to say when the door opens. The Lord has said that if you are faithful in a little he will give you authority over ten cities. (And in one gospel he says, “I will give you authority over much.”) I know very few Christians who are preparing seriously to take authority over ten cities. Yet if we really believe what Jesus said, we would be studying things like water systems, waste treatment systems, urban composting, education and government. We would be studying how to do all that stuff, and we would be leading voices in each one of those fields. There are, of course, some who have that authority, but there needs to be more of us that take it seriously and know what it means to be a good neighbour.

We want to take seriously what Jesus said when he told us to pray that the will of God shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. We have prayed that all our lives, hundreds or thousands of times, but what are we praying for? What does it look like when things on earth start becoming more like they are in heaven, concretely? Does that mean we sing better? With instruments that are more cool? Well, maybe we do, but I think it means a lot more than that.

We honor the memory of the hundreds of thousands of committed believers who left their homes, left their houses and their lands, so they could have the freedom to worship the Lord, because He meant more to them than anything else. We know they are part of that great cloud of witnesses, who are looking down at us over the balcony of heaven and hoping that we will go further than they did. As the Lord leads us more and more into prayer for a new reformation, let us trust him to teach us what that means, what that costs. May we see some of the incredible blessings he wants to bring to our cities.

By Tom Bloomer
University of the Nation’s Emeritus Provost

French Version

A Crisis of Leadership

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).

This article is a summary of a 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 wanleaders 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.