©Photo by Joshua Woroniecki
I once produced a livestream on the subject of Alignment. Within a couple of days I was dismayed to discover that one of my viewers posted a comment in which labelled it as cultish. I then sounded it out with others who had some sympathy with that interpretation. I felt unfairly judged! But in the long run, it was helpful, because it became obvious that my language on the subject must be well-defined. So here is an attempt to clarify.
The term, as it applies to Youth With A Mission and probably many movements and organisations, came to my attention via my friend John Dawson. When he was commissioned to be International President of YWAM in 2003 in Singapore his inaugural message was entitled “Alignment”. John has a great gift for using words accurately, so I think the subject was well and widely understood.
His point and mine was that when we align ourselves with God’s will, we live in the middle of His blessing. That doesn’t mean in the middle of ease and prosperity. As nearly every committed Christian knows, living in the centre of the will of God is sometimes painful, but it’s always the pathway to the greatest lasting fruitfulness your life or mine can bear. I think it was Gregory Boyd who said, “Life on this earth is best understood as living in a war zone”. However, Jesus is the Captain of the Hosts of the Lord, and He has said in John 10:10 “My purpose is to give you a rich and satisfying life”. So we might say “battle and blessing” summarises the life lived well.
The aligned life remains in the place of victorious battle and blessing.
Alignment applies to different aspects of our lives.
Firstly, there is alignment with God’s ways as revealed in Scripture and applied to our lives by the Holy Spirit. We cannot disobey His commandments and expect Him to bless our lives.
It also refers to alignment with His specific guidance to each one of us. Peter says in his first Epistle “we are a royal priesthood”. Each one of us lives in His presence, hears His voice, and has the grace to follow Him, so we must choose to stay aligned with His calling on us individually.
If we are part of a church or a mission, we should be aligned with the particular calling of that body of people. As a member of Youth With A Mission I should resonate with our beliefs, purpose, values, and legacy words. The more I am aligned with God’s calling on YWAM, the more fruitful I will be.
There is one more facet of alignment, which is where the controversy came when I mentioned it in the livestream. We are to be aligned with leaders in our lives. The problem arose because some people thought that meant unquestioning obedience. But that is not it at all! We are aligned when we maintain an open, honest relationship where agreements and disagreements are possible without disrupting the relationship.
Can you easily identify those with whom you should be aligned? For me, it has been the team of leaders with whom I lead locally, and it also applies to my relationship with Loren and Darlene Cunningham and those who comprise the team of international YWAM elders. Loren and Dar have been faithful, honest leaders of great character, so alignment with them has almost always been easy. However, there were a couple of occasion when I disagreed with Loren and didn’t do what he wanted me to do.
For example, many years ago Marti and I felt we were to take our children to spend a few weeks with my extended family in Colorado, where they had many cousins of similar age. We were there and enjoying watching the friendships between cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents deepen when Loren phoned.
He said he and Joy Dawson had been praying and they felt the Lord told them to call and tell me I should be at the international outreach in Canada that summer. I explained that we were pretty sure that I should be with Marti and the Kids in the USA. I agreed to pray about it. Marti and did pray and felt I was not to go. Loren rang again to say that several of them were praying together and felt I should be there. Again, I said no.
I think in some organisations or churches, the senior leader would have reacted angrily, but Loren didn’t. He respected that the “priesthood of all believers” included me and knew that no leader has the right to override the divine guidance of others. He understood that, even if I was mistaken, I should not be there unless I knew that God wanted me there. I did not obey him, but thanks to his maturity and graciousness, I stayed aligned with him.
Not all people in authority understand that, but we should still be able to say, with the Apostle Paul when he was on trial, “I always do my best to be at peace with everyone”.
Marti and I have now lived together in the context of our calling which is global missions, particularly as expressed in Youth With A Mission, for 54 years. We look back on tests, trials, and hardships, but know that the summary of our experience is exactly what Jesus promised. He has given us a rich and satisfying life (John 10:10 NLT). That is because God loves to “give good gifts to His children”, but our part in that rich and satisfying journey is staying aligned—with His ways, His calling, and the people He has called us to be with and to submit to. So, alignment, when understood that way will lead to God’s blessing on our lives.