Word, Spirit, Gospel and Mission (Part 8)

Many Christians have characterized the mission of the church only as winning individual souls. I argued in the last installment that this view of the gospel misunderstands the nature of the human person. People are relational beings made in the image of the Triune God. We find meaning and purpose in loving relationships with God, with other people, and with the created world. A gospel of individual rescue is a reduction of what the Bible actually teaches and misses much of what God wants to accomplish in us.

God cares about relationships. When Jesus ascended to heaven, he didn’t leave behind a book of writings. He left behind a community of witnesses who were filled with the Holy Spirit and entrusted the preaching of the gospel to them (Acts 1:8). As members of this community proclaim the gospel, they invite others to become part of God’s family where their true personhood will be realized. That family is not equivalent to a church organization. It is the body of all people who belong to Christ, the “communion of saints” that is mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed. Evangelism that fails to call people to join this body is alien to the New Testament. Jesus never intended his disciples to be lone wolves. Nor did he intend them to live in small, isolated, parochial clans whose members remain suspicious of everyone on the outside (Mk 9:38-40). He prayed for all his followers to be one, to experience among themselves the loving oneness that has with his own Father in a highly visible way, so that the whole world would see that the gospel is true (John 17:20-23).

So the preaching of the gospel is not just passing a set of teachings from one person to another; it is knitting persons together in grace to heal them, their families, their communities, and the world of the relational brokenness caused by sin. The healing that we experience now through the work of the Holy Spirit is the downpayment, the foretaste, of the full restoration that will be enacted when Jesus returns in power and glory. The present signs of the kingdom, our miraculously restored relationships with God and with one another, are the evidence and the engine of true evangelism.

If God’s plan to restore relationships requires that the gospel be spread from one person to another, one community to another, and one nation to another, then someone has to begin that process. Certain persons, communities and nations must be chosen to receive the gospel and bear it to others. That is the key idea of election as described by Paul in Romans 9-11.

Election wasn’t invented by Paul. It is the storyline of the Old Testament. Out of all nations, God called one nation, the Israelites, for his special purpose. He shaped their history through divine intervention and revelation, preparing them to be the first ones to welcome the Messiah.

In chapter 7 of The Open Secret, Lesslie Newbigin starts his discussion of election by reminding us of how offensive it sounds to nonbelievers, especially today. The idea that certain individuals and cultures have received special, unique knowledge from the Creator — the one who is Maker of all, whose image is borne by every human being – seems ludicrous. It is especially hard to believe, given that the people who were chosen were not outstanding among the great civilizations of the world; they hardly distinguished themselves by their achievements, scholarship, or virtuous lives. If God cares for all, as we believers claim, then why would he heap special treatment on some, on a small minority of people who do not appear to deserve it?

Election is patently offensive to every generation and culture. If a stranger arrives from a foreign land claiming to have special knowledge of universal truth, that claim is enough to make natives cry, “Missionary, go home!” How do we handle with this thorny problem? First, we should openly acknowledge that it is a problem. Second, we must understand that God’s election was never intended to set one person above another, one group above another, one culture above another. Election does not confer any moral privilege or special standing before God. In fact, the manner in which election unfolds throughout history makes it absolutely clear that salvation comes by grace alone, not through the intrinsic goodness or special qualities of any person or group. Never at any point in God’s history do his elect have any claim to special treatment by him because of their obedience, effort or virtue. The blessings received by the elect never come to them because of their wonderful goodness, but only despite their horrible badness.

When God called Abraham, he said: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Gen 12:1-2). It is tempting to read this statement as conditional: “If you leave and go, then I will bless you. If you don’t, I will not bless you.” But the blessing is not conditioned on Abraham’s response. God simply announces that he will be blessed, and God invites him to go and see the evidence of that blessing. Abraham does not earn the promise; his obedience is the way that he receives the promise.

The author of Genesis makes it clear that Abraham had no intrinsic virtues that set him above other people. When he went down to Egypt, he acted dishonestly. He appears less honorable than Pharaoh, and yet God rescued and blessed him (Gen 12:10-20). Again, in chapter 20, Abraham is less righteous than Abimelech, but God chose to bless him anyway. This favoritism toward Abraham has a universal purpose: God intends to bless all nations on earth through him (Gen 12:3).

About 430 years later, God made a special agreement with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. This covenant is described in Exodus 19:5-6: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Unlike the covenant of promise that God made to Abraham, this covenant of law is very conditional. If the Israelites obeyed God fully, then they would receive his special blessings. This covenant of law did not amend, change or supersede the covenant of promise that God gave earlier (Gal 3:17). God’s declarations to Abraham stood regardless of what the Israelites chose to do.

In an article posted last month, David L. correctly noted that Exodus 19:5-6 is a promise made to Israel, not to the Church. Christians who apply these verses to themselves are taking the passage out of context. The covenant described in Exodus 19:5-6 is a failed covenant and was doomed to fail from the start. Even before Moses came down from the mountain, the Israelites had already broken the agreement by worshipping the golden calf (Ex 32). A literal application of Exodus 19:5-6 to ourselves would lead us to believe that if we obey God’s commands, then God will bless us and our nation. If so, then we must not ignore the word fully. The obedience required by this covenant is complete obedience to the law of Moses, all 600 commands, because anyone who places himself under the law is obligated to obey it in its entirety (Gal 5:3).

The covenant of law failed because the Israelites willfully disobeyed. But God, in his sovereign purpose, used their disobedience to demonstrate that, though they were the chosen people, they were no better than anyone else. The division of their kingdom, the destruction of their temple, and their captivity in Babylon should have produced in them a deep humiliation that paved the way for the message of salvation by grace alone. This humiliation of failure, combined with the knowledge of God’s saving grace through Jesus, should have given them an openminded and generous spirit required of missionaries. God was preparing them to go to other nations and say, “We are no better than you. We are not coming with superior strength, wisdom, or moral standards. We were and still are deeply sinful and broken, and in many ways you are better than us. But God, for reasons that we do not understand, walked among our people and revealed to us something about his great salvation plan. We witnessed God’s redemption firsthand through the death and resurrection of his Son. Now we are experiencing his work of restoration. God wants to repair our relationship with you. We are your brothers and sisters, not your elders. We are not attempting to rule over you or change you into Jews like us. We will respect you, accept you and love you as you are, because that is what God has done for us; that is the essence of the gospel. We believe that the Holy Spirit is already hovering over you, working in mysterious ways that we cannot yet understand, and we hope to learn from you what God has been doing among you. We encourage you to respond to the Spirit’s invitation and become equal partners with us in this glorious work of restoration.”

That is the character that God wanted to instill in his chosen people. And, to an extent, that is what happened in the generations leading up to Christ, especially among the Hellenistic Jews scattered across the Empire. While they kept their laws and traditions, they also spoke Greek, and they began to mingle and develop meaningful relationships with the Gentiles around them. Their synagogues began to attract God-fearing Greeks who, for good reason, did not submit to circumcision but nevertheless loved the Lord. Many Hellenistic Jews developed an open and tolerant spirit as exemplified by Stephen and Philip in Acts chapters 6-8.

But in and around Jerusalem, the opposite was happening. In the years leading up to Christ, the rabbinical schools heightened the distinctions between clean and unclean, narrowing the popular conceptions of who was going to be saved. God’s salvation was no longer for all Israel; those were seen as worldly and compromised, such as the tax collectors and public sinners, were excluded. As Pharisees trended toward rigid interpretations and practices of the law, those considered to be elect became fewer and more distant from the rest. And the Essenes, who became so strict in their practices that they considered the Pharisees to be impure, formed monastic communities and withdrew to the caves at Qumran. They labeled everyone outside of their community as “Breakers of the Covenant.”

As these groups increasingly staked their identity and self-worth on the keeping of their traditions and laws, their expectations for the coming Messiah turned toward validation and reward for the elect, combined with punishment for anyone who oppressed or opposed them in any way. The enemies of the Jews were seen as the enemies of God, destined for enslavement or destruction. The late missiologist David J. Bosch (Transforming Mission, p. 19-20) explained:

As the political and social conditions of the people of the old covenant deteriorate, there increasingly develops the expectation that, one day, the Messiah will come to conquer the Gentile nations and restore Israel. This expectation is usually linked with fantastic ideas of world domination by Israel, to whom all the nations will be subject. It reaches its peak in the apocalyptic beliefs and attitudes of the Essene communities along the shores of the Dead Sea. The horizons of apocalyptic belief are cosmic: God will destroy the entire present world and usher in a new world according to a detailed and predetermined plan The present world, with all its inhabitants, is radically evil. The faithful have to separate themselves from it, keep themselves pure as the holy remnant, and wait for God’s intervention. In such a climate even the idea of a missionary attitude toward the Gentile world would be preposterous… At best God would, without any involvement on the part of Israel, by means of a divine act, save those Gentiles he had elected in advance.

Ironically, the religion of the Jews hardened into keeping of laws and traditions which, although apparently based on the Old Testament, ignored the actual flow of OT history. Their faith became increasingly focused on right principles and practices rather than on right relationships with God and other people. Bosch continues (p. 20):

To a large extent Jewish apocalyptic spells the end of the earlier dynamic understanding of history. Past salvific events are no longer celebrated as guarantees and anticipations of God’s future involvement with his people; they have become sacred traditions which have to be preserved unchanged. The Law becomes an absolute entity which Israel has to serve and obey. Greek metaphysical categories gradually begin to replace historical thinking. Faith becomes a matter of timeless metahistorical and carefully systematized teaching.

When Jesus arrived on the scene around 27 A.D., he overturned the popular understanding of election by declaring God’s unconditional saving grace to all Israel, especially those who were marginalized and considered impure. He elected the Twelve to represent pillars of a new chosen people who would embody the gospel and convey it to the nations. But just as the rest of Israel had difficulty embracing the Gentiles, so did the apostles and the early Church. As much as Peter and his fellow church members had to evangelize the nations, they themselves had to be re-evangelized by the nations, by seeing and fully accepting the work of Christ in Gentile believers who were different from them. God’s election does not give anyone a superior status. His election is designed to show the world that, from first to last, salvation comes to all by grace alone.


  1. Amen, and that is the KEY Joe! From first to last, Salvation is by Grace Alone, as is Election. I was talking with a friend recently about the UBF phrase ‘By Faith!’ and how that can be so easily misused and abused by leaders. In order to manipulate their sheep, all a leader has to say is, “Well, do you want to live by faith or not?” So there have been many instances of certain shepherds saying things like: “break up with your girlfriend by faith!” or “quit your job by faith” or “its ok, you can park in that no parking zone by faith!” or “cancel your wedding by faith!” …….many times it is not faith in God that the sheep ends up exhibiting but rather faith in their shepherd who may have more interest in control than real benefit to the sheep. My point to tie this together is that, until the majority of leadership within UBF remember that they were saved and elected  only by the Grace of Jesus themselves, then spiritual abuses will continue to occur. Until the top leaders admit that really serious  sins have been committed, and real abuses have occured, there cannot be healing. Instead, I believe that UBF is headed toward a fork in the road if it is not there already: Path #1 leads to repentance and restoration and a healthy ministry. Path #2 leads  toward schism and division and ultimate failure.  Thats why I am SO THANKFUL for men like Joe and Dr. Ben and the other UBF leaders on here. Truly, God, by that same grace,  has used you to give many people hope that UBF is not beyond change, and not beyond redemption as a ministry.

  2. Thank you David. When you say that “salvation is by grace alone,” I want to clarify what that means, for the benefit of other readers, so that no one misunderstands.  Salvation includes justification, sanctification and glorification. All  three of  them are  accomplished by  God’s grace. Our job  is to receive  all three  as gifts from God, not to generate them by our efforts.

    I don’t think anyone in UBF would argue that we are justified by works. In our testimonies and messages, we always talk about God’s grace upon our lives, about the need to remember God’s grace, give thanks for God’s grace, and so on.

    But where it gets murky is when we  get to  sanctification.  Actually, in  UBF, we don’t say much about sanctification. Rather, we tend to  frame the Christian walk  in terms of  mission. After we  introduce  people to  Christ,  the next step in our discipleship  plan is to get them started doing mission, identifying themselves as shepherds and Bible teachers, praying for mission, and so on.  That mission is what drives our prayers, our conferences, our worship, our concept of marriage, basically everything about  our self-identity.  A person’s  standing in the fellowship is very strongly related to how hard he works to  participate in the mission, defined as campus fishing, Bible teaching, etc. Those who don’t get with the program are definitely regarded as second class. They are made to feel  guilty, disobedient, lazy, faithless, and so on and continually told to shape up, work harder, pray more.  Is that consistent with the gospel? No, I don’t think so. Mission must be a response  to grace. It needs to be a work of the Holy Spirit, not driven by human effort.

    There is a very strong implicit theology within UBF  that we need to generate God’s blessings through our efforts. This is undeniable. You can here it in some of our messages: “We must do this,” “we should do that.” So many imperatives. So much talk about what we must do. Not much about what God has done through Christ. Not much about what the Holy Spirit does for us.  Even the mention of grace often comes in the form of an imperative: “We must remember God’s grace” and “We must give thanks to God every day for his grace.”  

    Now people who speak this way do not regard it as salvation by works, because they do not regard it as a matter of salvation at all; they think of it as mission, something  that comes after salvation. That is why, I suspect, that many readers of this blog would dismiss your comments out of hand. They would say, “We DO believe that we were saved and elected by grace.” But then they live and act as though they must earn God’s blessing and bear fruit through strict lifestyles, training, discipline and hard work. And they see no contradiction with the gospel, because they have framed it as mission, something distinct from salvation. This is not an easy thing to identify or root out. But the problem is very real. I agree with your diagnosis: We seem to have reached a tipping point where the gospel of grace is being assumed more than it is being proclaimed.

    One of my aims in writing this series of articles is to try to understand what mission is really about. Mission and salvation aren’t really distinct. Salvation is the mission. God wants to save the nations, and he does it by grace alone. If salvation comes by grace not effort, then mission happens by grace not effort.

    • Joshua Yoon

      Thanks Joe again for putting this long series of W.S.G.M. These articles were timely posted as our chapter studied Acts. We just finished this book today by having symposium. This was the first time God widely opened my eyes to see the “beautiful and mighty acts of the Holy Spirit.” Your comments, questions and quotations and other people’s comments really helped me to pay less attention to what apostles did and what we must do but much more to what and how the Holy Spirit worked. Following the work of the Spirit was such a thrilling adventure. I found Acts very relavent to our ministry. God gave me better understanding of the dynamics and relationships among these four components, Word, Spirit, Gospel and Mission. I understandn why Joe added Mission to the title. (I put a question about this in my response to the first part.) Acts of the Holy Spirit has been continuing for last 2,000 years and will continue until the day of Christ, expepecially the work of evangelism and reevengenlism (transformation).

    • Darren Gruett

      Well said, Joe. I wonder how many Christians in general understand salvation as being justification, sanctification, and glorification? That is such an important truth to embrace. Thanks for your honest and timely comments.

  3. Gosh Joe, that diagnosis is one of the best I have seen on this website of the condition of UBF! You are a spiritual doctor as well as a PHD it seems!

    • Thanks for your kind words, David. But no, these observations are not mine. They are what I have been hearing from many of our members. I’m just listening, collecting and synthesizing.

  4. Abraham Nial
    Abraham Nial

    “People are relational beings…” “Salvation includes justification, sanctification and glorification.” “Salvation is the mission.” These are huge revelation for such a time like this, Joe, as fresh and important as knowing who Jesus is for the first time. When I ponder over them, I almost remember Jesus’ word, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” I for sure believe that the Trinity want to get this across our heads, set it in our hearts and be lived out in our Christian walk. I thank God for the wind of the Spirit on this blog.

    God did not save us because he needed workers and producers. I think for so long we have misunderstood God’s eternal plans for human beings. While God the Father seeks to raise up a family: “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters…” (1Co 6:18); He also seeks to raise up a Bride, an eternal companion for His Son: “…For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” (Rev 19:7), to reign with Jesus in the coming kingdom. Defining human beings based on what they do or don’t is causing so much heartache and trouble everywhere. God loved me even when I was dead in my transgression and sins and because of his great love made me alive in Christ (Eph 2:4,5). Once after the initial experience of salvation, will His love increase or diminish based on my performance? No.

    I think that failure to recognize “salvation is the mission” and making a distinction between the two results in neglecting some of the more important issues such as sanctification. The immediate danger is neglecting the person and role of the Holy Spirit for our Christian living and spiritual growth. Mission station strategy replaces the longing for glorification with endless struggle to be justified in the eyes of those around us. Not only UBF but most in the Body of Christ are either unaware or neglecting these realities (sorry, for the sweeping generalization). I hope and pray that God may wake us up to greater realities. Thanks again for the article and your bold and honest comments.

  5. Here are a couple of quotes that may address why anyone’s Bible study may be somewhat “off”:

    1) “Bad theology dishonors God and hurts people. Churches that sever the root of truth may flourish for a season, but they will wither eventually or turn into something besides a Christian church.” John Piper

    2) “The authority of the Bible must operate in the way the Bible is, not in the way we would like it to be or in the way our subculture has taught us that it is.” Graeme Goldsworthy

    3) “The ultimate goal of Jesus’ commandments is not that we observe (obey) them by doing good works. The ultimate goal is that God be glorified. The obedience of good works is penultimate. But what is ultimate is that in our obedient lives God be displayed as the most beautiful reality in the world. That is Jesus’ ultimate goal.” John Piper

    Some have complained to me that quotes are not from the Bible. But quotes by godly Christians do illustrate truths proclaimed in the Bible.

    We like to remember our founder Dr. Samuel Lee’s last word as “go back to the Bible.” But it seems like we are going back to mission, to our methods, to our tradition, to our “good works” over the last 50 years. They are not necessarily bad or wrong, but they are not ultimate. Also, there seems to be no fresh newness of life, no more revelation or awe in Bible study, since we already “know it” and it cannot be questioned. It seems to be assuming the gospel, while emphasizing works, and what we must do, sometimes quite unplesantly or ungraciously.

    So, even the beautiful majestic sublime doctrine of election breeds a subtle air of pride, racial and cultural superiority, elitism, an elevated status, as though the one chosen or elected was because of their merit or goodness or purity or hard work or repentance or faith or obedience. Is there genuine and heart felt humility, gentleness, grace, meekness toward “sheep” or others who are “different”?

    A lot of this is of course subjective. But the fruit of this on a fairly large scale is the exodus of India UBF after 20 years, while in other instances people leave one by one. Can we even begin to address this, or do we keep “blaming” the people who have left?

    Sorry if this comes off as quite harsh. Maybe it’s because I’m still jet lagging from my recent trip. More likely it’s because I’m a sinner (Ps 51:5) who constantly needs endless grace for transformation and sanctification. Lord, have mercy.

  6. James Kim

    Hi Joe, thank you for your thoughtful article. In the Bible we see that God gave us two major commandments: Great Commission and Cultural Mandate: (Matt 28:18-20/ Gen 1:28) Both of these commandments are important to all Christians. In UBF we are much more familiar with the first commandment than the second one. One medical doctor I know is very busy at work in the hospital with heavy responsibilities as chief of one department. He cannot do much in terms of visiting campus or one to one ministry. So my prayer for him is that he may give good Christian influence to people around him at his working place. This is what Jesus meant, “to be salt and light of the world”. Christians infiltrate like salt to every strata of the society. UBF is lay ministry. As lay people it is very important to give good Christian influence at the working place wherever we may be. In this way Christians can shape the culture, rather than being influenced by godless culture around us. What matters most is to give positive impact to the society in general. Lesslie Newbigin said, “Ordinary Christians working in business, industry, politics, factory work and so on, are the Church’s front-line troops in her engagement with the world”. We can do this task when we have clear Christian worldview as you mentioned, God’s creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration.


  7. Hi Dr. James,

    I hope you don’t mind if I make a comment on your phrase “godless culture around us.” It’s basically a judgmental statement similar to saying, “selfish Americans,” or “proud Koreans,” or “snake-like Chinese,” etc. I’m sure that no one who is American, or Korean or Chinese, likes to hear such statements, regardless of whether or not they are true. Likewise, I don’t think that any Christian or non-church going person likes to be referred to as “godless.”

    Also, “godless culture around us” also implies that there is no or less godlessness in the church, or that the church is far better than the “godless culture” outside of the church.

    *Is this really true?

    * Are Christians “less godless” than non-Christians?

    * Are Christians “better” than godless non-Christians?

    * Are Christians “elected” or chosen because they are less godless?

    I think that we Christians will give a far greater influence to the “godless culture around us,” when we begin to address our own godlessness within the church:

    * Is the church flawless, sinless?
    * Is there no selfishness in the church?
    * Is there no gossip, slander, playing politics in the church?
    * Is there no favoritism in the church?
    * Even if we avoid adultery in the church (for the most part), is there no lust or the temptation of pornography in the church?
    * Is the church really less godless than the “godless culture around us”?

    If we in the church begin to address our own short-comings, sins, idolatry and godlessness, I believe that we will be much less resented and “hated” by the “godless culture around us.”

    Thinking of Jesus, the “godless people” like the prostitutes and the tax-collectors loved Jesus. It seems that it is only the “godly” religious leaders who hated Jesus.

    I hope that you are not offended by my “picking” on your phrase “godless culture around us.”

    • david bychkov

      One person said that the problem of today’s Christians that they saw the poority of everyone except themselves. I’m strongly agree with this statement. So I like what you have said here, Dr. Ben. Though I like Dr. James Kim statement about “godless culture around us” b/c sure it is true, and we don’t have to forget that we are in the world, but not from the world, and sure we are the light and salt for it.

    • James Kim

      Hi Dr Ben. I do not disagree with you. Someone said we are much worse sinners than we think including myself. Only by the grace of God, our sins are forgiven. Through redemption, also restoration begins.

  8. Again, I really have to salute the boldness of you guys on here who are still in UBF! For me it is very  easy to comment and say whatever I feel because no one in UBF can touch me, I am beyond the long arm of UBF style  justice;) But for you guys, man…it takes guts and spirit to know that people, strike that, LEADERS  in the ministry are talking behind your back and plotting against you, and yet you still are taking a stand against the sinful practices of the ministry! Stay strong brothers!  

    I was  at UBF for 6 years, and it was hard enough  for me to  escape, much less take a stand, but for some of you, I know that you have been there  for 15, 20, 30 years or more!  I know that UBF  is a HUGE part of your life, perhaps  for a long time it  was the CENTER of your life, and to finally break free from stifling legalism and take a stand against it from within the ministry  is truly admirable! You are like a Christian version of Winston Smith from Orwell’s 1984 but with a different ending hopefully!!! Truth always  wins in the end, and I thank God that the Truth is shining brightly through you!

    • Joshua Yoon

      David L, thanks for your honest comments. I believe what you experienced and felt is real. I was glad to hear the voice of someone outside UBF like you. I appreciate many of your insightful comments on this online forum. I sense certain words and expressions you used are indicators of your need of reconcilation and healing. I am not sure what exactly happened between you and some people in UBF. Based on my experience, I would like to encourage you to pray for God’s wisdom and courage to reopen a dialogue with them. If your mentor was a Korean missionary, I believe cultural barriers and different expectations might have played big roles in creating conflicts and tension. Thank God that you are not just keeping the feelings buried inside you but revealing them at least on this space. I believe this is the beginning of reconciliation and healing. I hope you will take further steps for these by talking to people with whom you had struggles as Jesus urged us to (Mk 11:25, Mt 5:24) I also want you to know that UBF is not the same as when you were in. Talking freely in UBFriends is one evidence.

    • david bychkov

      Hey David. Thanks for all your comments and great contribute in our community. It is very crucial for us, but for you it seems to be like something volunteer work. Though we greatly appreciate it.
      As for this last comment – thank you as well for encouraging. However I think that for this time last thing which we need is considering us as heroes. we never want to think in terms white and black, in or out, cause I think it is the way to deeping misunderstanding and troubles instead of healing. what we really need is God’s mercy to be humble, loving and muture.

  9. David L, I know you meant well, and I’ve personally appreciated your wide-ranging contributions to this online forum. However, I think some folks would take offense at your above comment.
    Admin may disagree with me on the following point, but I hope eventually this online forum serves as a necessary but hopefully temporary way to voice honest concerns and discussions that ultimately should occur between individuals face-to-face. I personally hope this online forum would eventually progress to the point where it might even catalyze people to personally meet together outside the online forum and discuss their positive and negative experiences in UBF to promote mutual understanding and reconciliation — rather than serve as some cathartic back-handed way to lash back at those who may have hurt you. I apologize if that was not the intention, but that is how that comment appeared to me.
    I do not know what personally makes you feel you had to “escape” and “break free from stifling legalism” and “take a stand”– as if UBF is some monolithic prison with a singular mission to make each member miserable. Clearly, I can tell you were hurt by some of your experiences and I’m saddened by it, and hope that this online community would serve a good purpose in your life to promote long-term reconciliation between you and with those in UBF who really do need to hear your experiences and wounds. As it stands now, comments like the one above do not in my opinion promote that, but I may be over-reacting. I mean the comment helps me understand you, but i don’t think it promotes reconciliation. But with that said, I hope you continue to contribute your comments on ubfriends because I personally learn a lot from you.

  10. Hi Joshua, John,
    Perhaps it is indeed simply catharthic for David L to share his wounding from UBF. But I do personally know that he tried to personally reach out to and reconcile with his Bible teacher and remain friends after he had decided to leave UBF for good to join another church. But his Bible teacher basically told him that they can no longer be friends, UNLESS he comes back to UBF. I hope I had not mis-represented David L by sharing his experience.
    Forgiveness and reconciliation is perhaps the “toughest job” for Christians. Here are some quotes:
    * “There is no deeper pathos in the spiritual life of man than the cruelty of righteous people.” Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics
    * “Forgiving love is a possibility only for those who know that they are not good, who feel themselves in need of divine mercy…and know that the differences between the good man and the bad man are insignificant in (God’s) sight.” Niebuhr
    * “Forgiveness places us on a boundary between enmity and friendship, between exclusion and embrace. It tears down the wall of hostility that wrongdoing erects, but it doesn’t take us into the territory of friendship. Often, that’s all we can muster the strength to do, and all that offenders will allow us.” Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace
    I think that wounds in UBF as expressed by David L is hard to lead to “full reconciliation,” not just because the wounded one is not willing to be reconciled. It might be much harder more so because the one who did the wounding and offending really doesn’t think he said or did anything wrong, and has no to little fault in the wounding of others, and that it is basically “the sheep’s fault.” (When I hear the recent murmurings about India UBF, there is a subtle air of blaming the indigenous Indians for leaving. I think this is really, really sad, because I have not heard the leadership take personal responsibility for this massive shameful failure.)
    Of course, the offended “sheep” must still forgive his offending “shepherd,” even if the offending party thinks they didn’t do anything wrong or simply won’t admit to it. Therefore, even the one offended cannot ABCD (accuse, blame, criticize, demean) the offending party without sinning against God and grieving God.
    Sorry, if I am raising an uncomfortable topic, which might be hard to transparently and openly address publicly and face to face. But I hope that we can be mature and humble enough to eventually address such “painful topics” publicly and face to face one day (and not just in cyberspace), even this side of eternity. Or maybe, this is just my own pipe dream.

    • Understood. I’m with you, Dr. Ben. What makes me uncomfortable is the sharing of personal details on this website that occur between David L and the potential “offending party”. I mean, it helps me better understand David L’s situation (assuming the facts are really that clear) and it helps me empathize with him better, but in the process it also unintentionally distorts my perception of the other side. Perhaps I should be more upset along with everyone else in solidarity with David L, but until I have the opportunity to hear the other side, I’d have to say that what makes me uncomfortable is not the topic itself but the manner in which we are going about may be cathartic on one side, but deepen the resentment/stone-walling on the other. That would not be helpful in the long-run. But Dr. Ben, please understand I’m with you on this.

    • Hi JohnY, it is for that exact reason that I have tried to speak in generalities instead of calling out specific individuals by name. I could do that easily, and I could recount spiritual  abuses toward me and others detail by detail, but I have purposely  not done  that for the sake of the perpetrators. Instead, my focus has been to privately discuss individual matters with the offenders themselves, and publically discuss systemic issues. I do not hold any hatred toward any member of UBF at all whatsoever. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 12  that we should “Hate what is evil and cling to what is good.” I try cling to the good things/practices about the UBF ministry and I hate any evil practices that occur or have occured there. Paul also said in Ephesians 5:11, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” That is one of the things I am trying to do! If you like, I would be happy to discuss over email  with you in detail (with names changed of course) the practices and occurances that I am talking about. My email address is stonensling1(at)yahoo(dot)com.

    • By the way, Dr. Ben,   I love the quotes you had above. Here is another quote:
      “Nothing that we despise in the other man is entirely absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
      It is this quote and Bonhoeffer’s own life example that has been the guiding philosophy toward the way I try to view individuals in which I have had my own conflicts, personal wounds, and perceived and actual wrongs done to me. I see the spirit of Bonhoeffer’s quote abounding on this website and specifically with this discussion thread, so in many ways, I remain hopeful.

  11. I understand that some people might take offense at David L’s comment, but I see no reason to edit, censor or delete it. David L is a valued member of this online community — a friend. He expressed his opinion, and other friends have responded in a healthy way. That’s what friends do. They hold one another accountable.

  12. To me, the difference between this website and RSQUBF is that we who post on here still care about UBF and people serving there. If I sounded too  bold in my last statement, I only regret that I was not even bolder before I left the ministry. I truly saw things, many many things which were not only wrong but very evil taking place and did nothing about it but leave. Thats why I applauded your committment to stay and deal with the wrongs there and try to make them right! I am usually pretty straight forward in my interactions, so I know that sometimes I come across like a bull in a china shop, but my intention is to bring the darkness into the light (including my own). A quick story: I recently waited FAR too long in a personal interaction with a friend to tell him that he was sinning against me…actually I didnt want to tell him at all because he is my friend and I didnt want to hurt his feelings  (I waited 5 years to bring it up) but when I mentioned it he said to me, ‘Man, why didnt you tell me this earlier? I could have appologized to you way back then and stopped doing this thing!” I saw that it was wrong for me to keep offenses to myself and just bury them…(of course I know that private offenses are private affairs, but many times the offenses and sins  at UBF were not private one or two or three time events but SYSTEMIC FAILURES WITHIN THE ENTIRE CHURCH!) In terms of my personal feelings toward my “shepherd,” I have nothing but sadness and love for him. Dr. Ben is right, I have tried on numerous occasions to reach out and have been rebuffed. Perhaps someday things can change, I hope for that. I am not writing on here to gain some catharsis. Rather, I believe that if things in the upper eschalons of UBF do not change I sincerely  believe that UBF will die as a ministry or there will be  some huge scism  and I dont want that to happen. Martin Luther said, “I may be rude in speech but I am not rude in understanding.” If that be the case with me than I apologize for the first but not for the second.

  13. Also, if there is anything that I said in my post  which was untruthful, please show me what it is. I want to be transparent and open to the truth. I have purposely never mentioned the name of my  Bible teacher  on here or anyone’s name for that matter except to give some word of encouragement. And while I definitely want to encourage people, I also want to protect some  and admonish others as Christians are called to do. When I said that leaders are talking behind your back, it is because I have heard them! And when I compare aspects of  UBF to an Orwellian book, I truly believe that in some ways it is loosely like that!!!

  14. Joe, Darren, If I may add to the “3 steps of salvation,” John Murray, in his book, “Redemption, Accomplished and Applied,” recommended to me by David L and Ben W, states that there are 8 steps in the “order of redemption”: http://westloop-church.blogspot.com/2010/11/of-redemption.html

    1) Calling
    2) Regeneration
    3) Repentance and Faith
    4) Justification
    5) Adoption
    6) Sanctification
    7) Perseverance
    8) Glorification

    Sorry for adding to the confusion!!

    John, I agree that it’s so easy to “promote resentment” and/or stonewalling one side, by listening primarily to the other side. Maybe my weakness is to “side with” the weaker, that is, the “sheep,” while I regard that the stronger, the leader, or “the shepherd” should be more mature and humble and willing to acknowledge their own shortcomings, instead of “blaming the sheep,” or as David L puts it, “talk behind their back,” which is essentially gossip, and promoting resentment and stonewalling.

    Dr. James, For sure we Christians are “greater sinners” than non-Christians. But if our communication is to label others as “godless,” “proud,” “selfish,” “spoilt,” “trouble-maker,” “mental patient,” “racist,” etc, (all of which I have personally heard from leaders in reference to others) without stating exactly how we Christian leaders are “greater sinners,” it still comes across as though we Christians or leaders are far better than non-Christians or better than those who left UBF.

    So, I think that until we state clearly how we are “greater sinners,” that’s only a theory but not a reality, I think.

  15. Great conversation. I wonder if, down the line, there will be an article that talks about implemeting change where/if necessary.