What is Good Communication?

Imagine a “good communicator.” What comes to mind? Someone who is confident, poised and articulate, who speaks well in public settings? The gift of articulate and persuasive speech can make someone a champion debater but a lousy communicator. Effective communication that leads to healthy and satisfying relationships has much more to do with (a) listening, (b) remaining silent until the right time comes, (c) understanding what you truly think and feel, and (d) expressing yourself in a way that is clear and honest yet sensitive to the feelings of the listener.

Here are some oft-quoted Bible verses about communication.

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18).

He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame (Proverbs 18:13).

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires (James 1:19-20).

It is easy to wreak havoc by speaking carelessly and thoughtlessly. But the tendency to be forever silent – failing to express oneself in appropriate ways at appropriate times – can be just as dangerous.

Consider the history of Korean Air. Between 1970 and 1999, KAL lost 16 aircraft due to accidents, resulting in the deaths of 700 passengers and crew members. The last fatal accident occurred in 1997, when KAL flight 801 crashed into a hillside in Guam, killing 228 persons.

In the recent book Outliers: The Story of Success (2008), journalist Malcolm Gladwell devotes a chapter to the story of this airline’s safety record and the tragic demise of KAL801. The quality of the airline’s equipment and the training of its staff were among the best in the world. The accident was caused by poor communication in the cockpit. The captain was held in such high esteem that the other crew members were reluctant to say anything when they noticed him making errors. When they finally did speak up, the language that they used was so indirect that the captain had no idea what they actually meant.

As KAL801 approached Guam in the middle of the night, the first officer turned to the captain and said, “Don’t you think that it rains more in this area here?” What he meant was something like this: We are headed for a mountain range in pitch-black skies and pouring rain, and you are relying on a visual approach with no backup plan! But what he actually said sounded like small-talk about weather.

A few minutes later, the flight engineer said, “Captain, the weather radar has helped us a lot.” What he meant was: There’s trouble ahead! This isn’t a night when you can rely on your eyes to land the plane! But what came out of his mouth was a platitude about the generic benefits of technology.

After the tragic loss of KAL801, the airline came under intense pressure from international authorities and began an extensive review of its operating procedures. Flight crews were retrained to enable members to communicate more openly across boundaries of age, rank and gender. Within a decade, Korean Air’s safety record dramatically improved, and its standing among international carriers was restored.

For nearly three decades, I have interacted closely with members and leaders of UBF. In general, I have found that we are quite good at restraining our speech to avoid controversy and division. We are well aware of Paul’s injunction in Philippians 2:14: “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” And 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” But on balance, we often neglect to mention that Jesus was plain-spoken; he taught his disciples to say what they mean and to mean what they say: “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your “No’ be ‘No'” (Mt 5:37). Indeed, the style of speech that some have upheld as the epitome of the Christian character seems more like the KAL801 cockpit than the lively and frank conversations that Jesus shared with his apostles.

Before launching this website, I discussed the idea with many UBF friends. The vast majority were very supportive. Some expressed reservations, warning me that it could degenerate into a forum for complaining and arguing. (Although that is certainly possible, we have enacted policies to guard against that.) And a few people suggested that if people want to talk freely among themselves, it would be better to do it privately in person or by telephone. Internet blogging is a different mode of communication – not inherently better or worse than private conversation, but different. The great advantage of blogging is that an unlimited number of people can join in the conversation wherever they are, whenever they choose. But you cannot hear a person’s tone of voice or see their facial expressions or body language. You cannot tell if someone is keeping silent to indicate displeasure. To communicate effectively on a website, we must write clearly and weigh our words cautiously, to say what we mean and mean what we say. To avoid misunderstandings, we must read what others have written very carefully and take them at their word rather than ascribing hidden motives.

UBF is a multigenerational and multicultural. Whenever people of different ages, backgrounds and personality types get together to discuss things that truly matter, there are bound to be misunderstandings. But I believe that if our relationships are mediated by Jesus Christ in the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to understand one another and respect one another even if we do not always agree. We can achieve real Christian unity in the midst of diversity.

We dedicate this website with Psalm 19:4: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.


  1. Ruthie Schafer

    I’ve definitely felt Christian unity and real communication in our ministry but for the most part it is with people similar to me, especially other second generation college students. We build each other up as we talk about ministry, who Jesus is, secular culture as well as what we often find unappealing about Christian culture. We talk about what it means to be a Christian here and now, but rarely have these conversations been multi-generational or even in the open. It is only us with only our ideas that we don’t necessarily have a forum to voice elsewhere. I am exited to communicate about faith and ministry also with people who are of a different generation and culture than I am. I’m sure that we can learn from each other what we could not have known without each other.

  2. Hi Joe,

    You Be Friends is cute, and this website is a great idea, and this very first blog post is quite relevant. Being agreeable while disagreeing is a necessary foundation of relationship and community building, I think.

    I’ve shared often with others that the person I most often disagree with on earth is the one I love the most–my own dear wife. Thus, I realize that true unity is not unity in conformity, but unity in diversity, just like the Trinity, for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinctly different, yet perfectly united.

    A Christian friend shared with me that a way to connect deeply with ourselves, with others, and to let God speak to us meaningfully is SASHET–Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited, Tender. By honestly speaking and sharing these emotions and sentiment in our brokenness, frailty and vulnerability, and with trust and respect, enables us to have a heart to heart relationship with one other in the Lord.

    If there is anyway that I can be of help, do let me know.

    God bless you.


    • Awesome comment, Ben from 2010!

    • Wow, thanks for the reminder, Brian. I don’t even remember that mine is the 2nd comment on this site, or that I used the word “cute” more than five years ago already! But yes, I’ll have to say that you “BE FRIENDS” is cute. It definitely sounds much better than “just obey.” :))

  3. Joe Schafer

    Thanks Ben. One thing that you could do is spread the word to your kinfolk and to members of West Loop who might be interested in writing for us.

  4. Thanks for the post, Joe. I really enjoyed this first post and am looking forward to more!

    I have sometimes felt reluctant to communicate and speak exactly how I felt or what I thought with some senior members in my UBF chapter, assuming that I would be misunderstood or my feelings would be misconstrued. However, I have found that whenever I just went ahead and said what I wanted to say, the result was always favorable and it always led to strengthening the relationship and the ministry. I think this reluctance is also sometimes felt by the senior member for the same reason. In the end, I have learned that I really need to trust my brother’s love, then deep communication can occur.


  5. Brian Annear

    Thanks, Joe, for your thoughtful post. I am not an excellent communicator, myself, and I’m glad to take some time to read your ideas and think about them.

    I agree with the four steps laid out in your first paragraph. In my time in UBF, I have improved my ability to understand my co-workers, although that is obviously an ongoing process. I recently experienced the exact kind of communication problem as occurred in Gladwell’s Korean airline example. During a church event, someone asked me to do something, but it took me a while to understand that the person had made a request, because it sounded like an off-hand comment. I had to interpret it as a request.

    I also have to work at understanding what I think and feel and then expressing myself in a clear and sensitive way. I sometimes err on the side of meekness and silence, partly because I do not put in the effort of thinking deeply, arriving at responsible opinions, and articulating them in constructive ways.

    My comment, overall, is that communication is HARD WORK–especially across cultures! I hope that this website will constitute one step toward a richer, more loving community.

    Thanks. I’m glad to BFriends with all of you!

  6. Joe, this is really insightful. Thank you very much.
    The dialogues in the cockpit are illustrating so well the difficulties of cross-cultural, cross-generational and cross-hierarchical communication.
    it’s exciting to see that people are already engaging in discussion at this early stage. Grace and i will pray that this blog can foster healthy communication and great discussions about things that matter.

  7. James Yoo

    Thanks Joe, Ben, and Joshua, who shared opinions.

    Understanding a culture is an important issue.

    However, there is much more important issue that needs to be considered,
    which I believe is mutual understanding mediated by love and respect.

    Based on my limited experience, we’ll never be free from conflicting with people. It is nobody’s fault. It’s about mutual understanding.

    I do believe that our church (UBF)consists of many people who are mature and generous enough to embrace all kinds of different opinions. So, I recommend all of you to freely speak to senior people on whatever you think is true unless it conflicts the truth of the gospel. :)~~~

    Let’s all pray that we have a mutual understanding regardless of age, nationality, and gender. God bless you all!!!

    Personally, I’m focusing on mutual understanding more than anything else these days. I decide to listen and be silent until the
    and I learned

    • James Yoo

      right time comes, and I learned a lot through it~~~:)

      Pray for me to keep silent and listen and learn mutual understanding.

  8. Dr. Bill

    Interesting topic… it reminds me of the presentation we saw at the last staff conference. I forgot the name of the person who presented, but that entire presentation is highly relevant to this discussion. (Joe, any chance you can post a video of that presentation here?)


  9. Joe Schafer

    Hi Bill, the presenter was Scott Moreau from Wheaton. A longer version of his presentation is on the front page of UBF TV, posted in three parts.

  10. It’s great that many have commented in this pre-launch stage.

    For a while I’ve realized that we in ubf have cross-cultural and cross-generational difficulties and differences. But Henoch enlightened me to a third difficulty: cross-hierarchical, which might be an area of highest emotional sensitivity among us, thus causing misunderstanding most easily, leading to a “breakdown” in communication, which sadly has happened too often in various places over the years.

    This difficulty is especially so because Eastern cultures is influenced by Confucius, who emphasizes strict order in society. Someone told me that in many churches through out Asia, the senior pastor is functionally a king, whose word and directives are virtually law, which cannot be questioned. Perhaps, this might be an area where we need to prayerfully thread and pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and openness. Any thoughts about this sensitive area?

    Joe, would you know how to set it up so that whenever someone makes a comment, I would get an my email notifying me?

  11. Joe Schafer

    Hi Ben,

    I will work on a system for comment subscription.

    Understanding the different roles of order/hierarchy in Eastern and Western cultures is going to be key for this website to work. It is my hope and prayer that someday people of all ranks — new Bible students, committed members of UBF, fellowship leaders, senior missionaries, chapter directors and senior staff — will be able to communicate freely, learn from one another and become friends. As you pointed out to me in a personal conversation last October, the gospel does not simply wipe out all ranks, officies and social positions. There are real differences among us that should be acknowledged and respected. And yet there is a sense in which we are all equals in Christ. Everyone who is in Christ Jesus — from the youngest baby to the most elderly elder — is a member of God’s family by grace alone. It would be nice to see some of our leaders take off their leader/shepherd hats and join in the discussions simply as individual Christians. Our spiritual relationships with one another should be mediated by Jesus Christ, not by UBF or any organization.

    That is the primary reason why I decided to start this website as a strictly private venture, with no official connection to UBF and no direct oversight by UBF leaders. I am not going outside the usual channels to cause trouble or to be subversive. I am doing so because I hope that people who come here can truly put aside their organizational affiliation and talk as brothers and sisters in Christ. Because UBF is not the center of our spiritual lives; Jesus Christ is the center.

    According to Dante, the entrace to hell bears the inscription


    Perhaps an appropriate inscription for UBFriends would be


    I understand that it can be extremely difficult and awkward for ministry leaders to put aside their titles and organizational mindset and have open, honest, give-and-take relationships with people. But isn’t that the essence of the incarnation, of what Jesus has done for us, according to Philippians 2:5-11?

    And it will be awkward for young people — especially second gen’s — to speak up and share their honest opinions in a forum where they know that their elders and perhaps even their parents might read it. There is a very active blogging subculture among our second gens, but many of their forums are kept private and off limits to anyone they do not trust. Although I do not expect or want UBFriends to replace those blogs, I do hope that everyone can gradually widen their circles of trust.

    In every ministry, there are sensitive matters that cannot and should not be discussed in public so that individuals will not be hurt. But trying to handle everything in private is not a good idea either, because bad things tend to grow in the dark. Gossip, slander, judging one another, etc. Things that can be brought into the light should be. God is light, and his people must walk in the light.

    Rather than first approaching all of our UBF leaders and explaining to them what I am trying to do, I have decided to just go ahead and launch this website so that people can actually see what happens here, instead of talking endlessly about all the hypothetical problems that might arise. If this experiment works, it works. If it fails — if people don’t want to come here and talk, or if it degenerates into godless complaining and arguing — then we can just shut the website down, and no harm is done. There is no administrative burden or liability placed on our leaders who are already very busy and are unable to take on new initiatives right now.

    If UBF leaders feel that it is too awkward for them to post their opinions here in public, then at the very least I hope that they will visit the website anyway to see firsthand what people are saying and thinking. The honest discussions that take place here could become a valuable resource for UBF leaders, to help them to understand our members and make wise decisions regarding the future of our ministry, because the decisions they make do affect all of us.

  12. Hello!
    My husband Ben told me about this website.
    I also found the book “Outliers” very interesting, particularly the excerpt concerning KAL.
    I wanted to add (I forgot where I heard this), the acronym “SLANT” is a good reminder of communicating and listening well. S = smile L= lean forward and Listen A = ask questions N = nod T = track with the eyes.

  13. Ben Westerhoff

    I’ve taught and tutored ESL classes for 12+ years. I’ve had students in my classes from countries that I haven’t heard of before meeting them. It’s fascinating to watch students with low power distance indexes interact with students with high power distance indexes. I had a student from Argentina who would feel free to ask a question if something was unclear. She had a low power distance index. Those who had a high power distance index were shocked and even angry at her for speaking “out of turn.” She wasn’t rude or anything, but it was perceived that way by the high power distance index students since they would wait until break time or after class to ask me about something that was unclear (usually a grammar and usage question).

    As a citizen of the United States, I have a low PDI so I teach better in a low PDI context. Students who ask questions and want clarification in class will help me teach more effectively and efficiently.

    In a ministry, then, we must ask the question, “Is it beneficial to hold to a high PDI in a low PDI culture?” Consider a mentoring relationship in a low PDI context–there will be inherent respect for the mentor, but because of the low PDI there will be more transparency and an “open door” relationship. A real friendship will blossom. On the other hand, assuming a high PDI in a low PDI context will foster deceit on the part of the mentee and “younger” people. There will be a communication breakdown the likes of which Robert Plant and Jimmy Page could not imagine. Conversely, someone with a culturally low PDI ministering to a high PDI congregation should also minister in a high PDI context, even if it makes him or her uncomfortable. For example, a low PDI person may not like titles. If that person is ministering in a PDI context, he or she will have to get used to the title and get used to calling others by their titles for the sake of the gospel (“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” 1 Cor. 9:22).

    To sum up, I would argue for a contextual PDI in ministry. (Assuming everyone understands that God, of course, works in spite of our PDI conditioning)

    For basic communication, practice SLANT (HT: Maria)

  14. This is the first time I have looked at this interesting blog site. Actually, I’m not much on reading blogs. I don’t even get around to my e mail sometimes. But I hope to check this one out from time to time. Speaking of titles, I just returned from attending the “UBF 1st European Intl’ New Generation Leadership Forum” in Bonn, Germany. I learned a lot. The format was set up to be conducive to letting anyone talk pretty freely what was on their minds about house churches, fishing, dating, marriage, Bible study and becoming a Bible teacher,etc. It was a conference, (oops, not a conference but a forum) run by the New Generation for the new generation. I really appreciated being invited to come and speak, even I am the oldest of the old generation. Sorry my UBF hat is so hard to get off. But I know that you take people as they are.

  15. Tunde Adebola

    I’m delighted to see our co-workers share openly about communication within our church community.
    Communication is challenging but possible. It takes real effrot to speak to others in a way they can connect with you, and you with them. This is especailly so if we don’t have a common ground from which to relate – culture, age group etc.(Ruthie suggested that earlier)
    Although Jesus christ is our common ground, sometimes we feel disconnected from our Christian brothers and sisters. These disconnects often manifest themselves because of manmade structures, human prejudices and fear.
    Disconnects ultimately result in frustrations and “no relationship/broken relationships” that do not glorify and honor God.
    As can be seen very clearly in the example above where both the captain and first officer in KAl801 could not reach each other even though they spoke, lack of communication can lead to disaster.
    Finally, communication cannot be forced, that’s why I’m especially delighted that we have this forum where our willing co-workers may come and freely share. I hope to come often. Thanks Dr. Joe and all who are contributing to this!

  16. Hi Maria, Love the SLANT, though I feel as though I often slant the wrong way.

    Hey Ben, Never heard of PDI, but I’m obviously way way low. Need to think about how that works. Love the Led Zeppelin reference, though non-rock people may wonder if Page and Plant are Christians.

    Hi Mother Barry, Thanks for taking off your HAT, especially for me!

    Hi Joe, Regarding Dante’s “Abandon All Hope All Who Enter Here,” Paul Zahl, in his great book “Grace in Practice,” said that anyone who preaches a sermon without Grace should post that sign at the entrance of their church on Sun! Funny but true.

    I think that comment subscription surely prompts one who made comments, to check on others who commented.

    • Ben Westerhoff

      Zahl is a fabulous writer. He has a lucidity and flow in his writing style that brings out the gospel in a graceful way. He gets an “A” in communication for sure.

    • Tunde Adebola

      Hi Ben,
      You are right in saying that grace is a necessary ingredient in good communicaion. Provs says graceful words promote instruction…reckless words pierce…the tongue of a fool stirs strife etc.
      In the gospel, Jesus holds out grace and truth. It is in striking balance between these two virtues that healthy Christian communities are built and sustained in the long term. Thanks for your comments.

  17. Hannah Love Yoon

    Hi everyone!
    I’m so excited for this website to launch and start up.
    I was praying for some way to be able to communicate and network with the greater UBF community.
    I cannot wait to discuss with everyone and learn from everyone that will participate in this website.
    I, too, am learning a lot about the listening part in communication. Communication shouldn’t be one-sided otherwise its more just commanding/ordering/시키는거 (as they would say in Korean).
    In the end, I hope for us to grow into the beautiful body of Christ and to love and understand one another as one global community.

  18. Great comments here! ..and this is just the pre-launch section. I will be joining in more actively soon.

  19. Great comments Joe about communication. Since my wife is doing her PhD studies in the realm of digital communication, I’ve been exposed to a lot of ideas (I’ll ask her to post some articles too). Here are a few tips she has given me:

    1) Avoid acronyms. If you must use them, spell the words out and put the abbreviation in parenthesis. For example, does PDI above mean Personal Data Interchange or what? I spent the whole time reading the post trying to figure that out…(as a computer geek I must watch this myself closely!)

    2) Avoid vague pronouns. Mention people and places by name instead of saying “he” did this or “they” want that, or “it” is good. This creates a lot of confusion in blogging especially.

    • I think PDI is power distance index. I’ve already twisted Ben’s arm to write an article about that one. I’m twisting lots of arms today.

    • Ah thanks, sometimes the obvious doesn’t stand out when communicating :) Still, I have little idea what a “power distance index” is or what it means. It would be helpful to understand more. By the way, I will be offline tonight, back tomorrow morning.

    • Ben Westerhoff


      Point well taken. I need to be clearer in my communication. Thank God for this forum where I can learn clear communication especially through my mistakes. Joe’s writing is an excellent example of clarity.

  20. Paul Ridge

    Really good to see this site – long overdue!

    Yet what seems really long overdue is not Koreans waking up to this but nationals. It was hard for KAL to wake up to the issues and took a crash or two. It would be bizarre if an American co-pilot adopted Korean forms of communication when he joined the plane. Yet actually this is what nationals have done for years – and dare I say it American nationals in particular. I’ve never quite worked out why bright young American students in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s did not say anything at the time. It never was a good idea to call someone shepherd – of course we should be a shepherd but as a form of address? No. It is odd and always was odd.
    I wonder why early generation Americans did not mention this or fight for a change earlier?

    Perhaps some feel the plane has crashed and we need to wake up to this cross cultural problem. Ironically the inconsistency and mixed message is actually from the nationals who are now starting to ask these questions not having fought for this sooner. Why 20-25 years late?

  21. Joe Schafer

    Good morning, Paul. Or good afternoon, on your side of the pond. It’s good to hear from you, friend.

    Some readers might feel uncomfortable with the bluntness of your comment. But I would remind them that open communication does get uncomfortable sometimes, especially when people have been holding their tongues and keeping quiet for long periods of time. If this blog is going to be a place where real cross-cultural and cross-generational exchange takes place, there will be moments of tension. And moments of grace and forgiveness. We are all going to have to learn to listen to one another and pay attention to the substance of what is being said, and not simply react to the *manner* in which it is said.

    It’s hard to believe, but Sharon and I are approaching our 20th (!) wedding anniversary. We are both American, so no language or culture barrier there. We have also recently learned that our personalities (as measured on the standard five-dimensional model used by psychologists) are very similar across all five dimensions. But as we know, men and women come from Mars and Venus, respectively, so communication between us has been difficult at times. It’s only fairly recently that I’ve begun to actually listen to what she says rather than the way that she says it. When she said something that I didn’t like, I would respond with a comment like this: “You didn’t say that in the right way. I won’t listen or respond to that until you say it nicely.” Now I realize that this was my clever way of sidestepping painful issues that I didn’t want to talk about. By constantly changing the subject from *what* was being said to *how* it was being said, I was able to cling to my denial while claiming to stand on the high moral ground. I had to repent of that, and I still do. Basically, I was refusing to communicate with her unless she adopted my own preferred style of communication first. I was forcing her to become like me, rather than being willing to become like her, or meeting her somewhere in the middle. Which is the exact opposite of what Jesus Christ did for us in the mystery of the Incarnation.

    Politeness and gentleness in speech is a virtue. But honesty and bluntness are also virtues, especially in places like Britain and Germany.

    You raised a good question: “I’ve never worked out why bright young American students in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s did not say anything at the time.” Actually, we did ask those questions. One of the first questions that I asked when I started to interact with UBF people is, “Why do they always put titles in front of people’s names?” The answer that I got was, “This is the way that we show respect to one another.” That was an honest answer, and I accepted it as such. And because God was calling me to participate in this ministry depite these cultural differences, I was able to accept and adapt. We have all heard reports of how missionaries came to America and adapted themselves to difficult and uncomfortable situations here to serve American students. Those stories are true. But there were countless ways in which Americans adapted themselves to Korean culture in order to remain in this ministry. Those who were able to adapt did so. Those who were unable to adapt eventually left.

    Now about your second question, “I wonder why early generation Americans did not mention this or fight for change earlier?” Those of us who started this website did not do so to fight for change. UBF has always been changing in one way or another, and it will continue to do so. This ministry was started by the Holy Spirit and has been evolving in this complex, fallen world. There is no way that I can change it. If I try hard to change it into something that pleases me, other people will be displeased. We are generationally and culturally diverse, and people of all kinds will need to understand and adapt to one another if we are to hang together and maintain unity-in-diversity. I cannot change UBF, and even if I could, I would not know how to make the right choices. But God knows what he is doing.

    As we learn to better communicate with one another — and as our communication is mediated by the grace of Jesus — I believe that our ministry will automatically and organically move in a direction that pleases God. Open communication, mediated by Christ, is the primary work of the Holy Spirit that established the church in Acts chapter 2.

    On this website, I would prefer that people not use titles like “Dr” and “Shepherd.” But if some people want to use them, we will not require them to stop. We are all friends here. If some people are unable to take off their UBF hats to join in the conversation, then we will let them keep those UBF hats on. As Mother Barry (oops, I used a title!) said, we are going to take people as they are.

  22. Greetings Paul, and welcome! In the year 2010, we have the privilege (for good or for bad) to use global, instant communication tools, something that might have been a huge benefit in the 70’s and 80’s.

    My experience echoes Joe’s ;) My wife and I experienced our 16th anniversary last week. I can still say marrying her was the best decision I made for my practical life. Being that she grew up British, we do have some culture gap. Our children even adopt a British accent from time to time! I must say the British ideas are sometimes vastly different from my good ole’ American country ideas. But we’ve both grown through these differences, perhaps more than we could separately.

    I would add to Joe’s comments that in my viewpoint, there never was or is anything to “fight for” in regard to changing our ministry. Koreans adapted to Americans and Americans adapted to Koreans (yes I love kimchee!). I can’t speak to the German/Korean or Russian/Korean or British/Korean experience though.

    One reason I’ve remained commited to our ministry is that it is always changing. The Catholic church I grew up in, however, seemed to be stuck in the 15th century and never changing.

    Also, in regard to your comment, “It never was a good idea to call someone shepherd – of course we should be a shepherd but as a form of address? No. It is odd and always was odd.” In my opinion, calling someone shepherd is not odd. Our American culture is full of secular titles actually, like my “bff so and so.” The Bible is full of examples of people having new names (like Levi>Matthew), shepherd/sheep illustrations (“Be shepherds…”) and having a new identity in Christ (“The old is gone…”). So from a Biblical context, I’ve never thought this was strange. I don’t associate this practice with Korean culture. In my mind, this came from a desire to help people remember their new identity in Christ. The Salvation Army does a similar thing. And I always appreciate the reminder that I should be a shepherd, as you say. In any case, I’m fine with dropping the titles for the sake of conversation. In my professional life, I’ve never been a fan of titles anyway.

  23. Tuf Francis

    About titles…

    When I first came to the ministry, it made me mad. There were some shepherds (the ones who a bit more huffy about NOT being called shepherd) that I would call by their first names on purpose to make them mad (I was a real gem back then).
    But after time, I came to understand the role of a shepherd more and got a bit used to it. As a matter of fact, there are some people don’t feel comfortable calling them by their first name because of the respect I hold for them. Maybe I will just start calling them Mr and Mrs…

    Here are my lingering issues with the title thing though:

    1) I don’t think it should be used when non-UBF people are around, specifically in public and around people who are new to the ministry. The fact that it is such a stumbling block for some people and makes them want to leave before they even experience one to one Bible study is sad. The problem may be theirs, granted, but still we have to help people wherever they are.

    2) I don’t like when we call people shepherd right out of the gate. As in – a year into Bible study and we are calling people the same title as someone who has been teaching the Bible to people for 25 years. I think if we have titles, they should be reserved for elders and people who have truly devoted their life to gospel mission, not a young person who said one time they might possibly want to teach the Bible someday. I understand the argument that we want to plant vision in them, but I think the negative consequences for other potential new people outweigh the positives for that one person.

    Anyway, that is my tuppence worth… (I will use the British version, considering I am responding to Paul’s comment)

  24. Hey guys, thanks for the interesting discussions!
    i think Paul is addressing a very valid point here and i believe that the topic he is talking about deserves further discussion and consideration. Brian pointed out that our ministry is constantly changing. I totally agree. And i hope that this Forum can provide a plethora of biblical thoughts to all of us for little changes in our environment and as the Spirit leads bigger changes in UBF overall.

    Paul: First of all, good to see you here! i know that an excellent article by Joe is in the pipeline addressing some of your issues. However, in my opinion, it’s always worth to look at similar issues from different perspectives, even more so if it contains your personal experiences. Would you be willing to give us a piece of your mind by contributing an article?

  25. Tunde Adebola

    Okay, I’m one of those guilty of calling others with tiltes. I’m not sure if this is more a cultural thing for me, more than it is out of respect for God’ servants. But I think it is in-between the two.
    Growing up in south-western Nigeria, its not difficult for me to see and ascribe respectful terms to those older than me. I’ll say its somehow in-grained.
    While it is true that removing tiltels from people’s names does not change anything about them, and niether does adding title put any additional value, it may be sometimes useful to do so within our Christian community. As an example, Apotle Paul constantly refered to himself as an Apostle of Jesus Christ – a servant of God.
    I’ll also like to agree with what was earlier said that, the secular world has examples where tiltes are used (and sometimes ecouraged). and by saying this, I’m not suggesting to take cue from secular examples,But I think Briank made a valid point.
    If you want titles dropped on this blog fo the sake of unity and frindship, by all means I will do so…

  26. Joe Schafer

    My friend Tunde,
    Please do not feel pressured to drop your traditional communication style to please us. On this website, we want to accept people from all cultures as they are. But I am glad that you are willing to try. As the Apostle Paul became “all things to all men,” we have to be willing to change anything — except the truth of the gospel itself — in order to better communicate that truth. I am more than willing to add titles on occasion when it seems appropriate. One of our students here at Penn State pointed out that in every American church that he has ever attended, the pastor was always addressed with a title (Reverend, Pastor, …) and never simply with a first name. However, some churches that really want to culturally connect to unchurched people have even been dropping that practice. Different situations require different practices. It will be interesting to see what kind of communication styles ultimately emerge on this website.

    • Tunde Adebola

      Hi Dr. Joe (oops!) I mean Joe. I feel no pressure at all.
      It is good to learn and try new things. I’m willing to adjust for the sake of others, and I assure you that this will not be uncomfortable for me since I know this is what makes you and many of our other frineds (on this site) comfortable.
      I agree with the student from Penn state that many American churches traditionally retain titles for people in leadership.
      I’m not sure if you are aware that Joseph Magno from Triton was previously in Lagos, Nigeria. He mentioned that thier ministry had a similar debate and they decided to retian the term Pastor for only Pastor Teddy…all other people are called by thier first names.
      This raises a question about what we should do about our senior leaders. I’m not sure how we should address them (on this site). I’m speaking of people like Mother Barry, Dr. John Jun, etc.

  27. Dear Joe and others! Thank you for starting this project.
    Please excuse me, that I will not engage in the titles discussion. I just want to reffer to this site-blog meaning and what I’m waiting from this. My English doesn’t let me to express freelly everything I want to, so I just share what is on my mind.
    Being in UBF ministry during last 10 years, and seeing how the world is changing (At least here in Ukraine the people, their sights and life style etc. seems to be changed so much just in few years) I realized that we should also change our approach or even our minds in order to be successful ministry. And not just to be succeful minisstry but to fullfil God’s will for us. And we do have been trying to change something, to find out the better ways to fuflfil God’s will. But personally I and think others as well met and are meeting many challenges on this way. What shoud be changed? What should be changed in mission, or in me? what should we keep? what new should i learn? HOw I should grow up? 5-6 years ago everything was so clear for me. I knew what I was doing and what I should to do. I’m not speaking about good it was or bad – it just was so. But know I’m just feeling that I could not act like I used to, and I couldn’t think like I used to, and I’m even not that person :). But I should be someone and I want to do God’s work. I need to know how to do it :).
    I just thought about a year ago, that may be brothers and sisters in USA and from other countries have the same challenges, so I could prayfully learn from others and get some help. I just hope this site will help me :). I’m praying for it. Dear Lord, please bless our connection here and use it for making through us and in us your wonderful church. Amen.
    Again sorry for awryness. If I could speak English more fluently I would express what I want to say better :). So I believe you will accept me as I am :)

  28. Birgit Steller

    As I came to UBF in the mid 80’s, I share Joe’s experience about titles. I was told that to call somebody Missionary X or Shepherd Y is a sign of respect. Nowadays I still use titles for “older” missionaries, but for younger ones and for shepherds not.
    My own bible student in the early 90’s, who is now a mature shepherdess, sometimes wrote small notes for me (and still does), using “Dear Shepherdess Birgit”. It sounded so sweet to me, not because I felt proud about my status, but because she was so lovely and trustful.

    What I never liked was, when spouses used “my coworker”. When I first heard from my first bible teacher that he wanted to help his coworker, I imagined that he wanted to study Bible with his colleague in his office. Only later I found out that he was talking about his wife who was in spiritual difficulties.

  29. Birgit, thanks for your comment. i’m sure that you have seen Joe’s article on “UBFisms” from July 1st. Calling other people shepherd/missionary surely falls into that category.
    I think it is a good idea to openly discuss the origin and background of these titles and also to think about whether it makes sense to get rid of them entirely for the sake of doing better and more effective mission among young students.

  30. James Yoo

    Hi, Birgit,

    Thank you for sharing your experience about the term, “coworker”~~
    I’m a strong opponent for calling someone’s spouse “coworker”~~

    Calling someone you have respect for “shepherd” sounds just fine with me although I don’t use that term, either :)

    I don’t like calling my wife “coworker” because it sounds like
    treating my wife like someone I work with at a workplace. I never did and I will always call my wife “dear Mary, or my wife or honey~~”

    Yes! It is awkward and I propose that we don’t use “coworker” for calling
    our spousees.

  31. I would second this motion. I have to remember that my ‘co-worker’ severely despises being called this and so I had to drop it. I think that it unnecessarily burdens people to use honorifics. This is part of Korean culture, not American. I prefer the more simple and direct ‘wife.’

    Americans in UBF aside have to remember how little connection most internationals have to some of the American cultural tropes we use. I found that, unfortunately, no UBF member really likes baseball, except a few who like different teams. No UBF member actually rooted for the US soccer team in the recent world cup. Those that did found themselves surrounded by beer-swilling, expletive spouting, but not unpleasant salty types. Perhaps, these were the people to whom the apostles were sent. (Mt 11:19) Also, no one in UBF likes the ‘gentle, meek, and mild’ version of the deity that is lionized by many churches here in the States.

    Americans like myself have really had to struggle to let go of baseball, and it’s not easy. I pray that God will help me let go of some of the cultural stuff (incessant movie watching) that does not help co-workers. I’m not saying I’ve won this battle, but I’m just putting it out there. I hope this helps people. God bless the mission-centered folks out there.

  32. Brian Karcher
    Brian Karcher

    Hi Andrew. Welcome! I hope we can be mutually encouraged. By the way, thank you for posting our 100th comment here. (No prize, just more articles!) I was wondering though, you wrote “no one in UBF likes…” and “no UBF member..”… are you sure? I would hope we can avoid broad-sweeping, all-encompassing statements like these. By the way, I like baseball somewhat; but am a huge fan of the NFL and the NBA. I’ve seen several Detroit Tigers baseball games with my friends and family. Baseball is much better in person.

  33. Our sitemeter says that we will soon have our 1000th visitor. Not bad for a site that is still under construction.

  34. James Yoo

    Hi, Andrew

    I love “BASEBALL!!!~~~~” and I used to play it all the time.
    I’m dying to play baseball one day.

    Maybe it might be a good idea to make UBF baseball, football, or baseketball fellowship, and
    each chapter(or united chapters) may be able to play against each other for fellowship once in a while.

  35. Hi James,

    Thanks for the comments about BFriends sports. I stand corrected!! May I avoid sweeping generalizations in the future. But really, who isn’t a Cubs fan in UBF? Let’s see about baseketball in the near future.

    Who’s the next ‘rope-a-dope’ boxer in UBF? ^_^

  36. Young Lee

    Hi Joe (It is the first time calling ‘Joe’ instead of Dr., but I will follow the flow),

    My daughter Curie told me about this site and recommended to check it out. Very exciting! I have always cherished what you were doing, and I even more love your inspiration on this.

    • Joe Schafer

      Hi Young, thanks for your kind words. Please don’t think of this as my website. Although I did get the ball rolling, there are any wonderful friends involved in this project who have been supporting it with their talents and efforts. The fact that a website like this could take shape so quickly, and generate good articles and discussion even during the construction phase, is very heartening and shows that we are already a genuine spiritual community — a flawed one, to be sure, but one in which the Holy Spirit has worked in the past and will continue to work, as much as we allow. Please come back and join in the discussions again.

  37. What a joy to have fellowship in the Lord! Real communication build up the Gospel Truth in our ministry rather than shaking.  

  38. Maria K.

    Hello Joe,

    it’s really nice to see how people get know and communicate with each other. Although I’m not good in English, I hope that I can communicate with all of you, too. My dear sisters were reading this blog and recommended it. At first, I thought that I don’t have to visit this site, but now, I really regret to have not look for this blog 1 year ago. I tried to read all articles in here but that will take much time I guess. The articles are really great and full of grace. They give me strength to handle with problems and questions that I had and could never solve alone at myself. Thank God, that there are people who are willing to share his word!

    • Thank you, Maria. Your English seems fine to me. We look forward to your comments.

  39. This is a valid point “But you cannot hear a person’s tone of voice or see their facial expressions or body language. You cannot tell if someone is keeping silent to indicate displeasure.”

    I am thinking of creating a video blog in the new year, inspired by John: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0G7JN8IYriU

    What if we had a blog where people could only submit comments via video? Or better yet, maybe we could hold some round-table discussions on a topic and post the videos as “featured articles” for people to comment on via normal blog or video blog? Thoughts? Ideas? Maybe then we could “look each other eye to eye and be changed by each other” :)

  40. Thank you Brian for bringing this to light. :)

    Also, thank you for drawing myself and maybe others to the actual article once more. As I read Joe’s references to Korean airline matters I was quickly reminded of the Sewol ship. What a mess indeed! Also, I have no idea about the information from western media reports, but the ownership and operations were run by none other than members of a cult who had no care for the people on board. The government is still attempting to peacefully take the owner (leader) into custody, but have not managed to locate him due to the cult members loyalty.

  41. The tragedy for the 300+ passengers of the Sewol ship while the captain and crew abandoned ship: “Please do not move from your location,” the ferry’s loudspeakers blared at those on board. “Absolutely do not move.”

    The most tragic statement that I had read said that those who perished in the ship paid for their obedience with their lives.