Press Release

Honoring Loren Cunningham

Published on: October 8, 2023

From Franklin Graham

Not many people come down the road of life who have an impact like Loren Cunningham. He was a force for the Gospel. His vision and passion for reaching lost souls with the Good News of Jesus Christ was unwavering—and God gave him the ability to communicate, to inspire, and to motivate thousands of young men and women to go into the world and do the same. We will miss him, but the work is not finished. I pray there will be an army of young people to pick up where he left off. Even in our last visit a few months ago, Loren had his eyes fixed on Jesus and his mind set on Kingdom work—what an example for all of us.


From David Hamilton

Dear YWAM family,

Today Loren has changed his address from his temporary earthly one to his eternal heavenly one.

As God, Father, Son and Spirit, welcome him into their immediate presence, we rejoice for him and we grieve for us. Our founder has graduated. He is no longer with us. He is with the Lord, and until we join him around the throne of God, we will miss him. We will miss him greatly for he has been to so very many of us an inspiration, a model, a teacher, a mentor, a visionary, a leader, an encourager, a friend.

When I reflect back on Loren’s life here on earth my heart – like many of yours – is filled with a profound sense of gratitude. Loren was to us an amazing God-led leader. The faith-filled, rights-relinquishing, others-empowering, sacrificial obedience to God that both Loren and Darlene joyfully modeled created for many of us a wonderful platform for life and ministry which is so extraordinarily transformative. How many of us came to the Lord through the ministry of some YWAM team on outreach? How many of us were discipled, believed in, championed and released into ministry through those who followed in the footsteps of Loren and Darlene? How many of us met our spouse in YWAM? How many children have been born and raised in the context of a YWAM community? How many of us have discovered our identity, purpose, belonging, calling, and healing through the movement unleashed by this humble man? 

Loren never put the focus on himself. He put it on us – you and me and the myriads of young people who walked into a Great Commission destiny: the youth in Youth With A Mission. It was never Loren on the cover of our promotional brochures. The iconic picture has always been the young twenty-something with a backpack and a guitar going somewhere he or she had never gone before. We – so very many of us – some still young, others with more years, have been able to go in obedience to God in ways that would not have been possible but for the prior obedience of Loren and Darlene. Take time to consider all that you have been able to experience and do because of your story in YWAM, a story made possible because of the missional platform created through Loren’s obedience to God. 

I look back on more than forty-six and a half years. I couldn’t begin to tell the story of my marriage and my family; the story of my children and their spouses, and now the story of my grandchildren without the framework of YWAM. I can’t begin to express how very grateful I am to God for Loren. If it were not for him, I would never have had the privilege of being a YWAMer. Perhaps you feel the same and want to join me in thanking God for Loren.

I thank God for Loren’s unwavering commitment to hear and obey God. The Hebrew word for this is shema. At times shema is translated “hear” and at other times “obey” because it means to listen carefully with the intention of applying obediently what was heard. Loren lived every day like this. He was a remarkable God-led leader who focused on shemaing God. He grew up in a family that intentionally practiced hearing and obeying God (you can read about it in his first book, Is That Really You, God?), so he did this very naturally, with no religious pretense. It was just what he did. It is what we all should do. 

I remember one day I was driving Loren to the airport. I was feeling overwhelmed juggling a variety of leadership responsibilities. I knew Loren carried even more; so I wanted his input on how to prioritize all the items in my complex life. I decided to share what I was going through with him. I was hoping for a little sympathy and some secret formula. He listened attentively as I bemoaned my expansive load of leadership cares. I finished with the question, “So, Loren, how do you decide when you have many competing priorities?” After a pregnant pause, he simply replied, “I only have one priority. I ask God, what do I do next?” It was not a pat answer. He was simply sharing how he lived his life. He had learned, like Mary, to live for the “one thing” (Luk 10:42). It was not complex. Just listen and obey.

I thank God for Loren’s relentless desire to see God’s Great Commission dreams fulfilled. His life exhibited an unflagging diligence in the cause of Christ. He continually focused on how to extend the kingdom of God to where it was not. YWAM’s motto “To Know God & Make Him Known” summarizes Loren’s life. Time and again he relinquished his personal rights (consider his second book, Making Jesus Lord) in order to bring gospel transformation to the least, the last and the lost. He rarely mentioned the sacrifices he had made. There was no room for self-pity. He considered it a privilege to do what he did, no matter the cost! Loren, was not flawless, but he was quick to refocus on Jesus and Jesus’ priorities, whenever he was convicted by the Spirit of God. Like all who are truly godly, Loren was quick “to get up again” after a rare fall (Pro 24:16). This is an example we should all emulate. When we learn to quickly repent and realign ourselves with God, we become a people who are “after God’s own heart” (1Sa 13:14; Act 13:22).

I remember a time when I was pioneering YWAM in Chile. I had not yet met Loren in person, but as a young YWAMer I read his books. He wrote of how he repented when Jesus showed him that he had focused on the release of the Maori, the first ministry ship obtained by YWAM, more than he had focused on Jesus. He wrote of how he wept when he realized he had gotten his focus off the main thing and had relegated Jesus to the shadows. I too wept that day as I considered what I had just read. His passion to be rightly focused stirred something deep in my heart. His transparent humility challenged me. I knew at that moment that I had found my life-long tribe. I could follow this man with confidence. Not because he would always do everything right. I could follow him because he was always willing to receive the Spirit’s correction; quick to repent and refocus on Jesus.

I thank God for Loren’s contagious faith. Not only did Loren take God at his word, but he imparted faith to those who listened to his teaching. He did not have faith in his own faith, but in the faithful character of our matchless God. This childlike confidence in God and his word undoubtedly brought great pleasure to God (Heb 11:6). Because of this, he took on giants and conquered mountains – not only in financial areas (take a look at his third book, Daring to Live on the Edge), but in multiple categories that served to advance the purposes of God. He did this by painting the biggest vision possible at 30,000 feet. Then he’d zoom to the ground level and would show you – yes, you! – how you could unleash this huge historic transformation by doing these few simple things. The details were never prescriptive, but always inspirational. He talked to everyone with the attitude, “You can change the world.” And because he spoke with such remarkable faith, you began believing it too. This is how he championed myriads of people everywhere. We can do the same. We should do the same.

I remember working as Loren’s assistant during the Year of the Bible in Hawaii in 1983. The faith goal was that we would distribute a Bible to everyone across our multi-island state in the mother tongue spoken in each home. We began with nothing in hand. No staff, no data, no finances, no strategy. Nothing. But God had spoken and the goal was clear. We knew what we were supposed to do. We just didn’t know how. So we tried one how after another, one approach after another until the seemingly impossible was fully completed. When an obstacle hindered one method, Loren would remain undaunted. He would inspire us to seek God and discover with the Spirit a creative alternative that would help us stay on track in order to achieve the unchanging goal. Loren’s faith overflowed and spilled out onto us. If Jesus said, “Do it!” and if it was in alignment with God’s character, then it would be done. No matter what. And so it was, with the help of 6000+ believers across the islands, we distributed the Bible to every home in Hawaii!

I thank God for Loren’s radical conviction to champion those often overlooked by some: young people, women, and those who came from countries that were considered “mission fields.” Amidst them all, he saw people created in the image of God with great giftings which could contribute to the advance of the kingdom of God. He saw potential in people from everywhere. Now Loren was also an incredible bridge-builder. As the founder of one of the first truly international and interdenominational mission movements he was very wise, majoring on the majors and minoring on the minor points of our faith. But if someone’s theology excluded people because of birth factors, Loren would object. No one was to be seen as less than another. He was allergic to world views and hierarchies that ranked some people as superior to others. Imitating God (Rom 2:11), he showed no favoritism, but met people as equals, doing what he could to level the playing field. May we all perpetuate this life-time legacy.

I remember when Loren and I set aside a week to work together on his fourth book, Why Not Women?, in a large city in the Southwest of the US. A renowned pastor of a mega church heard Loren was in town and stopped by to see Loren. Loren told him that we were working on a book about the Biblical basis for women in leadership. The pastor responded, “I so respect everything you have done, Loren, but I don’t agree with you on this point.” Loren, the bridge-builder morphed into Loren the defender of the marginalized. An animated discussion ensued that lasted for a couple of hours. Loren’s clear convictions shone. Everyone has a contributing place in God’s redemptive design.

I thank God for Loren’s unquenchable hunger for the Word of God. His passionate heart for the Bible is highlighted in this fifth book, The Book that Transforms Nations. Time and again he would emphasize “Jesus and the Bible” – the living Word and the written Word – as the foundation for all we are called to be and do. He understood that the Bible is not just a religious book. It is our guide for all areas of life, with godly insights for every one of the seven spheres of society. He read it, studied it, and meditated on it throughout his life, always attentive to the guidance of the Spirit. When he needed to address any issue, he’d look to the Spirit of God to lead him as he mentally scrolled through the vast reservoir of Scriptural insights that he had committed to memory until he found the answer that was appropriate for the occasion. He sought to live every day of his life doing what he did “in spirit and in truth” (Joh 4:24). May we all seek to do likewise.

I remember in 1993 I traveled with Loren for 33 days in Chile transversing more than 5,000 kilometers from Punta Arenas in the South to Arica in the North. I was chauffeur and translator. He spoke at two or three events almost every day. On one of our rare days with no public speaking events we were in the beautiful coastal town of Puerto Montt. I greeted Loren under the beautiful sun-kissed blue sky as the day began. I asked him what he would like to do. He immediately answered, “Let’s read the Bible together.” I scooted up beside him and we read 1 Timothy aloud together. That moment marked me. At that point I had already helped launch our School of Biblical Studies in both Spanish and Portuguese. I was passionate about the Word of God, but not as passionate as Loren. Reading the Bible was not the first thing that I thought about on my day off. It was what Loren thought about. I began then praying for more hunger for God’s Word. I want to hunger after it as much as Loren did.

I thank God for Loren’s disruptive innovation. Loren was a cutting-edge thinker, a globally-aware futurist, and a paradigm-shifting leader. He was always looking for what was not being done to advance the kingdom of God, and then co-creating with God solutions that could bring about the desired transformation. Loren was never satisfied with the status quo, but was continually thinking how we could do things better and faster. There was an innate Great Commission urgency in his spirit. Even in the last months of his life he was often on Zoom urging thousands of hearers to do all that could be done to see the oral translation of the whole Bible in every mother tongue on earth as quickly as possible. This apostolic ambition was driven by a conviction rooted in the Lord’s prayer: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mat 6:10). And what is being done in heaven? People from all nations are worshiping God in their mother tongue (Rev 7:9)! So that needs to be our goal here on earth too. Now. That’s why he wrote his sixth book, We Can End Bible Poverty Now! There was no room for fatalistic complacency around Loren. Let’s do all we can as quickly as we can to reach as many as we can so God can be duly worshiped by as many as possible.

I remember sitting with Loren in a Table 71 conference that we were hosting in Kona, Hawaii, where some of the world’s leading mission strategists had gathered and were setting astounding Great Commission goals. They were celebrating what their plans envisioned. But Loren stood and said, “It’s not fast enough!” He spoke with deep passion and it was clear that he was not driven by a compulsive sense of duty. It was his pastoral care for the lost that led him to raise his voice and press for more. He could not bear that many would perish before the projected goals would be met. This was no game. Lives were at stake. We must live to “hasten the day of the Lord’s coming” by every means possible because God “does not want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to repent” (2Pe 3:10-12).

I thank God for Loren’s courageous non-conformism. He was not an imitator. He was not wired to do things like everyone else. He did not limit himself to live according to established norms and expectations. He was constrained by the Spirit of God to go where others had not gone and to do what others had not done. He was willing to break societal rules with a fearless tenacity in order to advance the cause of Christ. He was willing to pay the price to buck conventional thinking. He was not driven by the opinions of men. Instead, he was always seeking to walk in obedience to the word of the Lord. This enabled him to embark on unexpected tasks and impossible projects with a remarkable blend of faith-filled creativity and odds-beating perseverance. In his final book, No Boundaries, he declares, “Grace allows us to take new, daring actions we could never do without God.” This attitude was a constant hallmark of his life.

I remember being inspired time and time again by Loren’s willingness to go where others rarely – if ever – went. In early 2000, I had the privilege of being with Loren and Darlene during a Leadership Training School in New Zealand. One weekend, Loren invited Timothy, my 15-year-old son, and me to travel with him to Chatham Island – about 500 miles (800 kms) east of Wellington. Less than a thousand people lived on the island. Loren focused on the handful of indigenous Rekohu (Mariori) living there. We read up on their history, interviewed their elders, and prayed for them as we walked around the island. Loren sought God to get God’s heart for this oft-forgotten people group. Loren spoke in a small church that Sunday morning. He prepared diligently in the Word and in prayer. He had an encouraging prophetic message for the few Rekohu church-goers. Size didn’t matter. This is what God had called him to do and he did it with all his heart.

This is exemplary of how Loren lived his life here on earth. He lived it to the full. Pursuing Jesus. Pursuing Jesus’ dreams. In this letter, I’ve shared some of the things I’ve remembered about Loren. I want to encourage you to reflect on your own experiences with Loren. What did you learn about God and God’s ways through this man? How can you pass that on to the next generation? If you never had the opportunity to interact with Loren personally, talk to those who did and read the books he wrote. Get to know him that way. May we all embrace the kingdom legacy we have received through Loren. May we all give thanks for the way his life has touched us and inspired us. May we all imitate what we saw in him and live our lives to the full! How?

By pursuing Jesus. By pursuing Jesus’ dreams.

David Joel Hamilton

YWAMer. Friend.


From Lynn Green

Loren Cunningham, world-changer, has transferred his citizenship to “life in the age to come.”

Everything about Loren’s life bore witness to his unconditional surrender to the lordship of Jesus. From his earliest days, he had an unwavering commitment to do everything the Holy Spirit called him to do—to spread the good news about Jesus, Saviour of the world, to every person on earth. 

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me.”  Loren heard the Good Shepherd’s voice from a very young age and followed, whether the path led to costly sacrifice or great blessing.

Throughout his life, God gave him world-changing vision. First, in 1957, it was to mobilize waves of young people carrying the Gospel of Jesus to every part of every continent on earth. Then, in 1969, the Word of the Lord came to them to start a new kind of training school. Before long, the fruit of these short, intensive, residential training courses were seen for what they were—an unprecedented tool for multiplication. 

My wife, Marti, and I met at one of the earliest courses and Loren asked us to pray about going to England to plant another School of Evangelism. Now there are over a thousand locations world-wide where YWAM courses are available. 

By the mid-1970s those original courses were seen as the introductory modules of expanded, Kingdom of God learning and growth—The University of the Nations. The diversity and depth of the U of N continues to develop and grow, and the radical ideas God gave Loren were widely employed in higher education. 

It seemed that Loren was always praying and listening to God about some vision that was being shaped in his gifted and dedicated imagination. In 2003, we were in Singapore for a leadership meeting and Loren was due to speak to a large group of Christian leaders at a dinner that evening. I asked him about the subject he would be addressing, and he said, “I plan to convey vision to get a Bible into every home in China.” My response? “Loren, you can’t do that!” As one of the leaders of YWAM, I felt an obligation to have a plan to accomplish anything we talked about.  Loren spoke on the subject anyway! 

It was a few years before I understood the spiritual, visionary dynamics of what happened that night. Loren didn’t have a plan, but he had a prophetic word. It was as if God wanted to change the world again and he was looking for someone to have the faith to say, in faith, what He wanted. And it wouldn’t happen unless someone spoke it out as God directed. Once again, Loren obeyed. 

That was the beginning of his primary message for the last 20 years of his life. His research confirmed that there were no sustained revivals without the Bible being available first. So, wherever he went, his message from that time on was, “end Bible poverty now!”  In the last few years, he focussed on oral Bible translation and then the essential importance of every person having access to the scriptures in their mother tongue. 

Loren Cunningham’s legacy is wave after wave of people of all ages, but mostly young, taking the Good News to the whole world! 

Following the diagnosis of small-cell lung cancer in January of 2023, the Lord gave him many months more than the medical professionals expected. During this extended time, he was largely pain-free. He also had miraculous mental and spiritual capacity to focus on Oral-Mother-Tongue Bible Translation. On that subject, he could pray, think and talk to others by the hour. So, he constantly refined the vision and his ability to explain it.

Many people have wondered, what will happen to YWAM when Loren is gone? 

There is no doubt that no one can replace him. However, he led us all to focus on the Biblical paradigm of the Body of Christ, as it applies to YWAM. He spoke a vital message on that subject in 2002 and it became known as the Tripod Message.  If we continue to practice the knowledge of the priesthood of all believers; if we strengthen and guard our relationships; if we recognise the wisdom and spiritual gifts of elders among us, we will multiply more and more and be a blessing to the whole Body of Christ. 

Loren was never a CEO in YWAM.  He always worked with teams of leaders and leaned into the different spiritual gifts and strength of others.  There are teams of elders and leaders all over the world and the vision God has given YWAM is broad and clear. If we carefully nurture the health of our relationships, remaining rooted in our Biblical beliefs and pursuing the vision of taking Good News to everyone in every mother tongue, we will thrive. 

On a personal note: Loren and Darlene have been trusted friends and inspirational leaders to Marti and me for more than five decades.  They encouraged our relationship when we first met, they inspired us and challenged us. They modelled Godly living, good family life, team and accountability to others and an unswerving commitment to Jesus and the Kingdom of God.   

Thank God that Dar, with her outstanding leadership abilities and anointing, is still with us. We honour her and will continue be supportive and to lean into her wisdom. 

It can most certainly be said of Loren Cunningham:   

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing” 2 Tim 4:7-8.


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