Loren was born on June 30, 1935, in the oil boom town of Taft, California. His parents Tom and Jewell (Nicholson) Cunningham were itinerant Assembly of God pastors who moved their children Phyllis, Loren and Janice with them as they planted churches across the Southwest. Loren’s maternal grandparents were traveling evangelists who planted churches in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma and his paternal grandfather was an itinerant Bible teacher known as “the walking Bible.” Loren received his own missionary call at the age of 13 at a Monday night youth rally in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
He attended high school in West Los Angeles at University High and graduated in December 1952. The following year maked his first missions outreach – an Easter break trip to Mexico with 11 other youth. He took a year of courses at Santa Monica City College and UCLA, before moving on to Central Bible Institute and Seminary in Springfield, Missouri, a school affiliated with the Assemblies of God. At CBIS, Loren served as Student Body President and also joined a singing quartet called The King’s Magnifiers. While in the Bahamas on a tour with the quartet, Loren received a vision that changed the course of his life. While praying, he saw in his mind’s eye a world map with waves of young people crashing up the continents.
He came to believe this was a call from God to involve young people in the work of world missions. Loren graduated from CBI in 1957 with degrees in Christian Education, Bible and Theology. Upon his return to California he took a position as youth pastor and musical director at Calvary Assembly in Inglewood. He also continued his education, earning another B.A. in Education, this one from University of Southern California in 1958.
Following this he did the course work at the University of Southern California for his M.S. in Administration and Supervision of Education from 1958 to January 1960.