By Mark Ellis —
Loren Cunningham, the impactful global evangelist who founded Youth With A Mission, passed away today as a result of cancer. He was 88.
He left his world at 4:20 a.m. in his sleep at his home in Kona, Hawaii, according to an Instagram post by YWAM Kona.
In early March it was announced that Cunningham had Stage Four cancer, following a body scan that revealed extensive cancer in Loren’s lungs, bones, and lymph system.
The family held out hope for a miracle and counted it a blessing that his mind was not affected at that time. “What we DO know is that he is in God’s hands,” his wife Darlene said in March, as the family prioritized his quality of life.
Cunningham was known as the “Six Million Mile Man,” due to his extensive mission-related travels.
“Loren was the first person in history to travel to every sovereign nation on earth, all dependent countries, and more than 100 territories and islands for the sake of Christ and the Great Commission (Mark 16:15). Now he has added one more “stamp” to his well-worn passport: HEAVEN!” the official announcement on the YWAM website states.
Loren has been described as a “de-regulator of missions” because he enlisted young people to serve short-term, globally, raising their own support. This resulted in millions of young people deployed around the world to proclaim the Good News.
The ministry he launched in 1960 now has tens of thousands of full-time staff in 200+ countries serving at over 2,000 YWAM locations.
Many have lauded YWAM as among the world’s largest and most significant mission movements. “Well, however large it is, it’s not large enough because Jesus’ last commandment to reach the whole world with the Gospel has not been completed,” Cunningham said.
He had an ecumenical heart, wanting to build bridges of unity within the body of Christ, seeking partnerships with other missions and churches.
When people called him “doctor” or “reverend,” he would correct them and say, “Jesus was just Jesus, and I’m just Loren. Please call me Loren.”
Loren answered the call to missions at a revival meeting in 1948 at the age of 13. God spoke to him through Mark 16:15: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”
He received a remarkable vision from the Lord in the Bahamas in 1956. “He was staying in a missionary’s home, kneeling beside the bed, praying in preparation to speak that night. He says, ‘Suddenly, I was looking at a map of the world, only the map was alive and moving! I could see all the continents, and waves were crashing onto their shores. Each wave went onto a continent, then receded, then came up further until it covered the continent completely. The waves became young people–kids my age and even younger–covering all the continents of the globe. They were talking to people on street corners and outside bars. They were going from house to house and preaching the Gospel. They came from everywhere and went everywhere, caring for people. Then, just as suddenly as it had come, the scene was gone.’ (Excerpt from Is That Really You, God? by Loren Cunningham with Janice Rogers, YWAM Publishing.)
Global initiatives launched under Loren’s leadership include YWAM Olympic Outreaches, the International Torch Run, Cardinal Points Prayer Days, the University of the Nations, YWAM Ships (28 vessels currently serve the most isolated islands and coastlands), Pray OMT, and myriads of other ministries birthed by leaders he inspired, according to YWAM.
“Loren believes that every Christian is a missionary and that there needs to be a ‘deregulation’ of missions. In other words, the global Church needs to change the way we view and conduct missions. Missions can be done anywhere one is, even in the marketplace. Loren says when Christians do that then we will be able to finish the Great Commission.”
His heart is to have the Bible in every home, believing God can and has used His Word and the principles of His Word to transform nations. In order for that to happen, the Scriptures need to be translated orally into every Mother Tongue as a response to Jesus’ prayer “on earth as it is in heaven.” In heaven, in Revelation 7:9, we see “a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.” Loren says that as we sow the Bible into more and more lives, we will see the worldviews of people and nations realigned – the Bible will change their thinking, their values, and their behavior.
At its 50th anniversary in 2010, YWAM had 30,000 full-time volunteers and reported that more than five million participants had served in its programs as students, short-term volunteers, and full-time staff.
“From that point, YWAM went viral and they decided to stop trying to keep a count. Now only God knows the numbers.”