UBFism – The 12 Point Heritage

Here are the 12 spiritual legacy heritage slogans as many of us former leaders understand them. (Submitted by Brian John Karcher)

“Go back to the bible” – The first and most obvious thing ubf taught me was to read the bible. I wasn’t taught to study the bible as in seminary school. It was more of  a command to stop worrying about my problems and go seek answers in the bible. Don’t become defeated or fatalistic about your life. Don’t struggle with people or problems, wrestle with God through the bible with a holy struggle. Don’t spend too much time dealing with inter-personal conflict, but go and read your bible. Don’t engage in godless chatter. Be quiet and read the bible. Don’t spend too much effort interacting with culture or worrying about former members or thinking of ways to change the Sunday worship service or spending time with your family. I was taught that I could actually do these worldly things from time to time, but I had to make sure I always got back to reading the bible to get my mind and heart “cleaned up”. Go to your bible study appointments. Read the bible day and night. Read your bible as you work and eat. Memorize bible verses. Recite your memorization in front of various groups.

“Do world mission” – The second point in the ubf heritage is World Mission. I learned that World Mission is something you do. The idea is that people in the world are in terrible shape. The world is defined as everyone outside ubf. All those worldly people are from many different countries, and the worst of them are on 561 American campuses. [Note: The 561 number came from a old Navigator survey that found 561 major campuses in America at the time.] So to do world mission meant you go out into the world (i.e. the closest campus) and fish. To fish means to invite students to one-to-one bible study. This seemed to fit nicely with point 1 of the ubf heritage, go back to the bible.

“Campus Evangelism” – The third point in the ubf heritage is about college campus ministry. I normally combined World Mission and Campus Evangelism in to one slogan World Campus Mission. But really there are two slogans here. Campus evangelism refers to some specific lifestyle choices that are eventually required of bible students in ubf (called “sheep”). I was taught that ubf is a college ministry, and it is. But they also extend the ubf context to all ages of life. The have BBF (for babies), MBF (for middle school/elementary), HBF (for high school), UBF (for university). Then after that you go through MbF (marriage by faith) and start the whole cycle over again. The ubf people who become 60 or 70 years old are pressured to become silver missionaries usually accompanied by a joke about retire meaning “put new tires on”. So ubf presents as a campus ministry, but tries to enforce all ages to conform to the campus ministry paradigm. You can’t have it both ways. Either ubf must choose to actually be a campus ministry only or create unique programs suited for various ages.

“Manger spirit” – The manger is perhaps the most recognizable Christian symbol, next to the cross. ubf taught me manger spirit and gave a whole new meaning to this symbol. Sometimes this was expressed as manger ministry. And the teaching is about the manger, literally. This teaching was not about Jesus directly, but about imitating what Jesus did. Jesus was born in a manger and became the Savoir of the world. Likewise, I was taught that I too could become a savoir and be a blessing only when I imitate the manger.

“A spirit of giving” – This means to support youself. Be independent. Don’t look to other people for help. Don’t have a beggar mentality. Give, even when you are poor. Be a tent-maker like Apostle Paul. This heritage point is derived mostly from verses in the bible such as “You give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16) and “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35).

“Spiritual order” – This heritage point is one of the most vague, and perhaps the most misunderstood and misused. If you want to find out what ubf is all about, start asking what “spiritual order” is. You’ll likely get multiple answers. This is one of the most used, least documented slogans of the ubf heritage. The basic meaning however is that you obey your personal shepherd, and your shepherd obeys his/her shepherd. This creates a multi-level-marketing style hierarchical pyramid authority structure.

“Lay Missionaries” – This is also known as tentmaker missionaries or self-supporting missionaries. The idea is that a missionary does not need to be officially ordained and should not be supported financially from a main sending organization. The idea stems mainly from Apostle Paul’s tent-making business, as in Acts 18:3.

“House Churches” – A house church is a family who has gone through the arranged marriage process (marriage by faith), left their home ubf chapter, and gone out to another campus through the process called pioneering. A house church often refers to a ubf member’s dwelling that is used for UBF activities. Many small ubf chapters meet in leaders’ houses. Leaders often make analogies between this and the practice of the early Christian church meeting in members houses. Note that “house church” can sometimes have a more specific meaning, namely it can describe the union of those who are married in ubf and have not actually pioneered yet.

“One to One/1:1 Bible study” – This is the core element of the UBF indoctrination and manipulation system. Bible study is always done in a hierarchical setting with one person acting as the Bible teacher (shepherd) and the other one as the Bible student (sheep). All initiates have to go through this one-to-one Bible study every week, often for many years, and often continuing with a senior missionary as teacher even after they have become shepherds themselves. In addition, there are also group Bible study where usually the chapter director acts as the Bible teacher. UBF Bible studies are always based on a questionnaire. UBF uses human effort (i.e prayers and repetition) instead of historical, intellectual or spiritual study of the Bible. In this way, Bible study often becomes an idol. After many years, a UBFer cannot stop Bible study even if a friend or loved one is in need.

“Disciple-making ministry” – Raising up disciples is what UBF considers to be their main task. This means parenting young converts like little children and giving them obedience training until they comply with how UBF expects them to behave. ubf shepherds and missionaries are taught to be the new parents of college students, often replacing the role of their natural parents.

“Daily Bread” – Daily Bread is the title of a UBF devotional that members are required to buy every quarter and that is used in UBF early morning prayer meetings. To write or eat daily bread means writing a UBF type sogam based on a passage of the Daily Bread booklet. UBF likes to claim they have invented Daily Bread devotionals, but in fact the material was copied from the Scripture Union booklets, and even translated directly from the Scripture Union Daily Bread. Later, UBF replaced the Bible comments and prayers with their own Bible interpretations. UBF’s version of the booklets are sold to UBF members at a much higher price than the original booklets. Recently, UBF created UBF Press, a publication department, to publish and sell Daily Bread booklets and other material.

“Testimony/Sogam/Reflecting writing/sharing” –  A sogam is a Korean term meaning one’s impressions, opinions, thoughts, feelings and sentiments about something. This term is used in UBF for the written statements based on Bible passages that UBF members are required to write and share every week (see testimony writing and sharing). The idea behind this practice is that members don’t just read a Bible passage, but interpret it in the sense of UBF and give a personal response in front of the group about how they intend to apply it to themselves. Usually this happens by repenting for not having done enough UBF activities or for not being obedient enough, and the promise to do better in the next week, often setting concrete targets. That way, members are able to indoctrinate each other, and leaders are able to closely monitor and control the spiritual growth of their members.