Sunday, October 2, 2011

YWAM focusing on the unimportant

At the 1988 YWAM International Strategy Conference held in Kona, Hawaii the 71 leaders present recognized that God was giving the Mission a specific new mandate: they were to actively work to release more nonwesterners, women and youth into greater leadership and decision making roles in Youth With A Mission (Thompson 1988). The understanding was that the inclusion of these groupings within more senior leadership levels in the Mission would bring a broader diversity of gifts and a better representation of the constituency of YWAM. But this integration would not just evolve into being: due to the fact that YWAM was born in North America in the 1962s and grew up in Europe in the 1970s, it was understandable that many of the current senior leaders were Caucasion males in their 40s and 50s. The achievement of this goal to involve more nonwesterners, women and youth--though fully embraced at the heart--would require intentional and possibly radical efforts.
Dawn E Gauslin, Principles Made Practical: a handbook for pioneering U of N courses, p 10

I'm really starting to find this kind of thing...odd. Weird. A little off. Maybe more than a little

Let's take, for example, what the Bible itself says about leaders in the church.

Titus 1
5For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that were wanting, and appoint elders in every city, as I gave thee charge; 6if any man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having children that believe, who are not accused of riot or unruly. 7For the bishop must be blameless, as God’s steward; not self-willed, not soon angry, no brawler, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; 8but given to hospitality, as lover of good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled; 9holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict the gainsayers.

I Timothy 3
1Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, orderly, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3no brawler, no striker; but gentle, not contentious, no lover of money; 4one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5(but if a man knoweth not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6not a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover he must have good testimony from them that are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

8Deacons in like manner must be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10And let these also first be proved; then let them serve as deacons, if they be blameless. 11Women in like manner must be grave, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12Let deacons be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13For they that have served well as deacons gain to themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

When I take a look at these things that should be characteristic of church leaders, there are things I do not see. Paul, a Jewish man, does not tell either Timothy or Titus that they must make sure that they try to find non-Jewish men to fill those positions, or even Jewish men since they were in Gentile cities. He does not tell them to make sure that they find people from the various Gentile peoples to lead the churches. In fact, race plays no part all in any of the things he lists.

When it comes to gender, well, Paul makes it rather clear that the leaders are to be men. Women are mentioned in I Timothy 3:11, but that likely refers to the wives of the deacons. Church leadership is limited to men, but God's own Word. It's certainly not because men are such grand creatures, but that is how God has set things up for the church to be run.

And concerning their ages, while nothing is explicitly said about that, there is a good bit said about thier spiritual maturity. They are not to be novices, I suppose that means recent converts, which may mean young or old, but should most definitely mean the young, since in almost all things the young are indeed novices. There is also the criterion that they be good husbands and fathers, who rule their homes well, have children who believe and have been taught to honor and obey them and not act like wild animals. They are to be sober-minded, even grave, along with many other signs of maturity.

In other words, the shallow postmodern goal of making sure that a certain, often unspecified, quota of all given races should be shoehorned into church leadership is absolutely foreign to anything in the Bible. Throw in as well the goal of making sure that women and youth be in these positions, and we can kind of get the idea that YWAM is going beyond anything taught in Scripture, and that this supposed "mandate" they claimed to receive from God was really not something from God.

I remember hearing or reading something a few years ago, along the lines of how YWAM had finally elected the first non-American or non-European to lead their mission, and where likely they would never again select anyone from the US again for that position, but rather would continue to find Presidents from among the non-western nations. Why is that so important? Isn't that rather a form or racism? A spiritually mature man who is from the US is passed over, simply because he's from the US, no other reason?

If we were to say that it would be unjust to say that a Chinese man who is Christian, spiritually mature, and meets the criteria Paul writes about to Timothy and Titus, is not fit for leadership because he is not American or European, why is it just to reverse that discriminatory practice?

Church leadership positions are not to be used for such shallow political maneuverings, nor should they filled based on race or skin color simply because it may "bring a broader diversity of gifts" (whatever that means), and may somehow better represent YWAM's racial make-up. It is spiritual maturity and how it is shown in things like family life that are the things that should be used in deciding who shall be church leaders, not other things.

I will say this here and now--these 71 YWAM leaders received no such mandate from God. It strikes me more as something with roots more in postmodern quota-making with a dash of charismanic nonsense thrown in.

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