Paradigm Shifts & YWAM Simple Church Planting
March 15, 2011

I spent the last week in Kona, HI (hard, right?) training YWAM DTS missionaries with my friend Pam Arlund. We equipped around 300 students to make disciples and plant simple churches that can multiply among youth. We’ve seen this process begin on hundreds of universities the last three years.

The idea is simple, powerful, and it is catching on:

Send young people to preach the gospel, make disciples, and form people into groups that follow Jesus together in the areas where they do life.

God is using young people to grow these kinds of simple church groups all over the world!

This trip was interesting for me, as YWAM is the largest youth-focused mission agency in the world. The base at Kona is in many ways a “flagship” base for YWAM. See the YWAM Kona webpage to get a feel for the incredible legacy and influence they have wielded over the last 50 years. It is an amazing story starting with a dream of Loren and Darlene Cunningham and a team of faith-filled pioneers to send young people to influence the nations of the world. Today, this legacy continues as YWAM leaders seek to mobilize a new student missions movement to fulfill the Great Commission in our generation. Many from the YWAM movement have had a tremendous influence on me personally. It was an honor to work alongside new friends at the base, partnering together to send young people to the nations. The commitment and energy among the Kona staff and students was truly inspiring!


Students at University of the Nations, Kona


One of the students we trained last quarter came and told a story to this quarter’s DTS class.


“After the training in simple church planting, I met a student in Cambodia on my outreach. He made a decision to begin following Jesus. I then asked him to gather his friends together. By the time I left, he and about 20 friends were regularly gathering together, learning to follow Jesus together. He’s now enrolled as a DTS student at the YWAM base there.”


He then summed up the process of church planting in his own words:


Spend time with Jesus.

Go meet others and teach them to spend time with Jesus.

Send them out to teach others to spend time with Jesus.


Ha. I like it!


On the fourth day, we spent the morning learning to make a distinction between three levels of authority:


Clear Biblical Commands — Apostolic Examples — Modern Church Traditions/Culture


(Can you think of some examples from the scriptures or your own experience that would fit into these categories?) This exercise was powerful for students. Many of them felt like they were given permission to truly follow Jesus’ words for the first time. Some of them had learned traditions that, though well-intended, had prevented them from fully following Jesus. Some had thought they weren’t qualified to baptize or teach others to obey Jesus. The morning culminated with several personally responding to follow Jesus’ command to be baptized.

We had a tremendous baptism celebration for several people that afternoon. It was awesome!

Students get baptized at University of the Nations, YWAM base Kona, HI


It was really fun to equip students to go out to make disciples and form them into groups that follow Jesus together. That’s what simple church planting is about!


Simple church planting may not be for everybody, but for increasing numbers of people, this has become an incredibly fruitful way God uses to bring an extraordinary gospel to the people and places that need it most.

It’s like planting a seed right into the soil where people live.

It’s like lighting a candle in the darkness of people’s apartment complexes and university residence halls.

It’s the gospel. It’s the church. It’s the kingdom of God.

Ordinary people are taking the message everywhere and it’s changing lives everywhere it goes!


This was one of the most receptive groups I have ever worked with. At the end of the week, student after student communicated various versions of the same sentiment:


“You gave me permission to do what I sensed Jesus leading me to do for so long. Others said I couldn’t do it like this, but now I understand I can. Thank you!”


It’s become evident to me that God is speaking to an entire generation, preparing them for a global harvest – I believe unlike the world has ever seen. He’s telling a generation they can follow Jesus, reach nations, transform culture, change lives and dream big – all while marching to the beat of a new sound from heaven for our time.


You may ask, “Father, what are you doing in our generation?” When you hear Him respond, nothing honors Him more than simply following Him in obedience and love. Don’t worry about what others think. Simply focus on your Father in heaven and let Him send you into His harvest fields.


The last day of our training, the presence of the Holy Spirit fell so tangibly on our gathering. I was on the floor crying, filled with joy and thankfulness at God’s faithfulness. My new friends, worship leaders Michael and Angela Pinkston, shared a song they’d written about God weaving His story through our lives. Listen to it here. I think it will encourage you.


God is doing incredible things in our time!

“Father in heaven – Send forth a new generation of laborers into Your harvest fields. Write a story through our lives that will be heard for eternity! Amen!”


  1. Durand Robinson

    Erik. Your post is so refreshing and inspiring. I just moved back from 27 years of being surrounded by friends far from God in Europe and am trying to do the same now in Denver. Spend time with Jesus. Go meet with others and teach them to spend time with Jesus. Send them out to teach others to spend time with Jesus… not exactly rocket science is it. Thanks for reminding me today.

    Durand Robinson, Greater Europe Mission

    • Erik Fish

      Ha. Thanks for the feedback, Durand. Yes, keeping this in perspective certainly takes the pressure off and helps us truly enjoy Jesus and others more. 🙂

  2. Gage Thompson

    Hello I’m looking to do a DTS with ywam that has a focus on church planting and evangelism. I came across your post on the internet. Do you have any suggestions on a base or Dts that starts after June of 2012 with this focus? Thanks Gage


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