A Question from Ray

Dear friends: Today a comment arrived from one of our readers. It was originally addressed to Joshua Yoon in response to this:


Because of its length and scope, we have decided to run it as an article. Take a look and see if you can offer him any advice. Thanks!

Hi Joshua!

Thank you for your comments. I was particularly interested in your question about keeping the name, “University Bible Fellowship.”

My comment is more personal in nature and not so much directed toward the ministry’s overall structure and leadership. If anything, I think it is a personal prayer request (with a bit of background) for us to seek the Lord’s guidance and direction for our new house-church ministry.

As you and several others know, our family moved from Canada to Japan in 2009 to serve as pioneers. We live on a southern island of Japan called Kyushu. Our city is called Oita. There is one other UBF chapter on the island in Nagasaki, which is located about 3-4 hours away by car. We meet sometimes for retreats which are very encouraging to us. I also get invited to a yearly director’s meeting in Tokyo to meet with other leaders. We exchange several e-mails throughout the year and pray for each other. I definitely feel that God is working on a national level through this loving and diverse community of believers (most directors have a Korean background, one is Japanese, and another is, well, Canadian).

With the exception of these meetings, on a day-to-day level, mostly we are on our own in our small house church. Because of language problems and lack of Christian resources in Japan, I’ve been turning to other ministries to help me with Bible studies, personal growth, and message preparation. Combined with a good foundation in UBF, God is really beginning to open my eyes to a rich and well-rounded personal relationship with God as my eternal Husband, Friend, Provider, Counsellor, Master, Redeemer, Creator, etc.

My wife, Tsukasa, is Japanese. Through God’s sovereign leading, she met Christ through UBF in Canada and she has been serving the ministry very faithfully and joyfully ever since. That said, she never attended University or College (she started working after high school). Although she expressed interest in attending some post-secondary program after our children start school, I guess she felt a little strange being in a campus-based ministry until now. At present, we are alone in a small city with no other campus ministries around. When we visit nearby campuses, there are signs everywhere saying we shouldn’t be there because a) we’re not officially affiliated with the University, and b) all faith-based activity is strictly prohibited on Japanese campuses.

So, my question is: should we keep the name “University Bible Fellowship”? Even more, should our family be limited to campus mission?

Recently, we started our study of the book of Acts and one thing I noticed was the lack of church organization. With the exception of using terms like the church in Jerusalem, the church in Antioch, etc. the early church didn’t really have a name. I guess the same was true of the Old Testament as well. Of course there was a temple, but essentially it was just a group of people called by God to be His treasured people and to participate in His eternal salvation purpose.

In Japan, Christianity is pretty foreign (less than 1% of the population is Christian) and one of the questions I’m often asked by native Japanese people is about the differences among the different denominations. If Jesus is one, why are there so many Christian groups? Why do they have different names? Which one is the *right* one? I think all these questions are good. But in the end, the different groups can create unnecessary confusion and stumbling blocks for very early seekers, especially in a culture which doesn’t have a strong Christian heritage.

I can imagine different pros and cons for maintaining a church structure, but sometimes I wonder if in a situation like ours we should just drop the church name all together yet still live like Christians in a very genuine way. Whoever God sends to us, whether University student or not, we should just embrace and try to give them an appropriate environment where they can feel comfortable and grow in the knowledge of Christ which their soul is so obviously longing for. Maybe as the church grows, we could think more about name or organization.

These are just some of the thoughts I’ve been having recently as I try to adjust to my new life serving Christ in a foreign country and culture, and Joshua’s post inspired me to write about them. In reading some of the posts on this site, I realized that some of them are written from a North American perspective (and they should be!). In some ways, I’ve come to understand myself and the UBF ministry much better now that I am living in an Asian environment, a little similar to Korea. Turning to the Bible, when the Samaritan woman met Jesus, at first she didn’t see the Son of God; she saw a Jewish man. In other words, Jesus became a man of the time and culture so he could connect very naturally with the people. Surely if he came now, he would do things a little differently and the parables would probably be about things like smart phones and cars, instead of vineyards and mustard seeds. Either way, the never changing message about God’s passionate love to be with us — his bride — for eternity would be the same!

Anyway, my hope in this post is to let our prayer requests be known. I also welcome any comments or feedback.


  1. Ray, thank you for this honest and interesting question. Suppose the Apostle Paul traveled to a city where he had never been before and  discovered that  some believers in Christ were already there. What do you suppose he would do? Would he set up his own ministry independent of theirs? I doubt that very much. But unfortunately, that’s what modern missionaries do, and it causes problems and harms our witness to the world. Jesus prayed for the Church to be one. Of course, we  are now 20 centuries later and the situation is different. We have all kinds of historical baggage and divisions behind us. The Church is varied and diverse. Diversity is good. Each part of the Body sees and knows things that others do not. This diversity can serve as a wonderful corrective. The parts can continually learn from one another and re-evangelize each other. But in order for that to happen, some connections and communication must be established between the parts. We do not need organizational and doctrinal unity to have meaningful relationships with other Christians. I’m glad that has been happening in your case. I have no  specific advice for you except what my own mentors have urged me to do:  Try your best to discern God’s leading and follow it. It sounds that God has been leading your family. He will continue to do so. God be with you. Please keep reading UBFriends and keep us posted.

  2. Thanks, Ray, for sharing your warm life journey thus far. 2 verses come to mind, which I often think about, reflect and pray over, whenever uncertainty, conflicts, problems, issues, and questions in my own heart arise:
    1) Phil 3:13,14. Whatever happens or does not happen, Paul always sought his upward heavenly calling in Christ.
    2) Phil 2:12,13. Thank God who has been and is fully at work in you and your family. Thus, as you shared I believe that you are also fully working out what God has been working in you by his grace.
    Sorry if these verses does not address your specific question. But I thought that as general principles (which I believe you have already been practicing) to “press on toward your goal” in Christ, and to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” the Holy Spirit will continue to guide you (John 16:13).
    Thanks again for sharing your lovely spiritual journey with us. And again, sorry for being so vague.

  3. Joshua Yoon

    Thanks, Ray, for putting your honest thoughts in UBFriends so others may pray for you with better understanding of your real struggles and issues. Many people just think that you are doing well because you attend Japanese conferences and maintain a missionary life. Many people also view me and  Waterloo chapter in the same way. However, I serve the ministry with many questions unanswered, which have arisen over the years in my own heart and in others members and in my own children as well. I found it not easy to even talk about them to others except for a couple of people only. Both Joe and Ben who are quite frank and thorough in their expression did not answer your question directly. Ben admitted to being vague. I don’t remember anyone else’s comment on my question about the name. I think you are the first one. If I am wrong, please, correct me, Joe. I felt that perhaps this is not the right time or the right place to talk about this particular topic. But I feel that it is quite necessary to seek God’s will on this matter as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of ubf history and prays for the future direction of the ministry. The Christian ministry I am involved in as a paid worker has changed its name four times over 10 years, catching God’s enlarging vision. In Canada, CCC (Campus Crusade for Christ) droped crusade and changed its name to C for C (Campus for Christ). It is a part of interdenominational organization called Power to Change which is registered as a charity organization and embraces many other branch ministries in addition to campus mission. (C for C is not registered as a  charity organization or ministry  as a seperate entity)  UBF is not a part of  any  larger organization. It has been independently  functioning as a para-church or church over the years. If the church focuses on specific groups of people, it contradicts and defeats its purpose.   It can not be a church in a sense of welcoming all kinds of people. But in reality it has become  a church. For example,  Chicago UBF  building has a sign of  a missionary church. But the ministry  focuses on  campus  mission.  I feel that  it is a big topic.    I hope leaders will think about  this  issue  and talk about it and pray about it and  seek God’s best will.  In the meantime, I want to encourage you Ray to do your best to discern God’ leading and follow the conviction the Holy Spirit puts in your heart   and press on toward your personal goal in Christ as Joe and Ben said.

  4. Hi Joshua,
    Regarding the name “University Bible Fellowship,” I think  there are two different questions. The first one, which Ray brought up, is the question of whether a local UBF-affiliated house church or ministry ought to change or drop its name if the members feel it is not appropriate or descriptive of what they are actually doing. That has already happened in various places. To give people the freedom and blessing to do this without seeing them as disloyal or as having “left UBF” (whatever that means) would, in my opinion,  be a step in the right direction. The other issue which you brought up is whether the entire organization should consider changing its name, given that we have broadened beyond a campus ministry. That is a good question, but I don’t imagine it will happen in the near future, because it is not at the forefront of what people are thinking about, at least not now. I imagine that, for many of our local ministries and house churches, the name UBF is still appropriate and descriptive, but for others it is not. From my perspective, it seems unlikely that we would be able to select a more appropriate name until we achieve a greater consensus and common understanding of our identity and mission. I applaud you for speaking up about this, because it is certainly worth discussing.

  5. I sometimes witness to people on mixi (being in Japan I assume you are familiar with it). I normally tell people I’m a Christian, I don’t specifically mention “UBF” unless they ask specifically what church I go to. I think the main thing, especially for a country like Japan, is to identify yourself as a Christian and show them how you live. I once talked about God to a woman, I even referred her to Tokyo UBF; and when I visited she came with me to the ministry. It’s too bad that she wasn’t comfortable going back. I guess the main point is to keep on keeping on, don’t let the name restrict you in preaching the gospel because the name of Christ is the more important name. It’s good that you can reach out and work with other ministries. I always imagined Japan as being a very difficult mission field, how is it out there?

  6. david bychkov

    Hi Ray!
    It was pleasure to read your post and I’m praying for you and your house church.
    I want to express here one thought which got to my mind today about our organisation, her essence and name. What about separating UBF church and UBF campus ministry? No metter how they would named. So we will have church, which is not limited with any limits, but are fully functionating like Christian church, following Biblical models and so on. But in the same time to have UBF campus ministry which is not church, but is focusing on preaching the Gospel to student and raising disciples? People in UBF church could be or could be not involved in UBF campus ministry, but still could find their places and callings in church. And for people which asossiated with campus ministry is not neccessery to follow UBF church. They might do it and continue UBF ministry. They might do it and stop campus ministry if it is not suitable for them anymore, and still have place in church. And they might not do it and find themselves in another church.
    What do you think of model like this? Could it work?

  7. I was about to post an article about this very topic, David, so I’m glad you brought it up. Perhaps you could post an article about this topic (church vs. parachurch tension) to UBFriends instead?

    • david bychkov

      Hm… I didn’t think of it. And I’m afraid my experience and knowledges in this topic are quite low. Could we try do it together?

  8. Thank you everyone for your responses and prayers!
    They were very encouraging for me.

    I’m sorry I took so long to respond.

    The Lord has been working and leading us in very exciting and unexpected ways. Especially God has been working through free English classes and Bible studies which we’ve been holding in a public community building. The environment doesn’t look at all like a church; but it feels very natural and comfortable for people to open up and discuss honestly.

    In the beginning, I focussed mostly on University students and God was clearly working. But as I started my study of the Book of Acts, I learned how Paul shared the gospel with all types of people in the cities he visited. This sparked a new flame in my spirit to open the invitation to not only University students but to all members of the community. The Holy Spirit worked mightily and the room has many people with diverse backgrounds in it at every lesson.

    Especially with the recent earthquakes, tsunami, and nuclear problems many people have been thinking deeply about their lives. I heard that in Northern Japan (e.g., Tokyo) people have been experiencing large earthquakes every day for over a month, and this fear has impacted the entire nation. Experts say that our area will experience a huge earthquake within 5 years. Only God knows what will really happen, but people are starving for the good news and hope of the gospel and I have a new sense of urgency and hope of the kingdom in my heart.

    Sometimes it seems like God forgot about Japan. It is an affluent nation and generally peaceful. Missionaries came here from Europe around 500 years ago but there seems to be little impact today. However, through the recent disasters, I saw the love of God for this nation newly. I am brought to tears when I think of the body of Christ around world who began to pray and support Japan sacrificially, and God’s broken heart for his people.

    Anyway, thank you again for your prayers and I’ll try to send updates and check this site more.
    I believe this website is helping to form genuine and eternal friendships in Christ!

    • James Kim

      Hi Ray and Tsukasa. Thank God for using your family so preciously in Japan. In this time of colossal suffering and tragic situation, many people must have fallen in deep despair and meaninglessness. We do not know why this happened. But only in God they can find true comfort, peace and meaning of life even in the midst of pain and suffering. It was very encouraging to hear that you reached out many non-students. I believe Jesus always had the whole world in his mind when he taught his disciples how to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. May Your will be done in Japan.

    • Thank God for your labor in the Lord for Japan (1 Cor 15:58). Here is a video clip  from churches helping churches, where a Japanese Christian quotes Song 8:7 and says, “Even a tsunami cannot wash away God’s love in Jesus Christ.”