Introduction by Lynn Green
It has now been 12 years since we first heard a teaching from Loren and began to apply the biblical idea of eldership and family. Some people must wonder why we keep going on about it! Well, when Loren first had a word from God about it, we had no idea how much would have to change. All of us are so steeped in organizational thinking that the shift to thinking of ourselves as family and body requires huge changes. Since that first message, we have had numerous other prophetic words and teachings about eldership and especially about growth. The two are definitely linked! If we’d continued with an organizational construct, it would have been a major blockage to growth and, sooner or later, would have led to failure–that is we would not have been that inter-generational movement of waves of young people reaching “the alls and the everys”.
In the following article, Andy Elliott gives a very good, brief summary of much of what our elders discussed in Mexico. It is a timely reflection to help us prepare for our Singapore Gathering in late August and early September. We are pretty sure that the change from organization to movement, from titles to eldership, family, and body is almost complete. May the momentum of growth increase! The harvest is still ripe and the labourers are still too few.
Implications of Eldership by Andy Elliott
Last September the Global Leadership Forum (GLF) met during the University of the Nations workshop near Tijuana, Mexico. As a member of the virtual team that serves YWAM in communication, I served as a note-taker during the meetings. I thought it might be helpful to summarize some of the significant discussions that have been taking place in the GLF, especially as it relates to leadership structure.
Back in June 2001, Loren Cunningham shared with the mission’s leaders a story about two boys in a barge who came close to drifting over Niagara Falls. God spoke to Loren that YWAM was adrift from its values, but there was still hope for course correction.
For the last several years, the GLF meetings have processed this word. How do we create a leadership model that provides spiritual covering for new apostolic initiatives, which have always been one of YWAM’s key strengths? They came to realize their role as an interceding body of elders took priority over their administrative, governing roles.
In summary, YWAM is becoming a flatter organization in order to make room for exponential growth opportunities in the near future. In Loren’s article, Spiritual Eldership (sometimes called “The Tripod Message”), he wrote “A danger in any organization is for structures to dominate, taking a position above this emphasis on meeting with God. When that happens, suddenly decisions are made according to budgets and structure instead of the voice, vision, and values of the Lord.” Other reasons for a flat organization structure have to do with problems of legal liability and the possibility of future persecution.
Hearing and obeying God is an essential part of our spiritual DNA. Loren writes, “It is important that individuals have this freedom in the Spirit to hear and obey God, but that this is not done in a vacuum or independently.” Thus, accountability to wise and experienced counsel is vital to our mission.
In 2013, the GLF concluded that we should be moving toward leadership plurality (more than one leader for every entity), especially at the region-level and above, but at every level of leadership wherever possible. These leadership or eldership circles should be as diverse as possible in gifting, nationality, gender, and age.
In their closing statement, the 2013 GLF members wrote, “We desperately need all the ministry gifts… in the gathered elderships operating all over the world. We urge everyone to pay the price for unity in the Spirit, so that overlapping eldership circles will be the norm, rather than trying to resolve issues through well-defined boundaries, job descriptions, rules, and organizational positions.”. The GLF emphasized that, where possible, the role of chairing or convening meetings should be rotated, as this helps develop the leadership giftings in others.
There was some discussion about how these changes would work at the local level. “We are moving away from power-based titles that disempower others.” At the same time, they recognized that, “wherever we have a local, legal entity and community, we must ‘render unto Caesar, that which is Caesar’s’; so titles, positions and policies may be necessary. However the function of these offices must be fulfilled in a spirit of servant leadership.”.
John Dawson says “YWAM personnel will always use and adapt to the language and structure of the institutions of business, government, and education, etc. This is an unavoidable necessity, especially at the point where we administrate an enterprise locally. However, we also want to multiply the foundational culture of the Kingdom of God. We want to affirm the transcendent relational structure of the church mission sphere. We want to affirm faith in God, family love, and the calling of the YWAM movement in biblical terms.” (source: John Dawson on Eldership – March 2012)
Writing on leadership unity, Dawson says: ”What I’m talking about is affection and respect, friendship and caring love… Have you taken the time to deeply listen to the stories of your fellow believers? You can’t say you love someone if you don’t know them and you can’t know them without knowing of their journey… God’s kingdom is all about love.”
One conclusion from the 2013 meeting was that the GLF should no longer be looked at as a membership, but as a representation of elderships across the mission. The next global gathering of leaders will be in Singapore, in August, 2014.
Do you have questions about eldership and the structural changes in the mission? Email them to email@example.com, and Lynn Green will answer your questions during a Google Hangout on May 1st at 14:30GMT (United Kingdom timezone).
Andy grew up in West Africa and India as a Peace Corps kid. His family later moved back to the San Francisco Area where he graduated from college in 1985. He and his Korean wife Sunjong have worked with YWAM church-planting and training teams in Japan, the Pacific, and Sweden.
Last fall Loren Cunningham wrote a message to all YWAM staff. You can read it here.