S. Bradford Long

LGBT Writer, Yoga Teacher, Esoteric Christian

Episode 17: Is Youth With a Mission a Cult?

Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

In this episode of Sacred Tension, Scientology survivor Chris Shelton comes back onto the show to help me figure out if Youth With a Mission (YWAM) is a destructive cult. Youth With a Mission is one of the largest Christian mission organizations in the world, and I was a member for two painful years. In the process we talk about the marks of a destructive cult, trance states, the ubiquity of destructive ideas, and gay conversion therepy.


Penelope says:

I’ve been looking for something like this for the past year! I did a Dts in kona a little over a year ago and have been wondering if I was in a cult as well. There were many stark experiences I look back on and see that something was off. For example Loren Cunningham meeting with the whole base at worship and “saying ask god right now how much money you aren’t meant to give ywam and the first number that pops in your head is it ” and then telling us to call family and friends and ask them for money. Or during Dts we had a class on holy spirit and I remember one student being told he was holding back because he wasn’t falling on the floor in the spirit and speaking in tongues. Or when we had to stand infront of our class and repent of every past sin. I took away good thing from ywam but in whole I felt immensely more lost after my experience than before. Reflecting I can see things that were implanted in me for example at prayer nights I felt so much pressure to have visions I think I made them up. Or how the teachings convinced me gay people were broken when I known now that is false . I think you missed some things in your podcast just because of how long it has been since you were there. For example Loren Cunningham is still alive and is 100% looked at almost like a god within the organization. Students are pressured to come back and work and you are made to feel that any life besides missions is wrong or not gods path. During lecture phase you have zero free time making it almost impossible to critically think or research and to note having doubts etc. is said to be the devil casting doubts in you. I have a lot more to say but it’s hard to put it all into words thank you for your podcast it has helped me feel less alone as many of my friends are still in ywam and would never understand. You are brave to speak out , thank you!

sbradfordlong says:

Penelope, thank you so much for sharing. You’re absolutely right about the many damaging aspects of YWAM, and my experience was very mild compared to some of the stories I’ve heard. Honestly, Chris and I just scratched the surface – a single episode was not nearly long enough to address the subject. I’m glad you are out of the organization, and I hope that you heal completely from the cultish manipulation you experienced there. I’m very glad the episode was a consolation for you.

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