YWAM's Covenantal Framework

Spiritual Legacy 2 End Bible Poverty ~1967

  • by David Joel Hamilton

The second legacy word was passionately embraced in the early years of Youth With A Mission as young people went about sharing the Good News of Jesus. In 1967 Loren was leading one group of young people on an outreach. He tells us,

“I was with a YWAM convoy traveling through Mexico to Central America. We had stopped in a dusty Mexican town to repair a flat tire. While some worked on that, the rest of us delivered a Gospel of John to every home, then held an open-air preaching service

After our meeting a woman in a faded red dress came up to me. My Spanish wasn’t very good, but I understood her to say, ‘There’s no place in my town to get a Bible, and there aren’t any in the towns around here. Do you have a Bible in my language?’

I managed to find a Spanish Bible for her. She grasped it to her chest. ‘¡Muchisimas gracias, señor!’

As we drove away, the woman’s question continued to haunt me. ‘Do you have a Bible in my language?’ Then, a picture suddenly came before my eyes–I believe it was what the Bible calls a ‘vision.’ I saw a big truck–not a semi, but more like a large moving van. Painted on the side was,

‘Sólo los deshonestos temen la verdad. Santa Biblia, gratis.’

I didn’t know Spanish well enough to think in the language, so seeing these sentences was a complete surprise. I translated them slowly in my mind. They meant, ‘Only the dishonest fear the truth. Free Bibles.’ What an exciting thought! The phase ‘Only the dishonest fear the truth’ was completely new to me, and it rang in my mind. It was especially pertinent at the time, as communists were spreading their cause across Latin America.

As the vision continued, I saw young people standing in the back of the truck handing Bibles into eager hands as fast as they could.”

(Excerpt from The Book That Transforms Nations, Loren Cunningham, 2007, YWAM Publishing)

The vision starting to become reality as those young people distributed 50,000 New Testaments to university students in Mexico that summer. That encounter with the woman in the faded red dress eventually led to the launching of “Bibles for Mexico,” which in turn birthed many Bible distribution projects in dozens of countries all around the world.

Then at the UofN Workshop in Singapore in 2003, Loren issued a compelling challenge to the mission which he had received from the Lord. This was a time when YWAM recognized that there had been mission drift in our midst and we were intentionally realigning with our God-given DNA in order to see a new wave of apostolic initiatives around the world. Loren said,

“I urge you to put a Bible in every home in the world by 2020. The Bible needs to be in their heart language and available in a means which they can easily understand.”

As Loren will be 85 years old in 2020 this cry of Loren’s heart is like that of Caleb when he too was 85,

“Give me this mountain” (Jos 14:12).

This challenge to end Bible poverty gripped the hearts of many.

In late 2014 Loren, together with Darlene and several other YWAM leaders, visited key Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Evangelical leaders around the world, urging them to do all they could to help end Bible poverty. There was great unity of purpose around this theme among these influential leaders. As a result, “The Covenant to End Bible Poverty” was written, calling on Christians everywhere to pray, translate, publish, distribute, educate and motivate people for Bible engagement.

The Manila Covenant

In August, 1988 some 1500 YWAMers gathered in Manila for an international staff and leadership conference. As the event drew to a close they signed the twenty affirmations made in this covenantal document. It was a fitting finale to a landmark event. Called by Floyd McClung, it was the first such event led by a new generation of YWAM leaders. Highlights of the event included Kalafi Moala’s message on the release of young people, women and third-worlders into missions leadership and our commitment to become two-thirds from the two- thirds world by the end of the twentieth century. Another significant milestone was the embrace of the new name of the University of the Nations (formerly Pacific and Asia University), allowing for the global inclusion of all in this missions-multiplying university.

This covenant reaffirmed our commitment to young people, stating, “We affirm the calling of the Lord upon our mission to mobilize youth for world evangelism. We express in this covenant our commitment to see young people mobilized in great numbers for world evangelism, and youthful, exuberant world changers be given every opportunity to take roles of leadership and influence in our mission.” It went on to affirm “male and female in positions of leadership” and that “our staff and leadership should be ... representative of all nations of the earth” thus furthering the de-regulation of missions in innovative ways.

This document also highlighted the alls and everys in various ways: it spoke of our commitment to “evangelism, training, and ministries of mercy ... so that by God's grace then the empowering of the Holy Spirit we will do all God asks of us to help complete the Great Commission.” It goes on to challenge us to reach the unreached with the grid of the “nine frontiers of world evangelism” and give ourselves to see Jesus as Lord over “every sphere of life,” It urges us to the two-handed approach of the gospel, that is “to love people in both word and deed in order to proclaim and demonstrate the Good News of the gospel ” through “personal evangelism and ... acts of mercy.” It concludes with a holistic call to the alls of the Christian Magna Carta.

The Red Sea Covenant

In April of 1992, about a dozen YW AM leaders, forming the International Executive Committee gathered together in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. At that time YWAM had only a limited ministry among Muslims. A year earlier at the International Strategy Conference in Foz de Iguaçu, Argentina, God had birthed in Lynn Green’s heart the vision for the Reconciliation Walk. Then just a few weeks before this meeting in the Middle East, Gary Tissingh had an accident which resulted in the loss of sight in one eye. Tom Hallas – who also has sight in only one eye – was also present at these meetings. These personal physical needs caught the attention of the group in the place of prayer. The Spirit led them to reflect on the fact that many have come into that part of the world with only one eye for the Jews or only one eye for the Arabs. But if we wanted to reflect his heart of unconditional love for all peoples we needed to pray that we would have a two-eyed approach, a healthy, wholesome, inclusive approach, that would not exclude anyone from God’s purposes. God underlined in prayer that any love that is limited by some human divide is not God’s love. His love is limitless.

Although the words of the document do not reflect a direct commitment to the first element of our foundational covenant, the fruit of what emerged from this time certainly was evidence of new missional innovations. One of the concrete initiatives that was pioneered as a result of this covenant was the launch of the 30 Days of Prayer movement. Another was the Reconciliation Walk which touched both Jewish and Muslim communities in extraordinary ways over the next several years.

The documents call “to keep our vision whole, seeing both Jews and Arabs as God’s beloved creation” was exemplary of how we must embrace all peoples on every side of historic divides. What was true of this particular in the Middle East would serve to inform our attitude as we approached other binary conflicts: Japanese-Korean; Armenian-Turkish; Hutu-Tutsi. Instead of siding with any one side of an ethnic, national or linguistic divide, we were to embrace the attitude of all and every, seeking to be God’s agents of reconciliation and redemption across every line that would otherwise separate us and limit our vision.

The Nanning Covenant

Ten years later, In August of 2002, the Global Leadership Team would meet in Nanning, China. The events leading up to this gathering had been troubling. There had been a sense, shared by Loren Cunningham a year earlier at our GLT meetings in Nairobi, Kenya, that the mission was drifting from the vision and values that God had given us. Deviations from God’s covenantal call which seemed minor at first were having profound impact on our lives and ministries. We were starting to act more like a corporation in which we defined our own destiny rather than a missions movement committed to walk in the inheritance the Lord had established for us. Relationships had been affected. Fruitfulness was compromised. A time of missional re-alignment was needed.

But all was not lost. In July, at a prayer meeting held in the Cunningham’s home convened by the Innovations for Transformation Centre, Loren sensed, “We have hit the rock!” This phrase referred to the story of some young boys who decades earlier found themselves adrift on a barge on the Niagara River. It seemed like the rushing water of the rapids was taking them to certain death as they approached the massive falls on the border between the USA and Canada. They began to pray in desperation. People along the river banks did likewise. It seemed like a hopeless situation. And then, just before the barge went over the falls, they hit a rock! The boat stuck there on the rock, on the very brink of disaster until rescuers were able to save the young men.

Fresh from this experience, Loren spent 3 weeks in Australia in route to Nanning: weeks of prayer and fasting. There the Lord gave him the “Tripod Message” which affirmed that if we were to remain an apostolic missionary movement we needed to emphasize the interplay of the individual’s freedom in the Spirit to hear and obey God in a co-creative way, together with the role of spiritual eldership committed to advancing God’s missional purposes, all held together by healthy, loving relationships under the Lordship of Jesus and guided by the Word of the Lord. This message was the key, opening message of the gathering in Nanning, laying a foundation for all that would follow.

The meetings would also be marked by the departure of Mercy Ships from the YWAM family of ministries (re- aligning our values), the adoption of the 4k framework (re-aligning our vision), and the selection of John Dawson as the next president of YWAM (re-aligning our relationships). The resulting document strongly underscored the two initial themes of our foundational covenant of the waves:

First of all, it was “a call ... for a renewed apostolic anointing” in the mission because we “deeply desire his blessings for a new surge of apostolic pioneering.”

This heart cry for Spirit-led, missional innovation affirmed our core commitment to champion young people, stating that we would “encourage the newest to the oldest YWAMers to seek to know and obey his voice in the freedom of the Spirit, and to release them into the fullness of the promises of God.”

Secondly, the call to the alls and everys was intentionally very strong, in this covenant.

Not only was 4k embraced with its focus on going where we are not, but the document concluded, “we declare to God this day to be available at all times and in all places to His call and purpose in this 21st century, to be all that we can be and do all that we can do to fulfill His Great Commission here and everywhere.”

The Jubilee Covenant

This covenant was signed by more than 30,000 YWAMers and associates. This document was introduced at the UofN Workshop (held simultaneously in South Africa, Egypt, Switzerland, and the Ukraine) just prior to the fiftieth year. It was a marquis element of the 44 jubilee events held around the world in 2010. Though more individual and devotional in nature than our previous covenant renewal documents, this statement expressed a sense of hope and forward thrust which came as a result of the intentional re-alignment efforts of the preceding years.

The theme of missional innovation was

encouraged through a declared awareness that “God’s Spirit is at work in amazing ways around the world” and that we needed to be attentive to his call in “such a time as this” and be willing to “follow Jesus wherever” he would lead us.

The theme of alls and everys is evident in the opening declaration of purpose: “that every individual might be redeemed and every society transformed by the Gospel.” It is also underlined in the final commitment: “to do everything I can possibly do to fulfill the Great Commission.”

The Singapore Covenant

This covenant was entered into by the nearly 400 YWAM leaders coming from sixty-five nations who gathered in Singapore August 27-September 3, 2014 for the “Catch the Wave” Family Gathering. Their purpose was to meet with God and one another to consider how YWAM should move forward at this time in our history.

The event was marked by extended times of worshiping the Lord with one voice, and then lingering in His presence, in inexpressible awe of Who He is, and silent expectation that He would faithfully lead and guide us as a mission into the future. There was a united cry: “If Your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15)

The Singapore Covenant was signed at the end of this gathering as a recommitment to the covenantal words of the past and a fresh commitment to hear, obey and trust the Lord for the future.

Concluding Reflection

To the degree that these four covenantal renewal documents have helped us unpack and re-engage with the two overarching themes of the original, God-initiated, destiny-defining, covenantal vision of the waves, to that degree they have served us well as a mission.

As we go forward at the outset of the second half century of our movement’s life, perhaps we will need yet again to create a covenant renewal document that will serve the emerging generation of leaders and propel us to the unfinished alls and everys of the Great Commission. As we do so now, we can act with greater awareness and intentionality as we have now more fully discovered and understood God’s purposes for us as the YWAM tribe. May we ever continue to expand in our pursuit for intimacy (to know God) and impact (to make him known) – not only in these days together, but in the years and decades ahead.

© 2019 YWAM Osaka Asian Center