**This is a personal website and reflects my thoughts and convictions. It does not represent any official position held by Youth With A Mission.**
In the mid-1970s Loren and Darlene Cunningham were invited to take a few days to stay in a cabin in the beautiful setting of the big Cimarron Valley in Western Colorado. Loren had been instrumental in helping my father to be given a property to steward as a YWAM centre, on which he then established a discipleship project for the many young people giving their lives to Jesus through YWAM teams in Southern California.
While Loren and Darlene were there, Loren was given a very clear word from God about the nature of the Kingdom of God, and how the Gospel message and the Christian values encompassed in it, should be a transforming power for good in all of society. He wrote down the ideas that God was putting in his spirit, and knew that it was a pivotal word, not just for him, but in due course for all of YWAM and, as it turned out, for the Body of Christ.
Later he was in touch with Bill and Vonette Bright, who, as it happened, were also taking a break in Colorado just a short drive away. Loren and Darlene were delighted to have the opportunity to deepen fellowship with the Brights, so Loren put his notes in his pocket, and they drove to a nearby valley to have dinner together.
Later in the evening just as Loren reached for the paper, Bill Bright began to tell him about how God had spoken to him regarding different parts of society and how the Gospel was relevant to all of them. He also had a list, and it was virtually identical to Loren’s list. They knew God was speaking to them, though at the time they didn’t have the language we use now. Loren recognised that these seven areas were the arenas in which our thinking is shaped. So for a time he called them the “mind-moulders”. Others called them “the mountains”, but more widely now in YWAM we call them the “spheres of society”. Both Bill and Loren agreed that there were seven spheres.
They are family, religion, education, economics, government, media and celebration (which includes the arts, entertainment and sports).
At that time, Protestant Christian faith, and especially Evangelicals, had been pushed out of the main public square and into the margins of public life. It was widely accepted that religion was a private matter and not a subject for public discourse. However, it was obvious to anyone who read a bit of American or Northern European history that Christian thinkers had articulated the biblical values that undergird the Western world of accountable government and personal freedom. But, it seems that a great blindness had settled on our nations and the values of biblical Christianity had been marginalised. By the 1970s it was clear that those values which had provided freedom and prosperity were being eroded and Christians, especially strongly Bible-believing Christians, had no voice.
A New, Global University
Within two or three years of Loren receiving that word about the seven spheres, it was clear that training in Youth With A Mission was spreading widely and at an exponential rate. Within that context, Loren Cunningham felt that God had spoken to him again, and that YWAM training was, at that stage, the beginnings of a global university. I was one of about 30 YWAM leaders from around the world who gathered for a strategy conference. There Loren asked the question “would you all please take a couple of hours, go away alone, and ask the Lord whether or not He wants us to have a university?” We all came back with the same answer: “yes”. Again we didn’t have all the terminology, so the Pacific and Asia Christian University began in Kona, Hawaii, where Loren and Darlene were just a couple of years into establishing a new YWAM centre.
As we took steps of obedience, reflected on the words God had spoken, and saw extraordinary growth, it became clear that God wanted to train more and more young people to serve in all spheres of society as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. Personally, when I think back on that I can’t help but recall the Scripture “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Lord will raise up a standard against him”. There was a flood of existential and experimental thinking with a new and entirely subjective approach to values; the idea that there is no such thing as truth was beginning to dominate our universities.
From One to More than 800 in Fifty Years
It seems amazing to me that it is nearly 50 years since that first word about the seven spheres was given to Loren. During that time, well over 1000 YWAM centres have been established, and training courses/schools in the University of the Nations are registered in more than 800 locations.
Though a lot of time has passed, it would still be too early to say that a new reformation has begun, but YWAM is not the only movement working towards the reformation of all seven spheres of society. Many churches and countless other ministries are focusing on one or more of the seven spheres. I am pleased to say that for the most part they understand that this is not about grabbing power, nor is it about the church dominating all seven spheres as it has in some periods of history. It‘s about public service. It’s about excellence in vocations, and it’s about creative communication of God’s ways. You might say it is all about maximizing influence for the common good. Though it is still early days, it now looks feasible, especially with the generation just emerging into adulthood, that we might see a revival of Christian values in all seven spheres of society. This would provide once again a more caring, compassionate, law-abiding, non-discriminatory, equal-opportunity environment in which all people can thrive.
Lord, have mercy on us!