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What churches should know about YWAM Part 2: Partnering with the New Apostolic Reformation

This post is the second in a series on the influential Christian missions organization Youth With a Mission (YWAM). YWAM was founded in 1960 by Loren Cunningham as a way to deploy young people as missionaries throughout the world. It’s now one of the largest Christian missionary organizations in the world, having more than 18,000 staff working in over 180 nations. Many churches financially support YWAM full-time missionaries and young adults who sign up to go on short-term mission trips with YWAM or to attend one of YWAM’s Discipleship Training Schools or other schools. Yet many of these churches would likely be surprised and concerned to learn about some of the unbiblical and spiritually harmful teachings promoted by this organization.

In the first post I outlined one significant part of YWAM’s theologically controversial history. The remaining posts in the series focus on YWAM as it currently stands.

Partnering with the New Apostolic Reformation

Many people are unaware that YWAM has come under significant influence from a controversial movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). In this post, I show that YWAM has allied itself with NAR leaders and has adopted many of their questionable teachings and practices.

For those who don’t know, NAR is a new religious movement led by men and women who claim to be prophets and apostles. They claim to have extraordinary authority, critical new revelations, and miraculous powers – akin to the Old Testament prophets and Christ’s apostles. To read more about this movement, including its dangers, see my co-authored books here.

YWAM’s display of unity with NAR leaders

Under the leadership of YWAM’s highest leaders, YWAM has forged relational and formal ties with influential NAR leaders and organizations. See, for example, this photo, taken at a NAR event in 2016, led by the NAR “prophet” Lou Engle. At the event, YWAM founder Loren Cunningham shared the stage with three of the most influential NAR leaders – the apostle Bill Johnson (Bethel Church in Redding, California), the prophet Lou Engle (TheCall), and NAR teacher Mike Bickle (International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri). Though some of these leaders deny that they’re NAR or distance themselves from NAR, nevertheless they hold to its core doctrine: that apostles and prophets have a governing role in the church today.

Highly orchestrated, this moment was designed to show these leaders’ intention to unite their influence and efforts. Their display of unity was viewed by those in NAR and YWAM as prophetically and historically significant, as can be seen in this comment posted to the Facebook page of a YWAM base in Tyler, Texas.


Loren Cunningham (third from left) shares the stage with Bill Johnson (left), Mike Bickle (second from left) and Lou Engle (center, holding microphone) at TheCall Azusa rally in 2016, in a historic show of unity.


















YWAM and IHOPKC: A ‘kingdom partnership’

YWAM leaders further solidified their desire to network with NAR leaders, in 2016, by forging an official partnership between YWAM and Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri (IHOPKC). A formal, public announcement of the “kingdom partnership” was made at IHOPKC, following a weeklong gathering of thousands of IHOPKC and YWAM staff. During the announcement, IHOPKC and YWAM leaders summarized the history of unofficial partnership between the two organizations and how they believed God had orchestrated the partnership. Below is a picture of Bickle announcing the official partnership together with YWAM’s Darlene Cunningham (wife of YWAM founder Loren Cunningham) and John Dawson (YWAM International Director of Urban Missions).


A “Celebration of Partnership” event was held on Sept. 11, 2016, at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri (IHOPKC)), to announce the new, official partnership between IHOPKC and YWAM. Mike Bickle (center left) introduces YWAM co-founder Darlene Cunningham during the event. Watch this video of the event.



YWAM Australia and ‘Awakening Australia’

YWAM Australia was a “supporting organization” for a large NAR conference held in Melbourne in September 2018, featuring some of the most well-known and controversial NAR leaders, including Bill Johnson, Todd White, and Ben Fitzgerald. An article published by the Gospel Coalition in Australia, titled “At What Price Awakening?”, warned about this event.

As an example of why the NAR leaders speaking at this event are so controversial, check out this Youtube video. It shows one of the event’s leaders and speakers – Ben Fitzgerald, a former pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California – promoting a disturbing practice known as “grave sucking.” During this practice, also known as “grave soaking,” individuals have lain on (or leaned against) the graves of well-known miracle-workers – such as the British faith healer Smith Wigglesworth – in an effort to “suck” up their anointings.


Ben Fitzgerald is leading of team of students (purportedly from Bethel Church in Redding, California) in “grave sucking.” This screen capture is from a Youtube video posted in 2011.



YWAM’s promotion of ‘Treasure Hunting’ evangelism and ‘strategic-level spiritual warfare’

Another example of YWAM, at the institutional level, promoting NAR is its endorsement of distinctive NAR practices, including “Treasure Hunting” evangelism and “strategic-level spiritual warfare.” Both are promoted by YWAM today. This can be seen in current articles featured on the website of YWAM Frontier Missions, one of YWAM’s largest global organizations encompassing 2,000 workers.

One article on the YWAM Frontier Missions website, titled “Simple Clues Lead to Treasure,” describes, in positive terms, how YWAM missionaries working among Muslims are employing the problematic practice of Treasure Hunting. To learn more about Treasure Hunting, see my post, “What are the dangers of Treasure Hunting evangelism?”


This article promoting Treasure Hunting is currently featured on the YWAM Frontiers website.











Another article written by Joy Dawson, one of YWAM’s top leaders, is titled “Pray for the Unreached.” Dawson’s article promotes strategic-level spiritual warfare, which is the act of confronting powerful evil spirits that are believed to rule specific geographical regions. Those engaging in this practice believe these spirits must be identified by name and be neutralized, or cast out, before the gospel can go forth with effectiveness in a region. Strategic-level spiritual warfare first entered YWAM, in large part, through the teachings of YWAM leader John Dawson, who later became the international president of YWAM. Dawson popularized strategic-level warfare strategies in YWAM, including “spiritual mapping” and “identificational repentance,” through his 1989 bestselling book Taking Our Cities for God, which he dedicated to YWAM missionaries around the world.

In his book, Dawson recounts stories of YWAM teams engaging in strategic-level spiritual warfare. By 2006, it had become so ingrained in YWAM that one researcher, René Holvast, noted in his dissertation that “It is part of their fabric.” For a more detailed explanation of strategic-level spiritual warfare, along with a biblical response, see chapters 15 and 16 of my co-authored book A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement.


NAR teachings and practices promoted at YWAM bases around the world

Given the fact that YWAM’s top leaders have forged ties with NAR leaders and their organizations, it may come as no surprise that NAR teachings and practices can be found at YWAM bases throughout the world. Below is sampling of some key NAR teachings and practices and YWAM bases that promote them. Due to the large number of YWAM bases, it would be impossible to catalog all the NAR teachings in such a brief post. My intent is merely to quickly show that there is a cornucopia of NAR teachings and practices distributed broadly throughout YWAM bases around the world.

Strategic-level spiritual warfare being promoted by YWAM Los Angeles

As noted above, John Dawson’s book Taking Our Cities for God popularized strategic-level warfare practices in YWAM (and beyond). The following Facebook comment, posted by YWAM Los Angeles in August 2018, promotes this book and refers to it as a “classic YWAM book.”












“Normal Christianity,” “Greater Works,” and “Miraculous Lifestyle” teachings being promoted by YWAM Marine Reach (New Zealand)

Normal Christianity is the belief that the normal Christian life should be characterized by the working of miracles, such as multiplying food, healing blindness, and raising the dead.  The miracles Christians perform should be even “greater works” – or more amazing miracles – than those performed by Jesus. Individuals who aren’t pursuing a miraculous lifestyle – and churches that aren’t seeing miracles occur regularly in their midst — are described by NAR leaders promoted by YWAM, such as Bill Johnson, as “powerless.” References to these teachings about miracles can be seen in the description of the curriculum at YWAM Marine Reach in New Zealand. (Click the “Curriculum” tab.)


Healing on demand teachings being promoted by YWAM Sunshine Coast (Australia)

A Youtube video, published in 2014 and titled “Lifestyle Evangelism,” shows an outreach that was conducted by students at YWAM Sunshine Coast in Australia. In the video, students go to a public place where they find individuals with physical conditions, such as a young man walking with the help of crutches. The students go up to those people and tell them that God will heal them instantaneously.


This screen capture is from a Youtube video showing a team of students at YWAM Sunshine Coast in Australia practicing so-called “Lifestyle Evangelism.”

















Teaching students to prophesy at YWAM Chico (California) and YWAM Finland

Many YWAM bases, including YWAM Chico and YWAM Finland, claim that anyone can learn to prophesy (or develop other miraculous powers). To help people develop miraculous powers, they offer special training at workshops and classes.


Engaging in NAR-Style prayer practices, including the making of “prophetic declarations,” at YWAM Salem (Oregon) and YWAM Harbour City (Hong Kong)

Prophetic declarations are statements declaring that God will do such-and-such a thing. Simply saying the words in faith is believed to release God’s power. This practice is undergirded by the Word of Faith teaching that God’s power can be released through spoken words. Declarations are seen as a type of “warfare prayer,” in contrast to the more traditional view of prayer in which believers don’t declare that God will do something. Rather, they humbly ask Him to do something with the understanding that he might say no. Examples of bases engaging in NAR-style prayer practices can be seen on the websites of YWAM Salem and YWAM Harbour City.


Promoting 24/7 prayer with end-time teachings from Mike Bickle at YWAM Kona (Hawaii)

Many 24/7 prayer rooms at YWAM bases are directly related to NAR. They’re modeled after the 24/7 prayer room run by the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri (IHOPKC). Mike Bickle, the founder of IHOPKCclaims he received revelation from the “prophet” Bob Jones to start a 24/7 prayer room. And Bickle’s teachings indicate that the establishment of other 24/7 prayer rooms throughout the world is an essential new practice for the church. He claims that they’ll play a crucial role in the unfolding of God’s end-time plans for the earth. Shockingly, he teaches that, through the practice of 24/7 prayer, the last generation of Christians will actually cause the tribulation, described in the book of Revelation. In prayer rooms throughout the world, people will “release,” in unison, judgments of God that will kill millions of people and wipe out entire cities. See those teachings here and here and here. Wording on the YWAM Kona Prayer Room website mirrors Bickle’s distinctive teachings about 24/7 prayer and the role it will play in the end time.


This screen capture comes from a Youtube video where Mike Bickle explains his disturbing teachings about how the end-time church will release God’s judgments on earth through their “prayers of faith.” Bickle’s teachings have impacted 24/7 prayer rooms at YWAM bases around the world.














Treasure Hunting with teams from YWAM Madison (Wisconsin) and YWAM East London

Treasure Hunting, a novel form of evangelism promoted in NAR, is practiced by numerous YWAM bases, including YWAM Madison and YWAM East London. Earlier in this post, I showed how Treasure Hunting is promoted by YWAM’s top leaders.


Viewing films promoting NAR teachings and practices at YWAM Denver (Colorado)

A series of films made by Darren Wilson — featuring NAR leaders — has been shown to students at many YWAM bases, including YWAM Denver. (A former student there describes how viewing the films impacted her and the other students.) The first film, Finger of God, claims to document hundreds of people raised from the dead, manna appearing in the Pentagon, gemstones falling from the sky, and the miraculous appearance of gold teeth fillings in people’s mouths, among other miracles.


This series of films, by Darren Wilson, features NAR leaders and has been shown at many YWAM bases.







Promoting the Passion Translation at YWAM Southlands Tasmania (Australia)

The Passion Translation, produced by NAR apostle Brian Simmons, is a controversial NAR “translation” of the Bible. It has been discredited by multiple Bible scholars. Learn more about it here. Yet it’s promoted by YWAM bases, including YWAM Southlands Tasmania, who even invited the translator, Brian Simmons, to speak at the base in 2017. (See the Facebook advertisement for the event below.) Simmons claims that, in 2009, Jesus Christ literally visited him and personally commissioned him to make this new translation of the Bible. He also claims Jesus promised to reveal to him secrets of the Hebrew language that would help him make his translation.





























Take note that the list of bases above is not exhaustive. If a specific base is not listed that does not mean it is free of NAR influence. It is true that YWAM bases are semi-autonomous and, thus, teachings can vary from base to base. But given YWAM’s promotion of NAR at the institutional level, I imagine it would be difficult to find a base where some degree of NAR influence is not seen. This makes sense: as the organization’s leaders embrace and promote NAR, the bases inevitably follow.

About the author

Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University

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16 Responses to “What churches should know about YWAM Part 2: Partnering with the New Apostolic Reformation”

  1. CC Says:

    Another great article, Holly!

    One of your points that I found particularly interesting is Bill Johnson’s characterization of churches without regular miracles as “powerless”. As a former Pentecostal, I can attest that such a characterization is, well, characteristic of the broader Pentecostal movement. I remember well how we used to look down at, deride, and even mock the “frozen chosen” who were outside the movement. Such religious snobbery is surely the antithesis of the humility produced in true believers as a fruit of the Spirit.

  2. Janis Amacker Says:

    Holly, you have once again exposed extreme false teachings of NAR and YWAM! Thank you for your much needed information regarding this dangerous movement!

  3. John Says:

    Appreciate the work you are doing. Keep it up, Holly.

  4. bill (cycleguy) Says:

    It’s all I can do not to “lose my cookies” as I read and hear of this stuff Holly. Makes me sick and sad that people are so duped.

  5. Carol Berubee Says:

    Well done, Holly! It’s no surprise that YWAM is very much “NAR-oriented” since Loren Cunningham and Bill Bright (and, later, Francis Schaeffer) each claimed they had a vision or message from God concerning “seven spheres.” That was 1975. Cunningham and Bright worked together to shape YWAM into a change-agency to bring about the kingdom on earth through the seven spheres, or mountains.

  6. Jack Morrow Says:

    Thanks for another informative post. I still have yet to hear the number and names of the cities that have been taken for God (so far).

    An older site that has some useful information on YWAM is The Thorn Street Chronicles, especially The “Spiritual Mapping” of Youth With A Mission.

  7. Angela Says:

    …. And to think I was planning to do a DTS in my youth….

    Thanks again Holly, my prayer is for whatever else needs to be exposed re NAR and all its various tentacles, will be exposed…

  8. Benaiah Says:

    Thanks Holly, for yet another alert. God help us with all this NAR/Bethel influence stretching far and wide.

    Grave sucking, yet again (sigh). Another typical example of Bethel’s sordid lack of exegesis. Yet, the context couldn’t be more plain:

    2 Kings 13:20-23: “And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulcher of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet. But Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. And the LORD was gracious to them, and had compassion on them, and had respect to them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet.”

    1) There’s no talk of Elisha’s ‘anointing’ or ‘heritage’ being in the grave.
    (Side note: If the disciples were asked, ‘Why seek ye the living among the dead?’ (Lk. 24:5b), why would we do any different? We are ‘made alive together with Him’ (Christ) (Col. 2:13) ‘by the Spirit’ (1 Pt. 3:18), and after we ‘depart’, as Paul puts it, we will immediately ‘be with Christ’ (Phil.1:23). Even the OT states that, after death the ‘spirit shall return to God who gave it’ (going) ‘upward’, while only beasts go down into the earth (Eccl. 3:21; 12:7).
    2) The man was ‘let down’. Put differently, he was not actively pursueing Elisha’s anointing. He was dead himself. His corpse was thrown in Elisha’s grave, his body touched the bones of Elisha. No active ‘grave sucking’…
    3) When he revived, he ‘stood up on his feet.’ That’s all that is stated. There’s no track record of the man carrying on with ‘the mantle’ of Elisha, with a double portion of some sort, impacting nations, healing people, etc.
    4) The result wasn’t revival either. In the aftermath, there was only more oppression from the king of Syria.
    5) Eventually, it was the Lord Himself that was gracious to them, had compassion on them because of his covenant with their forefathers by which he promises not to wipe them out. No Wigglesworth or Elisha anointing brought any restoration.

    The desire to have God move and use you like he did with others is commendable; but you can’t make withdrawals like that. It doesn’t come by craving gifts, powers and anointings. It takes an obedient and open heart that longs to manifest the FRUIT of the Spirit, which is the character of Christ, that God may — or may not (1 Cor. 12:11) — use for such feats as Elisha’s.

  9. Follower of the Nazarene Says:

    Hi Holly, Heard you on Heiser’s podcast some years back.

    I live near YWAM and have dear friends in the movement so I track their movements closely. They live on a secluded compound. It’s very cultish.

    In February of this year YWAM hosted The Send where Benny Hinn and Rodney Howard Browne poured out the kundalini spirit to 65,000 youth, along with

    Francis Chan (who says that if you disagree with Rick Warren, John Piper, Mike Bickel or Mark Driscoll, God will kill you for violating 1 Corinthians 3:16),

    Todd White (gnostic witch who says his spiritual father is Kenneth Copeland and that he got his anoiting from Benny Hinn and who openly calls for an end to the Protestant Reformation),

    Lou Engle (who rocks back and forth like heroin addict from all the contemplative mysticism he does, think kabbalistic Jews at the wailing wall and who bowed down and kissed the feet of the popes ambassador and apologized for 500 years of protest with Mike Bickel, Cindy Jacobs and Che Ahn present),

    Bill Johnson (gnostic who also calls for an end to the Protestant Reformation among grave soaking, necromancy and other things),

    Mike Bickle (confirmed false prophet who advocates for an end to the protestant reformation and watched in glee as Lou Engle kissed the feet of the popes ambassador), and Heidi Baker (who believes in, prays to and teaches about “gods” not YHWH-that’s not a joke those her own words-and who also imparts the kundalini spirit to people).

    At Together 2016 Loren Cunningham opened with the Pope addressing the audience.

    These people are all openly calling for an end to the protestant faith and openly seek to go back under Rome. Combined with their kingdom now dominion theology, and massive amounts of money they are extremely dangerous.

    Please continue to do more YWAM pieces as there is little light shed on YWAM. Thank you for all that you do! You are invaluable! God Bless!!!


  10. Drew Gosnell Says:

    JUST A REMINDER, Bill Johnson no longer distances himself from the NAR label ever since he forwarded Che Ahn’s new book, “Modern Day Apostles” which just came out earlier this year (2019). Che Ahn calls their movement the New Apostolic Reformation without shame and Bill Johnson wrote the enthusiastic forward. So NO MORE of this “Oh I don’t even know what the NAR is” from Apostle Bill.

  11. S. Stuart Says:

    With regard to the NAR, what is your opinion of Campus Crusade for Christ(CRU)?

    I know when I was in college, we might have had a vague concept of the spheres of influence, but the teachings were more along the lines of working as unto the Lord and God can use you to reach people no matter where you work (no such thing as sacred vs secular). We were taught change of culture came through evangelism. The idea of conquering these spheres (changing the culture first) to produce good soil before we can sow seed would seem totally foreign to people in our chapter.

    What I’m not sure of now is what does CRU actually teach as an organization? Is the concept of spheres of influence a benign paradigm which CRU and YWAM applied in two very different ways or is dominionism an inevitable outworking of this view?

  12. John Winlow Says:

    I had five wonderful years with YWAM back in the 70s. We encountered (and discarded) a few bad teachings like the Shepherding movement, the Kansas City prophets. And of course there was the MGofG teachings with Gordon Olson. But to my mind all these things were to be examined and evaluated and used to shape your own individual theological understanding. We had some excellent teachers engaged in ministry or. Bible study come through. Francis Schaefer wrote some excellent books, ‘The God Who is there’, ‘He is there and He is not silent’. I still have my copies and sometimes re-read them. So I don’t get the criticism of him in 1975. I do remember teachings on the 7 Mountains stuff, but again no one was forcing you to buy into it. I didn’t.

    For me the value of the YWAM I knew was living and working with young devout Christians, engaging in outreach, learning how to deal with relationships, with responsibilities, and hearing from people engaged in active ministries and missions, such that the average local church Christian would never have.
    YWAM was not perfect – what is this side of eternity?- but it inspired me in my own understanding of the faith and my walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t accept this NAR teaching at all, I think we are called firstly to be servants of our Lord , to walk humbly with our God and live in the power of the Holy Spirit without being super spiritual. I will read all the links provided here. I do accept that we can all fall into error, but I just wanted to say that I thank God for the YWAM I knew, the friends and deep relationships I forged with some, and which are vital and ongoing today.

  13. Kris Says:

    I’ve been through all of these teachings…my skull is going numb thinking of how stupid I am.

  14. Kris Says:

    Anyone had experience with Fellowship of the Martyrs?

  15. John Bower Says:

    Did anyone watch that video of the people being healed? I don’t see anything wrong with that? Healing in Jesus’ name isn’t deceiving- and if they are doing it in the Lord’s name, the devil sure isn’t the one healing

  16. Brad Says:

    Hello Miss Holly,

    I’ve been teaching on Kanye West trying to get people to realize his radical conversion wasn’t very radical and not much of a conversion.

    Are you familar with Scott Dawson from “Strength to Stand”? He’s doing stuff that seems a lot like a 3 day version of YWAM.

    They had Kanye West sign up last minute as they needed another “star” when their “Christian” Comedian had been outed for sending videos of himself doing things that shouldn’t be sent to young Christian women.

    Now Kanye has been tapped by NAR at Awaken 2020 http://www.awaken2020.com/

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