Reflection: On a DTS Trainee Deciding to Quit

On Monday we had to wave goodbye to one of our DTS trainees, who informed me on Saturday night that due to what they felt were irresolvable issues with YWAM Cambridge, they had decided to leave the DTS. goodbye
I want to respect the person involved–but I’m going to post a few reflections on the issue here, for three reasons. Firstly, I have committed myself to a high degree of transparency in explaining and communicating the various things involved with the strange job I do. Secondly, and specifically, I’m accountable to those who receive our prayer-letter, who I try to keep informed about what’s happening with our DTS–both positive and negative! Third, I need to get this stuff of my chest because if it stays in my head it will drive me crazy.

#1 Do I need to clarify my theology of the Holy Spirit?
The ‘irresolvable issues’, as far as I understand, were to do with the manifestations of the Holy Spirit–specifically, speaking in tongues and hearing God’s voice. And feeling an unhealthy pressure and condemnation to do those things. Which leads us to the overwhelming question of what made her feel like this!

For while I definitely believe in the continued operation, usefulness, and even necessity (not–please understand!–necessary for personal salvation, but for the accomplishment of the kingdom assignments God gives us to fulfil) of the charismatic Holy Spirit gifts, and I also believe that to be baptised in the Holy Spirit is an overwhelming reality distinct from that of being born again, I reject the idea that the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit must be speaking in tongues.

Let me repeat, I have no desire to make anyone feel condemned for not speaking in tongues. And if I have done anything to allow any such impression, then maybe I need to explain myself more clearly.

Which I may try and do on this blog at some point in the near future have now done here. And I did try and do when the person involved eventually announced that they were leaving (thus, for the first time, inviting a proper discussion of the matter). But by then it was obviously too late to affect anything. Which brings me to my next thought.

#2 Please share your struggles with your leaders!
If only there had been an open willingness to bring struggles and concerns to the DTS leadership then I think we could have worked through this issue and resolved the matter.

But I think actually that this point can be put more forcefully. I think there’s a biblical imperative to speak up to try and bring change when we think something needs to be changed. Note that I’m saying when you think something needs to be changed, rather than just when you’d prefer something to change–I’m not calling for a generation of chronic mumblers and grumblers. But when we think something is actually wrong (rather than simply not our preference, and here we need discernment!) then we need to speak up!

It might be that we actually have the power to do something about it, in which case we should take the necessary initiative. Or it might be that all the power to bring change rests in the hands of a group of leaders of which we are not part. Nevertheless, in that situation we must still — like Ezekiel — speak out, or risk having the guilt of the sin we perceived rest upon our silent passive selves.

#3 There’s more to life than DTS
Anyway, it’s happened now–so I don’t want to dwell on the negative. I am filled with hope for all involved, and filled with faith that God’s hand is in all this. There is much more to life than DTS, and the DTS certainly has no monopoly on the possibility of encountering God’s presence. Furthermore, I refuse to accept that leaving a DTS before it finishes is necessarily a failure. In fact I am fully convinced that in some situations a person may rightly feel God leading them to do a DTS, come, receive the thing God for which God brought them to DTS, and then rightly feel led to move on before the DTS programme has been completed.

While I was staffing with YWAM Harpenden, there was a guy doing a DTS (this wasn’t a DTS I was working with) who had just come clean after some serious drug addictions. I met him a couple of weeks into the course and he seemed to be thriving–hungry for God and eagerly engaging with the teaching. I was then involved with some other things for a few weeks, before again being able to connect with the group of DTS trainees. But he was nowhere to be seen. I asked around and was told that he’d quit–at which I was surprised, because he had seemed to be doing so well! But further questioning revealed that he hadn’t left out for any negative reason, but rather he had had so much breakthrough so quickly that he felt that he was ready to go home and get straight into the ministry there that he felt God calling him into. The DTS leaders were unsurprisingly disappointed and a little perplexed at the decision, but from my outsider’s point of view it seemed he’d made a good decision.

#4 YWAM Cambridge isn’t for everyone
‘So, do you feel like it’s YWAM in general that you have issues with, or YWAM Cambridge in particular?’ I asked this question, and the response was one of awkward silence, before the soft-spoken response finally came: ‘YWAM Cambridge’. Perhaps surprisingly, I’m not offended by this comment, and in some ways it even makes me glad. Again, a story might help you to understand my thinking.

The summer before we started the Revival & Reformation DTS, we were at Momentum, manning the YWAM stand and trying to give the people there a vision for serving God in mission, specifically through perhaps doing the DTS. I got talking to a girl who had just finished university, and was undecided as to what her next step should be. So I started explaining to her how the DTS might be a good next step for her–and was in particular enthusing about the merits of the 9-month DTS, which of course we were about to start in Cambridge. She listened with interest and took a flyer, but I heard nothing more from her.

Then a few months later, at the Evangelism Gathering of all the UK DTSes, I spotted a face that was somehow familiar–but I wasn’t sure from where. Finally I had the chance to ask, and she explained that she was the one I’d spoken to at Momentum. And she’d been inspired by what I was saying about the DTS, and particularly about the longer version of the DTS. But her conversation had also left her feeling that she’d rather not be on my YWAM Cambridge DTS!

And again I need to say that I’m not offended by this. YWAM Cambridge has a specific flavour, and it is a particularly strong flavour. We share the Foundational Values with every YWAM ministry, but the way we express those is more intense than most — and that’s okay. And I am encouraged by the knowledge that it was through us in YWAM Cambridge doing our thing with passionate intensity that this girl found her place in YWAM with someone else. We are just a catalyst–we are not the complete picture.

#5 Divine acceleration
To return to the original issue of the person who’s just quit our DTS–I had known that this person and also another have both been struggling with some aspects of the teaching and emphasis of our DTS. But what’s interesting is that their responses have been precisely opposite. Just the day before I heard that this person had decided to leave, the other had arranged to talk with me. And she explained that she wants to commit to join the YWAM Cambridge team for the next couple of years, but wanted to make sure the struggles she’s had wouldn’t be a barrier! This sort of strange symmetry seems to me to be that sort of neat little turn of events that must involve God.

And I recall that when we were first praying for the individual concerned, I had the word ‘acceleration’–and prayed that God would begin to work more quickly in her than she even expected! Obviously I wasn’t expecting her to ‘finish’ the DTS six months early, but God’s ways are not our ways!

And if it’s God’s will that’s being done, then may it happen more and more quickly!



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