Jesus is the Door

sToday I woke up with John 10 on my mind, and immediately I began thinking of my comments about being baptized by Pastor Wayne. When I re-read the comments on my book narratives, I realized there is something I need to expound on that I only touched on in my first book. In fact, this morning I feel strongly that I should make a public apology to all Christian pastors. In the past three years, I’ve met 9 ordained Christian pastors outside of ubf from various churches in person and spoken with them at length: Bryan, Wayne, Steve, Doug, Bill, Greg, George, John and David. I’ve also interacted with at least a dozen other pastors online in various forms. I feel compelled this morning to share some of what I’ve learned.

Is ordination is a waste of time?

Many questions arose in my mind after resigning from being a ubf director. Are Christian pastors neglecting God’s world mission command? Is doctrinal study useless? For may years while at ubf, my opinion of ordained Christian pastors was poor, to say the least. All of us ubf shepherds I knew shared a similar attitude: Ordination is not necessary and even a waste of time. We also shared the opinion that most, if not all, Christian pastors outside of ubf were selfish sinners who were neglecting God’s world mission command to feed Jesus’ sheep. We viewed ourselves as the “true Shepherds”. We held onto our Shepherd X identity so strongly that we could not conceive the idea that ordained pastors had anything of real value to offer the world. I remember being so proud of that idea that we had almost all college students in our ministry, while those ordained pastors focused on old people and neglected the youth of our generation. I recall vividly the idea that we ubf Shepherds (always spelled with a capital S) had the pure, untainted bible messages because we didn’t waste time with commentaries, books or foolish ordination doctrines. Christian doctrine, we thought, just got in the way and caused divisions. Besides, the teachings of Jesus are so obvious and simple to understand. What really matters is what we do… or so I thought.

Are Psychology and Philosophy distractions from God’s mission?

The first thing that struck me from interacting with Christian pastors is their respect and knowledge of psychology and philosophy. They really knew how to interact and communicate with other human beings. These pastors respected me and my perspective. They listened to my opinions. They shared frankly with me. They spoke God’s word to me. They befriended me. One of them ate with me in a bar. Not one of them violated my conscience. Not one of them intruded into my emotions. Not one of them disrespected my autonomy. And every one of them respected my claim to be a Christian. In short, these Christian pastors entered my life the proper way, through Jesus the door for the sheep.

The pastors I met are all deeply committed to knowing the bible and their knowledge of psychology and philosophy greatly enhanced their understanding of the bible, contrary to what I had always thought, namely that such things were distractions from bible study. Realizing this made me see myself in a new light. I was not some superior Shepherd Brian who knew more about obeying Jesus than Christian pastors. I was just some guy who read the bible text a lot. I discovered that my disdain for psychology and philosophy and doctrinal study and ordination was what kept me as an amateur leader and immature Christian. This helped me see that the ubf heritage is not some world-class training system, but an ideological system that is vastly inferior to the systems the Christian church has employed over the years. I found also that I had become disconnected from the rich, diverse, and magnificent historical fabric of Christianity.

Jesus is the Shepherd

The other big thing I noticed from my interactions with Christian pastors is their kingdom attitude. They all surrendered to our Lord Jesus Christ. None of them demanded my obedience or asked for my submission to their authority. It was clear from my interactions that Jesus is both Lord and Savior.

And thus my grand experiment was over. Sometime in 2010, I had decided to find out if my shepherds in ubf were Christian pastors. I asked questions. I spoke frankly. I attempted to interact just the way I did later on with the Christian pastors. What I found at ubf was a lot of hired hands. Almost everyone abandoned me when I expressed my honest thoughts and feelings too much. Of course, then things got ugly as the “Karcher” in me kicked in. But after interacting with Christian pastors outside of ubf, I  am fully convinced that such a thing would never have escalated to the bitter heights that my interactions with ubf shepherds escalated to. Christian pastors would have reacted very very differently from the ubf leaders.

So today I ask anyone in ubf to do the same experiment. At your next testimony sharing, share your honest thoughts, feelings and perspectives. Say what you want to say. Declare Jesus as Lord and Savior, and that Jesus alone has all authority and power and glory. Begin respecting the door to the sheep, Jesus. Start connecting with Christian pastors on the campus, in the city you live in.

Oh and one more bit of advice. If any ubfer wants to learn about how to become a Christian pastor, please visit pastor Ben Toh at Westloop Church. Then take a trip to Penn State :)

John 10:1-21 ESV

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

12 comments

  1. Very good points, Brian. Apart from the lack of education in Biblical hermeneutics, the most blatant lack in education of the UBF missionaries and shepherds is in the area of pastoral care (counseling). Real Christian pastors have gone through theoretical and practical courses in these fields.

  2. BK, this sounds so refreshing compared to “R u in or r u out?”: “They shared frankly with me. They spoke God’s word to me. They befriended me. One of them ate with me in a bar. Not one of them violated my conscience. Not one of them intruded into my emotions. Not one of them disrespected my autonomy. And every one of them respected my claim to be a Christian.” They respected your freedom and your dignity as a human being.

    This is painfully reprehensible: “Sometime in 2010, I had decided to find out if my shepherds in ubf were Christian pastors. I asked questions. I spoke frankly. I attempted to interact just the way I did with the Christian pastors. What I found at ubf was a lot of hired hands. Almost everyone abandoned me when I expressed my honest thoughts and feelings too much.”

  3. Today I was voted for and blessed to be a pastor in my church. It is a great mercy of God for me, a former ubfer. There was a sermon about being a pastor: a pastor is an example of Christian life and a slave of the Lord. Please pray for me to be a Christian pastor. Pray also for my study of theology and pastoral care. There is so much to learn. I thank God for you, my brothers in Christ (Chris, Joe, Brian and Ben), from whom I have already learnt much more than during my 17 years in ubf. This site helped me very much in my recovery from the ubf abusive system. The ubf “missionaries” are still calling me “satan” and say that they lost all people in the chapter just because of me. I believe that every Christian pastor would surely advise anyone to leave ubf and live under the lordship of Jesus, care about his family and be a part of a healthy church.

    • This is good news Vitaly! Congratulations. I can say a hearty Amin to all that!

    • Vitaly are you now a pastor at the Orthodox church? I also want to say that I have a greater sense of gratitude and respect for the Orthodox church.

    • Brian, my great grandfather was an Orthodox priest in St.Petersburg which you visited but God led me to become a pastor in the Baptist church. (Maybe one day you would wish to come to Russia again. I would be very happy to see you here. Or maybe I will go to the US and if so I would be very happy to visit Detroit and see you there). Recently a pastor care teacher came to us from Moscow and he said that he knows about many Korean missionaries there (not only ubf, there are about 60 Korean presbiterian groups in Moscow and most of them consist of 2 Korean missionaries). He said that Koreans in Moscow are famous of neglecting families and absolute lack of desire to know and adapt for the local culture. He said also that such people should not be called Christian missionaries, because missionaries are those who come to a foreign land, preach the gospel, and leave as soon as God raises a local leader.

    • Vitaly,

      You and your family have a place to stay anytime you visit Detroit!

      Today I cleaned up our basement. I found the Moscow Nights CD and Dr. Zhivago DVD we had packed away. Both of these were gifts from people not associated with ubf– both people saw our passion for Russia and love for Russian language, people and all things Russian. One person even bought me a Barbie doll dressed in Russian outfits.

      Every once in a while I miss Russia. Soon the white nights will be happening.

  4. forestsfailyou
    forestsfailyou

    All my testimonies are my “share your honest thoughts, feelings and perspectives.”

    • Yea forests, that’s rather evident. Plus you submit articles for ubfriends, comment on ubfriends, meet all kinds of people on that unspiritual internet and talk to that bitter BK guy. You’re such a rebellious sinner! Dead-dog training for you!

    • forestsfailyou
      forestsfailyou

      I was told recently “People are concerned because you talk to too many outside people.” I just laughed. I am a 23 year old adult working as a first year teacher in inner city St. Louis. I had a student put a gun on me this year. I wish someone would try dead dog training. Someone recently told me “You have a great gift in writing. You can become a great man of God or a terrible, terrible enemy of God.” I laughed at the implication.

    • Hey Forests, here’s a bright idea that would put your writing and critical thinking skills to use. Set up a new website and put a blog on it. Request people to submit articles about Christianity. Let people register and comment about their personal stories, telling their own experiences honestly. Then talk to ubf leaders and tell them how you’d like to open up honest communication and get their promise to submit articles for your new website.

      oh wait…

  5. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    Brian, thanks for the article. I’m glad to hear of your good experience with so many pastors. I think it’s good for UBF people to hear that there are good pastors in reach outside of UBF. You found not just a couple, but nine pastors and you shared similarly good experiences with them. People shouldn’t be afraid to find churches that are only shallow or free (and so sin-infested) outside of UBF. There’s so much to learn and appreciate from such pastors who make the kinds of investments in being educated and trained to care for others.