When a UBF member approaches you to ask for a one-to-one bible study on your college campus they will tell you something along the lines of:
- we’re from a non-denomination church
- one-to-one is to help students learn about personal salvation
- it’s just bible study
This is a flat out LIE!!! As you will see in this article this is what UBF truly believes, practices, and does to students:
Once you are committed to bible study then you are coerced into going to your bible teacher’s UBF chapter for worship service on Sunday in the afternoon. This is how all worship services in all UBF chapters operate:
“I [ubfsurvivor] served as worship leader (presider) for a number of years in UBF. During those years, every service, except special holiday services, was conducted in the manner outlined below. Also, it should be noted that the formal service was almost always preceded by singspiration, in which less traditional Christian songs were sung.”
Sunday Worship Service Order
- To prepare our hearts, let’s sing hymn ____.
- Let us have a moment of silent prayer.
- Presider’s prayer.
- Please rise and sing hymn number 11(97) [All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name].
- ________ will now share our representative prayer.
- Please remain seated and sing hymn number ____.
- Let us now open our Bibles and read _____________ responsively.
- [Chapter director] will now deliver today’s message.
- [Presider may comment on the lesson of the message.]
- Let us rise and sing hymn number ____.
- Now we will have an offering hymn by ____________.
- ________ will now share our offering prayer.
- [Chapter director] will now give announcements and prayer topics.
- Let us rise and say the Lord’s Prayer.
Then when you become committed to worship service and bible study you are then brainwashed to uphold and abide UBF’s following beliefs and practices absolutely:
UBFism: A Guide to the Beliefs and Practices of UBF
In these pages I have made an attempt to codify the beliefs and practices of UBF. I have attempted to group them thematically and to order them according to importance. Also, it should be noted that in these pages I present an idealization of UBFism. Reality will match the ideal to a greater or lesser degree depending on the chapter. Some chapter directors and members are more hardcore than others. Also, some are more cleverly deceptive than others and may deviate from the UBF norm to portray a kinder image or to give the false impression that “UBF has changed.” Lastly, it should be noted that new recruits are not subjected to full UBFism at the beginning. They are fed bit by bit as they are strung along.
- UBFism is the only way to salvation.
- Chang Woo Lee (or UBF chapter director a.k.a “missionary”_________) was the greatest “servant of God” since the Apostle Paul. His ways are to be imitated, his doctrine is to be held sacred, his actions are above reproof and his motives above question.
- UBF leaders are “God’s servants.” Their actions are always right.
- UBF members are expected to follow their leaders’ direction on faith.
- If they follow the leaders’ directions they are praised. If they fail, they may be publicly criticized as being unfaithful to God.
- The example of Abraham leaving his land and family and going to an unknown land under God’s direction (see Genesis 12) is twisted around and is seen as a model of blind faith.
- God’s perfect will for each person’s life is that they engage in UBF campus proselytizing work for their entire life. No other callings or evangelistic venues are acceptable.
- All committed members are expected to tithe, meaning they donate ten percent of their income to UBF.
- Many UBF centers have a chart in the public area displaying for each month, who has given an offering to UBF.
- Aside from the chart, leaders may publicly or privately denounce or pressure those who do not offer enough.
- Although most offerings are billed as “World Mission Offerings,” most of the money appears to stay with the local UBF chapter. One quarter of the money or less will be sent to the “black hole” bank account of the Chicago UBF. None of the money is used to sponsor relief activities or evangelism other than UBF’s own efforts. (Note that the “missionaries” UBF sends out are supposed to be “self-supporting.”) Usually, when there is a drive to raise funds in UBF, it is for purchasing a building for meeting space.
- Isolation from and contempt for other churches.
- UBF refuses to acknowledge any other church as genuinely Christian. Rather, non-UBF Christians are called “church Christians,” “Sunday Christians” or “fake Christians.”
- Every member of UBF falls into one of three tiers.
- The Korean members of UBF form the top tier and are given the title, “Missionary.” It should be noted that Korean ancestry alone does not entitle one to be a missionary in UBF. Rather, only those Koreans who studied with UBF in Korea itself may be called “missionary.” Children of “missionaries” are titled “Second-Generation Missionaries” or “2nd-gens.”
- The middle tier is comprised of Non-Korean members who have committed their lives to UBF. They are given the title of “Shepherd”.
- If a “missionary” or “shepherd” has a doctoral degree, then that person will have the secondary title of “Doctor.”
- “Sheep” form the lowest tier of UBF. They are given the title of “Brother” or “Sister,” depending on gender.
- In UBF there exists a hierarchy of authority called “spiritual order”. This hierarchy follows the three tiers mentioned above, but it should be noted that for the top two tiers, “missionaries,” and “shepherds,” an additional order exists among the members of a tier. It is understood that those who are of higher order have special insight from God about those of lower order.
- The area of insight in which persons of higher order have special knowledge over those of lower order is quite broad. It includes what those of lower order should do with their time, what they should study, which job they should get, where they should live, whom they should marry, which spiritual needs they have, how much UBF activities they should do and how to go about doing them. In short, in all matters of life, a person of lower order must obey one of higher order.
- Persons of higher order always make right decisions with respect to those of lower order. Their motives and actions are above question. If there is a problem in a relationship it is always the fault of the person of lower order.
- Persons of lower order are expected to verbally praise and show thankfulness toward persons of higher order.
- Persons of higher order are allowed to rebuke (publicly humiliate) those of lower order, but not vice-versa.
- UBF is organized geographically into chapters, each chapter with one director and one or more universities they target for recruitment. The director outranks all other chapter members in the spiritual order.
- In spiritual order, chapter directors may be outranked by regional directors, national directors, or members of the “International Advisory Board.”
The following is a discussion of UBF’s implementation of the Shepherding/Discipling principle. Other organizations in the Shepherding movement include the International Churches of Christ and the Fort Lauderdale Five. More recently, the G12 movement has been known for heavy-handed discipling.
- Every newcomer to UBF is assigned a “shepherd,” the newcomer becoming the “sheep.” They will engage in weekly one-on-one sessions where the shepherd indoctrinates the sheep into the ways of UBFism.
- UBF insists that one-to-one Bible study is the only worthwhile kind of Bible study. They claim that 1:1 is not just UBF’s style, it’s “God’s style.” UBFers will tell you that God taught Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses one-to-one. Also, Philip taught the Ethiopian one-to-one (Acts 8). According to UBF, 1:1 study is necessary because in a group it is difficult to hold each person accountable as to whether they really have learned, understood and applied their lesson.
- It is bad to be a sheep in UBF. Sheep are encouraged and pressured to become shepherds themselves as soon as possible, usually within six months to two years after joining UBF. Shepherds encourage their sheep to become shepherds by appealing to three areas of scripture:
- UBF places great emphasis on God’s command to the first humans to “be fruitful and increase in number,” found in the first chapter of Genesis. Sheep are told that this command is meant to apply directly to them. Namely, God wants each person to increase the number of God’s image. This is done by “planting God’s image in others’ hearts.” How? Only through “one-to-one Bible study.”
- UBF takes language in the Bible relating to “shepherd” and “sheep” and applies the language to themselves. For instance, Jesus tells Peter to “feed my sheep” in John 21:18. This command is seen as an absolute command applying to everyone, that they must be a UBF-style shepherd.
- UBF’s evangelistic practices are also done under the guise of the Great Commission.
- It should be noted that in its desire for uniformity in mission, UBF ignores Romans 12:6-8, which says that Christians are given different gifts and should occupy different functions in the church according to their talents. (Also, UBF ignores 1 Timothy 3, which sets up guidelines and qualifications for church leaders.)
- Each UBF shepherd is told by someone higher up in the spiritual order to pray for a certain number of sheep. This number refers to the number of students the member indoctrinates per week. (The number is one for new shepherds. For established shepherds, the number is more likely 12 or 20, regardless of practicality.)
- In an effort to fulfil one’s quota of sheep, a shepherd engages in cold-contact proselytizing. Called fishing ministry, this activity can be done alone or in pairs. (Often one of the pair is being apprenticed to the practice.) The evangelist(s) wander the university campus in search of someone alone and away from any faculty. (They are perpetually afraid that campus authorities will catch on to their scheme and ban the activity or warn students.)
- The evangelist(s) will approach this person with a greeting and will then will say something like, “Are you interested in studying the Bible?” (Often, the article “the” is dropped.)
- In the ensuing discussion, an attempt is made to make targets feel uncertain about their spiritual beliefs. Attempts are also made to tap into any spiritual guilt or psychological insecurities.
- The evangelist then makes a pitch the gist of which is, “If you ‘study Bible’ with me one hour a week, you will learn God’s will for your life and all your problems will be solved.”
- If the student rejects the proposal, more zealous evangelists will anger and issue threatening Bible verses at the target. The ordinary evangelist will walk away in search of another target. If the target’s response is noncommittal or better, then the evangelist makes a strong push to do two things: get the person’s phone number, and set up a time and place for their first official meeting.
UBF Bible Study and Testimonies
- Weekly thought reform sessions (called “Bible studies”) follow a particular pattern. The indoctrinator gives the student a question sheet a week in advance. The student must prepare the answers to the questions prior to the meeting. The questions are based on a passage of the Bible. Lessons proceed sequentially rather than thematically. Except for those who are just beginning their UBF study, the passage studied each week will be the same as the passage featured at the worship service on the upcoming Sunday. A meeting proceeds as follows:
- The indoctrinator and student sit across from each other at a table.
- They sing a hymn of the indoctrinator’s choosing from the UBF hymn book. (In the USA this is the old Nazarene hymnal titled Worship in Song.)
- The indoctrinator then prays for the meeting.
- Indoctrinator and student then take turns reading the verses of the Bible passage on which the lesson is based.
- The indoctrinator asks, “Question one, please?”
- The student answers by reading the question from the question sheet and then reading the answer.
- Depending on the student’s response, the indoctrinator lectures and grills the student with questions. The purpose of this is to make students doubt their own ideas of what the passage means and to force them into making the response desired by the indoctrinator. This is where a good deal of scripture twisting, emotional and rational manipulation happens.
- Upon completing the questions (usually after about 90 minutes), the indoctrinator closes with a prayer. In this prayer the indoctrinator says what the student should have learned from the lesson and what the student’s reaction to the lesson should be.
- Finally, the student prays. If the lesson was successful, then the prayer will be something like, “Thank God that today I learned….” And the student will go on to regurgitate the lesson learned and the actions which should be taken in response to the lesson.
- In many chapters, when a thought reform session is completed, a square is filled in on a big chart on the wall in the UBF center. It shows for all shepherds, for all sheep and for all weeks, whether a study was completed or not.
- Committed members are expected to write “testimonies” weekly.
- Testimonies are written speeches which discuss the Bible passage being studied that week, along with personal application. An example testimony with commentary can be found here.
- UBFers are routinely encouraged to divulge their most personal problems in their testimonies, which are most often shared in groups.
- Often this personal information is included in weekly reports to the chapter director or to headquarters. (An actual example of such a report is available here.) It is common for UBF leaders to talk about the personal problems of their underlings to other members.
- In general, leaders are keen to learn about the weak points of their flock through their testimonies. Later, the leaders may use this information for emotional blackmail.
- UBF members are actively discouraged from engaging in any kind of religious education. They approach the Bible with neither scholarship nor hermeneutics. They believe there is no merit in discussing different interpretations of Bible passages because the UBF viewpoint on the passage is the only true interpretation. Most of UBF theology is based on either reading things into the Bible that aren’t there or taking a passage out of context and applying it in ways unintended by the author. When UBF teachers are not motivated to twist the interpretation of a passage to support a UBF idea, they almost always interpret the passage blindly in a literal/factual manner.
- In its desire for uniformity, UBF requires all its members to use the NIV Bible translation.
In addition to the one-on-one studies, each UBF member is expected to attend various group meetings without fail. The number and nature of those meetings depends on the “maturity” of the member in question. Those who fail to attend the expected meetings for any reason are subject to public rebuke and are seen as being sinful or lazy. Studies, work, emergency situations, or lack of available child care are not valid excuses for missing a meeting. As you will see, the number and length of these meetings is enough to occupy one’s entire free time, which is exactly the point.
Sunday Worship Service
The most important group meeting takes place at the chapter headquarters, often called the “Bible center,” which is either the director’s house, or a special building owned by the chapter to hold its events. The service always follows a preset order and the worship leader, called the “presider,” will direct the congregants roughly as described the example worship order available here.
After the service is over, the attendants will break into subgroups (fellowships). The fellowship leader will ask each member, in turn, to explain what they “learned” from the message. This allows the leader to verify that the desired effect was accomplished, and to correct any errant ideas. Finally, the fellowship leader dictates prayer topics and the group will pray, usually two by two. Altogether, the service and subsequent meeting will last two to three hours.
Whereas UBF nationwide is divided into chapters based on geography, each chapter itself is divided into subgroups called fellowships. Each fellowship has a leader appointed by the chapter director. Fellowship leaders are usually UBF Koreans or more senior shepherds. Each fellowship also has a name. Fellowship meetings occur weekly and consist of hymn-singing, Bible-reading, praying and sharing of testimonies and prayer topics. Some chapters are too small to be divided into fellowships. In such cases, the chapter as a whole will meet weekly and conduct the same activities. In some chapters, the meeting of the entire chapter to discuss testimonies is called the Friday Meeting. Meetings occur on Friday night to discourage people from going out to engage in any social activities. Depending on the size of the chapter or fellowship, the meeting will last around one to three hours or more. Note that the chapter director usually excludes himself from having to write a testimony. Fellowship meetings occur at the chapter center, or at the house of the fellowship leader.
Leaders Team Meeting
The Leaders Team Meeting is similar to the fellowship meeting except it is exclusively for senior shepherds and missionaries who teach initiates. (This means that leaders must attend two such meetings.) At leaders team meetings, each member is held accountable for their actions during the week, especially meeting attendance and time spent in recruitment and teaching efforts. One can expect that considerable time in the meeting will be spent discussing the personal problems of the leaders’ sheep. Also, in many chapters, members of the leaders team do not have one-to-one studies with their respective shepherds. Rather, they participate in a group Bible study led by the chapter director which takes place as part of the leaders meeting.
Early Morning Prayer
Early morning prayer meetings occur daily at some time before 7am, usually at the chapter headquarters. Meetings consist of reading a Bible passage, writing and sharing a very short testimony, and prayer. The topic for these activities is provided by the Daily Bread book, written by Sara Barry, which all UBF members must purchase. Some chapters hold early morning meetings only during special seasons, such as in preparation for a conference.
On Easter and Christmas, each UBF chapter will hold a special worship service near to, but not usually coincident with the holiday. Often, there will be special meetings in the few days leading up to the main service. These meetings and services will include singing, Bible reading, messages, testimony sharing, and sometimes Bible memorization contests. On the first Sunday of a new year a special worship service will be held where members choose a special “key” Bible verse for the new year and share a special testimony.
At minimum a UBFer will be required to attend at least one conference in the summer, although conferences occasionally take place at some other time of the year. Conferences last three to four days and can be exclusive to one chapter, region, or nation. International conferences are also held. Conferences include messages given by leading UBFers, group study, testimony writing and sharing, drama, music and sometimes dance – all performed and directed by UBF members. At international conferences, only the most highly regarded UBFers will be asked to deliver a message or testimony to the entire audience. However, smaller conferences often involve participation of junior shepherds in such activities as message and testimony training. Often shepherds who are rising in the ranks will be required to go on a “mission journey” to attend a conference in another nation. Conference schedules are full, and there is little free time. Preparation for those who participate in running the conference begins at least a few weeks in advance and rehearsing continues all night long at the conference itself. Because lodging and meals are required, a fee is charged. Special efforts will be made to get every UBF member down to the lowliest brother or sister to register for the conference months in advance by paying “even one dollar” as an expression of commitment to attend the conference.
One of the characteristics of totalism is a strict control over the members’ environment (milieu).
- UBF members are generally discouraged from:
- attending any religious meetings outside of UBF,
- having hobbies,
- having friends outside of UBF,
- listening to music other than old-style hymns or classical music,
- attending concerts or sporting events, and
- reading books by Christian authors, except when approved by a leader.
- Non-UBF family is viewed as being “unspiritual” at best, and a Satanic influence at worst. Hence, UBF members are encouraged to distance themselves from their families.
- Communal living in “common life” apartments is encouraged.
UBF is known for subjecting its members, except the highest on the totem pole, to various types of training.
This training involves having to write a personal testimony about the history of your life and your present and future goals, interwoven with an application from a Bible passage. The passage to be written on will be chosen for the trainee by his or her UBF teacher and a required length will be set. Under direction of the teacher, the testimony will be revised at least a few times. Basically, this is a way for UBF to rewrite the life history of its members. UBF wants its members to think that joining UBF is the turning point in their life that changed them from a life of sin and darkness into one of happiness and vision.
Message training extends testimony training to take it one step further and have the subject create and deliver a sermon, or message, on a particular Bible passage. Usually, it begins with writing a detailed life testimony of twenty or more pages covering childhood to the present. After sharing this testimony with the trainer, the trainee writes a first draft of a five to ten page message, including a short personal application section. Often, the message will undergo heavy revision at the direction of the trainer, so much so that the message becomes more the trainer’s message than the trainee’s. Many times, Chang Woo Lee’s message on a particular passage will be used as a model. After a few more sessions of revision with the trainer, the trainee may be taught how to deliver a message in the UBF style with appropriate pauses, intonation and hand gestures. An example UBF message with comments can be read here.
UBF members are often called upon to act in plays scripted by a UBF leader. This is called drama training. UBF drama is distinctive in that every phrase spoken is accompanied by exaggerated actions. Actions and words are directed from the actors toward the audience, as opposed to being directed from one actor to another actor. Also, the voice is modulated in unusual ways, similar to when delivering a message. Dramas are often meant to be funny to the audience, but for the actors, the training is no laughing matter. Lines and actions must be memorized and portrayed exactly as the director wants. These plays usually run for about twenty minutes and have a handful of cast members. UBF Koreans have special names for dramas involving only one, two or three actors: monodrama, duo drama, and trio drama.
UBF members are routinely conscripted into performing at UBF services either vocally or instrumentally. Rarely is musical talent or aptitude considered a requirement. More commonly, UBF leaders are happy to have anyone who is amenable to being coerced into doing the training. The Chicago UBF chapter is known for its orchestra. Some of the second-generation UBF Koreans are quite well-trained musicians.
Other types of training
UBF can make its members do just about anything and call it “training.” Common examples of other types of training include walking long distances in the cold and “eating training,” where members are coerced into eating large amounts of food or into adopting a strange diet. Many kinds of humiliating tasks are lumped into the category of “humbleness training.” In Korea a while back, UBF members were forced to stand on the street corner in their underwear carrying a sign reading “I’m stupid.”
UBFism is a “pseudo-Christian” religion. To a casual observer, UBFism may appear to be a form of Christian fundamentalism. After all, Christian scripture and terminology are used. In theory, the theology stated by UBF leaders appears to be Christian. However, in practice UBFism differs from Christian fundamentalism in the following manner: in fundamentalism, a literal/factual reading of the Bible is the ultimate authority; in UBFism, the ultimate authority is the word of one’s shepherd, not the Bible. One can easily discern that UBF requires quite a number of beliefs and behaviors that are nowhere to be found in the Christian scriptures.
When anyone of the following happen to you then you know that you are actually in the UBF cult.