To Stay Or Not To Stay?

When is it a good idea to stay in a church or para-church ministry, and when is it better to leave? This was the question that Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones addressed in 1966 at the National Assembly of Evangelicals conference in England. Lloyd-Jones was a very respected evangelical leader, and he used this opportunity to implore evangelicals to leave the Church of England because it was tolerating theologically liberal people and ideas in its ranks (He told evangelicals to join with another evangelical church).

Another respected leader named John Stott was at the meeting, and after Dr. Lloyd-Jones was finished, Stott approached the lectern and said to the audience, “I believe history is against what Dr. Lloyd-Jones has said… and I also believe that Scripture is against him.” Stott wanted evangelicals to stay within the Church of England to be a transforming influence.

So who, if either, is correct? When is it right to separate and leave a church or a denomination, and when should one stay and be salt and light within the church? Lloyd-Jones also said, “Ecumenical people put fellowship before doctrine. We, as Evangelicals, put doctrine before fellowship.” There is an issue here that arises however: Since no church has absolutely perfect doctrine, where is the doctrinal line drawn before one says, “this far and no further” regarding the teaching of the church?

Also, what if the question is not only one of doctrine but also practice? What if a church teaches essentially correct doctrine but its overall systematic practices go against its teaching? Lloyd-Jones had an issue with the Anglican Church because, while their doctrinal statement was basically solid, according to him, its practices across the board over time were not and so he advocated separation in that case.

What is the threshold for staying or leaving a ministry? Is there a line for the amount of doctrinal aberrance, personal abuse, or theological difference that determines staying or leaving? Or is it subjective, on a case by case basis?

For me and my wife, we decided to leave UBF because too many lines had been crossed for too long, without being able to see any glimmer of change within the ministry. I think we also felt powerless to do anything about it because whenever I broached the subject with my “shepherd,” I was very quickly shut down. Of course, now I do see that there are people who both want the ministry to change, and who have the position to do something about it. Nevertheless, if I had to make the same decision again, I would. I think that it was right for me and my wife to leave and I have never regretted it. We found another church and have been growing.

But what do you think about where the line should be drawn?


  1. I’ve asked myself this question many times, quite recently too. We just finished Galatians study and I told myself that if I didn’t see a more Galatians-based attitude around at the end of Galatians study then I would leave. Well, we’ve finished, and I’m still around. I guess you could say I’ve got one foot out the door. I remain because I think I can do some good; or as you put it “be salt and light within the church.” Ha, I never thought that people in the church would need to be salt and light for each other! It’s always “we need to be salt and light for non-believers/the world.” I’ve thought about looking around to other churchs but I’m not sure where to go.

    • Oscar, did you come to faith at UBF? I did, and so like Dr. Ben says: I was like a fish, born in a fish bowl that didn’t know there was such a thing as an ocean out there! I would just say, that if you stay or leave, make sure it is for the right reasons…I will pray for you brother

    • Thanks David! I did come to faith in UBF, though I like to think that I came to faith because God had mercy on me and softened by heart and allowed me to call draw near to him. I like the emphasis on bible study, I like studying the bible! I just have a problem with the insinuation that I’m not a real Christian if I’m not doing all these things the church tells me I have to do.   I’ve always felt like something wasn’t right with that model of Christianity but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It wasn’t until I started reading books besides the bible that I was able to see a wider viewpoint of it all.   I think the reason I’m going to stick around it because I want to make an attempt to clear things up. I’m not sure how that’s going to be taken, but, if things are being misrepresented then I think I have an obligation to at least try to clarify things.   I’m not trying to be some kind of crusader, I just think that there needs to be some tweaking done here and there.

  2. Here’s another quote by John Stott on this topic, taken from an article in Christianity Today (1/8/1996):

    There are three options… The two extremes are to get out or cave in. The third is to stay in without giving in. The extremes are actually the easy options. Anybody can cave in: that’s the way of the coward, the way of the feeble mind. To cave in is to stay in but to fail to hold on to your distinctive evangelicalism. You just compromise.

    To get out is to say, “I can’t bear this constant argument and controversy any longer.” That also is an easy option… it’s an easy option psychologically.

    The difficult thing is to stay and refuse to give in, because then you’re always in tension with people with whom you don’t altogether agree, and that is painful.

    There is no easy answer. Stott admitted that there would be a point at which doctrine would be too aberrant to stay; core issues such as the identity of Christ and the gospel of justification by faith were non-negotiable. But practice is something of a different matter, because one cannot usually force a person to engage in certain practices (although the pressure can at times be overwhelming).

    I don’t understand the distinction that Lloyd-Jones makes between fellowship and doctrine, because as I see it, fellowship is a major doctrine of the New Testament.

    • Thanks Joe, I think the distinction is that in order for there to be true “Christian” fellowship, there must be agreement at least when it comes to the core doctrines of the faith first. Otherwise it is not Christian fellowship but another kind of fellowship.

    • I actually think there’s The Fourth Option (if I may be bold to correct the great theologian John Stott’s three option). Something about his formulation smells particularly individualistic and Western-centric and I have a hunch that non-Western Christians would probably put forth the possibility of the Fourth Option (perhaps essentially similar to the third option but not so…well…you know, Western culture-ish)
      Once I think I know how to articulate it, I will post it. Right now, I will live it out and see if good fruit comes of it and let others judge. :) But maybe Joe knows me well enough to articulate it for me which he is quite welcome to do, since I am sort of being annoyingly cryptic.

    • I too felt that this discussion, as framed by Stott and Lloyd-Jones, emphasizes individual autonomy and self-determination over relationships. Relationships among Christians are holy. We are of the same family. You do not choose your family members, nor disassociate yourself from them because you don’t agree with their positions and lifestyle — except in extreme situations where the goal is restoration, rehabilitation and reconciliation.

      And the third option, “stay and refuse to give in,” seems a little bull-headed; it assumes a kind of certainty that you are absolutely correct. You cannot influence others much unless you are still willing to learn something from them, and there is always something to learn from another Christian, even if you disagree with them on lots of things.

      And what is the role of divine election? I do believe that God chooses us to use us for specific purposes in specific places. If God brings me into a fellowship, I believe he has a purpose for me that involves preaching the gospel among the people there. If we claim to believe in divine election, shouldn’t that have practical implications for how we make decisions like these?

    • Yeah, Joe, that gets pretty close to what I was thinking but unable to articulate.

  3. david bychkov

    Simple article pointed at great question! I love example about Lloyd-Jones and John Stott. I respect both of them. I really like the Joe’s quote from John Stott as well. And as for me, I’m trying to follow this third option right now, though it is really not easy, and I’m praying for God’s strength and God’s leading. I’ve read “personal calling to unity” by Stott based on doctrine of Trinity. Here is few more personal thoughts.
    1) about importence of doctrines. I’ve read that Lausanne movement recognized the doctrinal neglection which they had before in order to keep unity of movement for mission seek as one of the reason of their fails. Lately they establish some doctrinal basis (statement of faith) for their movement. I think we in UBF and many mission-centered organizations do the same. We could neglect doctrinal unity in order to do mission. We even could neglect doctrines at all just to carry out our mission. I even heard from senior leader that just foolish man could arise inside the church doctrinal discussion. But what is the sense of mission without doctrine? What do we have to preach? What should we study in our Bible studies?
    2) importence of relations. I realized it once prepared message about vineyard (Mk 12). I couldn’t find other reason for the master to send his servants and his only son to vineyard for sufferings and even death, except his willngness to restore right relations with evil people who worked in the vineyard. It was really easy for him just to kill them or something, though he choose to suffer to the very end. It is because relations are so importent. If the master put relations with such evil peopl so high how could I so easily to neglect relations with people when they requres from me even small suffer? Surely it is easy sometimes to not have relations then to have them. Though it is not about our Christian life.
    3) our ministry. Before I was very skeptical about any reason of leaving church, especially UBF. I think it is unfaithfulness to God. And I believe that was so for me. Though lately I found that to say: I will never leave! could be just some human faithfulness which is not please God. I started respecting the people who decide to leave. And for myself I’m not thinking that for me leaving is something bad. Though as I wrote I’m trying to follow third option and pray for God’s help.
    I’m not really sure that if I will leave UBF and I will not learn living this uncompromized God pleased life inside the current situation (in UBF), I will be able to so in other place and other situation. One person once said – I’m leaving, though my problem is still with me. Because my problem is me.

  4. James Kim

    Recently John Armstrong wrote a book titled, “Your church is too small”. In his book he said: These are some excerpts:
    This “small” view of the church harms the mission of Christ. It spreads of sectarianism and forces us to choose our friends and enemies based on whether or not we are in complete agreement with one another on specific matters of doctrine.
    (1 Peter 2:5) As followers of Christ, we are the blocks that make up this living temple, filled together by God, the architect and builder of his church. I agree with him. The real church is invisible.
    I’ve noticed that most divisions in the church are not because of a major doctrinal disagreement; they are the result of a breakdown in our love for one another. It is true that many people left the church because they were hurt, not because of doctrinal disagreement.
    Our real problem is sectarianism. Sectarianism creates an attitude of exclusivity. And when we hold this attitude, we act as if we belong to a superior (understood as the best, right, only, pure) church.— Sectarianism is seeking unity in uniformity rather than unity in diversity and expecting other Christians to comply with my views before I can have genuine fellowship with them.—Sectarians believe their church/denomination/tradition can best “represent the body of Christ, to the exclusion or marginalization of other genuinely Christian groups”. We have to do our best to overcome sectarian thinking.

  5. Love the title, Dave–To Stay or Not To Stay. It’s like to marry or not to marry.

    I think a very, very bad thing that we in UBF have done, including myself, is to “stigmatize” and “carricature” those who leave UBF, as Dr. James quoted above from Armstrong’s book. Sadly, this is still ongoing, and I think still largely unaddressed, outside of UBFriends. The overwhelming sense is that the one who left (usually the “sheep” or the “non-leader”) is wrong, while the shepherd or the leader is right. As long as this attitude prevails…

    Also, I think that not only are those who leave UBF “excluded or marginalized,” but even those who stay in UBF but who don’t “fall in line” and “conform” and “just obey” and who “read UBFriends” (:D), are also in some subtle and not so subtle ways regarded “negatively,” and “in the wrong,” and “difficult,” and “rebellious,” and “breaking spiritual order,” etc.

    What do you guys think?

    • Am I to understand that some people are being marginalized or ridiculed for reading and/or participating in the discussions on this website?

    • I think the reason some ubfers might take UBFriends NOT in regard may not be because the issues concerned but the opinions putted in here.  The way you wrote your comment suggests me that you were hurt by some “shepherds.” Right things could be said through many ways; when told, always seasoned by the narrator’s voice and previous experiences. (the light, but still existing, cynicism…)

    • Hi Oscar, I wrote “reading UBFriends” tougue in cheek :-), but with an element of truth. Some have said that UBFriends is “UBF bashing,” which I do not at all concur with, unless you read it with “UBF lens” as Admin has stated before.

      But I do think that UBFriends has a level of honesty, openness and transparency that UBF in general, especially the older generation, is not accustomed to, and finds very uncomfortable, or even “disrespectful.” If that’s the case, then they should publicly say so, rather than not allow UBFriends to be linked to other “official” UBF websites.

      Hi Reply, For sure, what anyone writes, including yourself (by identifying yourself as “Reply”) will be influenced by what he has previously experienced.

    • Reply #2

      Indeed, thanks for reading what I wrote although I appear as name less. I’ve talked to several people about UBFriends, not just older ubf leaders, and they all concurred that I not be influenced by it. I rather listen podcasts of pastors from other denominations, talk to friends personally through letters rather…although UBFriends offer insightful knowledge and a better method of how church should be, there are also undertakes that may be more subliminal. I’m not sure how open this is although it is in essense accessible to anyone. (via not knowing about it)

    • yellowblossom

      Why does UBF always make it seem that we need to be answerable to shepherds? We are answerable to God. Period.

  6. I once personally knew a girl in the ministry who was forced to go through intensive “Fat Training.” She had to ride a stationary bike for hours every day as a part of her discipleship training so that shepherds would find her attractive enough to marry. This girl was publically humiliated on many occasions because a SENIOR shepherd would discuss her weight in public while many of the listeners laughed and shouted “Amen!”. I am not sure if she stayed or left, but could anyone honestly blame her if she left? That is not a matter of “Western ideas” or “Eastern ideas,” that is simply spiritual abuse! I know that she felt totally powerless to do anything about it, but others with authority should have! And to be totally honest, I think that the perpetrators of such abuses should be removed and disqualified from serving in leadership positions for life because an elder must be above reproach. If that girl would be called “rebellious” or “difficult” for leaving, I think that those titles should instead be applied to the ones who put her through that!

  7. Dr. Bill

    This is an important question worth thinking deeply about.   Personally, I believe God calls us to a particular body of believers – a ‘local’ church.   That calling can change however – and in fact it did change once for me. Before coming to UBF I belonged to another church, and I prayed long and hard about leaving. I was not disgruntled or disappointed or unhappy with the other church – I was in fact very happy and fulfilled in exercising the gifts God gave me for edifying the body.   But I sensed God’s calling to UBF.   Believe me, I prayed long and hard – for many months – about the decision because as I said I believe that we are called to specific local churches. As I struggled to understand God’s calling, He brought to mind a beautiful picture of His church – the golden lampstands in Revelation chapter 1.   Through this I understood that God’s church is manifold, represented in many branches like the beautiful lampstands in Revelation 1:12.   I also understood that the Holy Spirit flows like oil through all the branches of the lampstands (churches).   This helped me to understand that in God’s purpose, as long as I was serving His body with the gifts He gave me to do so, I was within His will.   This in turn freed me to join UBF, where I have been blessed and also hope have been a blessing.   I am so thankful to God that He provides clear guidance in such matters of extreme importance.   Praise God!!! :)

  8. Joshua Yoon

    I don’t clap my hands for church hoppers. Neither do I for the opposite group who blindly stay in one church or organization like life long members of some cult groups. Staying or leaving depends on one’s value. It is also up to how we perceive God’s calling. Dr. Bill shared this. Of course, leaving the place of close relatitonship and commitment involves sadness, pain on both parties. I have wondered why to stay or not to stay in UBf has been such a big question. I think it was in part because certain ogarnizational strengths have been excessively cherished as if they are the gospel itself. So those who are out of “this best place” were regarded as if they had left Jesus. Those who once left the ministry, even people who moved to a different ministry after God’s calling have not been so welcomed. If this continues to hapen, it is a sign of the unhealthiness of the organization. There should be openness and freedom for people to pursue God’s calling and for remainders to cheer them. Wasn’t UBF born and blessed because founders of UBF obeyed God’s calling, leaving the churches they used to belong to? What ultimately matters is whether or not we stay in Christ and follow God’s calling in obedience to the Spirit. I hope the Spirit will help us create a healthy culture in which Christ is always exalted, not human leaders and his gospel is the only ground of our pride, nothing else and which can promote free association and friendship among people including those who have gone after different callings.

    • I like how you said “…founders of UBF obeyed God’s calling, leaving the churches they used to belong to?” That’s exactly how I feel regarding my situation. I used to go exclusively to a Catholic church, but I left it to come to UBF. I sometimes go to mass there but I’m made to feel like I’m not supposed to go anywhere but UBF.

    • @Oscar, when you experience the Holy Spirit, those “methods” matter less, and things become more clear. Let us pray we may grow in faith and become one in Christ.

    • Hi Tom, thanks for your comment. I agree with you. Some of the few times I’ve been to mass since joining UBF have been very spirit filled, even if the service is different. I used to feel that I wasn’t worthy to take communion, but now when I go to mass I feel like I don’t have that guilt anymore and I can freely take part in communion. I feel more spirit filled in those moments; and I guess that’s what matters most :)

    • Mark Mederich


    • Mark Mederich

      3/20/11: “What ultimately matters is whether or not we stay in Christ and follow God’s calling in obedience to the Spirit. I hope the Spirit will help us create a healthy culture in which Christ is always exalted, not human leaders and his gospel is the only ground of our pride, nothing else and which can promote free association and friendship among people including those who have gone after different callings.”
      Thankyou, Workhard, you expressed it well 4yrs ago; I hope we’ve made progress since? Anyway me & mine will increasingly do so (seek Holy Spirit healing/help/guidance)..HALLELUJAH!

    • Mark Mederich

      ‘when you experience the Holy Spirit, those “methods” matter less, and things become more clear. Let us pray we may grow in faith and become one in Christ.’
      Real Faith in God Alone, Hallelujah!

  9. So, I know that some people will say that this question is wrong headed, but I am still curious about if you all believe that there is a line of aberrance in teaching or especially  practice before you yourself  would say “That’s it, I cannot be a part of this ministry or denomination etc. any longer?” For me, it took some really serious abuses, some of which I have described on this website for me to make the incredibly hard decision to leave. I prayed for about a year with my wife before we finally left UBF  and it was not a pretty sight when we did unfortunately, but like I said above, I dont regret it. One small  part of the reason we left was because throughout our entire time in the ministry, both mine and my wife’s “shepherds” underhandedly tried to break us up many times and in many ways because were not “marrying by faith” according to UBF standards.

    I also wonder about another thing, how come when many people leave UBF it is not pretty? A healthy church should bless people when they are called to another ministry, not bad mouth them, and lie about them etc. (like it was done to me and my wife),  I would love to hear from some of the UBF veterans about why they think that this is the case many times.  

    • Mark Mederich

      seems like 2yrs ago issues are familiar; system must change or 200yrs issues will be familiar to next generations (if world perseveres that long..)

    • Mark Mederich

      ‘One small part of the reason we left was because throughout our entire time in the ministry, both mine and my wife’s “shepherds” underhandedly tried to break us up many times and in many ways…A healthy church should bless people when they are called to another ministry, not bad mouth them, and lie about them etc. (like it was done to me and my wife)’

      insecurity breeds conniving treachery & compensatory egotistical defense (like saying, “they left not because I/we did anything wrong at all, but only because they are unholy/have no faith/whatever”!>/inability to self-analyze to correct self, nor group-analyze to correct group..)

    • Mark Mederich

      5/30/13 “seems like 2yrs ago issues are familiar; system must change or 200yrs issues will be familiar to next generations (if world perseveres that long..)”
      wow, I was a prophet: almost 2yrs have passed & similar issues still abound, just 2yrs further into 200yrs..rah/rah/sis-boom-bah, go team go!

  10. David, thanks for talking about this. In general, I believe that it is wrongheaded for shepherds to try to break up couples rather than helping them to sanctify their relationship and put Christ at the center. I’m sorry that this was done to you. Unfortunately, it still happens in UBF, and I think it is wrong.

    Here is what I think about your second question, about why UBF members react poorly and do not bless those who leave the ministry. It’s poor theology, plain and simple. Not understanding the nature of the Body of Christ. And disregarding UBF’s own Statement of Faith. Our Statement says, “We believe that the church is the body of Christ and that all Christians are members of it.” I believe this and try to put it into practice, but unfortunately there are some who do not.

  11. Thanks, Dave, for sharing your “painful” experience, and for the pertinent question you asked. I concur with Joe, but perhaps might explain it or account for it differently.

    Culturally, Asians and Koreans have a god-like attitude toward the leader. As many have expressed and experienced, they are “absolute” toward the leader, and the leader expects his directives to be regarded as “absolute,” including his opinion that a particular couple (such as yours) should not get married. I went along with such an ideology for many years, but no longer do.

    This really comes across as a very unhealthy “control and manipulation,” except perhaps in the older generation Asian/Korean culture, where this would be regarded as the “norm.” That’s why such practices are basically still ongoing, since it is the older missionaries who are still the chapter director in many countries, cities and chapters.

    About “bad mouthing those who leave,” this may be explained by the “honor and shame” culture (or paternalistic culture) that is so strong and pervasive in UBF. The honor of the leader or shepherd or missionary must always be held high. The leader can never be shamed. He must always take the “high road.” Therefore, the person who left UBF must always be in the wrong. Or the person who disagrees with the leader must also always be in the wrong. This is practiced and lived out “absolutely” like the 10 Commandments. This is really quite sad.

    As Joe suggested, only a deep renewal to study the Bible newly and soundly, with painful and humble self-reflection and self-evaluation, will we be able to overcome our strong cultural bias and blind spots that are still in operational play today.

    I always like to conclude by saying that God is always good. Because he is always good, God even blesses our “bad theology,” and “bad practices,” which of course doesn’t excuse us. We all know that God’s blessing upon us is never because of what we do, but always in spite of all the bone-headed things we say and do. Praise the Lord!

    • Mark Mederich

      i call it rampart humanism (out of control, on steroids);
      maybe it’s “horror” & shame

    • Mark Mederich

      Mark Mederich May 30, 2013 ‘i call it rampart humanism (out of control, on steroids); maybe it’s “horror” & shame’

  12. david bychkov

    I would like to add here that I think the same practice as well as the same man and all the more organisation can be good and bad at once. In the same heart can grow wonderful fruits of the Holy Spirit and misshapen fruits of flesh, deceives etc. The same methods can bring good fruits for one person and bad fruits for other person. The same methods could bring good and bad fruits for the same person.

    I believe the “marriage by faith” was blessing for many of us. I believe noone here, who married in this way will say that his marriage is not beutiful and was not God’s blessing. Once I came to UBF I had a girlfriend and my shepherd did not have to tell me that those relations are sinful – I already knew it. And further I think that “marriage by faith” practice helped me to keep my heart and body pure till my first Christian years and then to establish a happy family. This atittude helped me to keep focus on mission both – before and after marriage (for some time :)).

    So this practice worked for many people among us al least for some time. So it was really naturally to absolutize it as God’s given norm of marriage and then began to protect from any doubts, despise those who didn’t practice it and so on. And with our absolute attitude, which Ben has mentioned above it seems to be even more naturally. And in this way many other things inside ministry became as undoubt and unquestioned norms. They have worked some time! They have brought good fruits, haven’t them? Fishing, 1:1 Bible study, missionary sending etc. And they were got as absolutes and norms, mountains, which couldn’t be doubt but should be protected.

    e.g. you and your wife example was able to serve as “bad influence”. You could give reason for others to doubt if this practice is really so important? And when all our mission-centered paradigme seems to be really related with this issue, if this could be doubt – why everything else could not?

    And we became to strongly believe and depend from our methods, and protecting it as it is nothing but God’s only pure way. So we don’t want to see critically on any of this and blame anything what corresponds to them as not pure, compromized etc. I think this happened not just with UBF but with many churches   and traditions and persons.
    And here I would like to add something about staying and leaving and how to find the line. For a long time I lived with two statements in my mind: 1) If God’s work is done – everything related with it (organisation, people and practices) are nothing but good and godly. 2) If inside organisation, peoples or methods something is really wrong – mistakes, sins etc. – God’s work couldn’t be done then. Such thinking gives just two options how to deal with reality – 1) close your eyes and see just what you want to see, justify everything and so on 2) open your eyes, be shocked and leave b/c of evil. And coming out of this dualism is just useful. Though I still do not now the answer about line.

  13. Joshua Yoon

    Joe, Ben, David made all valid points in identifying the factors that contribute to the ubf leaders’ tendency not to bless those called to another ministry. One big reason for this, in my observation, is the leaders’ “uncessary” worry about “bad influence” of those leaving the ministry on the people remaining in the ministry. Sadly, those who once leave the ministry to pursue God’s different calling are hardly welcomed. But good news is that the Spirit of God started cracking and breaking the walls of closed-mindness, ubf absolutism, exclusivism and forth here and there. The open dialogue in ubfriends is one evidence, even though certain beliefs and practices are still adhered by many people. There will be resistance but no one or nothing can stop the work of the Holy Spirit. I know more and more leaders are catching up with the movement of the Holy Spirit. Especially , the recent stuy on Acts, Joe’s WSGM series helped me to gain right perspectives on God’s interest, hope and will and to experience great freedom in Christ.

    • Mark Mederich

      Long “live” the Holy Spirit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Mark Mederich

      “There will be resistance but no one or nothing can stop the work of the Holy Spirit. I know more and more leaders are catching up with the movement of the Holy Spirit. Especially , the recent study on Acts, Joe’s WSGM series helped me to gain right perspectives on God’s interest, hope and will and to experience great freedom in Christ.”

      guess my half German is showing with this blitzkrieg of comments to win the battle in the war for Christ>>>

  14. Thanks Joshua, I do hope that it is not too late for UBF as a whole…it is a sad thing to me that I cannot even post my last name on this site for fear that future employers will google me and see that I have anything to do with UBF. I already lost one job back in 2004 simply because I told them that UBF was my church. The next day, my employer (who was a Christian bookseller) asked me to leave because he said that I was a member of a cult. I knew that my civil rights were violated because of that, but I did not want to take another Christian to court. Do you ever feel that way, I mean not wanting people to know what church you attend because you will have to explain “no, no, it is not a cult…”?

    I dont know man, I think that finding this website was good and bad for me actually. Good because I really am glad that people in UBF want real change to occur. Bad because I started thinking again about all of the  the injustices, unbiblical practices and abuses that I saw and experienced there  and it has brought out anger and indignancy in me about those things. I must thank God for using that ministry to lead me to Christ…that did happen and I am SO grateful for it. But I have said before, I almost feel like I met Christ (or I should say, Christ  met me)  in spite of UBF.

    Certain people close to me think that I should not post on this website any more because I have pretty much said what I have to say (along with anyone somehow finding out who I really am), and  if I were  to continue it  might become something less than beneficial to others and also to myself. But I do like the blog  comaraderie  and exchange of ideas that many of us share. Perhaps I will try to not comment on anymore UBF issues, but only general theological ones, because otherwise, I  think that I  might become bitter and I dont want that.

    • Darren Gruett

      There were times when I too did not want to be associated with this church, especially when I was doing outreach at the campus. I will never forget this one young lady. I was following the typical UBF model of approaching students and asking them if they wanted to study the Bible with me. She asked me what church I was with, and when I told her this uncomfortable look came over her face. Instinctively, I then asked her, “That’s not a good thing, is it?” And she shook her head in agreement. I was greatly bothered by that, and it has affected the way that I do outreach to this day.

      As for this website, I hope you do keep posting. I am glad that you have raised some of these issues and created a discussion about some real problems that have long seem to go unaddressed.

      Personally, I have come to love this site; it is almost addictive for me. If it was not for my job, I would be on here constantly.

  15. Hi David. Please keep coming back to this website as long as it edifies you and helps you in your walk of faith. We value your contributions and perspectives, not just on UBF but on everything else too. As you have seen, this website isn’t fundamentally about UBF; it’s about exchanging ideas,  building friendships, and relating to one another as Christians in the midst of confusion, disagreement and sin. Even if UBF were to disappear, God’s mission would go on, and the issues that we discuss here would remain salient.

  16. I think it’s time to go when key doctrinal issues have been violated.  Once I smell something a little off, it’s time to talk with the pastors and elders, and look at the church’s statement of faith.  I was visiting another city on a Sunday and attended a church within walking distance of our hotel.  The sermon consisted not of the Word of God but of the telling of a dream that someone had about Jesus.  The dream was so heretical and unbiblical (and in the context, was usurping the Word of God) that my wife and I walked out in the middle of the service.  In that sense, I agree with The Doctor.  As much as I looked around and saw good, well meaning people in the congregation, I could not stay and worship with them.

  17. Chris Kelly

    David, last year I read a wonderful book that I would like to recommend.   I may review it when I have time, but it’s my new favorite Christian history, and it will answer your question about when to draw the line and leave.   It’s called The Pilgrim Church, by E.M. Broadbent.   You can even read it online at
    To summarize: we must judge and act, either to stay and conform, stay as reformers, or leave.   More times than not, men like Origen, Athanasius, Luther and Wycliffe,the Haldane brothers, Bonhoeffer and Lloyd-Jones, have tried to stay and bring reformation, but have been expelled and persecuted.   They loved the Church, yet their lives were made harder for their faithfulness.   Any church that desired popularity and power, again and again, DROVE OUT such men, who usually went out to much greater evangelistic work.
    And here is why I don’t have a great stake in this question at all:   I’m not committed to UBF. I am called here and intend to remain here.   But six years ago God sent me out.   I was tired of merely being drawn into the inward-focused ministry, with all its programmes and business, while largely ignoring the Lord’s evangelistic mandate to “go…”   So I left and began a house-church ministry here in Virginia, which is quite independent.   In fact, I sometimes think I’ve been quite forgotten by the larger ministries, simply because we haven’t grown much.   But that’s ok.   I have one thing on my mind:   serving the evangelistic calling of Jesus.   I have no meetings, no busy-bodies, no offerings to count, no bills to meet.   I’ve restored that primitive Pilgrim Church in my own heart, and feel I’m the luckiest man in the world!   Of course, I miss the fellowship one has in a larger church, but I don’t crave the crowd.
    Some might say my church is too small.   But HIS Church is all around me! it is not small at all; I am free to fellowship with all of them. This must be what Nicholas Zinzindorf felt!   It’s truly wonderful!

    • Mark Mederich

      i think this is the right attitude, do your best where ever you are; stay if you can

    • Mark Mederich

      “To summarize: we must judge and act, either to stay and conform, stay as reformers, or leave. More times than not, men like Origen, Athanasius, Luther and Wycliffe,the Haldane brothers, Bonhoeffer and Lloyd-Jones, have tried to stay and bring reformation, but have been expelled and persecuted. They loved the Church, yet their lives were made harder for their faithfulness. Any church that desired popularity and power, again and again, DROVE OUT such men, who usually went out to much greater evangelistic work.”
      (OR BE Expelled /$\ :)

  18. I have a question. I’ve noticed, from personal observation and even heard this in testimonies, that when a “sheep” leaves a “shepard” the shepard takes it really personally. The shepard believe he is following the Great Commission in teaching the bible, but when one leaves and they take it personally, does that say something about a person’s motivations? Or, maybe I should rephrase that question. If you’ve had a sheep leave you, did you take it personally? and if so, why?

    • There may be wrong reasons to be hurt but I want to mention that there is also the global humane nature – when any relationship is broken, there is pain (and sorrow).  Rather than examining another’s experiences and reactions, it might be clearer examining an experience that happens personally.

    • david bychkov

      In UBF we value disciplemaking as most importnant practice. We value raised disciples as the most wonderful fruits. We supposed to sacrifice everything for the sake of disciplemaking. Think for example about missionaries, who left their country, came somewhere and gave all their life to serving others and raising disciples. What they will feel once disciple will decide to leave? This is like all their life.

    • I think my next question would be, are we puuting too much emphasis on disciplemaking?

    • david bychkov
  19. Darren Gruett

    If someone has invested a lot of their time and energy into mentoring someone and helping them grow, I can see why they would take it personally when that person leaves. Even to this day, whenever I hear some of our senior leaders share their experiences around this matter, they seem deeply self-critical when they are unable to help someone or when that person ends up leaving. To me it stems from the fact that they view it as a personal failure on their part, rather than as God’s calling for that other individual.

    For me, if someone in my small group decided that he wanted to leave, or if someone that I am mentoring decided that he wanted to study under someone else, I would prayerfully bless them and let them go. I certainly would not stop talking to them or break off all contact. I have no ego whatsoever about the size of my group or how many people I am serving. All that matters is that I do what the Lord leads me to do. That is not say that I would not feel any sadness or hurt over the matter. That is to be expected whenever you have two people that in are in a relationship with one another.

    • Joshua Brinkerhoff

      That’s a good response Darren. I’m sad when someone stops meeting with me because I love him. Oftentimes, I can see many painful wounds remaining in his heart and I feel compassion for him. I wish that he may stay and we may come to Jesus together and receive healing from Jesus’ blood. If he leaves, especially if he leaves without a clear direction to another Biblical church, my heart is broken as I consider how he may wander while deep wounds remain in his heart. As people have come and gone, I’m learning that no matter how much compassion and love I feel for a brother who leaves, God loves him more and will lead him.

    • Joshua Yoon

      Blessed are you, Darren, for the Lord has given you freedom from ego. Today I am reminded of what John the forerunner said of Jesus and himself, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (Jn 3:30) If we can say this from our hearts, we would not be hurt or resentful when people leave us as long as they are drawn closer to Christ. In my journey, there were times I was hurt by people’s leaving. This painful time turned out to be a time of discovery of the new dimension of God’s grace. God showed me how egoistic and self-serving I was though I thought I served others sacrificially. When I accepted my role as a friend of the Bridegroom Jesus, I was freed from the “number” pressure and began to see others not as my ministry objects but as the bride of Jesus. When Christ is at the centre of our hearts and our relationships, ministry, everything else is put in right order. True friedship and partnership is developed across different fellowships, churches and ministries. In the university I serve, we just finished Jesus’ week. Christians from different demoninations, clubs got together to exalt Jesus’ name. A few hundred brothers and sisters praised and worshiped Him with one heart and voice in spite of their differences. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I ever had in my thirtysome Christian life.

    • Mark Mederich

      right, ego is the problem to avoid;
      also makes me think though that sometimes a leader had too little ego like if you left, oh well-who cares (probably it was stay my way or i don’t need you)

    • Mark Mederich

      “In my journey, there were times I was hurt by people’s leaving. This painful time turned out to be a time of discovery of the new dimension of God’s grace. God showed me how egoistic and self-serving I was though I thought I served others sacrificially. When I accepted my role as a friend of the Bridegroom Jesus, I was freed from the “number” pressure and began to see others not as my ministry objects but as the bride of Jesus. When Christ is at the centre of our hearts and our relationships, ministry, everything else is put in right order. True friendship and partnership is developed across different fellowships, churches and ministries.”

  20. In terms of hearing about people leave, I feel a bit of grief in that I wish I had known about their struggles and wished that maybe we could have talked about any issues that might have arose. However, as I read more comments, I have come to realize that my feelings were shallow because I wanted them to stay in UBF when perhaps they may have had a calling to go to another church/ministry. I also think that my feelings of wanting people to stay in UBF comes from having grown up in UBF so I’ve come to see UBF( or at least, my chapter) as a family.
    In reading the thoughts about leaving or not leaving UBF, it seems as if there is a struggle with the older Korean Missionaries in terms of how things are/should be done. I wish an honest dialogue could be opened up where people can just vent their grievances and questions. Resolution might be impossible in such a situation but I’d rather that there be an airing out of feelings instead of having people with pent up resentment toward the Church and towards other people in the ministry.

  21. Abraham Nial
    Abraham Nial

    Great discussion.

    I resisted not commenting on this thread because I am one of those who left UBF recently. But then I realized that this site is not only about UBF (although mostly). In fact the site is becoming a source of edification beyond UBF. So, as one who left a church/ministry recently I will try to give my perspective on the subject.

    I would actually ask “To stay or not to stay,” but WHERE? If it is about a ministry/church it is easier to answer. The ultimate question we should rather ask and receive the answer with all sincerity is, “To stay in Jesus and his purpose/will or not in a present continuous sense.” Now this one is difficult because what I believe to be Jesus’ plan may look like the devil’s plan to someone else. And what others think about God’s plan for me might look like hindering me from fulfilling my ultimate destiny.

    Yes, I could not take any longer a poor view about God, superficial understanding of the Bible, relational problems, manipulations, lack of trust in younger leaders, dishonesty, self-righteous attitude etc in the UBF chapter I spent 12 years. But were these enough reasons to leave the ministry? My answer is NO. Will I advise/pressurize anyone who still is in that chapter to leave too? NO. Will I recommend anyone to join that chapter? YES. Do I still love and pray for my leaders or friends there? YES. Why would I do so? It is because I believe that no ministry and no leader are perfect. But God carries out his plans through imperfect ministries and leaders because the mission belongs to God and not to any organization or leader. I also believe that it is a matter of time before we all wake up someday to the greater realities of God and of relationships and the way things are escalating, that time is nearer. Did I really leave UBF? In a sense YES, because I am no longer part of its program and official activities. But in another sense NO because relationships in Christ are eternal. Sooner or later I am going to be with my friends in UBF and outside UBF and spend eternity with them. How embarrassing will it be to avoid them there? I suppose that option will not be there at all. I will have an inheritance for whatever I was or did in UBF and friends and leaders in UBF will have an inheritance in me for all eternity in spite of all of our imperfections.

    I pleaded my bible students to remain in UBF if that could be of help to them. I also actually told my wife (who is a Korean missionary) to continue to serve UBF if she thought that was God’s present will for her and not leave UBF just because I was leaving. I don’t know how it would have worked out, but why not? Anyway, like me she too accepted God’s calling for her to a different direction.

    It was God’s plan for me to be born again, to serve campus mission, to raise a few disciples, to marry a woman of God, to serve as a fulltime shepherd etc in UBF. I am and shall always remain grateful to UBF and those who were used by God to help me receive these blessings. But I can be in error to interpret some of these, especially serving campus mission and full time shepherd, as permanent plans of God for my life.

    Now that I have started a new ministry, will I change/hop again? If I am convinced that that is God’s will, I will do it 100 or even 1000 times. It is my prayer to relinquish all personal rights under the feet of Jesus including the desire to hold any students or coworkers to remain with me whom God might call to some other ministry or direction after they grow up with me or after I might have made some significant contribution to their lives.

    • Joshua Yoon

      Thanks, Abraham, for sharing your macro view of “to stay or not to stay.” May God bless your new forerunner ministry with the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare many Indians for the coming of the Lord!

    • I’m sort of thinking out loud below. So, please see the tone as an inner-screaming (to myself), not as an outward lash (at any of you).
      I am not so sure that the question “To stay or not to stay” in UBF, CCC, InterVarsity, or any other church/para-church organization is the kind of question/issue that arises in the pages of the New and Old Testaments. There is simply one body and one head. Organizational distinctions and denominations are not known of in heaven. Only people called “Christians” will be there, not Methodists or Presbyterians, UBFers or otherwise—just “believers.”
      Yet, the persistence of the above discussion shows that the issue still holds relevance for many.   Those involved in it are dealing with a pretty well-entrenched view, predication, even (tacit) assumption about what UBF is. There are years or people’s lives, relationships, and hopes and dreams at stake whenever one discusses severing from one organization or another.
      Maybe a better question would be why is the question “To Stay or not to Stay” such a salient question? Why does it elicit four dozen comments from a broad range of believers/non-believers who feel they have something significant to share regarding the issue? What has entrenched itself so deeply in the ways we think about “church life” that we consider “staying in UBF” a matter more relevant that “abiding in Christ.”
      The absence of Christian doctrine in many evangelical circles, the prejudice against (reformed) theology, and the lack of rigorous Biblical exegesis drawing from OT Hebrew and NT Greek (yes, “study” is a form of worship) is literally throwing evangelicals into a tailspin regarding things like church discipline, church order, the doctrines of the faith (like, sovereign grace), things to emphasize, things that are non-essential, etc. There is no Biblical support for denominations whatsoever, yet denominational distinctions/divisions prevail in contemporary evangelicalism. In the same way, there is no Biblical support for terms like “running away” in reference to a believer seeking fellowship with other believers. And if there are conflicts, there is a whole lot of Biblical support for church discipline. But, as we know, church discipline, the New Testament way, is rarely ever considered.
      Are we asking the right questions? With all the flagrant apostasy running around these days, believers need to 1) read the Bible to find out who they really are in Christ, 2) love other believers intensely regardless of anything, and 3) relegate organizational/denominational names to a secondary, tertiary, or even diminished place in the ever-eclipsing glory of the name of our Head as believers: the Lo9rd Jesus Christ. John Piper was right when he said “This book [holding the Bible] is smarter than you.” As I set out to study the Bible, reformed doctrine, systematic theology and Biblical exegesis, I hope to 1) grow as a believer, 2) love Christ more and to 3) re-invest much of what God teaches me back into my wonderful, beloved assembly. What an intense and aching love for believers I have after realizing that Christ is pre-eminent, all-supreme, and that the Church is “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 2-3). Then, questions of “Staying in UBF” fade back into the shadows that they emerged from and more relevant questions of “Abiding in Christ, loving him and hating my sin” are tugged to the forefront.

    • david bychkov

      Love your point Ian. Really, if everything that a believer has is inside his organisation and it’s principles – he is really poor man. But once he sincerely seeking for Christ and his truth, this kind of questions, though still remain importnent, but not that much.

    • “Then, questions of “Staying in UBF” fade back into the shadows that they emerged from and more relevant questions of “Abiding in Christ, loving him and hating my sin” are tugged to the forefront.”
      Thanks, Ian!

    • Mark Mederich


    • Mark Mederich

      perhaps the spiritual inadequacies/brokenness of religions forced me to seek Christ alone as my guide/joy/head, Hallelujah! (for that I’m eternally grateful to God)

    • Mark Mederich

      ‘questions of “Staying in UBF” fade back into the shadows that they emerged from and more relevant questions of “Abiding in Christ, loving him and hating my sin” are tugged to the forefront’

  22. Thanks Ian, one thing to consider though that I noticed in your post; You talk a couple of times about the importance of “reformed doctrine” or “reformed theology.” Does that not distinguish your theology and perhaps your denomination from non-reformed denominations and theologies? In fact, since you seem from the post to be a Calvinist (as I am, but perhaps I misjudge you), Would you consider spending the rest of your life in, say, a United Methodist church?  As I am sure you know, not all Christians agree on important (albeit secondary) theological issues, and sometimes churches can be very dogmatic about those kinds of issues!

    If I assume correctly that you are a Calvinist, would you bring your wife and children to be raised up in a church that dogmatically teaches that man is not totally depraved, that election is conditional, that you can lose your salvation etc. etc.?

    Or, forget about blatantly theological distinctions, would you stay in a church that…forced its members to undergo humiliating “training” if they failed to perform some legalistic requirement? Or, consistantly displayed a racist  preference for members of  one skin color over another? Or, what if its members tried to break up your marraige? Would you stay still? etc etc.

    There are many reasons that there are multiple denominations in the world. Some split off for good reason and some for bad. Just as some  decide to stay in a church or leave,  for good reasons or bad.  I believe that there is sometimes, biblical reason for separation (as a maxim, I might quote Paul in a different context,  saying: What fellowship does light have with darkness? Or Christ with Belial?…). I think that a case could  be made to separate from an apostate leader  like Rob Bell too…would you stay in Rob Bell’s church right now? Perhaps you would to pick up the pieces, or perhaps not, but could you blame a Bible believing Christian for leaving it?

    I am not saying that a Christian should not still LOVE the people in a church or denomination that he or she decides to leave for good reason, but sometimes, that is still the right choice I think.   “Therefore,  “Come out from them  and be separate,  says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing,  and I will receive you.”

    • One more thing that I forgot to add: There would have been no Reformation in the 16th century if Christians did not decide to separate from a church which had gone so blatantly apostate! Unless of course, you think that the Reformation was a bad thing? I know that it was not Luther’s intent to “separate” necessarily, but that was the result none the less, and I for one THANK GOD that it happened!
      This is a fallen world, and there is no church which is absolutely perfect in all of its doctrine and practices, and that is why I wrote this article, where is the line when a church’s imperfections and sins necessitate separation (if you believe that there is such a line of course)?

    • To call Rob Bell “an apostate leader” is, in my opinion, not helpful. Most of those who  have expressed outrage over his views on hell did so even before his book came out, before they even knew what he was saying. This kind of language is one of the big reasons why churches divide. When Christians speak of one another in this fashion, and then in the next breath say “of course we still LOVE him,” it rings hollow.

      The church needed to be reformed in the sixteenth century. From that standpoint, the Reformation was good. But  schism  was unfortunate, the result of sin, and we are still reaping the bitter fruit.  Schism is like divorce. It happens. But I  cannot celebrate schism, not now, not ever.

    • Ian Turner
      Ian Turner

      I hope that what I said is understood within its correct context. Here’s my preliminary response to the issue of leaving an assembly in cases of abuse: the bible is clear on church discipline (which is increasingly ignored in our day) that when there are issues like racism, family-interference, humiliation, etc. between believers, one should 1) show the offender his/her fault, and (if still unresolved) 2) take two others along, and (if persisting in error) then 3) take it to the church (Matt 18:15-17), and the Lord Jesus promised that He is present with the church for “discipline” when they gather in His name (a passage often decontextualized). God is able and willing to bring resolution to deep seeded issues like these when that (scriptural) process is followed. But, and this “but” is always the same, it is rarely believed that God is able and willing to discipline his children rightly. So, instead there is back-talk, gossip, going to men rather than going to the Lord. The Lord is not pleased with such things. If the church elders who are responsible for addressing issues between believers neglect scriptural church discipline, the Lord is not pleased as well. God is not static, but powerful, sovereign, active, and ready to address issues among His saints.
      Here’s my follow-up response to the issue of leaving in cases of abuse: the main rule to follow is the Lord’s sovereign leading. The Lord is so sovereign that to presume upon what God wants/does not want is not something I am comfortable with. I assume that a believer who is in fellowship with the Holy Spirit will follow God’s leading, which is sometimes to worship with other believers in a different locale. It is a tough issue that I wish we could discuss face to face, on the phone, but not in a public forum. I am in danger of speaking/writing beyond my experience, which is a common trait of young men.

    • Thanks Ian for your insight!

    • Mark Mederich


    • Mark Mederich

      ‘would you stay in a church that…forced its members to undergo humiliating “training” if they failed to perform some legalistic requirement? Or, consistantly displayed a racist preference for members of one skin color over another? Or, what if its members tried to break up your marriage? Would you stay still?’
      Lording over is source of many evils..

    • Mark Mederich

      “This is a fallen world, and there is no church which is absolutely perfect in all of its doctrine and practices, and that is why I wrote this article, where is the line when a church’s imperfections and sins necessitate separation..?”

  23. Of course Joe, but  the unfortunate thing about the church as a whole  in the 16th century was that it had become so corrupt! There would have been no need for the Reformation had things not gotten so bad for so long, and even though it is sad that it came to that point, I am so thankful that the Gospel was brought back into the picture even at the cost of schism.

    And about Rob Bell. I dont know what other word  you would use to call a “Christian preacher” publically teaching universalism. If that is not apostasy from the Gospel  I do not know what is. And my love for Rob Bell does not mean that I must love his false teaching! I sincerely hope that he repents! You might not believe that, but here is the thing, if I was just like, “Oh, stop picking on good old Rob Bell, so what if he teaches his congregation of 10,000 souls and the millions of others who buy his books that everyone will eventually go to heaven, he is alright to me!…” If I said that, I would not be loving him but hating him! For love to be real and SINCERE, Paul said in Romans 12 that we must “hate what is evil and cling to what is good.”

    The Bible has far more serious things to say about those who abuse their post as ministers!

    Galatians 1:9, “As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”

    2 Peter 2:1, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them — bringing swift destruction on themselves.”
    2 Corinthians 11: 4, 13-14, “For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”

  24. Ian Turner
    Ian Turner

    Exactly. And that is one point I intentionally left out for brevity’s sake. You (David) hit it on the head. Apostasy is not to be tolerated. I was aiming against the issue of “To Stay or Not to Stay” within orthodox evangelicalism. The reformation was not the result of asking the kinds of questions we are asking here. To the statement “if Christians did not decide to separate from a church which had gone so blatantly apostate” I must add that they were not separating from a “church” in the same sense we are using it in this post. They were following the principles of the Word of God. What they separated from was a heretical organization, not “a” church. (The roman Catholics teach that after water baptism, righteousness is “poured into” an individual). I think (one of) the difficulties here is our multiple senses of the word “church” we use. I am trying to stick to one sense– the sense used in scripture. “Church” is never used in the scriptures to refer to a building or organization (which is why the puritans used to call their places of worship, simply “meeting houses”). Thank God for the reformation. Incidentally, only less than a hundred years ago, Arminianism was largely looked upon as heresy. But now, many assemblies are Arminian simply by default– or by function–because of lack of emphasis on theology. But, there is nothing more practical to study than theology. If it is true that actions flow from beliefs, then theology is the most practical thing to study. Plus, as to whether I am a Calvanist, I would cautiously reply that it depends on what one means by “Calvanist” (I’ve spent lots of time clearing up the misconceptions some sincere, bible-believing friends). I’ll simply say that I adhere to the three forms of unity (Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, and the Heidelberg Catechism) and the Westminster Confession. Discussions like the above are refreshing. I think it’s a manifestation of a lot of “inner conversations” many of us have had with ourselves throughout the years. Thanks.

    • Darren Gruett

      Well said, indeed. I am always bothered when I hear people in the church say, “Well, that’s just theology,” as if it is unimportant. Recently, I even heard one of our elders say to me, “Theology only divides people.” But remembering that we are saved by faith, not works, then it becomes abundantly clear that what we believe is of the utmost importance.
      As for what you said about Arminian theology becoming the default due to poor emphasis on theology, I could not agree more. Recently, in my men’s Bible study, we have been talking about election. and I have been unpleasantly surprised at how resistant they are to accepting this truth, despite the number of Bible passages I pointed out to them. This is not because they do not study the Bible, but because they have not been taught good soteriology.

  25. Have you taken the time to read Rob Bell in his own words? He is a smart man who knows what universalism means, and  he does not identify himself as a universalist.

    Scot McKnight has promised to do a  fair review of Rob Bell’s book on his Jesus Creed blog around April 1. I look forward to reading it, because I haven’t been able to read Rob Bell’s book yet. But I will, as soon as I can, and until then I will not pass judgment.

    I can quote plenty of Bible verses as well, verses that  warn  against  divisiveness. The Apostle Paul denounced divisiveness in the church as strongly as he denounced sexual immorality. Unity is also a doctrinal truth that must be upheld.

  26. I have seen Rob Bell preach three times at Willow Creek Church when he visited, and I have read  enough  excerpts from his new book to understand what he is teaching. I agree that divisiveness for non-essential doctrinal  issues is not good. But denial of the Biblical doctrines of salvation by the grace of Christ through faith in Christ is not a secondary issue. Neither is a denial of the doctrine of hell.

  27. Excerpts from a book can easily fall short of a fair reading. I think that many evangelicals, not just Rob Bell, are expressing legitimate concerns that western Christian (Protestant and Roman Catholic) doctrines of hell appear to be rooted more in Dante than in the New Testament. N.T. Wright has expressed it quite well in this short video:

    Many in the church, myself included, want to have an intelligent conversation about this. Accusing someone of heresy without a full, fair, generous hearing will shut the conversation down even before it starts.

    • Merriam-Webster’s definition of Universalism: a : a theological doctrine that all human beings will eventually be saved b : the principles and practices of a liberal Christian denomination founded in the 18th century originally to uphold belief in universal salvation and now united with Unitarianism.

      Rob Bell in his book Love Wins: “A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided, toxic, and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear…”

      That quote is from his introduction, and I have read many others where he is even more explicit in his denial of historic soteriology. Nevertheless, you are right, I should read the whole book, and I plan to when it comes to my local library.

      I also watched the video by Wright which is of course, a part of his theology regarding the “New Perspective.” I disagree with his historical analysis claiming that hell was not a large part of the theology of early Christianity. It certainly was a large part of the teaching of Jesus! And to claim that this idea of separation at the Judgment of the righteous and the unrighteous was primarily an outworking of medieval theology is ludicrous…Jesus himself said that he will separate the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25! And the goats, “…will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

      I have never read Dante, and I do not get my theology of hell  from Dante…the Bible is FAR scarier I am sure! And for Wright to say that hell is not a place with “fire and worms and demons…” is to me to be irresponsible. Hell will be even worse that the worst descriptions that human beings are able to muster, because words are just symbols of the reality. John Gerstner said that Jonathan Edwards is regarded as a hell-fire preacher, but the fact is that what Jonathan Edwards preached falls FAR SHORT of the reality of the terribleness of the torments of Hell.

      Im sorry, but to deny the doctrine of hell, is to take away from the Cross of Jesus Christ. The salvation that belongs to those in Christ is called “So Great a Salvation” in the Bible, at least partially because of the greatness of the terror from which it saves us! To deny that, is to deny the saving work of Jesus.

    • Hi David,
      In defense of N.T. Wright, he is actually the defining NT scholar of our age, a prolific writer, and is well aware of what Jesus says. I can’t see a reason to use words like “ludicrous” or “irresponsible.” I think what he says deserves more than a simple bible verse in response. It can’t be debunked that easily. He is not a theological lightweight and he really has blessed so many people, including myself. I think he needs a little sticking up for.

    • Darren Gruett

      I have been following the Rob Bell debate recently too, and I think that even without reading his book, he has made his views on hell and eternity very clear. Check out this interview with Martin Bashir and you will see what I mean.


    • Mark Mederich


  28. Bell notwithstanding, would anyone remain in a church that affirms universalism or even annihilationism?  If any church affirms these two, I would seriously question their doctrine of man, doctrine of God and doctrine of Jesus Christ.

  29. Hi Ruthie, I think that it is debatable at best, and to my mind an exageration  to say that N.T. Wright is the defining New Testament scholar of our age. What about D. A. Carson? Leon Morris? Doug Moo? Greg Beale? Not to mention that much of what Wright says is in opposition to historically great theologians of the past  like Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Owen, Richard Baxter, J. Gresham Machen, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Charles Spurgeon, John Bunyan,  Thomas Aquinas, Augustine of Hippo, Anselm of Canterbury (in his book Cur Deus Homo?) and many others.

    Notice, I did not address the early church fathers, whom Wright says did not have an emphasis on hell. But his history is wrong! And after you read the following, I wonder if you also might not say that Wright was irresponsible in his comments on the video:

    Ignatius of Antioch: “Corrupters of families will not inherit the kingdom of God. And if they who do these things according to the flesh suffer death. how much more if a man corrupt by evil reaching the faith of God. for the sake of which Jesus Christ was crucified? A man become so foul will depart into unquenchable fire: and so will anyone who listens to him. (Letter to the Ephesians 16:1-2).”

    The Martyrdom of Polycarp: “Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire” (“Martyrdom of Polycarp” 2:3)

    Irenaus: The penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . [I]t is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire,’ they will be damned forever (“Against Heresies” 4:28:2)

    Clement of Alexandria: All souls are immortal, even those of the wicked. Yet, it would be better for them if they were not deathless. For they are punished with the endless vengeance of quenchless fire. Since they do not die, it is impossible for them to have an end put to their misery. (from a post-Nicene manuscript fragment)

    Tertullian: Therefore after this there is neither death nor repeated resurrections, but we shall be the same that we are now, and still unchanged–the servants of God, ever with God, clothed upon with the proper substance of eternity; but the profane, and all who are not true worshippers of God, in like manner shall be consigned to the punishment of everlasting fire–that fire which, from its very nature indeed, directly ministers to their incorruptibility. (“Apology” 48:12)
    What is your verdict? Did the early church fathers have any emphasis on hell?
    What about Jesus and the Biblical authors? See Matthew 5:22, Matthew 10:28, Mark 9:44, Luke 16:19-26, 2Thess 1:9, Revelation 20:9-15 and many, many, many other verses as well…

  30. Helpful post on Rob Bell, hell and the universalism issue:

    By the way, if any of your posts have anything to do with hell or purgatory, please post your comments at the appropriate area of this website, which of course, is our purgatory article….trying to rack up the commenting posts to reach first place…:)

  31. I have read several books by NT Wright and have been greatly encouraged by them. He is a deep thinker, a great writer, and a kind pastor. His words leave me refreshed and make me want to read the Bible more and love God more. He does not deny the final judgment or hell, but he speaks of them in ways that remind me of C.S. Lewis. I am not saying that he is 100% correct on every point. No one is. But he deserves to be listened to and engaged in a serious way, not caricatured and dismissed.

  32. Agreed, I respect him as a scholar, and as a Christian and I really like his book on the resurrection of the Son of God. I was just saying that what he said in the video you posted was not accurate. I also believe that the new perspective is a dangerous theological viewpoint. It has not been taken lightly by me or the majority of conservative evangelicals today. I have read Wrights book “Justification” and i found him to be engaging and a good writer, but I just think it is bad theology! In fact Ben W and I are currently writing and editing a book together that will hopefully deal with some of the issues raised by the new perspective.

  33. Here is what John Armstrong wrote recently about Wright:

    “Meanwhile, be forewarned. Tom Wright may well be a dangerous theologian in your life. I believe he is so dangerous that his work will very likely change your thinking in ways that call for repentance and real faith. He will make you see the Jesus of the Bible and long for the unity of the Spirit that Paul labored for throughout his entire ministry. I have grown to love Christ more by reading and listening to this highly esteemed teacher of the gospel of Christ. I believe this is a danger that we can afford to take on board when the church is in desperate need of a new biblical reformation.”

    • Well Joe, I obviously think that his theology is dangerous for a different reason! I actually read Armstrong’s blog post a while back, and while I disagree with him theologically, I do agree that people need to read up before they criticize…by the way, here is a really good  counterpoint blog  It is by Ligon Duncan.

      What do you believe about Justification Joe? Do you think that Reformed people  have misunderstood Paul? Do you think that the doctrine of the  Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness  is a fantasy that is unbiblical? Duncan says in his post above that sometimes it seems like Wright thinks he is the only person who ever rightly understood Paul!

  34. David, I have no  firm opinions on Wright’s perspective on Paul. I have not studied it well enough to have a sensible opinion.  Even if I do study it in the future, I may never take a firm stand on it.  As I grow older (and, I hope, a little wiser) it’s becoming less important to me to be right on everything, and more important for me to be in right relationships with God and people.

    I enjoy reading and listening to lots of teachers who have lots of different perspectives — Wright, Piper, Bell, McKnight, and many others — and I find that it is possible to be edified by them and learn a great deal about God through them without constantly processing and judging their theology to detect error, because I never  really buy into their theology anyway. I am edified by their love for Christ, by their faith, by their personality, by their humanity. I can enjoy Christian fellowship with them without taking positions on all of their positions.

    This  doesn’t mean that I have become a relativist or gone soft on truth. It means that I have begun to understand that truth is never going to be encapsulated in anyone’s man-made  doctrinal statements; truth is fully embodied  in one  person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and being in a right relationship with him and the members of his body is way more important than sniffing out anyone’s doctrinal impurity. If that puts me in a dangerous position, then that is a danger I am willing to accept.  Picking sides in  doctrinal battles is also fraught with danger, which many self-appointed truth-warriors  don’t appear to see or  acknowledge.

    A while back, a very zealous Reformed Christian tried to goad me into an argument about doctrinal issues that he thought were critically important. This is what I wrote to him:

    Thank you for taking the time to write to me. Since you raised some questions for me, I will try to respond to some of them (though not all). But I will not raise more questions for you because this particular line of discussion has reached its point of diminishing returns. I will try to answer courteously and honestly, then I will stop…

    Twenty-seven years ago, I was fond of contending for certain types of doctrinal purity. Now I now realize that I was ignorant. And I was being a jerk. This was not meant to denigrate the importance of maintaining sound doctrine. Nor was it meant to impugn the character or motives of others who feel called to contend for doctrinal purity. God does raise apostles for that purpose. But that is an extremely difficult and specialized calling from God, one that requires copious amounts of scholarship, honesty, caution, humility and courage. It requires a genuine spirit of repentance to remove the pressure-treated 2×4 from one’s own eye before calling attention to the tiny speck in someone else’s. I have personally observed that many who think they are serving God by defending doctrinal purity (and I do not wish to imply anything about you here, because I haven’t even met you) are seriously deficient in one or more of these areas and are simply unqualified to do what they are attempting.

  35. I am a pastor of a Christian congregation, so if my doctrine is not good (and getting more pure all the time)  I am in big trouble. Theology is not a game to me, it is life or death. The Bible teaches us to prove all things so that we may hold fast to what is good and abstain from every form of evil (1Thessalonians 5:21-22). We should pray to abound in knowledge and discernment so that we can distinguish between what is right and what is wrong (Philippians 1:9-10). “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”   (1 John 4:1). Every preacher or teacher should be willing to have his teaching examined for its accuracy. “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers”  (1 Timothy 4:16).

    If calling out a guy like Rob Bell makes me a jerk, but protects my congregation from his pernicious teaching then so be it. I do not hate him, indeed, I want him to repent!  I am not ashamed of the Gospel, and I will  take a stand for it whenever it is challenged.  With Jesus’ help, I will refuse to run when the wolf comes for the sheep. Every time I have posted on this website about some doctrinal issue it has always been a core doctrine or related to a core doctrine. N.T. Wright is monkeying with Justification, Rob Bell is denying the doctrine of  hell, someone else has said that Jesus comes down from heaven every week and literally, physically,  becomes bread and wine to eat (someone might say that this is a secondary issue, and usually communion would be to me, but like I posted previously, it becomes a primary issue when people worship the bread as God! Then that innocuous issue suddenly becomes idolatry! If someone in this UBFriends community then tries to promulgate that theological viewpoint, shall the    community stay silent?). As a Christian and a pastor who visits this website often, should I ignore those things? Should I not question and challenge them when they arise?

    I am not the doctrine police! If someone wants to dunk or sprinkle their baby or their believing friend etc. I say whatevers clever. If you are a post-mil and I am a pre-mil, no problem, Jesus is coming back regardless. If you want to eat kosher and I love bacon, I will give up eating bacon. But I do not think that Jesus is honored by our refusal to stand up when soteriological doctrines are at stake.


    • david bychkov

      though I’m not always agree with you, David, I want to say that your contribution to this community is very important and really helpful to the website purpose. Your strong reformed positions brings some ballance here. Many times you say something which I also want to say, but I don’t do it because of lack of boldness and English problem.

  36. David, I am a pastor too — have been for 19 years — and I  think that  I  take  my pastoral responsibilities as seriously as you do.  There are many, many ways that people can be led astray. Incorrect doctrine is one. Divisiveness over non-essentials is another. Setting poor example in relationships is another. Using inflammatory language and poor judgment  is another.   I have made all those mistakes, and more, in my ministry over the years. It appears that you and I do not differ much over doctrine, but we  appear to have some  disagreement over which classes of doctrine should be put into that “essentials” category that are worth dividing over, fighting for, and dying for. You seem eager to debate on many points  which I now  believe are, in the final scheme of things,  not so important. When Christians disagree not only about doctrines but about the relative importance of doctrines, what are we to do? Divide over that too?

    • Good points Joe, I hear ya, I dont think that we should divide over debate over the strata of importance of particular doctines…but thus far, we have not been debating about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I honestly would love to know both from you and others, what do you consider to be the essential doctrines of the Christian Faith? For me it would have to me something like the Apostle’s or the Nicene Creed, and Justification by Grace through Faith alone.

    • Darren Gruett

      I guess that brings up the question, what is core doctrine? I think that is one of the points of this article, to examine this question as it relates to when it is time to leave one’s church. Generally speaking, I would say that core doctrine includes anything that has to do with salvation. That would make it fairly straightforward except for the fact that there are differences in what people believe about salvation, and thus, it has to be debated. For if the church cannot agree on what salvation is and means, then how can we rightly proclaim the gospel to unbelievers? That is because the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Ro 1:16).
      And that is why for me I am so passionate about the doctrines of grace (the five points of Calvinism), because they define so well, Biblically, what salvation is. At one point, I would have said that it was “just theology” and not a core issue, but not anymore. Understanding who we are, who God is, and what He has done for us is vital to a proper understanding of salvation, and that is the gospel. In fact, Charles Spurgeon even said that “Calvinism is the gospel” ( I know that is a little off-topic, but I think it demonstrates just how important some of these issues are, and the reason why they have to be discussed among the body of Christ.

    • David: I love the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed and spend a lot of time thinking about them, about what is in them, and especially what is not. It’s very interesting to me that so many of the issues that modern Christians hold as non-negotiable (justification by faith alone, doctrines of biblical inerrancy, authority of Scripture, sanctity of marriage, etc.) are not mentioned there at all. Why not?  It’s not because  such issues are unimportant. I think it’s because early Christians  framed  their  faith in ways that are  radically different from the ways that we do in modern times. They didn’t  think of  becoming a Christian  as being in mental agreement with propositional truths. They based everything on the persons of the Trinity, the historical fact of the Incarnation and the historical events of Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Ascension Thursday, Pentecost and the eschaton. This tells me that (a)  above eveything else, I need to be in relationship with the Triune God, and (b) that the importance of the  historicity of Jesus Christ, what he actually did, what he  is doing  now, and what he is going to do, far outstrips anything that human beings can say about how to understand, explain or interpret those things.

      I think you know me well enough by now to see that I am a Christian who takes doctrine seriously. But I don’t ever want to be in a position where I make any particular way of explaining the atonement more important than striving to live within the historical reality of the death and  resurrection of Christ and his Lordship over all.

      Perhaps this helps to explain why I  seem reluctant to commit to strong positions on many issues that oher Christians hold dear. It’s not because I think those issues are unimportant. Far from it. It’s because I don’t want to base my faith on my own understanding, on my being right, rather than trusting in God himself and what he has done. I’m counting on being saved by Jesus, not by  having the right doctrines about the way in which he saves us.   And the relational aspect of the gospel has become very important to me. I believe that God’s mission, missio Dei, is all about restoring our relationships with God, with one another, and with the created world. I don’t want my own desire to be objectively right (whatever that means) to interfere with the expression of God’s love through me, which I know from experience can easily happen.

    • david bychkov

      I have 1 question. Weren’t the ancient creeds ((just)) the answers to some well defined heresies?

    • The Apostles’ Creed was used to prepare catechumens for baptism. Later creeds were developed in part to address heresies.

    • Darren, that is a good point too, it is one thing to have personal saving faith in Christ. It is another thing to proclaim that faith, and in the proclamation, what we say really matters!

    • Joe, I understand your position. It is good to be cautious. It is also good to know what we believe and why we believe it (I know you agree with that). Personally, I want to grow in my relationship with, and knowlege of God for the rest of my life, however long or short it may be. That is why Biblical  Doctrine to me is not stagnant or dull, it is the most exciting thing in the world. Correct Doctrine just brings me closer to Christ.

  37. Perhaps, I might add my 2 cents and state that the non-negotiables of the Christian faith would have to include the Five Solas.

    Now I know that this series of discussions on hell, purgatory, is in the wrong place. But the damage is done, and John Y’s article is not likely to ever have more comments than this article :-)

    • GerardoR

      Hi Ben,
      If the five Solas are what define Christians are non-negotionables of Christian faith then guess I must not be Christian then since I believe in Faith working through Love and that between Faith, Hope and Love the greatest of them is Love. =)

      I respect your faith even though I gravely (and very respectfully) disagree with you on these non-negotiables. Your a good man Dr. Toh. I hope I can reflect the same kind of joy you reflect. I am glad your on Gods side.

    • I am sympathetic to Gerardo’s perspective. The Five Solas are distinctively Protestant. There is a great deal of good in them, but to elevate them to status of non-negotiables is to effectively say that Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox believers are non-Christian because they do not frame the discussion in  same way with the same terms.

    • To be honest, Gerardo, when I first heard of the 5 Solas last year, I thought, “Yeah, that sounds like what I believe,” without thinking further or deeper into it. Joe saying that it is distintly Protestent kind of jolted me, for I did not think of it as Protestent, but rather as Christian. Primarily, I would have to confess my near total ignorance and lack of understanding in the way different people/Christians (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox)  frame and understand their own faith.

      But yes, Gerardo, love is surely the key (1 Cor 13:1-3,13). I think of love as ultimately the love of the Father who gave his Son for my sins (John 3:16), for my curse (Gal 3:13),  in my place (2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 3:18), though He didn’t have to do so at all, and if He didn’t, He would still be perfectly right and just. I have to acknowledge that without realizing this Love, my hardened heart  of stone could never ever have been touched or transformed.  

      When I met you last week, I loved your passion, earnestness, sincerity, genuineness, and quest for knowledge, understanding, unity and friendship, founded in love, regardless of some differences in doctrinal understanding and interpretation. With my shallow understanding and lack of in depth study into its orgin, meaning,  and historicity, I might think that your salvation is by Christ, by faith, by grace, by Scripture, and for the glory of God alone. Would I be wrong to think that?

    • GerardoR

      Hi Dr. Ben,
      I definitely consider my salvation to come through Grace alone. I consider it a gift through him, with him and in him who is worthy of all praise forever and ever.

  38. Regarding Rob Bell’s controversial new book about judgment and hell, the first installment of Scot McKnight’s review has appeared:

    I  love the way he frames the discussion:

    Our goal is not to win; our goal is not to classify Rob Bell; our goal is not see who is the most faithful; our goal is not to say who has the best review; our goal is not to debate other reviews. Our goal is to explore together the Bible’s teaching and the themes of this book by using Rob Bell’s book — and as we explore these themes to come to reasonable conclusions about what we are to believe.

    And he articulates  very well the main concern that I have:  we need to have an  actual discussion about these issues, rather than grandstanding:

    We will meet this challenge to the historic, orthodox belief of the church, not by pounding the pulpit of exclusivism, which will confirm the convinced but mute the voices of those who really do have questions. We can rise to the challenge by entering into the reality of the problems and by proposing fresh, creative, biblical and theological resolutions that compel the church to think clearly about the magnitude of its claims — that salvation is found in Jesus Christ, and in Jesus Christ alone.

    Personally, I have been disappointed by the manner in which many have responded to this book. I  do not dispute  that Rob Bell’s views lie outside of the mainstream of what evangelical Protestants have believed. However, I think it is absolutely crucial for Christians to give him a fair hearing and respond in a thoughtful, generous and patient manner, because if we do not, we will continue to alienate huge numbers of people (especially younger ones) who have genuine questions about this.  

    Whether we like it or not, the idea that a loving God will consign huge numbers of people to eternal torment is  supremely difficult for modern people to swallow. It lies so far  outside their plausibility structure that, unless the issue is treated with the utmost care, they will simply dismiss what we have to say. I agree with Scot McKnight: We need good, fresh answers that address the questions people are asking today.  Many of our young people  already know what previous generations have said and remain unconvinced.  Many who are skeptical of the traditional doctrines of hell are not so  merely because they are uninformed, stupid, rebellious or unrepentant. They  are  serious, thinking, sensitive people who are distressed not only by the doctrines of hell but by the blithe manner in which many discuss these  supremely grave issues.

    I look forward to reading his multi-part review.

    • GerardoR

      For better or worst, I definately think this debate is going to solidify peoples convictions on whether all will eventually (after going through hell) be saved. I firmly disagree with Rob Bell but I have to concede that there have been many good, faithful men and women who believed what Mr. Bell believes. In fact, Norm McDonald, the man whose writings converted G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien was also a universalist.  

      I think some of the responses Rob Bells comments have indeed been  uncharitable and I am not persuaded by people who will call hell fire down on him and then say, “but I still love him.”

      I think this topic is very relevant to the other website thread on Theories of  Intelligence. It shows how quickly we categorize people as smart or not, evil or not instead of appreciating their otherwise orthodox views and seeing the person as a whole. Yes, an orthodox response requires us to  decisively embrace a particular position on the matter but that doesnt mean we decisively reject a person.    

      I like how Ravi Zacharias describes John Wesley’s preaching on hell. He says he could never finish preaching on hell without breaking down in tears. That, I think, captures the seriousness of the issue and the  appropriate  Christian response.

    • Darren Gruett

      Joe, I do not think anybody likes the idea of an all-loving God consigning people to hell for eternity, nor should we like it. It is awful place, designed, not for men, but for the devil and his angels (Mt 25:41). Yet it is the reality of hell which highlights the grace of God through Jesus Christ, for the gospel means that He has saved us from an eternity apart from Him.
      I agree that we need to address this issue carefully and lovingly; but it must also be addressed truthfully and candidly, even if it offends some people or hurts their feelings. To do any less would be to abandon our mandate as preachers of the Word of God. Paul’s charge to Timothy sums up well the importance of this:
      I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Ti 4:1-4)

  39. Darren, I don’t think that anyone likes the idea of hell either.  But there  seem to be  quite  a few who uphold the doctrine without being sufficiently horrified by it. A  few weeks ago, Scott McKnight wrote:

    No one should begin to talk about hell without spending fifteen minutes in pausing prayer to consider the horror of it all.

    I know what 2 Timothy 4:1-4 says, and people who know me understand that I am not soft on truth. But quoting that  passage in this context  may sound  condescending. It suggests that those who have a hard time with  eternal, conscious punishment  and are drawn to Rob Bell’s position are only doing so because they want it to be true, because it’s what their itching ears want to hear, and not because they have genuine doubts and  serious theological questions. I know that you mean well, and you are a wonderful person.  But a well-intended Bible verse quoted at the wrong time can harm rather than help. People with these questions need to be listened to long and hard, not simply preached at,  and many of them have heard  all these Bible  verses already.

    • Darren Gruett

      Joe, you are right, that my statement does sound condescending, although I am sure you know that was not my intention. That is why I said that this should be addressed carefully and lovingly. You are also right that some people do “have genuine doubts and serious theological questions” about this. I am certainly not denying that nor would I discourage people from asking questions, even provocative questions about this. And if someone I am shepherding were to ask questions about this I would gladly welcome them and address them in a loving and truthful manner.
      At the same time, I still think that there is a part of every human being that does not want hell to be true. If it is as bad as Scripture describes it (keeping in mind that the Bible is written in understatement), then I do no think anyone would want it to be true. I certainly do not want it to be true; I have family members and friends that are not yet saved, and the thought of them suffering for eternity in that way grieves me terribly. But I would never even suggest to them that if they do not repent now, in this life, that it will one day be okay because “love wins” in the end. If that were the case, then I have no reason to preach the gospel.

    • Thank you, Darren. I appreciate our dialogue.

      I think God hates the idea of hell too.

      I wonder about the last thing that you wrote. Is avoidance of hell and bringing individuals to heaven the whole point of preaching the gospel? One of the points I tried to make in my WSGM series is that the gospel is about a whole lot more than that. It’s about restoring our true personhood, our relationships with God, our relationships with one another, and the whole created world. It’s our participation in God’s mission to restore and recreate the world. I’m not denying that avoidance of hell is important. But there’s a whole lot more to it than that. I think what we do in this world beyond our initial decision to follow Christ is very important and has eternal consequences as well.

  40. Thanks Joe, I will read those articles as they come out.

    I must say though, I do not believe that it is uncharitable to call out heresy where it is found. I said that Rob Bell is an apostate leader because everything that I have read from him and heard from him and seen from him  regarding his book Love Wins points to his renunciation of the orthodox doctrine of hell. Gerardo said in his last post, “I am not persuaded by people who will call hell fire down on him and then say, “but I still love him…Yes, an orthodox response requires us to  decisively embrace a particular position on the matter but that doesnt mean we decisively reject a person.” This must, at least partially,  be a reference to my previous comments on this thread where I said  that I believe Rob Bell is apostate but I still love him. So let me reply:

    1) You must not be persuaded by Jesus then, whe he says to the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.” Does that statement by our Lord mean that he did not love anyone in those towns?

    2) For Joe or Gerardo or anyone else for that matter to imply that me  or other Christians, making a statement that  Rob Bell  is leading people astray from the faith, means that the  we who made the statement do not love  Rob Bell, is  judging the my  (and their) heart. As of yet, I do not recall asking for Rob Bell to be burned at the stake or drawn and quartered. I do not think that calling out a person’s SERIOUSLY misguided public teaching while at the same time loving them from my heart  is mutually exclusive. Are there good things that I could say about Bell? Of course there are! I believe that in the past Bell has even been a blessing to many people.

    3) Since this is an open forum lets be open. I know that Gerardo was hurt by my comments on a previous thread stating that I believe that to worship the Eucharist is Idolatry. Nevertheless I still stand by what I wrote. I am sorry that it is difficult for some people to separate their personal feelings from their cherished beliefs but that does not mean that those beliefs are thus free from scrutiny! As a matter of fact, I wonder, if my calling out of Rob Bell means that I hate him  what does  Gerardo’s refusal to interact with me anymore on this public forum mean?

    4) Have we become such a Milquetoast society (and church!)  where it has now become a crime against God and man to call a spade a spade, especially inside the church when it regards the true or false preaching of the Gospel? What ever happened to 1Cor5:12-13, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” Now, someone might ask, “Well Dave, what is the difference between this quote and what you said in point #2?” And I would answer, 1cor5 is talking about swindlers and others who are  acting or teaching  wickedly, however, I dont think that I have done so on this post or others…if I have please show me where and I will be happy to repent of it on the spot.

    5) I know that the Bible commands us to speak the truth in love. Perhaps the issue is that I do not use enough fluffy language to  convey my love. I will admit, there are times when it may seem from a third party perspective that I am quite contrary on this website. However, those who know me personally, know that I do not always have  such a  disposition and that I can be quite gentle. But I will never be gentle when it comes to fighting spiritual abuse! Jesus wasnt gentle in that regard and neither should we be.

    • David, the issue is not whether you use “fluffy language.” It is whether you convey true empathy. And that is in the eye of the beholder and ear of the hearer.

    • According to the dictionary, Empathy means: The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to,  and vicariously  experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.

      If what you mean by conveying true empathy is my identifying with Rob Bell as a sinner, I do. Here for all to see, I confess that I am a great and terrible sinner and that were it not for the Grace of God in my life I would be rightfully condemned to hell forever. Also, any rightness or good quality in my theology comes only from that same Grace, and any badness or unsoundness in my theology or personality comes from my sinful nature alone.

      If what you mean by conveying true empathy is my identifying with false teaching, then you are certainly correct, I have no identification or empathy for  that and I do not care to, just as I have none for child abuse or polygamy etc.etc.

    • GerardoR

      Yes exactly Joe. The two mistakes we can make is to call people who disagree with us “sissy pantsies who dont have a backbone and are weak in faith” but the other mistake we can make is to call people “hypocritical zealous pharasis who claim to Love but have none.” I may have used the latter in my statement. I call these mistakes human because, unlike Jesus, we are limited in our ability to know the human heart.  

      David, I refuse to interact with you not because I am intimidated by the truth you preach but simple put, I am pretty hot blooded. When people call me an idol worshiper…. I typically don’t take it so well – go figure. But I think your right. I am quick to judge you based on my limited experience. If you are interested in having a formal discussion on my faith life and saving me from my error, then please give me your email and I will contact you. We can start all anew and have a calm discussion. I will sit on a block of ice before I respond. =)  

  41. I think that all of us would agree that the only reason any of us is a Christian is because God’s love won us, and God’s love through his Son and by His Spirit will continue to win even those who are presently in willful stubborn rebellion against him.

    I was just wondering if we might want to take a breather from this discussion, and then perhaps revisit this at some future date.

  42. Good idea. Have a great weekend, everyone!

  43. Praise the Lord Gerardo. I am very happy to give you my email address. Please ask John Y for it and we can chat.

    • And hey, invite me too! I’ll buy the coffee

    • And please, don’t forget me and invite me too! I’ll get the muffins and bagels and scones.

      And I’ll be the set up guy, the 99th commenter on this post,  and let the next person who comments, be the 100th commenter on our 1st 100 comment post of UBFriends!!!

  44. And ok, I guess I’ll give up trying to keep this post from garnering the “most commented post” award. As proof of my repentance, I offer up this comment.

  45. david bychkov

    I’m #100 comment on this discussion :)

  46. Brian Karcher
    Brian Karcher

    Just read through most of these comments since I didn’t have time until now.   Here’s my story of why I’ve stayed, for various reasons, for good or bad:

    First I stayed because I found salvation in Christ through this ministry.

    Then I stayed because I found God’s vision to be a missionary (still waiting on this one…)

    Then I stayed because of the Godly relationships I made.

    Then I was “sent out” to Detroit. I could not stay, but I chose to stay because of a duty to “keep face” and not ruin other’s faith.

    Today I stay to “stand in the gap” based on Ezekiel 22:29-31.   I see a huge and growing gap between the perception of our ministry and the reality of our ministry.   I pray we may “go back to reality” like when I first found the joy of my salvation in 1988.

  47. Today I want to make my decision clear. I am no longer part of UBF in any way, shape or form. Here is why: 

    • Wow.. thasts pretty guutsy. Christ knows your heart. I hope you can find a new ministry where you learn more about him each and everyday. God Bless You. 

    • Gerardo, my family has already found a new ministry a couple months ago.  Here is what I’m going to do at that church: nothing.  I’m going to sit in a pew a listen, be filled with the grace and truth of God and continue to be with God and be healed.  I had lunch with the head pastor already and have been attending their celebration service for a while. They have a beautiful vision for Detroit. They welcome Christian misfits who don’t fit into church.

    • Well that’s great! Leaving a church can often lead to a long period of church shopping that can have an impact on one’s faith.  

      It sounds like you are burned out with ministry involvement. I hope this time of reflection can renew you. Perhaps you will get involve in a particular Church ministry later in the future. 

      I am curious what you meant by “they welcome Christian misfits.” Is this a charecterization that you think is imposed on you by your old Church. Or is this how you charecterize yourself? Do you have a recent testimony? I would love to read it. Please email it to me.

    • Darren Gruett

      I just read this post, as well as your one at the embedded link. God bless you, brother.
      “How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust,
      And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.” (Psalm 40:4)

    • Brian, I fully support and understand your decision. To attempt to do nothing for a while and just receive grace and encouragement is a very wise decision. I made that decision about one year ago and it is one of the best decisions I ever made. In my case, I had the freedom and support to do that within the context of our local ubf ministry. But in your case that is not an option.  As far as Sharon and I are concerned, we are your friends for life. Please continue to interact with us and pray for ubf. I share your hope that the new General Director will help us to make positive changes. But there are still quite a few who think that ubf is fine the way it is, so it will take time. Some people must leave for their own good, and to show that the situation is indeed serious. Others must stay behind to clean up the mess. I will never second guess your decision. May God bless you and your family.

    • Joe, I appreciate your words, which do not bind my conscience. Your friendship to me has been a tremendous help, ever since you made me breakfast back in the early ’90s!

      I am looking forward to a cerebral discovery of Christianity. I will certainly continue contributing to this blog and other blogs. And I pray feverishly that UBF ministry may be healed and become a new wineskin.

  48. Wow, must have been hard. To be honest, I too and considering leaving. I’m still looking around, but I haven’t completely stopped attending UBF.

    • Didnt UBF recently elect a new UBF “Pope”? Will you leave despite the changes that he may bring about? Are you waiting to see if he changes anything? I guess I am asking you, Brian and or any other UBFer who is thinking of leaving is: what influence, if any, has the election of a new UBF pope made on your decision to stay?


    • Well, “pope” is a strange word to use…but actually I have some hope for real change through the new general director.  That had nothing to do with my decision to leave.

    • Well, there’s a lot I can complain about but I don’t want this to turn into a bashing page or anything. I will say this though: My bible teacher advised me that instead of just working on myself that I should focus on serving. Nothing wrong with that statement, and she’s right. So I started to think to myself “what are my gifts, how can I use them to serve?” UBF pretty much has one program that people can follow, which is fishing and then teaching the bible. I don’t mind talking about the bible to people, but I never really felt compelled to teach it. My gifts are really in other areas, and so I’m looking for a place where I can best utilize those gifts for the glory of God. I haven’t made a final decision yet and I’m preparing to participate in two ministries at once, but I want to make sure I’m making the right choice.

    • Well, I didnt mean how has he negatively influenced you. I meant more like, did his election make it harder to leave or consider leaving. 

      AS for the UBF Pope, that is a inside joke between me and regional bishop John Y. =) 

    • Oscar, you raise an excellent question: “what are my gifts, how can I use them to serve?”  I’ve come to realize this is an important role of a pastor: to help other people meet the Holy Spirit, find their gifts (talents) and discover what gifts (of the Spirit) they have been given and how to put all these things into service in His kingdom.

    • Actually, I didn’t really take the new General Director into account when I made my decision. I had thought about leaving a few years ago, but I decided to stay. At the time I saw that some of the younger people had an eye for reform, but I didn’t want to wait another 20 years for them to be in positions where they can actually implement it. Has the new General Director even talked about any changes he will implement?

    • Oscar, I have observed that the new GD is open to listening before taking action. He is speaking very little and observing much.  He requested input from directors in UBF, asking them what they expected him to do. He knows how to use email.  One specific change he mentioned is listed in his top 3 priorities: to transition Korean leadership to American leadership (and by implication native leadership in each country).  In my former chapter of UBF, such a transition was never spoken of.  He is a man who sets priorities. listens, asks for help and then takes action.  All these things are unprecedented for a Korean leader in UBF to say and do.

    • Darren Gruett

      Oscar, you bring up a good point about spiritual gifts. Earlier this year I taught a whole series on this to my fellowship. Part of that came out of the frustration I experienced when I saw leaders around me constantly pushing others to be messengers or Bible teachers when they were really not cut out for it. We are all called to be disciples and disciple-makers, but we are not all called to serve in the same capacity. Considering that UBF is a ministry geared towards college students, at least historically or theoretically, and that a big part of that involves raising people to be Bible teachers, I think it is a worthwhile endeavor for those who are a part of it to consider whether this is where God wants them based on how they have been spiritually gifted. UBF is not for everyone, and that is okay.

    • Darren, you raise a crucial issue. The New Testament clearly says that the parts of the Body of Christ have different functions, and we need one another. Some are called to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors, others to be teachers (and those are just a small subset of the possible roles). These are all examples of disciples. Everyone is called to be a disciple — a follower and learner of Christ. Everyone is called to be a learner. But only some are called to be teachers.

      Somewhere along the line, ubf developed the idea that everyone in ubf, simply by virtue of being in ubf, is called to be a Bible teacher. Thus we are a “special” church consisting of all teachers. I have heard people say this. That idea needs to be challenged. Nowhere in scripture do I see any example of a congregation made up exclusively of apostles, or prophets, or any other single type of disciple. Can you have a healthy spiritual community where everyone, regardless of their individual gifts and identity, is expected to do the same thing?

  49. Gerardo, I think I understand your Pope comment.  There is an unmistakeable infallibility of directors in UBF.  The new general director’s election didn’t make it harder to leave.  If anything, it made it a little easier to leave without bitterness and malice because I see some hope of God in his actions (not just his words).

  50. David Bychkov

    I also am forced to leave UBF de-facto by unwillingness to undestand. For now the understanding seems to be impossible to reach, and it is too hard cross for me to carry. I’m not sure how things will go, as I remain serving in my local small chapter but about to cut wider official relations with UBF. From September I’m going to study in the Reformed seminary.

    • David, I can’t say that I’m happy to hear this, but thank you for sharing.  I take no joy in seeing situations where reconciliation and restoration of relationships is not possible. 

      At the same time, I respect your decision, which was not hasty or rash, based on your sharing here.  I do pray that your journey of faith may take a turn for the better and that you and those around you may discover the amazing grace, truth, hope and love Jesus has for you.

      Above all, I long for the day when Christian leaders will accept that believers will never find unity (that Apostle Paul wrote about) in the things of men, but only in the things of God.

      David, you have become a good friend (by way of technology). I hope you will continue our virtual fellowship!

  51. David, I’m sorry to hear this, but I know that you made the decision prayerfully and carefully. Please continue to interact with us in this online community. And please explain your reasons for leaving, very clearly and explicitly, to the new General Director. Or you can explain to me, and I will pass the information along.

  52. Darren Gruett

    I echo Joe’s sentiments on this as well. I hope this site continues to serve as a forum for these kinds of discussions, and a way for us to come together in Christian unity.

  53. David Bychkov

    Thanks, Joe, Brian, Darren and others. I am also sorry to say it. I will try to write the reasons, as Joe suggested. I understand that this is important for both – for me and UBF.

    • Hi David,

      As I had shared with Brian, I am sorry that you decided to leave UBF. Yet I support your decision, because of ongoing problems with interpersonal conflict, where I sense, like Joe, that some leaders think that the ministry is fine, while an exodus has been happening in not a few UBF chapters. For sure, please share with us the reasons why you are leaving. I hope that I can be a small voice (for what it’s worth) for those who leave for clearly “avoidable” reasons.

      Check out this recent great post and see if some of the reasons may be here:

    • Ben, the article you point out is extremely valuable and relevant to what we are experiencing.  The author’s observations are keen, for example:

      “More recently I spoke at a denominational meeting of ministers in a Western country. Again there was a generational breakdown, cast somewhat differently. The older men had, during the decades of their ministry, combated the old-fashioned liberalism that had threatened their denomination in their youth. Many of them had been converted out of rough backgrounds and subsequently built strong fences around their churches to keep out alcohol and sleaze of every sort. Most of their congregations were aging along with their ministers; only a handful of them were growing. They loved older hymns and patterns of worship. The younger men dressed in jeans, loved corporate worship where the music was at least 95 decibels, were interested in evangelism, and loved to talk to the ecclesiastically disaffected—homosexuals, self-proclaimed atheists, mystically orientated “spiritual” artists.”

      His question is of great worth to consider: “how should both sides act so as to honor Christ and advance the gospel?”

      And his advice should be heeded:

      1. Listen to criticism in a non-defensive way.

      2. Be prepared to ask the question, “What are we doing in our church, especially in our public meetings, that is not mandated by Scripture and that may, however unwittingly, be functioning as a barrier to getting the gospel out?”

      3. Always focus most attention on the most important things, what Paul calls the matters of first importance—and that means the gospel, with all its rich intertwinings, its focus on Christ and his death and resurrection, its setting people right with God and its power to transform.

      4. Work hard at developing and fostering good relations with those from the other generation.

    • Darren Gruett

      Ben, thanks for sharing that article, and thanks, Brian, for posting those points. What great advice. I love number 3.

    • David Bychkov

      Thanks for sharing, Ben. Love the article. And in our traditional churches in CIS are really facing these issues, and think we in UBF too. So far I failed to overcome this tentions, though, I keep hoping that things can be improved, and relations can be restored some day. Please pray for me to follow Christ and immitate his humbleness and love.

  54. It is also important to focus on facts during your leaving, and remember the promises of God. There are facts that no one wants to discuss.  For example, please remember the 28 people who left Toledo UBF since April, 2011.  We also need to remember and pray for those still in Toledo UBF, because they are facing many challenges.  One huge challenge is the new church building there, which will need to be rented out most likely to pay for it.

    We don’t know the details about India and other places (or at least I don’t) but we really need to start facing the facts like Abraham did.  Abraham not only had hope in God and unwavering faith in God’s promise, he also faced the facts about his life and his wife (Romans 4:18-21).

    • “please remember the 28 people who left Toledo UBF since April, 2011.”  …make that 33 people now.  I think it is time to admit failure and find God’s hope.  Our friend John has observed a similar kind of failure that is not limited to one church, but it is happening all over. Most churches in America seem to be failing at bringing the unsaved all the way to a life-long discipleship commitment.

      UBF has actually found a way to reach the unconverted and lead them to practical, whole-life discipleship (this is something astounding in our generation!). But in my observations, UBF has failed on the other end: failed to keep those life-long disciples who did find the joy of salvation and had committed their lives to discipleship within the UBF context.

      I hope UBF does not simply “reshuffle the chairs” like many churches are doing.

      “Even most large churches are reshuffling the chairs on the church ship more than they are reaching the un-churched and never converted. On the whole most movements, groups and churches that claim great things in evangelism are actually doing a very bad job.”

    • “please remember the 28 people who left Toledo UBF since April, 2011.”  …make that 33 people now.”  …make that 38 people.

    • It’s really quite hard to conceive of 38 people having left 1 ubf chapter in just the last 6 months. That might be more people than most of our ubf chapters in the world that on average consist of perhaps a few couples and a few Bible students.

    • Ben, the 38 people is counting women and children. But apparently it is not really a problem. UBF elders visited Toledo UBF earlier in September and concluded that the leader there is fine. They just need to resolve a few “inter-personal conflicts” and start over with new students.

      When UBF counts people, the numbers are usually high if the people are doing some UBF program, and low if they have left UBF.  For example, I remember many people having Bible study with dolls, and counting that in the number of Bible students for that week, inflating the Bible study counts.

      A certain leader in Toledo UBF said at one point that only 3 people had left. Well those three people were me, Nick and Tuf.  Those 3 men represent 3 families, a total number of 15 people who will not be participating in UBF programs (6+4+5).

      The blind focus on college student ministry breeds a vision of seeing people only as single college students. (Note to anyone reading this: I have two daughters in high school! I am no longer a single college student.)

    • Darren Gruett

      Bible study with dolls? Are you kidding?

    • Dolls? As in inanimate objects? I agree that things are geared towards college students. Back when I was a college student it was fine, but I’ve been out of college for six years now and I feel like there isn’t anything for me. I was expected to be a “shepard” but I didn’t feel that I was being called towards that, so there was really nothing else for me. It’s kind of hard to fellowship with a bunch of people that are younger (and less mature) than myself (not that I’m the most mature person around). I think 30-something people leaving would be pretty noticeable, don’t you think?

    • Darren, no I’m not kidding. And yes I mean the stuffed animal/inanimate doll kind. I was told to do this when I came to Detroit.  So I bought a Wayne State bear and had Bible study twice, and reported it!  I say this to my shame… I know this has happened many times in other places. But I doubt anyone would admit it. Most would dismiss it as just a quirk of Samuel Lee back in the ’70’s. But my “bear study” was in 2004.

    • I gotta try Biblestudy with dolls, in fact, I wonder if I bought 10,000 dolls and put them in the pews at my church would we be able to register as a megachurch? I would like to make a movie called “Toy Story 4: The evangelism of the inanimate.”

    • Well David, that would just be silly…you’d want to name it more like “Return of the Borg”. (oh come on, let’s laugh a little!)

      All joking aside, let’s remember our Commenting policy here and not degrade into mocking: “Be kind. Do not post anything that a reasonable person may regard as obscene, offensive, hurtful, mocking, demeaning or condescending.” 

    • Sorry, not trying to mock, I just thought preaching to dolls is funny/ridiculous thats all…

  55. I have a question, and I hope it’s not off topic.  I’ve been in UBF for 6 years now and I’ve come to Christ in this church, many people have been praying for me for all these years. Upon contemplating going to another church am I being ungrateful?

    • Great question, Oscar. Ultimately, your gratefulness must be to God, and to God only. Sometimes, we might guilt trip people to make them feel grateful to those who sacrificed for them. This is quite unfortunate.

      If I get to sacrifice for someone, and he spits in my face, of course I am hurt. But by the grace of God, I pray that I never guilt trip the person simply because I served him or her all these years. It is nothing but pure grace to me that I was given the honor and privilege to serve and sacrifice for another. It is absolutely nothing compared to what Christ sacrificed for me.

      It seems like we lost all the earlier comments to this post?? Or is this just my PC in the Philippines? 

    • Ben, we did not lose all the other comments. Somehow we got two threads started. The other discussions are here:

    • Darren Gruett

      I have asked myself that question many times, and I do not know if there is any easy answer. For example, I met my wife through this church, thanks to the prayers and hard work of others. Does that mean that I am obligated to stay for the rest of my life? Not necessarily. If God calls me to another church or ministry, then I should go.
      The issue of leaving a church is something taboo in UBF, which I have never completely understood. In the church that I was raised, I remember there was this one family that had been there for years and actively involved in the ministry. Then they decided to leave because their son, who was not involved in that church, had been attending another church and was growing in his faith and they wanted to support him. People were sad at their decision, because of the friendships that had been formed; but they also accepted it and understood it as God’s will.
      I have been sad when friends decided to leave UBF, but not because I thought they were being rebellious or ungrateful, but because of the fellowship that we would no longer share.

    • Darren Gruett

      Thanks Brian, for clarifying that about the comments. I was wondering about that myself.

    • I just have to share this:  I had lunch the other day with Pastor Bryan.  He asked me a shocking question that nearly made me spit my sandwhich across the restaurant.  “Did UBF throw a celebration party when you resigned?”  I said, “Uh, not really, no.”  I am still wondering why he asked that.  Perhaps because the gratefulness goes both ways.

    • David Bychkov

      That is the question I also was wrestling with. Though as for me, I do not feel that I’m ungrateful. Yes I accepted the salvation through UBF ministry. That’s fact, I am thankful and appreciate this highly. But does that mean I became slave of UBF? Not really. Does that mean I need keep anything after this? Does that mean UBF is more then Jesus and the Bible? no. And I served in UBF wholeheartedly during many years. And my exit, I think, is also out of love. so I have calm concience.

  56. This discussion thread brings me back to the topic of Christian unity (as presented by Apostle Paul).  One preacher I heard recently said that unity does not always mean restoration of relationship and reconciliation between people because there are some situations that wouldn’t be healthy in a reconciled state.  He also asked “Do you have a high tolerance for people who are wrong? God does, and so should we.” 

    I happened to read this blog article recently on the subject of unity.  Even the Restoration movement struggles with this!

  57. I got to hear the new General Director speak at the last Friday Meeting. I was VERY impressed with what he had to say. He talked about real fellowship and serving each other and loving each other. If he leads like this then I think a lot of good can be done. I wonder, can he set policy? Can he say “ok, we’re not going to do things like this anymore. Instead we’re going to do this, this, and this.” Who sets the program for discipleship?

  58. Hey guys, just joining back on here after a hiatus. This site does seem to be the place to come to when a person feels the need to leave UBF doesn’t it? And I mean that without sarcasm. It is as though this is the last stop before the road forks off in another direction. I think that this is good for a couple reasons: 1) it allows people a safe place to explain why they have decided to go, without their shepherd screaming at them that they are no longer Christian. 2) it may serve to confirm their decision by showing that there is a whole Christian world outside of UBF that the person has not known before. 3) it presents a way for the “leavers” to still keep in contact and dialogue with their old friends who have decided to stay. Interesting that in the last few months there seems to be a greater number than usual making the decision to move on…any obvious reasons for this? Does this site serve as a catalyst to some, showing that it is ok to move on?

    • It appears that way. If “leavers” can remain in dialogue as friends those who are “stayers”, then this site lives up to its name. There is probably a publication bias though, as those more likely to be disgruntled in some way are probably more likely to be vocal on this site. I’m sure there’s a whole group of “stayers” that are silent readers of this site, but choosing not to comment.

    • John, with 2,439 visits from many countries the past 30 days and about 42% of those being new visits, I would say you are correct that there are a lot of silent readers of this website. We all have to be aware that we have a worldwide audience here!

    • Hi John, I agree with this statement of yours: “those more likely to be disgruntled in some way are probably more likely to be vocal on this site.”
      I think the reason is obvious: Many things that are said here are generally “not welcomed” by the UBF world at large, but are welcomed here as long as we humbly keep to the commenting policy.
      So if people are truly genuinely embraced and loved in the church and ministry when they bring up an uncomfortable or “holy grail” subject or question, then UBFriends might actually become obsolete or defunct! OK, maybe not…

    • I will not allow UBFriends to become obsolete until I have a picture of myself with a trophy that says, “Top Prize for Most Gratuitous Comments on UBFriends”

    • Hey JohnY, you get my vote for most gratuitous comments :)

    • Ben,

      “Many things that are said here are generally “not welcomed” by the UBF world at large, but are welcomed here as long as we humbly keep to the commenting policy.”

      This is a true statement.  Group dialogue is really never encouraged and not practiced in UBF. People who leave or stay in UBF need to stop the “agree to disagree” attitude.  That kind of attitude only builds paper-thin relationships that go up in flames when Satan challenges us.

      We need to work toward unity in love (and to our UBF friends, no, love is not obedience!).  My leaving was for the greater unity in the body of Christ.

    • Darren Gruett

      David, welcome back, and thanks for your comments. Your reasons are well stated, and I believe this site serves a great purpose. Unlike some of the vitriolic remarks that have typically characterized some of those other sites, this place is like a breath of fresh air. I love the community that we have here, even if it is virtual; and being able to dialogue with people from various churches, UBF or otherwise, is really important to the unity we all profess in Christ.

    • Darren Gruett

      Brian, would you clarify your statement, “Love is not obedience”? I know that those two terms are typically made equal in UBF, mostly because of Jesus’ words in John 14:15. I assume that what you mean is obedience to some person, e.g., a shepherd; or perhaps the church at large; and that to challenge that authority is tantamount to not showing love. Is that what you mean?

    • Sure, Darren. In John 14:15 Jesus said “If you love me, keep my commands.”  But Jesus continued in the next verses to explain what love is: “16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16,17 NIV)

      God is love. When He lives in us and we in Him, we experience love. We have a living hope.

      Jesus said later in verses 23 and 24: “23 Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

      Love and obedience to Jesus’ teaching are tied together. They go hand-in-hand, but they are not the same thing. 

      I had a discussion with a Korean UBF leader on Facebook several weeks ago about this topic.  After we both agreed that love is the highest virtue (based on Apostle Paul’s writings), he then quoted the verses you mention from John. His conclusion to his circular argument was that we just have to accept the mystery of Christ.

      That’s where I disagree. The bond between love and obedience is not a mystery. The Holy Spirit (whom Jesus mentioned in those John verses) teaches us the difference.  In the great “love is..” chapter (1 Corinthians 13), obedience is not mentioned.  In fact, immediately after chapter 13, Apostle Paul writes: “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1)

    • I think this author describes what I mean: “Love is not obedience, conformity, or submission. It is a counterfeit love that is contingent upon authority, punishment, or reward. True love is respect and admiration, compassion and kindness, freely given by a healthy, unafraid human being.”

    • Darren,

      Here is one more thought: If we love Jesus, we will obey Him. 

      If we obey Jesus, does that mean we love Him?  Not necessarily. Converse logic is not necessarily true. We can obey without love, as in, obedience out of duty or obedience out of loyalty.

      The converse of a statement is formed by switching the hypothesis and the conclusion. The converse of “if p , then q ” is “if q , then p .”  Some converse statements are true, but some are false.

      For example, the converse of “All tigers are mammals” is “All mammals are tigers.” This is certainly not true.

      I am fully convinced that God and Scripture do not violate laws of logic.

    • Darren Gruett

      I agree with you concerning that last point. The Pharisees were outwardly obedient to the law, but they certainly did not love God or Christ. The women who met Jesus after His resurrection went and reported it to His disciples because they loved Him and because He told them to do it.
      On a completely unrelated topic, is there any way to make the font in the comments box larger? Every time I enter in anything I have to zoom my browser.

    • I don’t know, but I will ask Mary J., our Google-professional web designer :) I also noticed that the font is very small when you start typing a new comment.

    • The font in the “new comment box” is bigger now!  Thank you Mary J! 

    • Darren Gruett

      Thanks, Mary and Brian, for making the change to the comment box. I can actually see what I am writing. :)

  59. Or is what I’m talking about more properly called a selection bias? Who knows. Actually, Joe knows.

  60. Here are my thoughts on the value of this website. For me, the topics here did not encourage me to leave.  I do agree with David L’s comments: this website is serving as a “last stop” right now.  To me that is an important work of the Spirit at this time. I personally do not want to persuade anyone to leave UBF or to stay in UBF.  I only want to persuade many to think for themselves and make their own decision based on the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit.

    I think the name for this website is God’s inspiration. As an admin, I had to take care of some technical aspects of the site, but I was not friendly toward UBF at times.  Yet I had to type u – be – friends…over and over.  This helped me to be friendly to UBF again :)

    I don’t see this site ever becoming obsolete. A key part of Christian life is open dialogue and that’s a big purpose of this site.  Never before in the past 50 years of UBF history has this kind of thing happened. 

    I’m glad the old Voy forum shut down. That site was causing me headaches!  Sometimes though I wish that site would open up again so that I could apologize for being “Baghdad Brian” :))

    One purpose I have in my leaving (taking 6 months to leave…) is that I may open many dialogues and open a door for others to leave UBF (if prompted by the Spirit) in a less traumatic and painful way.  In America though, we really should not have to give any reason for leaving. We are free to leave just because we don’t want to attend anymore. 

    UBF people should be happy that I left because their stated purpose is to raise disciples of Jesus. That is what I am.  But some are sad because they want me to be a disciple of UBF.

  61. Hey Brian, they are still online, they just moved from voy. If you click on that link in your post you can follow where they went

    • Thanks David. I’ve been checking that Live Journal site every month or so.  There is not much public activity. Joe C, etc. decided to make a private discussion site.  I would much rather discuss things in public.

  62. Has there been a greater number of people, high profile and otherwise, leaving UBF recently?

    • David, I don’t think so, but I may not know everything (imagine that…!)  I see a lot of low moral and “under the covers” pain, but not really a mass exodus from UBF.  Many seem to be waiting to see what the new General Director can and will do (not sure what he can do, but he has the right mindset).

      I know there were three or four families in India UBF who left earlier this year. Since April of this year, 33 people have left Toledo UBF. Two Korean families left for pioneering efforts and are still in UBF, but I’m convinced they simply did not want to speak up and make enemies.  The Korean way seems to be to pioneer and “do your own thing”.  That was the advice one senior Korean pioneer gave me.  I couldn’t live like that personally.

    • David, in answer to your question, there are quite a few longstanding ubf members who have left recently. These are people who have been committed to the ministry for ten years or more. Besides the families in India that Brian mentioned, this year alone we had families leaving from Urbana-Champaign, northern Virginia, Tempe, Sacramento, not to mention those from Toledo and Detroit. They were not trying to stir up controversy and division. They had concerns that were not being addressed.

    • Joe,
      How have the UBF higher ups interpreted this UBF exodus?  

    • Gerardo, I know you asked Joe, but I can tell you some responses I received.

      One very high-up person said she feels there is nothing she can do about things because she has no authority anymore among Korean leadership.  

      Another elder called me and said he was going to push for a reconciliation board to be formed in Chicago (I told him reconciliation is not an exception from ministry but is the ministry, since Apostle Paul talked about the ministry of reconciliation and the ministry of the Spirit, not only about the ministry of God’s word.)

      An American elder told me in email that he does not have time to deal with conflict issues because he has to get back to serving Jesus.

      A high up director told me he does not have time to discuss so many issues, but would be willing to meet me in a private meeting with a few other people for repentance. He began quoting Scripture like John 6:66-68 and 1 Timothy 1:1-10 at various times as I left.

    • Yikes… Sorry to hear that Brian. I really do not like it when people take scripture passagess out of context to try and guilt people. Especially when you equate leaving UBF for another orthodox Christian denomination with abandoning Jesus. It seems there is an implicit assumption there among those who do this that UBF is the only true and committed Christian ministry. That definitely seems to be a big stumbling block for many of the UBFers I have encountered. It prevents the ministry from seeing itself as anything other than what its original mission was. 

    • Gerardo, in my experience, when people leave ubf, it is never discussed openly. People whisper about it to one another, coming up with their own explanations that invariably assign 100% of the blame to those who left and 0% to ubf. This is a very immature way to deal with it. This is a huge area where our ministry needs to improve.

  63. Darren Gruett

    Gerardo, you are right in saying that there are people who equate leaving UBF as being the same thing as leaving the faith. I have attended a number of different churches throughout my life, and I never remember seeing that same attitude expressed by the people in any of them. It is a strange phenomenon that seems to happen a lot in UBF. Please pray for us.

  64. Darren Gruett

    I also wanted to respond to the remarks made by Joe and Brian. First, of all, the only news I have heard about anybody leaving UBF has been through this web site. That bothers me somewhat. I do not expect there to be an announcement made on Sunday morning about it, but I am a fellowship leader, in Chicago, and no one has even brought this up as a prayer topic in any of our meetings. I would think that there would at least be some concern about this.
    Second, I am really surprised by some of the responses that Brian received about this. One person has no authority anymore among Korean leadership? I am not sure how to interpret that, but it certainly does not sound positive. I think what is most bothersome are the responses by those who say they do not have time to deal with conflicts. As Brian pointed out, the whole point of the gospel is to bring reconciliation. And most of Paul’s epistles were because of conflicts and problems in the various churches, and even when he was in prison he took the time to pen those because it was so important.

    • Darren, thank you for the reminder about Paul writing most epistles from prison.

      So far since April of this year, I have taken almost 5 full days off work (without pay) to address these issues, driven to Toledo three times, engaged in over 500 email conversations and spent countless hours blogging, reading and praying, as well as driving 3 hours per day 100 miles to work.  Oh and I listen to a LOT of music these days…

  65. Hi Darren,

    It is indeed strange that members of UBF would react so strongly against anyone who leaves, even to the point of accusing them of betraying Christ. I could say a lot about this, but I will quote from Scott Moreau’s contribution to the book chapter on UBF that we co-authored in 2009, published by the Evangelical Missiological Society (EMS):

    “One area in which [UBF’s] collective orientation is most clearly seen [is] in the way straing members are disciplined. Typically collectivists use shame (including shunning) against those who have strayed. For example, members of UBF seldom say of a person, “He left the ministrty.” Rather, they usually say, “He ran away.” Because the mission is so central to the relationship, once a member “runs away” from mission (or even from God), the relationship ends abruptly. This works well in Korea, where a person’s sense of honor and face comes from how their in-group members treat them. They will go to great lengths to be seen as honorable by the members of their in-group, and it is almost unbearable to them to think that they are being rejected or shamed by the collective. In traditional collective societies, they have no where else to turn…
    “In individualistic cultures, however, shame is more often a personal construct framed in light of a person’s internal justification of actions. Further, being rejected by one group, a person will simply find a different group to join. Thus, shaming and shunning methods that would be more likely to woo Koreans will have the opposite effect on Americans. Further, Americans who have thus been shamed will be far more likely to become vocal enemies of their former group.”

    • Darren Gruett

      Thanks for sharing that; it explains a lot. I remember hearing Dr. Moreau speak about contextualization a while back, and it was one of the better lectures that UBF presented. I did not know that you helped co-author part of a book with him. It is interesting how even little (or maybe not so little) cultural nuances like this end up influencing styles of ministry and discipleship.

  66. Darren, I emailed the book chapter to you.  If anyone else is interested in seeing a copy, just let me know —

  67. Not wanting to deal with indigenous leaders leaving UBF is like ignoring a bomb, and praying that it will not explode. Sorry, if this is a bad analogy.
    At least 5 years ago, I have been saying/warning that I was not the only one who “thought this way.” I was primarily addressing an extremely unhealthy authoritarianism under the guise of “spiritual authority” that has existed unchecked for way too long–5 decades! No one would listen then. Thank God that now things might be gradually changing, by the grace of God, and by the prayers and efforts and guts of those who stick their necks out and speak up.
    Only let us do so with fear and trembling, and with humility and tears, with no airs of righteousness about doing so, since we are also horrible sinners before God and man.

    • Darren Gruett

      That is a very good analogy. Ignoring a problem does not make it go away, and fixing a problem is not about fixing blame on someone. I think that some people have a hard time differentiating between the two, thinking that if we acknowledge a problem that it means that “someone” is at fault for it.
      And I like your last sentence a lot. I was thinking yesterday about how easy it is to look at the wrongs committed by others; but if someone were to write a biography of my life at this moment it surely would not paint a very good picture of what it means to be a Christian. Thanks for that timely, humble reminder.

    • Ben and Darren,

      You bring up some key points. My issue with Toledo UBF is not about anything that was done to me. Let’s dismiss any notion that I am wounded or disgruntled or sorrowful or a victim. Nothing bad was done to me. No moral issue exists in Toledo UBF (as far as I know). Yet 33 people have left, counting women, men and children. Why? I don’t know exactly and I don’t want to spread gossip. But Toledo UBF is a closed group. No one outside the ministry will know the facts.

      All I wanted to do back in April was find out why Toledo coworkers were so depressed and apathetic to the ministry. So I sent a 50/50 conference report (50% negative observations worded to initiate a conversation and not to attack anyone, and 50% positive observations to show I didn’t think everything was hopeless)

      I haven’t been in Toledo UBF since 2003, so I wanted to find out what was causing several Toledo UBF coworkers, who are my dear friends, to confide in me during conference times the past 8 years. Their outcry was getting louder and louder and I felt someone had to “take the fall” to find out why.

      I was told on the phone that such things were “none of my business”. I was told that I was Director of Detroit UBF and that I could do whatever I wanted in Detroit, but had no right to speak about Toledo UBF (even though I sacrificed 16 years in Toledo UBF and was a fellowship leader there).

      That sparked a “holy war” that led to my leaving UBF entirely.

    • Thanks, Darren, It seems to be quite obvious that blaming others is virtually never ever an attitude for any Christian to take. When we blame others, it is judging them. It is also really not realizing or applying the gospel: “We sin, God paid the price.” How do we reenact the gospel when someone “runs away”?
      1) Never ever say that anyone “ran away!”
      2) Never ever blame them.
      3) Never ever gossip about them or slander them behind their back.
      4) Never ever “guilt” them for leaving.
      5) Take personal responsibility for our part in their departure. Usually it is because we failed to meaningfully trust them and respect them, I think.
      6) Truly bless them with all our heart.

  68. Admin, this site is asking me by email to approve posts. I don’t think that’s supposed to happen, and I don’t know how to do it anyway! Thanks

  69. Hi Brian, So sorry about the “none of your business” response. It is really quite sad and unfortunate, since we ARE members of the same church family under the headship of Christ (Eph 5:23, 4:15). At best it is defensive and dismissive. At worst it reeks of an untouchable elitism, wounded pride, and an utterly false sense of spiritual superiority.
    It is like a son expressing love and concern to his mom and dad about problems they are having among themselves, and the dad says, “That’s none of your business.”

  70. When people leave, it is surely primarily because the friendship is broken or weak, or some trust and respect was violated in some major way. No one would leave a church where they regard their leader as their trusted and respected friend, whom they can count on, I don’t think.

    Also, I’m wondering if we might be implicitely creating a kind of elitist mindset or culture? Is it healthy and “Christianly” to elevate to an elite class some people who have spiritual or academic achievements: long tenure, faithful/committed for many years, raised many disciples, established many Christian families, sent out many missionaries, “pioneered” a country, city, chapter, getting a Ph.D, MD, becoming a lawyer, etc?

    Aren’t we becoming like the world, if we do not truly treasure and value the weak, the lame, and the blind whom the world basically despises?

    • Darren Gruett

      Ben, I think you are right in that there is somewhat of an elitist mindset toward certain individuals based on all the factors you have mentioned. I have seen people lauded because they kept daily bread every day, or wrote a five page testimony every week for the past ten years, or whatever. Those things might be good, but if they become the measure of one’s faithfulness to Christ, then I beg to differ.
      Another thing that did not use to bother me as much as it does now is the strong emphasis on the difference between a shepherd and a missionary. I have seen leaders address someone and start to call them, “Shepherd so and so, uh, I mean missionary so and so,” placing undo stress on the title. This is not to denigrate those who serve as missionaries, but we should not be creating a class of people either.

    • David Bychkov

      one thing I really don’t like is repanting of not writing testimonies or db or this stuff more then in actual sins. and they really become kind of indicators of spiritual life. 

    • David, you just expressed something that has been in the back of my mind since coming to Detroit. Sometime around 2009 or so, I felt like there was nothing more for me to repent of, nothing more for me to do in my Christian life. Yes I could always repent of not fishing, or repent by writing longer daily breads. My Christian life reached a point that year of being fake and so impersonal. I felt like I was so dead inside. What is more, I was working in a depressing steel plant in Detroit. Nothing gave me joy. I even stopped scraping the steel dust off the coffee before drinking it.

    • Darren Gruett

      I have to say something in response to David’s comment. I go to our leader’s meeting on Monday night because I am a fellowship leader. Now, I do not write out a weekly testimony. There are a variety of reasons for this, but suffice it to say that it is not something that I find to be beneficial for me. Still, I have things I need to talk about and share, especially my struggles with sin. So, I was going to share one night, but another leader told me, “At this meeting, we write and then share.” That was months ago, and I decided that if they were more concerned about a piece of paper than a person than I would not share at all. And I have not shared since. Only recently have I decided to try it again, so we will see what happens. It is interesting that this should come up, because last night at a group study that I lead we were looking at Matthew 15, commands of God versus traditions of men.

    • David Bychkov

      I liked db and testimonies. Though Recently I start to felt that I need to opposite the strong emphasize on testimonies and db, if they are evaluated as laws and some things which have selfworth, even if they don’t really helpful. If they are just suggested – it’s ok with them.

  71. Hey, Brian, Admin, What about re-instituting the most commented articles, which was on this site before? This post is getting close to 200 comments!!

    • Hey Ben, I’ll see if I can appease your “comment-envy” :)  I think when we got slammed by a rogue virus script we didn’t get all the widgets back.  

  72. By the way, we just hit 2,400 comments on ubfriends!  I think people are interested in discussing these things…

  73. I understand that testimony writing was a power source of UBF history. But whenever something becomes a religious tradition, it can quite easily become habitual, formal and dry. For any leader to be upset with someone because they refuse to write a testimony, but just wish to share orally and extemporaneously is actually quite ridiculous at best, and blindly legalistic and Pharisee-like at worst.

    Once I said to a group of older UBF leaders that a Christian can grow spiritually to maturity without writing testimony. It was not at all a welcomed statement. But I stand by my statement because it is true. Most spiritual giants in Christian history, dead or contemporary, do not write testimonies.

    I have written testimonies weekly for 27 years until 2008. I’ve decided not to write another testimony for the rest of my life! not because I’m anti-testimony writing. In fact, I probably write more now than before, blogging my Bible study and reflections, sometimes daily.

    The major reason I no longer write testimonies is because I find the time spent reading the Bible or studying theology to draw me closer to Jesus than writing testimonies, the application of which often may seem (but not always) repetitive or legalistic or predictable or recycled. I get so much more out of reading or listening to sermons than I do from writing testimonies or listening to testimonies. Today, I honestly would much prefer someone talk to me, rather than read to me!

    • I hear ya Ben, in fact, whenever I told Christian people that I used to write my testimony each week, they said. “Why would you write the story of your conversion every week?” I then had to explain what a testimony is in the context of UBF…basically in my experience, just a regurgitation of last week’s sermon with a few self-depricating details about how I need to pray more for 10,000 bible teachers to be raised up and how I struggle to feed threeeee one to oooonnes. I knew that this was always enough to rise up within the ranks of the friday night meeting

    • Darren Gruett

      Ben, those are exactly the same reasons I do not write “testimonies.” I spend most evenings reading the Scripture, theology, and commentaries and sermons from noted expositors, past and present. Also, I did write them for about ten years, which I think was more than enough time to determine whether it was effective or not. The sad thing is that in all that time I was never able to be truly honest about the real sins in my life. The result was that instead of being able to confess that I was having an immoral relationship with someone, I was confessing that I lacked a “shepherd heart” for students at the campus.
      Some of that was my own fault–confession is never an easy thing to do–but not all of it. I can remember times when I was honest about something, and I was rebuked for it. One time I confessed my struggle in attending our testimony sharing meetings because I thought they were boring, and afterward my shepherd rebuked me for saying that. So what is the point of being honest if it is received that way? And then this whole thing with our Monday leader’s meeting made me think that they are more concerned about me writing than they are about me as a person. Like I said, I am going to try sharing again, without writing, but I will see what happens.
      Also, like yourself, I do write a lot. Part of that is through things like this web site. It may not be a formal, written document; but it is honest, thoughtful reflection on God, myself, and what He is doing.

    • Ben, sometimes I wonder how UBF leaders put up with you :)  In any case, your comment above is awesome. It reminds me of something that happened at my first Bible study at Grace.

      The verse about rebuking came up in the discussion at my table. The facilitator said he was at a loss for an example of rebuking, because he didn’t do it a lot and didn’t know anyone who did. Without thinking, I just burst out laughing. It was an awkward moment when the whole table stared back at me in silence!  I told them that in my old church, rebuking was done on a daily basis. I gave some examples, such as being rebuked for not writing a weekly testimony. The guy next to me immediately said, “your old church has a legalism problem.”

      By the way, I stopped writing testimonies 8 years ago. I write WAY more now through email and blogging, and love it. 

    • I hear what all of you are saying. Testimony writing should not be a legalistic barometer of our spiritual development nor a replacement of an authentic personal relationship with God and with others in community.
      Nevertheless, my most recent spiritual breakthrough in my personal life came about through a marathon testimony writing session. It seems that the Lord still chose to use what had been so dry and lifeless to create and renew my spiritual life.
      A pastor friend counseled me against the spiritual pendulum of going from one extreme to another with the wise words: “Sometimes spiritual growth comes not from stopping old things and doing new things, but from doing the same things in a different way.”
      I feel the above comment applies to my own experience when it comes to testimony writing. And I hope we can avoid extremes in our Christian journey which in my observation is more often a response to personal relational baggage than it is with “testimony writing” or some other discipline/tradition in our Christian experience.

    • JohnY, thanks for reminding us. Balance is a key part of Christian life. My mother-in-law mentioned this as we discussed things this summer. If you take the weights off a scale, it may crash the other way.

      God’s word through Solomon is quite appropriate: “15 In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: a righteous man perishing in his righteousness, and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.  16 Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise– why destroy yourself?  17 Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool– why die before your time?  18 It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.  19 Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful than ten rulers in a city.  20 There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.  21 Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you–  22 for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.”  Ecclesiastes 7:15-22

  74. Brian, they MUST put up with Dr. Ben because they don’t have a choice…he’s Holy Dirty Harry

  75. Yeah, I never did feel the whole testimony thing. I often tried to write but couldn’t come up with anything. I really only write when I feel the holy spirit compelling me to write. Those were the best testimonies I’ve ever written. They were not a burden to write, were free of the “I’m-a-sinner-and-need-to-repent-of-this-this-and-that-for-the-sake-of-repenting-of-this-this-and-that” and glorified God. Writing a testimony can he helpful, but it’s not the only way to grow in relationship with Christ. It shouldn’t be forced and one shouldn’t be guilted for not doing one. Geez.

    • Oscar, your words are evidence of a maturing faith. I attended the Kid’s Stuf program this week at our church and realized one way to summarize the problems I see in UBF.  There is much immaturity in UBF. Even elementary children understand the need to explore, to discover and to be creative. Demanding everyone to write the same style of testimony week after week, and to share in the same style, is quite immature. Making people feel guilty for not conforming is also rather childish. Bible students are people who need to grow intellectually, spiritually, physically and emotionally! We are not Borgs…

    • Darren Gruett

      Yes, the Holy Spirit must work in a person for reflective (“testimony”) writing to be useful, and I firmly believe that people should write and share based on the passages that move them the most.

    • David Bychkov

      Darren, how do you lead your fellowship without testimonies? I just curios.

    • Darren Gruett

      David, the simple answer to your question is that I never equated being a leader with “testimony” writing/sharing. I have never rebuked anyone for not writing, since it is not a sin. However, I always encourage them to spend personal time in God’s Word every day and to be reflective about it. In fact, this summer we did “Through the Bible in 90 Days” as a way to get everyone reading the Scripture on their own.
      For lack of a better word, my approach to leadership has been incarnational. We spend time after church on Sundays having lunch together just talking and catching up and visiting, without a bunch of formalities. We are more like a family now, and I always emphasize this. I also try to spend time with them outside of church meetings by going to the movies with them, going out to watch a game together, or something like that. In this way I have built real friendships with them, hopefully modeled after the way Jesus built friendships with his disciples.
      We do not share testimonies, but when they have a struggle or even when they have sinned in a big way, those who are mature are very willing to come and tell me. That is far more valuable than having them write some half-sincere reflection just because they are told to do so.

    • David Bychkov

      Thanks for sharing, Darren. Sounds really encouraging.

  76. Darren, what campus are you out of? If I wasn’t considering leaving I’d come check out your fellowship.

  77. Is it only me, or does UBFriends seem like it has turned into a website for UBF bashing? The place seems to get a surge of activity whenever someone talks about how terrible UBF is for X… how UBF is so bad at Y… Maybe that is a good thing.

    I mean, it has been going on here and there since I started following this website and it didnt seem like much of an issue. But from my semi outsider perspective, it is starting to look a bit ugly.

    • Gerardo, UBF has an ugly side. Until UBF leaders address it (or even acknowledge it), the ugliness will surface repeatedly. If not here, then somewhere else. It already surfaced on Facebook several times.

      Also, as long as I am an admin of this site, I will allow the open discussion about UBF to go on. And I will allow it to get as ugly or as nice as people make it. 

    • Brian, great point. I never said you should moderate the comments. Just commenting how this website seems to have been taken over by many negative UBF sentiments. My emphasis is on taken over since the critiques have always been here and didnt seem like too much of a problem. But again, I am a semi outsider so I have never been spurned nor do I know just how deep the problems with UBF are. 

    • No problem, Gerardo. You are correct in your observation; we have gone into UBF-bashing lately. However, the queue of articles is filled with more of the same.  

      So if someone wants to submit a non-UBF-bashing article, we will gladly publish it. If someone already submitted such an article, please leave me a note by email or on my website contact form.

      Also, we have a forum in beta stage that we probably should revisit, so that these kinds of discussions can be done on the forum, freeing up ubfriends for its original purpose. 

    • Darren Gruett

      Gerardo, I am glad for your outsider perspective on these things. Some of the people on here are outsiders in the sense that they were once part of UBF but no more, whereas you were never part of it (as far as I can tell). So you bring a point of view that is good for all of us.
      It is true that some of the things discussed out here are negative toward UBF, but I should add that it is not nearly as vitriolic as some other sites. At least the conversation out here is civil, even if what is being discussed is ugly. And for many of us, whether we are still in UBF or have left, this is one of the few places where we can talk openly and honestly about these things.

    • Thank you Daren and Garret. I really have not seen the other websites. And it is civil discussion.  

  78. Hi Gerardo, The “negative” tone and “bashing” you astutely observed is quite true and it might even continue to escalate. Why? Most possibly because of pent up and built up frustration over the years when the issues raised and discussed here were in the past simply dismissed, suppressed, ignored, trivialized, over and over again, in countless ways, and with a multitude of curt and hurtful statements being thrown in, such as, “that’s none of your business,” or “I have no time to discuss such things with you, because I am too busy serving God,” etc, etc, etc.

  79. Oops. I submitted this comment on the wrong article. I’m repeating my recent comment:
    I would have to agree with Gerardo R. The tone of the discussion recently has taken a turn toward what I would consider honest but unedifying online conversation, as important as some of these issues are. I personally don’t think commenting back and forth on an online forum is going to lead to lasting healing and reconciliation. If anything, I think it only hardens the bitterness. At best, it provides some cathartic support to those who have not had a chance to express what they have been going through. But that is what a local church is for, in my opinion.
    Can we at least talk about mutually encouraging topics that we can all rally around as true UBF friends (whether we are ex-UBFers, about to be ex-UBFers, or hard-core UBFers or trans-UBFers)? Some of the important issues you all bring up are things that will take time to resolve and please do not think it is up to you to try to bring them to light or that no one else cares enough to address them. There are UBF people out there who do care and who do want to address them and are actively praying for ways to bring about necessary healing and reconciliation. Snarky comments here and there do not contribute to a “friendly” environment for all sides, particularly a site that was originally intended to bring people together, and not harden the battle lines.
    This is not meant to silence any of the relentless critics of UBF because generally most of the time I sympathize with their critiques–even if I react against the occasional bitterness in how these critiques are leveled against UBF or particular UBF “offenders.” I just make a honest plea for a UBFriends community-wide “fast” on negative stuff for a while and focus on issues we can mutually encourage each other about.
    Then this website can start to feel like a forum of true “friendship” rather than the current sentiment that this is becoming a forum only for ex-UBFers to continue leveling their frustrations and unresolved relational angst toward other members in UBF.
    I guess as Brian said, I should just step and submit an article to change the tone of discussion. Ok, I will then. Stay tuned.

    • Here is the thing though, some of the issues within UBF are so contraindicated to the Biblical Gospel that if they are not addressed, I fear that the ministry would continue to devolve into more and more cultish and abusive behavior. The dirty laundry MUST be aired out or it will moulder and fester and corrupt God’s Children, if that happens it is better for the ones responsible to tie a millstone around their neck and throw themselves into the sea. Is it bitter of me to say these things? I think not! I personally know a man who was told by a pastor in UBF that he needed to be circumcised!!!! Has the pastor ever read Galatians!? Is this the practice of a Christian ministry? Is a church that practices that kind of judaizing legalism in severe danger of having it’s lamp post removed? I think so! I only pray and hope that change continues to happen in UBF, but in order for that change to take place everyone needs to live in the light of absolute honesty and openness! I Thank God for the people here being honest about what needs to change.

    • Then let’s start out by talking about the beauty of the Gospel rather than the “ugliness” of something in UBF so that I don’t have to keep constantly pointing out in no certain terms the “ugliness” of the ways negative commenting seem to contraindicate the practice of the Biblical Gospel. Instead, David L, share me stories in your personal life in which you have seen the beauty of the Gospel turn dirty laundry into clothes white as snow. I’m thirsty for it. Share with me comments in which you’ve seen Gospel lead to beautiful reconciliation in your life or in other lives of others in your church. I’m hungry for that. Share with me new insights you have learned from the Lord about different facets of the beautiful Gospel of Christ. I’m aching for that. That is the kind of absolute honesty and openness I’m longing for at this point of my life.
      Waking up each morning to my google reader and constantly reading unedifying UBF comments is simply starting to wear on my soul. That is all I ask, David L, as someone who wants to be your UBFriend.

    • Admin note:  John, since you meant to put your comment here, I removed it from the other article, so that we don’t end up with two threads.

    • John, you’ve identified something that every UBF member has to answer, even if all the websites on the internet suddenly said only good things about UBF:

      Can you wake you wake up each morning and live with the ugly side of your organization?

      If you (or others) submit non-UBF articles, we (Joe or I) will gladly publish the articles. The comments here are not from people who “just can’t let go”. Nor are they from people who are just complainers talking about nit-picky issues. The comments are cutting to the heart of some key issues that UBF leaders have refused to even acknowledge, let alone start to resolve. 

      We’ve attained a rather large world-wide readership here. Some of those “silent readers” are people who can make a change in UBF. They need to hear these things and realize the ugliness won’t go away anytime soon. They also need to realize they don’t have to fear the ugliness.

  80. Dear Brian and David L. you can know a good tree by the fruit it bears. Many of us in UBF have met Christ in this ministry, for this reason we became missionaries or shepherds or prayer servants. I agree with John Y. We need to edify each other. Yes there were bad things that happened in UBF. For this we need prayer and God’s help. I remember reading a comment that David L. wrote about this one girl who Dr. Lee help to lose weight so that she can marry a man of God. How she was humiliated before people. Also David wondered if that girl was still in UBF. Well David that girl was me and I am still in UBF going on to my 30th year on April 2012. I thank God for Dr. Lee. I know he was not perfect. But to me he was like a father. I love Dr. Lee. When we can love and respect others in Christ then all people will know that we are his people. I respect and love you both. I remember David when you were in one Christmas drama and one of your parent recently died how much I cried for you and prayed for you. How much we supported you. Yes in a family there are good and bad things that happens. So we need to forgive each other. When we just talk negatively I don’t think it pleases God. 

    • Maria, 

      As you point out, some things in UBF are valid. Other things in UBF, such as those pointed out here and elsewhere, are not valid. 

      I too found salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord at a UBF conference. Does that mean my conscience and my life are now bound to UBF for life? Does that mean UBF saved me? God’s ways are far above our ways. God did not save me through UBF. God saved me in spite of UBF. Nearly every pastor outside of UBF concedes this point: our works and programs at church are nothing. God is everything and God alone saves our soul and redeems our life.

      As you point out, you and others in UBF have indeed done much good and cared for people. Does this care negate the facts of UBF leaders mistreatment of hundreds of people? Does this “family” require that I am eternally in debt to them? Should no one ever speak up for those who were not strong enough to “boldly advance the kindgom of God” and fell into depression?

      You concluded by saying “When we just talk negatively  I don’t think it pleases God.” I would agree. But God is also not pleased when we do not speak the truth based on facts or when we only speak flattering, positive words (Solomon has something to say about that..)

      The fact is, this blog has both positive and negative talk, so we are not “just talking negatively”. I think some of us are just trying to balance out the UBF websites which do indeed ONLY talk positively about UBF.

      For example, was it edifying for the Great Lakes region to submit a report to HQ UBF that states the following?  “We all sensed a growing love, spirit of joy, and collaboration among us. We then enjoyed a most delicious lunch at a local Japanese sushi buffet.”  They suddenly have such collaboration! They have such love! They have such joy! They had such great sushi! Wow, you wouldn’t even know that they lost a chapter (Detroit). You wouldn’t even guess that a member of their new leadership council just left UBF. You wouldn’t know that 38 members of one chapter in the Great Lakes region just left UBF with numerous issues, the main issue being a stubborn arrogance of the chapter leader. (

      My one question for all of us is this: Is it possible to leave UBF in a healthy, God-glorifying way? 

  81. I asked a similar question the other day, and someone told me they’ve seen people leave amicably. Is that the same as God-glorifying? As I’ve mentioned before, I’m thinking about leaving. I’d like to leave in a God-glorifying way; maybe even get to address the ministry about me leaving and get a blessing before I’m sent on my way. Yeah, recently things have been negative, but sometimes it helps to get things off our chest, and sometimes through that we can address things we didn’t even think of. Recently left UBF posted something about marriage the other day. I’m still waiting to see an article about marriage, maybe through his comments opening the door we can talk about it.

    • Oscar, yes an “amicable” leaving is different from a “God-glorifying” leaving. My leaving was neither.  To be amicable means to be “characterized by friendly goodwill:peaceable”. That is possible, but rare, in people’s leaving UBF.

      God-glorifying means (in my mind) that both parties praise and thank God for each other, and bless each other in joy. It would be like pastor Bryan asked me: Did UBF throw you a party when you left?

      In my knowledge, that has never happened in UBF history (maybe once or twice?).

      Personally, my feelings toward UBF are like Thomas Jefferson’s feelings toward Britain and King George III:

      “Believe me, dear Sir: there is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do. But, by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose; and in this, I think I speak the sentiments of America.
      —Thomas Jefferson, November 29, 1775

      Apart from Korean missionaries, was there anyone who loved UBF more than I? Was there anyone who defended UBF more than I? Was there anyone who sacrificed more to UBF causes than I did? …well ok, besides JoeS and BenT :)

  82. Ok John, UBF is a place where I met many wonderful and godly friends, came to Christ, and felt loved most of the time. I thank God for that.

    • Thanks dude. I’ll accept that. Appreciate it. But it doesn’t have to be something grudgingly positive about UBF. That was not my intention. Aren’t you learning something positive at your current church? Let’s start sharing some of that.

    • Darren Gruett

      I am glad to know you, David. I have always believed since I first met you that you are a true evangelist, someone who genuinely wants to share the gospel with the lost, whoever they are, wherever they are. In fact, I remember one night when we were at Baker’s Square and you started witnessing to the server. I thought to myself, “This guy really wants the whole world to know Jesus.” I hope you never lose your zeal for Christ.

    • Glad to know you too buddy, thats a good thing that came from UBF, all praise to God

  83. Darren Gruett

    Here is a negative comment directed toward myself, or maybe it is my pride. I just noticed as I look back through all my comments how many grammatical mistakes I have made, and being a perfectionist it really bothers me that I cannot go back and edit them. I guess I should not read what I post.

    • Darren, if you (or anyone else) wants a login to this website, just click the register link. We can give you access to edit your comments. 

    • Hey Brian, can I also edit some of my already published posts? I am not going to significantly change the content, theme or flow, but to just make minor edits, because I do refer to them for my own reference.

    • Ben, sure. I just made you an “author”, which you should have been anyways. 

    • Darren Gruett

      Brian, I will go ahead and do that. Like Ben, I do not want to change the content, but I do refer to my comments a lot. Thanks.

    • Darren, since you already are an Author, I thought you should be able to edit your comments. If not, I’ll have to check with our Google expert!

    • Unfortunately, editing comments is a downfall of WordPress, apparently. I’ll get with Mary J. to see what wizardry she can come up with! This is partly why we setup a beta forum; forum software has this feature and many more for active discussions.

    • Darren Gruett

      No problem, Brian. Imperfections are the marks of humanity and the need for a Savior.

    • Or sometimes just a good admin… I corrected the email address in the console for your account. If the email address in the console matches what you use to post comments, you should be able to edit your own comments since you are at the Author level.

  84. Brian, you asked the question “Is it possible to leave UBF in a positive and healthy, God glorifying way?” My answer is yes. I saw it in Kyiv UBF. When one family left and several brothers we had a special service and thanked them. They gave a speech. We thanked them for serving our church. We even had a dinner afterward and we sang to them. It was kind of corny but I was moved. The one family planted a fruitful house church with a different ministry. In our past conference, last weekend several of the brothers that left our ministry attended some of our programs. I was very happy to see them and so were our brothers and sisters in Kyiv center. Yes we have differences and yes we have conflict. But when we forgive each other God helps us. Last year God helped us to plant a new church and God has blessed it beyond our imagination. I can not deny it was a painful transition for our family but God helped us. God saved me not UBF. I know that. It is only the work of the Holy Spirit that can change people even our leaders. Brian, I am glad that there is UBFriends because at the time of our struggles I read many articles that really helped us with our new church plant. I like Mark Yoon’s article on the Sabbath Rest. In fact I used some of his comment in a message I wrote for our service. 


    • Maria, thanks for sharing these events. This is amazing. I’ve never heard this in the past 24 years, and I see no evidence of this kind of thing happening in the past 50 years. Perhaps you could share more about how this parting came about?  It is such a stark contrast to the bitter partings that have ravaged other chapters. Instead of silencing these things, I see it is healthy for all of us to discuss them openly.

    • This is very powerful Maria. Sounds like you have been a faithful daughter of Christ. 

  85. Just wanted to tell you Maria, that you were not the person I was referring to when I was writing about the negative nature of UBF ‘training’. The fact that the same thing happened to you is simply more confirmation that the practice of “weight training” is hurtful, unbiblical and more pervasive than I thought within the ministry…I cannot share the girl’s name whom I am referring to, 1) because she would probably be very embarrassed, and 2) because it is not my place to call her out by name when she did nothing wrong.

    • Dear David, I couldn’t lose weight for 21 years. I was very thankful for the weight-lost training that Dr. Lee gave me. What may seem terrible to others is helpful to some. I didn’t feel hurtful because I knew Dr. Lee’s purpose and intentions for helping me lose weight. God loved his Son the most and he sacrificed him on the cross for us. I agreed to receive weight lost training. I knew others who refused it and didn’t receive it. We have a choice. I never felt I was coerced to do something I didn’t want to do under Dr. Lee. There were other leaders in UBF though that I felt coerced and I don’t think its right. You need not generalize or stereotype all UBF. When my daughter was contemplating about leaving UBF, John and I, told her not all UBF chapter are the same. We took her to our chapter and she is being restored spiritually. Last summer she also spent 6 weeks in Manila UBF under Dr. William Altobar and it has helped her so much. She is teaching the Bible to one University student now and is joyfully serving Jesus in UBF. When I was in the Catholic church before UBF my home church was kind of dry. But in some Catholic church there is active worship and deep Bible study. I read a book in Ukrainian written by one Ukrainian Catholic priest about God’s calling. I was moved by his understanding of the scripture. One of my former Bible student goes to his service and she is actively serving in the Catholic church. I told her I was very proud of her. I love her and we meet over coffee and talk about our different ministry. We are mutually happy for God’s work in our respective ministry. I know first hand about some of the negative things that are happening in UBF. When John and I met with Dr. Abraham T. Kim last week in Kyiv we discussed it with him and prayed about it. I believe God is hearing our prayers. My hope and faith is in God alone!! 


  86. Dear Brian, as I recall the family and brothers that left had a meeting with our leaders. John and I were in one meeting and they discussed the things they didn’t like about our church. Later when they decided to leave they gave us a date for their last Sunday Worship Service and we dedicated it to them. The family that left was very influential and served our church a lot. He even helped us built our new church financially. Our other brothers also served in teaching the Bible and for conferences. We were basically very thankful for them. They occasionally attend some of our weddings, and some special programs and in the same way our members attend their weddings and some of their special programs in their church. Our church members considers them Christians. Even one brother said they are exemplary Christians. We have no hurt feelings over them. In fact when we see each other like in stores or the metro we are mutually glad to meet.

    • Maria, this is good to hear. It sounds very amicable.  I wonder, did anything change in UBF based on what they “didn’t like”?  Did any Korean leader make any changes after they left based on what they said?  I hope so. 

      I could have easily had an amicable parting of ways with UBF. But in my decades of observation, that kind of parting does not bring about change that glorifies or honors God. And worse, amicable partings can do more wrong by covering over sins that the Holy Spirit would want to be brought into the light. If I saw even a hint of godly sorrow in Korean leaders as I left over a span of 6 months, I would have considered staying.

      Those are some major reasons why I am so vocal on my personal blog and email, and to some extent, on this blog. Repentance and change do not happen by polite silence or by friendly distrust or by secret honorable actions, but by people take a stand and call sin to be sin, freedom to be freedom and joy to be joy!

      How many times did we claim to be “SO JOYFUL” or shout chants of Bible verses? Yet everyone knew the pain and suffering we all were feeling. Everyone felt the pain of separation from good friends who left but were unable to deal with it in a healthy way. How many times did we see the “writing on the wall” but sat by silently as a Korean leader dismissed changes and wrote off those who left, erasing them from UBF history?

  87. Andrew Shpagin

    Hi Maria! I am really glad to see you in this discussion! I really appreciate it. But I want to clarify a bit what you are telling probably about our family leaving. As always all looks a bit different from different points of view :) Leaving UBF was actually very painful. All discussions about problems of UBF was very painful. While we was trying to say all in humble way, we was called “communists”, “unholy spirit peoples”, “hamsters”, “Judas” and other… Oh course it was never told directly that Andrew Shpagin is “…” Always – such peoples are “…”. And we left only when we was asked to leave. And it was told far not too kind. Just like “Such peoples should go away”. One brother even was not able to hear all that and gone away from meeting. Next day we told that we are leaving. We was invited on SWS next day to get blessig. We agreed in hope that we will be allowed to tell some speech. But we have not got the chance to speak to peoples (by well understood reasons). Then several shepherds prayed for me and other man. But Peter Kim has not allowed to bless one other shepherd (Daniel, he served a lot wholeheartly too) who was leaving with as. It was told that he is still not worth that. This sounded really shameful. All that looked rather like attempt to make good face before other peoples who remains. Anyway, even if leader was not right this way we was praying with other our friends in UBF and was thankful to each other. Later we participated one marriage of our very good friend.
    We are not keeping anger at all and we are glad meet each other on street. We love peoples in UBF and we have big respect to you and John personally. You made many good deeds for us. And I don’t want to tell that you are telling lie – you are telling how have you felt it and remembered it. We see often what we want to see. Maybe this is the reason why testimonies of ex-UBF peoples are called to be “lie” and “slander” by leaders while they are full of pain and real experience because they was closer to action than obsevers. By some reason you kept in memory “good” things but looks like I kept “bad”. Why? It is told that love covers everything… But love should not cover systematic problems when peoples are suffering if we cover problem. I think that idea “don’t tell negative things othervice peoples will not come to us” is very guilty. You remember that real movement in Kiev UBF started when sh. Vlad repented and confessed sins that was too hard to confess. After that other peoples started to repent and confess because it was really fresh and courageous. Why do you think that open confessing of UBF problems is different? If church peoples has courage to confess ugly problems of organization then newcomers feel that they are really true peoples and God is with them. I was really excited reading Joe’s article about “absolute” things. But looks like preaching Gospel is more important… But from my observation huge problem is that after accepting Gospel peoples are often replacing dependence on obvious sins to dependence on leader. Our painful exit was “lesson” for other who want to open such questions. Nothing in church should not be based on fear of man. We love you and other peoples in UBF but we will never agree with authoritarian principles that are used too often worldwide (not only in UBF)…

    • Andrew, glad to hear your viewpoint of the same event mentioned above. When I examine both the ubf viewpoint and the ex-ubf viewpoint, I see this was really just another polite excommunication process. This is the pattern that upsets me most, and the pattern that must end.

  88. Thanks for sharing, Andrew. I am story for what you experienced. As written multiple times by many people, including yourself, all the negative experiences, I think, can be accounted for by 1 factor: the implicit implementation of a spiritually unhealthy hierarchical and authoritarian culture in UBF, often times perhaps without the leader realizing that they are doing so.
    This is then compounded by some leaders using their position of authority to absolutely not allow any disagreements with the leader to be discussed or addressed, with the unfortunate communication that their word is law, and their decision is final. This really weakens the truth that Christ is the head of the church of UBF.
    This just sadly eventually leads to broken relationships, even after working together for years and decades, such as in India, Toledo and perhaps also in Kiev, as alluded to by what you wrote above. Again, I am sorry. May God have mercy on us.

  89. I am surprised that no one seems shocked about what I wrote a few days ago, that I know a trustworthy man who was physically EXAMINED and then forcibly told to be circumcised by a major pastor in UBF. Is this not shocking because it is relatively common? Or is it not shocking because nothing is shocking anymore when it comes to the ministry? This is the very Gospel at stake! It should cause the entire ministry to come to a screeching halt until the pastor is dealt with, and if there is no repentance for such a heinous request, then the people who care about the Gospel should leave the ministry. Pure and simple. Oh I know, just leave it to David L to bring up negative things about UBF…but my UBFriends, what I am saying is only as harsh as Apostle Paul who wrote Galatians chapter 1! I sincerely hope that the pastor is reading this post! Because I would much rather he be angry with me for a while and then repent, than continue to do such things and face the Judge with that on his conscience!

    • Some ubf people have stopped reading here because I am one of the admins (..and I’m so “poisonous” these days :)  Most are probably numb to such things.

       I personally know a man who was told by a pastor in UBF that he needed to be circumcised!!!! Has the pastor ever read Galatians!? Is this the practice of a Christian ministry? Is a church that practices that kind of judaizing legalism in severe danger of having it’s lamp post removed? I think so! ”

      I agree with your thinking, and no these are not the things a Christian ministry would do. Soon there will be a place to calmly and logically explain all these things. 

    • Andrew Shpagin

      Ben! I agree with every reason you told there – I can’t tell more exactly.
      I tried to analyse why is it possible to have so different view of same actions. I tried to stand itself on the place of Maria. And really – there was 1 or 2 relatively peaceful 1:1 discussion with Peter Kim regarding this question after initial set of explosions, 1 special meeting with leaders (but we was not invited there, only 1 of us was picked, not me). From all this I really may see picture that Maria sees. Among all actions we pick and remember most expressive for us and that don’t contradict to our world view. This is really interesting phenomenon. 
      And as for me all this experience was not only negative – I had good experience how to keep what I really believe. I actually got a lot lot of God’s grace that time among all the pain.

    • He was told to get a circumcision in order to be a good Christian or something to that effect?

    • I do not know all of the justification that was used, perhaps it had to do with “fitting in with Americans!” but even if we ignore the circumcision itself, a PASTOR ASKING A CONGREGANT TO FOLLOW HIM INTO THE BATHROOM AND UNDRESS IS STRAIGHT FROM THE PIT OF HELL. How terrible that is! In my estimation just that one act alone makes that pastor no longer above reproach and thus he should be disqualified from ministry according to the Scriptures.

    • David, I’m wondering what year this happened?  In reality, it doesn’t matter if it was 40 years ago or 1 year ago, but it would help to give some perspective. Thanks.

    • 15 or so years maybe…

    • not sure of exact date

    • David, so then it is safe to say that this ugly incident occurred about 15 to 20 years ago. I was married 17 years ago.  That means while the wonderful and beautiful work of God was going on (my marriage was both wonderful and beautiful), the destructive works of leaders was going on too; leaders who may have had sincere motives but were sincerely un-Scriptural and sincerely wrong. Therefore people like myself (in the past) use this “wonderful work of God” to justify putting up with the “dark sins and mistakes of leaders”. 

      That is exactly what needs to be publicly discussed. That is exactly why leaders in any church need to be held accountable. And I believe that is one reason Apostle Paul wrote: 

      Romans 5:19-6:1-3  “19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.  20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,  21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  

      1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”

  90. Hi Dave, This is not to defend the order to be circumcised, but to explain, according to my understanding, why such things have happened in UBF for half a century.  But in my opinion, such questionable and discretionary practices will probably decrease, or be kept in check, because of increasing public exposure with the internet. In Asian or Confucius influenced cultures (including Korea), which is basically quite authoritarian and hierarchical, such “training” is quite acceptable (though it may not be biblically justifiable).

    “To receive training” has really been part of our UBF church culture, rightly or wrongly. Standard training would be message training, testimony writing/sharing training, so-called marriage training, etc, which is carried out most often according to the particular leader or trainer’s discretion, opinion, assessment, experience, etc.

    Various kinds of ingenious or creative or unique training has also happened, perhaps such as with the order to be circumcised. Likely, the cultural context is different than in Galatians, where circumcision weakens/nullifies the biblical doctrine of justification by adding “works” to it. But in UBF’s cultural context, it was practiced (along with all the other “trainings”) primarily to indicate one’s humility, submission, obedience, faith, commitment, loyalty, etc, but not one’s justified status or standing in Christ. At least, not that I can tell.

    Again, this is not at all to justify or condone what was done, but to explain why it has unfortunately happened, and which might continue to happen in some places.

  91. Dear Andrew, 

    I am sorry to hear what happened to you, that you were asked to leave. I didn’t know what the leader told you, that part I didn’t hear about. John and I only attended the farewell meeting. Nothing was said about the reasons why you left except that there were some disagreements. The meeting that John and I attended was with Stas. Your family has also helped my family a lot as well and we have up-most respect for you and Marina. Yes things that are not right in the ministry should be brought out in the open. We also were very hurt and that is why we went out to pioneered. But we don’t want to put the problems here but to talk with the leaders themselves and pray with them about it. That is what John and I did when P. Abraham T. Kim visited Kyiv. We also had conversation with the very leaders we had problems with. We are praying and putting our trust in God alone. We also want to help our leaders. As mutual sinners we need God’s help and the work of the Holy Spirit. 

    • Andrew Shpagin

      Maria! Thank you for sharing this. Now I understood much better about it. And we really respect you!

    • Darren Gruett

      “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”
      (Psalms 133:1)

  92. David Bychkov

    Hi Andrew!!! Great to see you here and hear from you. Actually I was about to ask you to describe here your point of view on that story, as I know very well  – it was not that bright, but very painful for everyone.
    First of all I want to say sorry. B/c during a long time I was not able to understand you and others at all, and I had no any desire to undestand. I thought you are just wrong and we are just right. That was really immature atittude.
    But let me explain how I saw those events and what was my reaction, as I think one more point of view should be represented here in order to show all the picture. I will try to talk mostly just  from myself, and will add just one or two sentences about missionaries.
    So, I was a young and commited UBF leader. I sincerely gave my life to Christ and wanted to serve him. I came to Christ in UBF from knowing nothing about him before and experienced the genual work of the Holy Spirit in our church, it was so naturally for me to think about Christ, Christianity and about our church, our leaders and our practices almost identically. I had not known any other perspective on Christianity beside what I have been taught in our church. I wanted to grow as Jesus’ servant and be faithful to him, and I was taught that for doing this I need to be loyal and humble, fully submited to leaders,  to be taught and discipled in the way it is doing in UBF. And it was quite naturally for me to think that others also need to share all this values just b/c for me they were equal to true Christianity. So this was what I taught to others and how raised my sheep. 
    So when I heard that discipling should not practised in the way we do it, mission should be secondary to something else, spiritual order should be questioned etc. I just was not able to accept it all. All these was, wrongly or correctly, the very core of my christinity. When you asked what I think on one or another metter – this very question was for me as blasphemy, as for me even to ask these questions was violation of the spiritual order, so unfaithfulness. When I heard something bad our church for me it was the same as the blasphemes against the Holy Spirit. So when I had such convictions I felt that I have to stand and defend our church, leaders and practices which I asocciated with work of God in any case. B/c I felt if I will not all my life values will be shaken. I was very sincere in doing this.
    That’s me. But speaking about missionaries, who 1) were used to this kind of thins 2) sacrificed their life to build the church in the way they did 3) fully believed it was nothing but the wirk of God. For them it was quite hard to react in other way.

    Now I undestand your positions well. I know that you and others had quite a few reasons to tell and so what you had. I know that you suffered a lot.  And for it was also hard to act in some other way. And I was happy to have nice talk with oou recently. And as you know I’m in kind of similiar situation. But that time we just was not able to undestand each other, and happen what has happen.
    I can not talk about you and others , but as for me one of the reasons was that kind of just back or white thinking. I saw good things in church, and I denied anything bad. I just was not able to accept that there could be bad and wrong things in church together with good. Now I clear see that it is true and there is nothing unreal in it.

    At the end I want to suggest you to watch Dr. Moreau lecture of contextualization on ubftv in case you had not yet. It is quite helpful for undestandind difference in thinking of european and asian people. It is very interesting.

    • Andrew Shpagin

      Hi David! Thanks for sharing this!

      I looked the lecture. Yes, of course I know cultural difference between Europeans and Koreans. Every country has own cultural features. It is absolutely OK while cultural features may look a bit strange but not harmful. But cultural difference can’t be excuse for authoritarian style of leadership and lack of respect to coworkers because it is part of Christian moral and part of Jesus’s commandments. He clearly told about leadership in Mk 10:43. I seen many times when even missionaries was humiliated. Other cultural feature – spending time together should be well discovered too. If there are endless set of obligatory meetings it may be treated as stealing of time (from family needs and real needs of peoples, from self education and real communication). If someone likes a lot of meeting it should be really optional and participation or not should not influence on relations. Also if someone decided to be missionary then he should understand mentality of other nation and don’t adopt peoples to own mentality. I read today in mission report that “Dr. Samuel Lee ate a Big Mac for lunch every day for eight years in order to Americanize his stomach”. Of course it is joke, but this is difference between real understanding of other nation and surficial bright demonstration. So, as conclusion – we should look at own national habits that may hurt peoples and work actively (not demonstratively) to overcome it. Finally we should get Christ’s set of habits because Bible sets really international set of values. For example Paul was absolutely against converting man->Jew->Christian. We should act in the same way removing extra link in the middle.

  93. I am thankful that this site is able to open up honest communication between Maria, Andrew and David, that perhaps did not or could not happen when they were in the same church together, which is quite unfortunate. I pray that such openness and transparency may continue to promote and love and understanding and healing.
    Dave, Brian, I wish to again say categorically that asking someone to pull down their pants to show their privates, and to ask that he be circumcised, is totally uncalled for as a Christian, not to mention that it is down right rude and embarrassing and humiliating. But our leaders are also sinners, plus their offenses would seem much greater to non-Koreans because of their own unique cultural context. Again, it does not at all justify what they have done, or perhaps might even continue to do. But like us, they too need to be forgiven by God, and even by us.
    Though their cultural expression and quirks might be highly offensive to Americans or even to Ukranias or Indians, etc, I do not believe that what they have done justifies a call for their dismissal. They do not deny the essentials of orthodox Christianity, such as the Trinity or the inerrancy of Scripture or the exclusive salvation through Christ alone.
    What I personally think they need to do is to prayerfully be willing to have ongoing open, transparent dialogue and discussion, which has so far been quite hard for them to truly, genuinely and consistently do, without them feeling that their turf is being rudely encroached upon. That’s the major draw back of such a strongly hierarchical and authoritarian culture, that I think is in violation of Scripture (Mark 10:42-45). It’s a major blind spot that I think the gospel of Christ has yet to deeply and meaningfully penetrate. So we absolutely need much prayer and the unlimited patience and mercy of God.

  94. Ben, your points are valid. I would like to expound on one point: “I do not believe that what they have done justifies a call for their dismissal.”

    Who does “their” refer to? If you mean all Korean leaders, then I would agree with your statement. I do not think all Korean leaders need to be dismissed. Some do however.

    “Dismissal” is not what I’m seeking. I think it is clear in Scripture that all church leaders are to be held accountable before mankind and before God. I am seeking accountability, open discussion and godly sorrow that leads to repentance. I see precious little of any of these from UBF leaders (Korean or native). 

    So my leaving along with several others is primarily an active declaration of freedom and a “going on strike” to force the issue. We have all waited 5 decades. Korean missionaries led 3 reform movements that had little impact.

    I heard the following phrase several times when I was involved heavily in UBF programs (in the 1990’s): The first generation of shepherds and missionaries are part of the “fertilizer” generation. In other words, me and those older than me, are regarded as fertilzer for the Lord by UBF elders. There may be some truth to this, but now I pray that something new may grow in our place, something that truly glorifies God and submits to the Holy Spirit and honors Jesus above UBF. What would that look like?

  95. Hi Brian,
    I think that a primary reason for dismissal of any church leader would be heresy or a denial of biblical orthodoxy or major sin, which I don’t think most of our leaders in UBF would be guilty of.
    That said, I think that it would be highly beneficial to UBF if some of our leaders did step down (doesn’t seem likely at present), so that younger indigenous leaders make truly be empowered and take leadership, which sadly has failed to happen in the U.S. and in multiple other nations after more than 2 decades.
    Until our missionaries understand/embrace/practice Paul’s indigenization policy (Acts 14:23), and William Carey’s Nevus plan and principle of establishing indigenous leaders as soon as possible, UBF will continue to loose good indigenous leaders, such as those who have left over the last few years from India, Toledo, Kyiv, etc, etc.

    • Ben, therein lies the maddening frustration for people like me. I would consider the things you mention to be misuse of authority and grieving the Holy Spirit, and I think the Bible clearly mentions these are major sins. However, such things are not considered by people in UBF as major sins. They are fully accepted and tolerated and even rewarded.

      From the bottom up (view of the sheep), we do see the Biblical heresy. But from the external or top down (view of the leaders), they see nothing wrong. This is primarily because the words of directors sound good. Some of the director’s and shepherd’s actions however, tell a different story. UBF is like a shell that looks so good and does in fact have many good things to offer. But the underside of that shell (seldom seen publicly) is just not acceptable.

      Your points remind me of the final frustration for me: UBF employs the Korean idea of justice. In Korea and other Eastern countries, justice is not concerned with facts or with guilt/innocence. Justice there is concerned with who did the act and to whom the act was done.  Why do we tolerate this justice system in America? 

  96. Dear Brian,

    I am glad that God is ruling this world instead of you or I. I understand your frustration and anger. I was also at that point before we went out to pioneer. This week I studied Genesis 20 with 3 of my Bible students at different times. Yesterday after the 3rd Bible study I realized that what Abraham did with Abimelech was not right. There was a misjustice done on Abraham’s side. Abraham was clearly in the wrong. But God protected Abraham and told Abimelech to return his wife back to him because he is God’s prophet. If I was God I would have fired Abraham. After 25 years of following God he still acted like an unbeliever. God’s grace is that he gives us what we don’t deserve. And God’s mercy is to not give us what we do deserve. Our leaders are not perfect. They are sinners like you and me. They need God’s grace and mercy just like we need it everyday. John and I pray for our UBF leaders every morning regardless of how we feel about them or how they hurt, us and our children. Our petition goes to God. We mentioned all the hurt we and our girls experienced to Abraham T. Kim. How he acts on it as our new general director is between him and God. He needs our prayers.

    • Maria, I too am glad that God is God, and not any of us.

      I will continue my personal, vocal repentance of my UBF arrogance, though not here on ubfriends. I will continue to let the Bible correct my un-Biblical thinking I’ve picked up the past 24 years. I will continue to stand in the gap between reality and UBF perception. And I will continue to be a living rebuke to any UBF leader who lords over sheep.

  97. I have decided to list the Qualifications for an Elder/Overseer here, to examine whether or not a pastor who did what the one I mentioned did should still be qualified for pastoral ministry. Here they are, then we can see how many were broken just by that one heinous act:
    The Qualifications Listed:
    A. Must be a male (1 Tim. 3:1; Titus 1:6)
    B. Must desire the work (1 Tim. 3:1)
    C. Must be above reproach (blameless) (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6)
    D. The husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6)
    E. Have children who believe (Titus 1:6)
    F. Be temperate (vigilant) (1 Tim. 3:2)
    G. Be self-controlled (Titus 1:8)
    H. Be prudent (1 Tim. 3:2)
    I. Be respectable (of good behavior) (1 Tim. 3:2)
    J. Be hospitable (1 Tim. 3:2)
    K. Be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2)
    L. Holding fast to the Word (Titus 1:9)
    M. Be able to exhort and refute (Titus 1:9)
    N. Must have a good reputation with those outside the church (1 Tim.3:7)
    O. Not addicted to wine (1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7)
    P. Manages his household well (1 Tim. 3:4; Titus 1:6)
    Q. Free from the love of money (covetous) (1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7; 1Pet. 5:2)
    R. Gentle (patient) (1 Tim. 3:3)
    S. Not pugnacious (1 Tim. 3:3)
    T. Not a new convert (novice) (1 Tim. 3:6)
    U. Not self-willed (Titus 1:7)
    V. Not quick-tempered (not soon angry) (Titus 1:7)
    W. Loving what is good (lover of good men) (Titus 1:8)
    X. Sensible (sober) (Titus 1:8)
    Y. Just (Titus 1:8)
    Z. Devout (holy) (Titus 1:8) 

    Here in the example I previously gave about the pastor asking his congregant to remove his clothes to inspect whether or not he was circumsized and then asking the congregant to get circumcized I at least see the transgression of points C., H., I., L., S., and X. above. What more would be needed for the pastor to step down? Surely pastoral requirements are more rigorous than simply holding to correct doctrine, although in this case, even THAT is compromised as well! So I am curious, how often or severely must those points be abused before the pastor is no longer qualified for his position?

    • David, I would add G, J, R and W in your specific example. Here are my answers to your questions:

      “What more would be needed for the pastor to step down?”
      –  Your points would be enough (in my mind) to make the request. What would be needed would be an inquiry by a board of elders who would take such accusations seriously and then make a decision.

      “how often or severely must those points be abused before the pastor is no longer qualified for his position?”
      – I think a pattern needs to be established, in general. In your specific case, the event needs to happen only once. One time of such an act is enough to disqualify a pastor. Depending on the results of the inquiry, the pastor might not need to leave the church entirely, but probably would be in the best interest of the members of the church if he did.

      But the unique problem in UBF is this:

      1) All directors are appointed to life terms. There is no sabbatical concept, no break, no vacation, no stopping–directors and shepherds must keep working, even if they commit terrible sins.  No one can ask a UBF leader to step down because they are given power for life.

      2) UBF has no acting board of elders to report such an event to. There are reports of various committees, boards, etc. But they are not formally or publicly identified. Who even knows who is on the many committees?

      Not too long ago I reported an illegal incident to top elders. I was told an investigation would happen. And then an apology would be made to me if necessary. But they misunderstood: I don’t need an apology. The person who was wronged should be apologized to (which wasn’t me). And there was no investigation.

    • Darren Gruett

      David, I think you raise a good question that in many ways goes beyond the issue here. For instance, if we took point V about not being quick-tempered, how much leniency should be afforded a leader who has problems controlling his anger? How many “blow ups” do we allow him before we say that he needs to step down? And, do we allow him a chance to come back after dealing with that problem?

    • An interesting discussion came up yesterday on the Jesus Creed site over Titus 1:6, on the topic of whether elders who have unbelieving children ought to step down from the ministry:
      It seems to me that Paul is not issuing a list of rules and regulations to be enforced as in a codebook. How could you measure and enforce any of these criteria in a fair, objective manner? You can’t. Everything here is context dependent. However, it’s very useful to step back and look at the big picture of what Paul believed about leadership (these verses are very helpful), and then look at what Paul actually did when he established leaders in the churches of the Roman provinces.

      Sharon and I have been reading the classic 1912 missiological text Missionary Methods: St Paul’s or Ours? by Roland Allen. This book speaks very plainly of how Paul raised leaders, what he did and especially what he didn’t do. Fascinating. Truly fascinating. And deeply convicting. I’ll have to write more about this when I get a chance.

  98. Ladies and Gentleman, I’d like to announce that I have now left UBF. I’m happy to announce that it didn’t happen in the typical fashion where I got mad and stormed out. No, I had a talk with one of the elders and told him of my decision. He helped me write my life testimony, which included my decision to leave and some of the reasons for it. He then arranged a meeting with another leader of the fellowship and my bible teacher. I read my life testimony, we talked, and we prayed. They respected my decision, blessed me, and sent me on my way. I’m even invited to still come around, which I might for the Friday meetings. I’m very glad that in this process God was glorified and respect was maintained between all of those involved. I will now be attending service at Willow Creek Chicago on a full-time basis. Thanks be to God, who, through the blood of his son Jesus, saved this sinful man; and through his Holy Spirit, is building me into a man of God.

    • Oscar, thanks for sharing. Many blessings in this next part of your journey of faith!

    • David Bychkov

      Blessings, Oscar!

    • Darren Gruett

      Oscar, thanks for sharing this. It is encouraging to hear, not because of the split itself, but because it was done amicably.

  99. Wow Oscar, I am glad that things went well after your decision! God be with you!

  100. Thanks guys! I think we really need to thank God though. He’s the one who saved me and inspired me to leave in a respectable way.

  101. Agreed on all counts. Thanks for sharing this. Oscar, you really should talk to my friend Gerardo R. I think you guys have a lot in common.
    Perhaps someday in the future, people on this website will be able to say that UBF has “sent them out” and “empowered” them to follow a new leading of the Spirit in their lives so that they can be a blessing to the rest of the Body of Christ
    For some of us, we can never “leave” UBF – it gets imprinted on our DNA over time :)

    • John, your last sentence is a bit troubling to me.  But it does point to a key issue in UBF.  UBF ideas and practices get embedded into the very fabric of your being.  

      That is why my wife and I are just now working on building our relationship (after 17 years of marriage) and why I am just now learning how to reach out to a community in need of love and hope (after 24 years of ignoring the community around me).  And it is why my new mission statement for 2011 is: “Weave a new fabric of grace, truth, faith, hope and love for Jesus, dialogue by dialogue.”

  102. Ya know John, I think it might be similar to Catholics who leave Catholicism. There is still usually some imprint from their upbringing.

    • It was a poorly conceived joke. I just meant that I’ve been influenced profoundly, as many of you all would note, by UBF in a deep way. That is all.

  103. Actually, I agree with that. Even now, sometimes things don’t feel the same if they aren’t done in the UBF way, which they aren’t. Those are the habits that get ingrained in you when you are constantly doing something in a certain way.

  104. Darren Gruett

    If I may offer my two cents, I think that for some people, if they have only been a part of one church in their life, then it is harder to break with those habits because their ideas about church have been shaped by only one experience. Even for me, although I attended a number of different churches before UBF, I still found it difficult to accept and adopt the way things were done in UBF because my past experience shaped my entire concept of what church should be. For this reason I love working with people from other churches, and even visiting other churches on occasion, because it keeps things fresh and reminds me that my ideas about church are not the only ones in existence.

    • Darren, I would say your “two cents” is worth about “$2 million”!  Unfortunately, I obeyed the direction given in UBF to ignore Christian doctrine, to blame Christian churches and to propagate invented ideas as if they were “something new under the sun”. I am finding that my one-church experience for 24 years is severely crippling as I attempt to build real friendships. I feel like a sponge now, soaking up 2,000+ years of Christian history!

  105. Dear Brian, I don’t know where you get your information from but in my 30 years experience in UBF and still going strong I never heard the UBF order to ignore Christian doctrine or blame Christian churches and propagate invented ideas as if they were “something new under the sun.” Like John Y commented, I too was moved to commit my life to God through the ministry of UBF. I am thankful for this ministry. I am thankful to you and all the people I met in this ministry. We should not just criticize other churches including UBF because of all their failings. We are all sinners forgiven by the blood of Jesus. We are one body in Christ whether we are Catholics, Baptist, Orthodox or in UBF. It is God who will judge us in the end. Luvya Maria

    • Hi Maria, where did I get my information?  From messenger training. Did you ever experience messenger training?  I did, for 20+ years. If anyone wants to see the “dark side” of UBF, volunteer for messenger training!  That is where much of the spiritual and physical abuse happens in UBF. I won’t stand for it any longer.

      If you don’t believe I was told “ignore Christian doctrine, to blame Christian churches and to propagate invented ideas”, then try this: show up at a UBF messenger meeting as a conference messenger with 10 commentaries and a Greek lexicon. The number of invented ideas for a messenger in UBF is endless.

      In recent years, UBF directors may have backed off of this hardline stance somewhat in various chapters, especially as people like me make these things known. But it did (and does) happen, and not just in the 80’s, but also in the 90’s and in the 2000’s. The problem is no one wants to discuss such things. But I believe these are the very things people like Scott Moreau wants UBF to discuss publicly.  

    • And yes, I will say it publicly: I do know one instance in the past where things crossed the line into sexual abuse. If UBF were Penn State University or the Catholic Church, we would not be reading such things on a blog but on the news.

  106. Recently Left and Struggling

    – Messenger training in UBF had it’s strengths and also many weak points. I have written about 20 or so messages for conferences and for Sunday worship services. While I learned from these experiences and was encouraged many times, there was a certain amount of life taking experiences (not life giving). Telling a messenger they should stay up all night and re-write the entire draft, or change the entire theme and main points one day before hand, or to spend 3 weeks working with one messenger servant and then be asked the day before  you give the message by your Pastor, “What exactly have you been doing the past three weeks? We need to start all over.” This does not build up messengers, but only tears them down and make them dependent on the Pastor or main messenger “trainer”. They break you until you succomb to their ideas. Gradually toward the end of my time in UBF I would write a message after receiving the main points and theme and my Pastor would just work with what I had by changing the Introduction and Conclusion to make sure his main point was included in the passage. UBF messenger training is training someone to speak someone else’s message. The last 5 times I delivered a message I did not practice my message over and over again, but rather prayed for the Holy Spirit for many hours before delivering my message. I would make sure I was familiar with my message, but when one’s message gets changed so many times, especially before delivery all one can do  (and should do) is depend on the Holy Spirit when delivering. This is one aspect of message prep and especially message delivery that is lacking in ubf messages, praying for and depending on the power of the Holy Spirit. Somehow, the Holy Spirit turned what I prepared and in most cases, what was prepared for me, into something heart moving because the Holy Spirit began to work. UBF would make messengers practice their messages over and over again and even memorize their messages (which can be good at times), but by doing this the messenger ends up depending on themselves, their own abilities, and depending on the suggestions of their trainer. Messengers need to prepare, that is true of all messengers in all ministries, but one thing UBF messenger trainers need to teach/preach, is the dependence on the Holy Spirit for preparation and especailly delivery, not dependence on a messenger trainer.
    – One other point about message training in ubf. I use to attend plenty of messenger meetings or trainings, even when I was not the messenger. We would meet to supposedly pray for the messenger and offer an exchange of ideas, but one thing I learned was that most of the Korean attendees were too afraid to speak their own unique mind when it came time to answering questions about the passage. They were always too afraid that if they answered wrong then the pastor or lead messenger trainer would rebuke them for having their own opinion. So the meetings would become mostly one sided, eerily quiet, boring, and stale.
    -Have I learned from my messenger training days in UBF of course. What I learned the most is this, God is faithful, He can speak through anyone He wants to if they are willing to stand and speak and wait on the Holy Spirit.  God will send the Holy Spirit to make our garbelded up words into something beautiful and meaninful. It’s amazing that God uses sinners to deliver His message of love and truth! It is exciting, and wonderful, and humbling. All Christians are messengers of God’s word. We all preach the gospel. This is not only done in the pulpit, or on Sundays or at conferences, but in the conversations we have about our faith and about our awesome God and loving Lord Jesus Christ. Whether we have an audience of one or an audience of many, the spirit is waiting, willing and ready to speak through us God’s words of love and truth. Thanks for your time!

    • I think that’s why attendance is generally low..Because the speakers don’t have any authentic passion in what they’re preaching. The new generation are looking for authenticity, they see right through this stuff.

    • Recently,

      Thanks for sharing. I too share your experiences with messenger meetings. Unfortunately, not only did I put up with such things when I was a messenger, I also started to propagate such things during my brief time as one of the messenger helpers. 

      Your statement above captures a fundamental problem that is true of not only Koreans, but Americans, Russians, and many others: “They were always too afraid that if they answered wrong then the pastor or lead messenger trainer would rebuke them for having their own opinion. So the meetings would become mostly one sided, eerily quiet, boring, and stale.”  
      As I look back and get rid of my denial, I see that the messenger meetings were never really about giving the word of God to people. It was all about the director keeping control and an exercise in authority. I am thankful that the earlier messenger training methods used in the ’70’s and ’80’s were (mostly) given up on by UBF (one time a messenger became so upset with “training” that he threw the podium.)  

      I would add another adjective: burdensome. In my chapter, I was required to be there at the messenger meeting every Saturday night starting at 9:00 pm. The 3 hours of one-sided discussion that ensued was very burdensome. I always got the feeling that we were not really there to heplp the messenger. We were there to prove our obedience and loyalty to mission more than family. It was especially burdensome if you were the lucky one chosen to stay up until 2:00 am (or all night) to “help” further.

      On a side note, it is very intriguing to hear you use the term “Pastor”.  The correct UBF term is “director” or “missionary”.  A new trend is that directors are being granted pastor status and shepherds are being called elders, i.e. Elder Jim.  The only qualifications I can find are length of service and approval by the general director.  Does anyone know how directors are becoming pastors in UBF?  I think UBF members have a right to know. 

    • bekamartin

      Praise God that you let the Holy Spirit guide you! That really is what I felt missing in UBF, although I thought the doctrine was sound and the intense Bible studies were great training for me. I was always looked at as the strange black sheep because I would be so moved by the Holy Spirit at times and cry out, “Amen!” and “Praise God!” I could never understand why everyone seemed so sad and dead, until my husband (at the time) and I were sent out to our own ministry and we had a much warmer and Spirit-filled service. Then I realized that my old ministry needed the Holy Spirit. May God move UBF with his Holy Spirit!!

    • Amen Beka!

      I agree. I too long for the day when the Spirit will sweep through ubf and transform the ministry.

      ubf people have recently starting talking about the Holy Spirit and studying Galatians and even started talking about church discipline, etc.

      Yet the same 6-stage training pattern continues to be an insult to the Holy Spirit.

      I share what I learned about the Holy Spirit from lesson 4 of an ordained pastor’s bible study with me: Be Armed! Lesson #4

      I learned that the Holy Spirit empowers, purifies, reveals, unifies, and testifies. These are all things ubf missionaries claim to do. And this is at the core of the problems at ubf ministry: The shepherds usurp the roles of the Holy Spirit. That is evidenced by the repeated emphasis on “spirit” (lower case) in the ubf 50th anniversary lectures. Those lectures talk about “ubf spirit” and quench the Holy Spirit. Therefore, ubf members are generally blind to the Christian teachings in the Holy Scriptures.

      So then ubf people (like myself in the past) kept the Spirit in the background of our lives, resisting (Acts 7:51), quenching (1 Thessalonians 5:19), grieving (Ephesians 4:30), insulting (Hebrews 10:29) or even blaspheming (Matthew 12:31-32) the Holy Spirit.

  107. Thanks so much for sharing “Recently”, your experience is the universal one I think. All of us who ever delivered a message at a conference know exactly what you are talking about and probably went through very similar “training.” at least that is the way it was when I was a member. Just confirms to me the extreme authoritarian nature and controlling disposition of UBF as a whole. Once I was forced to deliver a message that was not my own at a conference. I had invited some Christian friends from a different church to come, and after the first night was finished they implored me to leave what they thought was a cult because of the bizarre inflection of everyone’s voice (including my own) and the very strange things that I had read in my message. Your post brings back some bad memories! But I am very glad that God delivered me and you from an unhealthy situation!

  108. P. S. (this is not just to make 300 comments either!) your name says that you are struggling, may I ask with what? Are you struggling with whether or not to go back? If so remember the Israelites in the wilderness of Zin! and remember the words of Keith Green “So ya wanna go back to Egypt, where it’s warm and secure, are you sorry you bought a one way ticket when you thought you were sure? You wanted to live in the land of Promise, but now its getting so hard, are you sorry youre out here in the desert ‘stead of your own back yard?” just know my friend that they had to go through the desert to get to the promised land, but God sustained them with Manna and He will sustain you too.

    • Admin note: Every once in a while our WordPress installation goes haywire and all articles get marked as “do not allow comments”. I just turned comments back on. We are working on this technical difficulty.

  109. Recently left and struggling

    Thanks dave and jae…

  110. Recently left and struggling

    May change name to seeing the light?

    • I think it is more like “maturing in Christ”.  UBF disciplines have a tremendous value for young people. But at some point, those people need to be allowed to mature in Christ. You see, most of us former members are not “weak victims who lost godliness”, we are “growing in our faith”.

  111. Thanks for your comments Recently. Comments like yours and my own observations are exactly why I avoided participating in training. I wonder what it is you’re stuggling with. I too have recently left UBF and have a bit of a struggle too. It’s kind of hard to articulate though. I talked to my pastor at my new ministry and he told me that because of what I experienced I may exhibit signs of distress because I’m in a new ministry. The good thing about UBF is that it’s very bible intensive. Unfortunately, I sometimes find myself looking down on others because they don’t study the bible as much as I did. Lord have mercy on me, but I think this is one of the things I’ve taken away from my experiences at UBF. I don’t want to feel this way about others though! Have you found another ministry to go to? or have you talked to others about what you’re stuggling with?

  112. I have a sad feeling like UBFriends is dying. It has become very ingrown and only a few of the same people are always saying the same things, mostly grievances (myself included). This made me consider a question: How is UBFriends different from the old RSQUBF website? I see some differences in these ways: 1) Names are not used here of specific people who did bad things usually, whereas at RSQUBF they would call out individuals by name and it seemed very slanderous usually. 2) There is at least some semblance of trying to find a conciliatory note here, whereas at the other there was definitely none. 3) There are still some members who still attend UBF on this site whereas at RSQUBF it was entirely former members with alot of anger, some of it very justified.

    So why do I feel this way? I had great hopes that this site would be the spark for a radical Reformation within UBF along the lines of the 16th century, with certain members being like Luther, Calvin and Zwingli but alas, nowadays, all there is it seems is the same old thing…complaining without power. I am reminded of the Pilgrims Progress, where Christian walks past the Pope and all he can do is snarl. Dont get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we are like the Catholics (except perhaps one of us haha) but I am asking the question, are we only snarling on here? is that the purpose for this site? If not, what is, and have we left it?

    • David L: In my observation, website communities, just like companies and organizations and churches, go through periods of inactivity. It’s because we are human beings, who don’t stay the same but live out various seasons.  Sometimes we are “in season” sometimes we are “out of season”.  Regardless, ubfriends has been and continues to be a critical part of what God is doing. A small number have posted and commented here, but many thousands more have read with interest.

      Perhaps your expectation was a bit high? I don’t think we are on par with what Luther or the others did :)  Since I was not part of the original purpose in creating this website (mainly I’m just a technical admin, believe it or not), I will leave purpose-related questions to Joe.  I can say that I’ve observed a change in purpose. This website somehow became a “landing point” for some long-time UBF members after they left.  

      The other issue I see that came up through this site is that several former members (including me) no longer see reform possible in UBF.  In fact, this seems to be the case with some current UBF members. Many of us feel that God wants to build something new out of UBF.  I won’t share details (and don’t know too many anyways) but I can assure you and our readers that new movements are indeed growing within UBF and supported by leaders.  I am convinced that as long as there is some distraction from the main UBF hardcore, traditional, iron fist methods, the Spirit of Christ can do wonders.

      So I am confident that God has, can and will use this website and UBF for His purpose. 

  113. Hi David. I will give my position. By this website I was encouraged to ask questions and to look for the answers. I loved UBF, I saw it’s problems and my own problems within the ministry. So it was very excinig to raise up issues and look for some alternative ideas.Though while time was going something changed. First, when I again met with UBF reality it’s became clear that for me it is really difficult to stay in UBF core context with such atittude. Second, seems people around don’t want me to bother them. Third, I’m not sure if it is really my job to bother them and I really tied from this opposition. So I became much less interested in UBF reforming or things like this. Fourth, I became much less interested in UBF at all, as once I start question things which I was taught and hold to for a decade, it became clear that all my Christianity is under the question. So for me it is much more important and interesting to learn what is the Christian religion really about, not UBF or UBF reform. I don’t claim that this is right atittude, but this how I feel now.
    But as I see this site is still very readable by many. And it can have future.

    • “So for me it is much more important and interesting to learn what is the Christian religion really about, not UBF or UBF reform.”

      David B:  This has become my thinking as well. I am very much interested in learning about basic Christian doctrine and soaking up more than 2,000 years of history!

      For me, it was painful to know that some of those who were most influential in my spiritual life now consider me to have an evil spirit and think I am a poisonous false teacher (note to all those who proved to be my friends: I know you don’t think this way, but a few have.)  Five UBF members have de-friended me on Facebook. My former chapter has moved on and is focusing on raising up new students. I don’t blame them; a few years ago I probably would have done the same.  The thing is, I don’t want to “agree to disagree” and politely move on without bringing certain things into public light (most of which I’ve done already). 

      Although I do see some of my comments and others here and on my own blog have been rather strong and even crossed the line at times, my thoughts and attitudes have been rather tame compared to the prior Voy discussions and websites.  There are times when I want to have those bitter, angry attitudes; somehow God is indeed doing something different during this year’s exodus of leaders.  

      I see three movements this time: the independence movement (those leaving), the reform movement (those trying to change things) and the rebuilding movement (those building something new from within).  I’m not sure how any of this will turn out, but it is clear that UBF will never be the same. It is also clear that UBF has some serious self-examination to do in order to root out the cultish behavior.

      What is more, according to the blue book, I am a man with a form of godliness that has no power, now that I have left UBF.  The blue book direction is to “Have nothing to do with them.” based on 2 Timothy 3:1-16. In light of this passage, the words of former members and this website are even seen as a kind of “badge of honor”, a type of persecution that justifies what has been done.  

      Those kinds of attitudes are at least one explanation of why ubfriends has fizzled out.  

    • Yup, Brian. I think I undestand what you are talking about and appreciate your efforts.

  114. Darren Gruett

    UBF needs UBFriends, even if UBF does not realize it (yet); even if for no other reason than because it is a place where current and former members can dialogue in a civilized manner with one another, which was rarely possible in the past. This is a huge step forward, and one that we should not quickly dismiss.
    As for me, I am not trying to reform or even rebuild UBF. That would involve changing people’s hearts, and that is not something that has been apportioned to me. I have been married for five years now (by God’s grace), and if my wife and I have learned anything it is that neither of us has the power to change the other person.
    However, I will say this. As I have concentrated more on my own relationship with God and others, and really strived to love God and love my neighbor as myself, I have seen a change in my own heart, a change which I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit. And this has been quite liberating.

  115. Amen to this.

  116. I have been in ubf for more than 20years, 10 years in Korea and 10 years in America. I have been praying for this church and about what I ought to do as a person who has been called to serve Him in this church.(even though I am not a person who can make a decision at all though) But I found this place and became so thankful to God for many thoughts, concerns and prayers of yours that are so precious to change people’s heart to come close to the light of the gospel so that we may grow mature and healthy children of Him. Please keep up your good works!

    • Hello Crystal P, and welcome. We welcome your thoughts, concerns and prayers as well!

    • Wait…another Brian Karcher? 
      Both usernames have hyperlinks attached to them, but each one leads to a different site.
      Forgive me if I am jumping to conclusions, but it almost seems deceiving of you to create a username with the exact same spelling, and hyperlink.

    • Never mind.
      Just realized that it is indeed the same person, just different links.

    • Anon, I am multiplying.. :)  

      No, not really. I always link to my new blog now, which is tied to my family internet website. I used to link to, but some here felt there was too much UBF bashing, so I changed the link. 

    • Anon, just so there is no confusion and no deception…

      I have three long-term blogging projects. I sometimes alter the link in my name to point to one of the three websites, but I only and always post on ubfriends as my full name. I recently changed my login to “” (“one word” in Russian).

  117. I want to thank the admins and article/comments authors of this site. I decided not to stay in UBF and this site helped me to make my first step out. Especially such articles as “Absolute Honesty”, “To Stay or Not To Stay”, “Why Do We Have Divisions” and many others. While in UBF I couldn’t and wouldn’t read any outside information about UBF. So I hadn’t read any “negative” testimonies of former UBF members which are so many in internet. So this site with its friendly attitude toward UBF really helped me as a long time UBF member to start reading and thinking. (Though I was told by my chapter director that even this friendly site is “satan” made))). Later I was able to make step 2 and read some “negative” testimonies (including through some links from this site) that helped me even more in my decision-making. I want to apologize for some of my comments on this site for they were some kind of “step 2” comments. And now I understand that such comments can’t be helpful for those in UBF and can’t promote dialogue. No one can make step 2 before making step 1. So I sincerely thank you and may the Lord bless you and this site continuously.

    • Glad to hear this Vitaly. I am encouraged that you made your own decision. In considering whether to stay or not to stay, I think people should understand what UBF is and make up their own mind about what to do.

  118. Hello everyone. I did not spend as much time in UBF as many of you have. I stayed in my chapter for only about 3 years. One of the main factors influencing my leaving had to due with tension and disharmony between many of the leaders and myself. During my time at UBF I spent a lot of my time listening to sermons and reading books from outside sources. This led to my discovery of, and love for, the reformed faith… praise the Lord! In my naivete I didn’t realize that proclaiming sovereign grace from the Scriptures at the young disciples group bible study would cause so much trouble for me. Who would love what Spurgeon declared was nothing more than the gospel? Although I didn’t carry any sort of animosity toward leadership, an atmosphere of disharmony had been ensued. The I issue was termed the “Ryan problem.”

    Seeing the beauty of God’s majesty and salvation in Christ with a reformed perspective made UBF messages and bible studies, generally speaking, void of spiritual nourishment. This, supplemented by the discomfort created by leadership, led to my leaving. I have absolutely no regrets about leaving.

    I wanted to offer a few ideas as answers to the wonderfully important question, “To stay or not to stay?”

    I think it is important to understand that there are two wills of God. First, God works all things according to the purpose of His will (Eph 1:11). Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from His will. This is the meticulous sovereignty of God declared from Genesis to Revelation. He truly rules His creation. But in a fallen creation, this may lead to God permitting sinful actions that are outside of… His second will, which includes the commandments which we are to obey (lest we be sinners… thank you Jesus).

    I mention this because I often here people defending UBF practices and leadership by pointing to the sovereignty of God. Sometimes people use it to defend them staying in UBF. I believe that this use of God’s sovereignty is misguided. Yes, all things are of God’s will, but not all things are perfect, righteous, good, and pleasing to God. I would encourage those people staying in UBF because of the sovereignty of God to think about the difference between the two wills of God. Consider if UBF methods and leadership are in God’s prescribed (second) will. Read the pastoral epistles (1,2 Tim & Titus) where the Holy Ghost defines what is necessary for leadership to be fit for leading God’s flock. Part of my deciding to leave involved a belief that I had a responsibility to get myself under elders (not, “shepherds”) that had been chosen by God, and met the criteria set forth by His Spirit (criteria that is not based on how many “sheep” they had or the longevity of their devotion to UBF).

    Secondly, I would like to mention an important point that has not really been developed here. That is, to what extent are we responsible (1) (as men) to get our families under the authority of biblically vetted elders, who failfully preach the word and gospel of God’s grace? If you have children, a wife, or even friends that you want to invite, is UBF the place where they should grow? Should not your children and wife be raised under the power of faithful preaching, Scripture approved leadership, and sound doctrine (as Paul declares sound doctrine to be of tantamount importance throughout his epistles, especially the pastoral ones)?

    Lastly, I wanted people to consider to what extent they are responsible to worship and adore God and His Son when they are at Church. This is a point far too little mentioned. People are fast to consider other men, thinking that they should deny themselves and bare with these people. But, at the same time, too little attention is given to our God and our Savior. When I went to worship service at UBF, I hardly ever heard about God or Christ. Every message, and thus every chapter covered, was manipulated and fine tuned to teach about shepherding, fishing, obedience to campus mission, etc. They did not preach Christ and Him crucified. There was no glory of God, there was nothing about the grace that is in our Savior’s blood. Sure, maybe one sentence was devoted to saying, “Jesus died,” But this should be the focus of the entire sermon! When I look back this is one of the most important issues, and I believe it should have caused me to leave sooner.

    Is one worshiping God at UBF? or does it feel like you are being sucked dry of spirituality when you go? Does the singing at times bring you to tears as you think of how great Christ’s love towards you has been? Are you ever convicted during the message? Want to cry out with joy during the message because of God’s grace? Do you leave with a great smile on your face because you just heard about the LORD? Do you long for fellowship with your brothers and sisters there, just to talk about Christ? These are serious things one must consider. Are you a slave under the chant of moralistic legalism? Or are you under the showers of God’s grace, mercy, and majesty? “To stay or not to stay?” one should consider his obligation to sincerely worship Christ.

    I know that this is quite long, but I thought it was important to say. I will be so thankful if the Lord uses these suggestions to help even one person leave UBF. Now, I will close with a quote from George Whitefield, which I believe is quite fitting. This is from the famous letter he wrote to John Wesley rebuking him for his sermon entitled “Free Grace:”

    “God only knows what unspeakable sorrow of heart I have felt on your account since I left England last. Whether it be my infirmity or not, I frankly confess, that Jonah could not go with more reluctance against Nineveh, than I now take pen in hand to write against you. Was nature to speak, I had rather die than do it; and yet if I am faithful to God, and to my own and others’ souls, I must not stand neutral any longer. I am very apprehensive that our common adversaries will rejoice to see us differing among ourselves. But what can I say? The children of God are in danger of falling into error. Nay, numbers have been misled, whom God has been pleased to work upon by my ministry, and a greater number are still calling aloud upon me to show also my opinion. I must then show that I know no man after the flesh, and that I have no respect to persons, any further than is consistent with my duty to my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

    “This letter, no doubt, will lose me many friends: and for this cause perhaps God has laid this difficult task upon me, even to see whether I am willing to forsake all for him, or not. From such considerations as these, I think it my duty to bear an humble testimony, and earnestly to plead for the truths which, I am convinced, are clearly revealed in the Word of God. In the defence whereof I must use great plainness of speech, and treat my dearest friends upon earth with the greatest simplicity, faithfulness, and freedom, leaving the consequences of all to God.”

    • Joe Schafer

      Ryan, welcome to this website, and thank you for taking the time to share your story. Many parts of it resonate with me. For example, I share your concerns about misusing God’s sovereignty to ignore and rationalize away problems. I’m sorry that your legitimate questions and concerns were called the “Ryan problem” and dismissed. Thanks again for sharing.

  119. Amen Ryan, Thank you for some sanity. After a long hiatus, I decided to post on here because: 1) My new friend Ryan commented. and 2) I am personally shocked and abhorred at some of the rubbish that is now bring promulgated on this site by some people. I think that the evangelical baby is starting to be thrown out with the UBF bathwater. So thanks Ryan!

    • Hi David, although we couldn’t remain Facebook friends, I would be glad to discuss (with charity if possible) my shocking, abhorred rubbish any time.

      Yes, I personally have thrown out the evangelical baby and its bathwater. I still appreciate much of the Reformed Faith, and I love much of Spurgeon especially. But I am no longer an Evangelical conservative as I was in the past.

      And yes, I am still a gay rights pacifist and outlaw preacher.

    • You are certainly correct about that Brian. I believe that 2Cor6:17 applies directly to you, “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you.”

  120. Joe Schafer

    Hi David, welcome back. It’s good to hear from you, and I hope you’ve been well.

    • Thanks Joe, I have been. I am not talking about you personally in my following statement, but really, it is shocking how ubfriends is now more than occasionally being used as a springboard into theological harebrainedness and malarkey.

      It is surprising that this has largely gone unchallenged, especially when it delves into the realm of shoddy reckless Bible interpretation.

      I thought that this site was supposed to be primarily about UBF and UBF’s friends and former UBF members, and how to deal with issues in the ministry. But now that seems to be only about half of what this page is about.

      I know why there are these theological problems here on this page though. It is because when some people left UBF they also left Orthodoxy. Now some question/doubt everything they “learned” from the Bible in the UBF context and thus the pendulum for them swings FAR the other way. These self-justifying swindlers may very well be the chariots that carry impressionable young people down to the depths of hell.

      Ahh but I have already said too much! You must certainly know to whom I am referring! That old Hymenaeus that should be delivered to Satan so that he learns not to blaspheme. His theology is not pugnacious to the world, but it is to the saints!

      Done with this site for the second time, until falsehood is challenged by anyone but me.

  121. Thanks for the love, David. I find that my day isn’t complete without a good ol’ condemnation to hell or a handing over to Satan. I find it to be a good learning experience. See you in Heaven brother.

    • Only a foolish person would reply in such a way. Do you not care for your own soul? I find it quite interesting that you automatically h assumed my post was about you! Surely your own conscience must be crying out against you! Like that old song, “You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you…” SO THEN, I will address you directly. I am not a UBF puppet,so you cannot (in all of your own obvious bitterness toward UBF leadership) accuse me of fitting into that box. I am simply a Christian who sees, along with MANY others that you have taken a different path– A path which is outside of historical Christian beliefs. And here on this site you actively troll it to promote your brand of “fringe-at-best” Christianity.

      I am just sayin I dont think that is right! Is this site about the things you promote? I think you would want it to be, but I would bet you a dollar to a doughnut, the VAST majority of people who read this page would utterly disagree with you.

    • Of course, since Brian Karcher is one of the main faces of UBFriends, he can do whatever he pleases.

      But here is some real food for thought: Do you think that your promotion of homosexuality is helping or hurting your desire to see people in UBF change? I guarantee it only makes you out to be a fool in their eyes, and someone whom they should ignore (for partly good reason).

    • “Do you not care for your own soul?”
      > Yes I do care for my own soul, and the souls of other human beings. If my soul is in such danger, would you share how to get out of danger?

      “Is this site about the things you promote?”
      > No it is not. I’ve contributed about 13 articles out of 200+. I think Ben and Joe have the prize for promoting things on this website.

      “Do you think that your promotion of homosexuality is helping or hurting your desire to see people in UBF change?”
      > This seems to be the real rub with you, David. Yes I accept homosexual people as human beings. And yes I love them! Yes I fully support equal rights and allowing gays to marry. I believe strongly that we should not write off any human being. God loves gay people and I fully expect many of such people to enter the kingdom of God.

      How does this affect change in UBF? As I’ve already said, I don’t care about “changing” UBF people or what UBF changes take place. The hope is not change, but in redemption. UBF can be redeemed and there are a growing number of examples of such redemption through Jesus.

      I will gladly stand before our Lord with flawed theology (we all will unless we claim to have perfect theology). But I won’t stand before God without having given my all for love, justice and reconciliation. My conscience is clear in all these matters as I rest in the grace of Jesus.

      If you have something specific to point out further, I am eager to discuss.

  122. Three in a row now! Do you really admit to throwing out Evangelicalism?? Do you know what that word means? If you through out Evangelicalism you are throwing out the Gospel itself.

    You come with this false modesty and pretend that all of your detractors are looney UBFers who just want to slander you, but you are a wolf in sheep’s clothing Brian. You may try to paint me as some wild-eyed loon but I am not afraid of you whatsoever. The truth always comes out in the end.

    • “Do you really admit to throwing out Evangelicalism??”
      > Yes.

      “Do you know what that word means?”
      > Yes.

      “If you through out Evangelicalism you are throwing out the Gospel itself.”
      > So only Evangelicals know the Gospel? Catholics cannot? Other Christians who are more liberal cannot? I believe the Gospel stands by itself (Himself actually) and is not bound to our theological tinker-toy systems.

    • Precisely! Neither Catholics nor Liberals believe the Gospel of salvation by Grace through Faith alone. Call that a tinker toy theological system at your own eternal peril

    • Ah, so I suppose I’ll be in the deepest pit of hell because I’m Catholic, ex-UBF, Baptist, gay-rights supporter, Muslim be-friender, athiest-dialoguer, liberal-minded critic living in Detroit…and a Democrat to boot :)

    • How can you so blithely speak of hell in such a way? Are you serious? Ugh, I will not waste one second more on such tripe. You casually throw in “Muslim-befriender” and dialogue with Atheists as if that is what I am against. I am done. Let the filthy be filthy still.

    • David, I was making a joke to see if you were serious… It seems preposterous to me to say that only Evangelicals believe the gospel. So I’m wondering how you can so blithely say that?

      Catholics, Liberals, homosexuals– all human beings can believe the gospel Jesus proclaimed. It is likely they all would remain in the same situation in which the Spirit invoked them to believe. How the Spirit changes and leads them is up to the Spirit. We are all on our own journey together here.

      Are you saying such people will be in hell even if they believe the gospel and remain Catholic, liberal or homosexual?

  123. Uh… well David, since you stabbed me with 2 Corinthians 6:17, I think it is clear to everyone that you were referring to me, at least in part. And since you threw an even harsher verse at me on Facebook, and then de-friended me, it’s pretty clear who you think is promoting rubbish here, unless you’d care to clarify in a charitable way who else you think needs to be handed over to Satan besides me?

    • Uh…well Brian, I quoted that verse AFTER you already responded to me! LOOK AT WHEN I WROTE AFTER RYAN. THEN YOU WROTE, THEN I QUOTED THAT VERSE! You are crafty like a snake arent you?! Anyone can see the clear order of when you replied to my comment! It was BEFORE I quuoted 2 Corinthians.

    • David, would you share who you think needs to be handed over to Satan then (besides me)? Condemn me if you will, I can take it. But it is difficult to have a dialogue if you’re going to make accusations, unless you’re willing to be more specific as to what is so bad on this site (beside me and my comments)? So apart from me and my comments, what offends you so much from our articles and/or conversations?

    • Yes there are others whom I have indeed called out on this website. If you have not seen where, then read the posts more carefully. However your posts are perhaps the most odious.

    • No David, I was referring to your comment above:

      “That old Hymenaeus that should be delivered to Satan so that he learns not to blaspheme. His theology is not pugnacious to the world, but it is to the saints!”

      To whom are you referring? Such a comment violates nearly every commenting policy we have. As harsh as I’ve been to UBF, I don’t condemn them to hell or say they should be handed over to Satan. If anything, we ought to discuss banning you for such a comment.

    • YES Brian, Go ahead ban me. But before you do, you had better remove every single post on this site I have ever written. I am saying right here and right now: I think you are a false teacher. Therefore I will not hesitate for a moment to take legal action over my intellectual property. As a matter of fact, I have a close friend who is an attorney and who will do this for me if it comes to that. If you want to go that route we can do so.

    • I don’t think Brian claims to be a teacher, leader, shepherd, pastor any longer. So I don’t think “false teacher” is an appropriate word here, even if all he writes would be false (which is certainly not the case).

  124. You do not want dialogue Brian. You want to proclaim. Therefore, I will not answer a fool according to his folly, lest he look wise in his own eyes. Why don’t you address what I wrote above? I do hope for your repentance, and if I come across as unloving I am sorry. Nevertheless, I do believe that you have fallen off of the theological rails, and are in a very precarious place, AND that you are leading others toward that end as well. Because of this, I zealously oppose what you have been writing.

  125. I do not really know you Brian, or necessarily your experience with ubf. I have pondered the possibility that being spiritually raised in ubf may cause long-lasting effects. I can see them in myself, even though I was only there three years. This is perhaps one of the most dangerous aspects of ubf, because many inside may never really get to enjoy the gospel apart from various ubf-isms. I only pray that your experience does not shape a view of the Bible and evangelicalism that is tainted with the pain that was caused you under the guise of “Christian values.”

    I will only mention this because it is true and my bondage to the gospel requires it. Catholics will go to hell unless they are utterly ignorant of what the catholic church believes and teaches. Anyone who worships at mass, or with the eucharist, is treading on thin-ice, and is likely unregenerate. Did you know that the priest that administers the sacraments is called an Alter Christus which means “another Christ?” The Catholic church makes the Judaizers targeted in Galatians look like amateurs. “If any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you have received let him be anathema.” (Gal1)

    Muslims will also go to hell. First, because Jesus is the only way. And also because anyone who dies in unbelief, who dies in their sins, unregenerate, dies without a sacrifice for their sins. Jesus did not die for the people who bear out the penalty of their own sins in hell.

    “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals… will enter the kingdom of God… such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the LORD Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”(1 Cor 6:10-12)

    Do not be deceived, Paul tells us that because this is the very trickery the evil one will use to lead masses of people unwittingly into hell. Do not be deceived Brian. I am NOT saying this for any other reason, but that I might help you. You may have been these things listed above Brians, as we all can fit into one of these mentioned categories of sins. But were you washed? Were you sanctified? Are you Christ’s? For, “those who are of Christ Jesus has crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5, near the end of that chapter.

    • HI Ryan, welcome to ubfriends. It would seem to be a rather harsh introduction, but based on your comments above you likely don’t mind the harshness. You can spare me the bible proof-texting; I won’t respond to it. Perhaps others here will. I’m not interested in a gospel of sin management or a gospel of condemnation.

      How are you helping me or anyone else by condemning Catholics, Muslims and homosexuals?

    • Amen Ryan! Some people would want you to spare the “Bible Prooftexting” because they do not obey the Bible at all. Brian here does not understand that Jesus talked about hell more than any other person. I wonder if he would tell Jesus, “I’m not interested in your gospel of condemnation.” Is Jesus the Savior? YES! Is Jesus also the Mighty Conquering Warrior of Isaiah 63? YES! Does he tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty? YES! But these things are too difficult for some to stomach. They think that if you tell the Gospel as it is, you are being judgmental. But, as previously said, it is because they have swung the other way into a type of universalism. Does the Bible condemn homosexuality? YES. Does the Bible condemn idolators? YES. So his question is not directed toward you Ryan. It is directed toward God Himself.

    • Brian I am not trying to be harsh. But the reality is, when people die outside of Christ they go to hell forever. A place of infinite torment and duration. What is love anyways? If I withheld such truth I would be loveless. If I did not say those things people living dangerously needed to hear, of what value would I be. Sure, I could encourage others in there sin and show no concern for their eternal security, but how then could I live with myself. I can only share with you what the Bible teaches, if we cannot both be submissive to its clear teaching, then we I’m afraid it will be impossible for us to move forward in this discussion.

  126. Sharon Schafer

    David L. Your extreme and harsh words are a “noisy gong and clanging cymbal.” I cannot hear what you are trying to say

    • Sharon, you do not know me. And you know nothing about me whatsoever. I love muslims and homosexuals and atheists and unbelievers. Because I love them, I also warn them about God’s furious wrath which is coming upon the world. I go out on the street every week to share God’s love with them. I have many friends who are all of those things as well. Call me whatever you like, but you do not know me from Adam.

      Brian Karcher has twisted the scriptures time and again on this site, and NO ONE, not you or Joe or anyone else but Ryan here has said boo to that. Do the others on this site not feel shame for their silence?

      You think I am being harsh? I do not hate Brian Karcher. I honestly fear for him and for those he influences. The internet is not the best medium to ascertain tone, but I assure you, that what I write, I write out of love, and out of hope that he will turn from the wicked positions he has adopted. Sometimes love must be a hard love. Sometimes love calls out “Turn and Live!”

      A smooth flattering tongue which does not confront falsehood is FAR more of a clanging cymbal, because that is not love, that is enabling.

      So I have said my piece publicly. I already confronted Brian privately in the past, but since he is publicly proclaiming his position, I will publicly refute it. I stand before God. Not you. And He knows my heart as I write on here. He knows that I only write because no one else is.

      I mean no disrespect to you Sharon. But you are not understanding me correctly.

    • Joe Schafer

      Hi David. Sharon didn’t make any blanket statements about you. Her comment was about your words on this website, and her inability to hear the real you behind them.

    • Well then, Here is the Real me behind my comments: I care about even those who are false teachers. I sincerely desire their repentance. I do not hold perfect theology, but there is a difference between that and being a false teacher. I love Brian Karcher. I also believe that he has (or is becoming) a wolf. Because of this, I have written on this site lately to warn both him and others about what happens to wolves. AGAIN, I am personally EXTREMELY surprised that no one has confronted these positions!!! Is UBFriends evangelical or not? Please answer that question. If the answer is no, then I will never post on this site again, and I would ask that the admin remove any and all articles and comments I have written.

    • However if this site IS an evangelical site, then shame be on those who keep silent when false teaching is promoted here.

  127. Joe Schafer

    David, here is a statement that has been on our “About this Site” page for the last three years.

    “There are no ideological litmus tests for material posted on this website. We regard you, our readers, as grownups who can discuss matters with kindness and civility, weigh different viewpoints and make up your own minds. Because we trust Jesus, we also trust you.”

    To make the claim that UBFriends is an evangelical website, one would have to define the term evangelical and create boundaries. Neither one is easy to do, and some would say it is impossible. Roger Olson blogged about this recently:

    • So anything goes then? Ok Please remove any all all of my posts from this site. If you cannot do that, I will try to do so by other means.

    • David, I am the tech admin here, as you know because you asked me to do that about a year ago. Keep in mind if we DO delete all of your articles and comments, this article, “To stay or not to stay”, will disappear, and thus all of these comments here will also disappear.

    • In fact, David, your own words way up above seem to reveal that at one time you were willing to dialogue with non-Evangelicals, even trying to understand various differences. Has that changed?

      “When is it right to separate and leave a church or a denomination, and when should one stay and be salt and light within the church? Lloyd-Jones also said, “Ecumenical people put fellowship before doctrine. We, as Evangelicals, put doctrine before fellowship.” There is an issue here that arises however: Since no church has absolutely perfect doctrine, where is the doctrinal line drawn before one says, “this far and no further” regarding the teaching of the church?”

    • Joe Schafer

      I don’t want any of my comments here to disappear. Is it legal, moral and fair for one person who participated in this forum in good faith, along with others who participated in good faith, to suddenly make that kind of demand?

      The rules of engagement on this website have always been plainly stated. It’s not fair to suddenly change those rules and then retroactively try to re-write what actually happened, either by adding material or omitting it.

      Our Submissions page has always said:

      “Material appearing in may remain in our archives indefinitely.”

      Material that is submitted to UBFriends becomes the intellectual property of UBFriends.

    • Joe, do you want to discuss the legality of intellectual property? If so we can do that!

    • I have posted here many many times under the assumption that this was an evangelical Christian website. It is not a far stretch to assume that it was because of the letters UBF in the title of the page. Therefore, since it is now abundantly clear that that is not what this page is, I posted under a false pretense! No wonder there is no challenge given to the doctrines promoted here!

      If I suddenly realized that this were a Mormon page, I would ask the same thing, that my articles be removed.

    • Here you go Joe: A copyright owner’s rights include the following:

      Making copies of the work;
      Creating new works based on the original (derivative works);
      Distributing the work by sale, transfer of ownership, rental, lease, or lending.

      I have certainly lent my work to this site. However I now wish to take it back. For a further explanation of intellectual rights on blogs read here:

    • Joe Schafer

      David, we have discussed this before.
      1. A while back, you asked us to remove all articles and comments that you have posted.
      2. We informed you that removing them would be difficult, because they appear in the context of interactive discussions. Removing material that you wrote would, in many cases, obliterate material that others have written. We are not going to change or remove anything that others have written merely because you request it.
      3. As a compromise solution, we agreed that everything you posted would be attributed to “anonymous.” That is what we did, and you were ok with that.
      4. All material that you submitted to UBFriends prior to yesterday is now attributed to “anonymous.” Therefore, as far as I’m concerned, there is no material attributed to DavidL appearing on this website prior to 1/22/2013 for us to remove.
      5. All of our policies and procedures have been clearly stated on this website from the beginning on our three permanent pages titled About This Website, Submit An Article and Commenting Policy. Links to those pages have always appeared very prominently at the top of our website. Nothing was ever hidden from you. The onus was on us to provide you with all the relevant information about who we are and what we do, and we did so. If you chose not to read and understand that information, that is not our fault.

    • Joe Schafer

      David’s request has raised some interesting questions about ownership of the material on this website.

      After perusing legal material, here is what I found.

      1. Before publishing articles on UBFriends, we (the admins) do not require the authors to sign copyright transfer agreements. Therefore, the copyright remains with the author. If the author has not filed the material with the U.S. copyright office, then he/she will still have what is commonly known as a “poor man’s copyright.” Which means that the author is free to copy the material, publish it elsewhere, and use it for whatever purpose he or she wishes, without having to get permission from UBFriends.

      2. By submitting articles for publication on UBFriends, the author is granting implied license to UBFriends to use the article for the stated purpose of display on that website. Details of what is considered “stated purpose” are given on our website’s Submissions page.

      3. The question of who owns blog comments is an interesting gray area. It appears that commenters and the blog owners both own the comments.

      By submitting comments, the commenter is granting implied license to the blogger to use comments for the stated purpose of display on the website.

      Hope this clarifies matters.

    • Joe, I have not asked for you to remove anything that anyone else has written. If you say that I have asked that, you are lying. I am asking for you to remove my material. MY material. I do not care about what others have written.

      Remove my material on this site. Once that is done, you will not hear from me again.

  128. Sharon Schafer

    I also have questions about Brian’s positions on homosexual marraige. However, I hear in Brian an very sincere and honest struggle to understand this issue that is driven by love for those who have been deeply hurt by evangelical practices. I welcome this struggle wholeheartedly. My silence is not an endorsement of his current position but a withholding of judgment until I have something to add. I welcome a discussion regarding these issues. But I cannot qualify your words as anything but a diatribe. You do come across as one who is absolutely certain of your views, even though you claim that you are not. I’m not sure anyone should hold their views about such complex issues as confidently as you do.

    • David Bychkov

      Hi Sharon. In my opinion, Brian’s words does not sound only like a struggle, but something pretty certain, with little respect to those who holds orthodoxal opinion. And pretty often in his words I feel certain neglect toward the Bible words.

    • David, I hope no one is surprised by this. A couple years ago I rejected all belief, and all Scripture, and all theology (is that even possible?) in order to cleanse my mind. Now I am rebuilding my faith step by step with the guidance of the Spirit. My doctrines will not be complete in my lifetime, but I won’t wait on such complete doctrine. I have sought out reconciliation and relationships with people, starting with my family.

      So to make things clear: No I do not consider myself an Evangelical. Yes I have gone outside orthodox Christianity (based on Hebrews 13). And by the way, I’ve met Jesus in a whole new, deeply personal way outside those gates.

      Yes I question anyone who says “You must submit to me and my truth”. No, I will not simply adopt any belief without first rigorously testing it in the public arena.

      I see that by doing all these things, some core convictions are growing in me; convictions I am happy to discuss and modify as necessary.

      Often my thought process on various issues is like this: Convince me otherwise. If someone can convince me, I’ll gladly adopt and change my belief.

      The bottom line for me is: We’re all on a journey of life together, and most likely that journey will continue when we see each other in Heaven.

  129. Hi, DavidL! I opposed Brian’s opinion on homosexuals on I said everything I wanted, so I don’t write about the topic any more. But still I wouldn’t condemn Brian himself to hell for I believe he is not homosexual himself. I fully agree with you and with Ryan about the rest. I think that Brian will stay “positive” toward homosexuals and Dr.Ben will stay “positive” toward SL and ubf whatever you write… (at least now)))

    • And I respect you more Vitaly, after that heated discussion. I know our views are not compatible, but I for one still see you as a brother in Christ. And for the record, I don’t expect anyone to agree with me. And I will gladly concede all doctrines for the sake of loving one another– all of the “one anothers”.

  130. Hi Dave,

    I’m poor with terms, even though I am prone to broad sweeping generalizations! The terms I personally like for myself are Christian, Christ follower, and my favorite Christian identifying terms would be grace, gospel, Christo-centric, Christo-telic, and love (even if love has been misconstrued beyond what the Bible means). So, honestly, I do not know how to respond to whether or not we are evangelical. Perhaps others might want to chime in here.

    But I do personally want to welcome anyone who comes to UBFriends regardless of their religious inclination or disposition or theological understanding, as long as we abide by our commenting policy.

  131. Hi Vitaly,

    I’m not sure if “positive” is the right word regarding SL. Yes, I love him, because he loved me in Christ, and I experienced God’s love and grace through him. Others might want to say he manipulated me in order to use me. But I subjectively felt the unconditionality of his love for me in Christ. As others report, he may not have done so with those who opposed him. But nonetheless God used him to lead me closer to Christ.

    If that is “positive” then yes. But I am also objective about his authoritarianism, being a “benevolent dictator,” and his subjective anti-intellectual influence on UBF. Because I’ve said these things, I have been accused of “basing my shepherd,” “bashing UBF,” being unthankful, etc.

    So it’s interesting to me that you see it as “positive,” while traditional long standing UBFers see it as anything but positive.

  132. Joe Schafer

    If I confined myself to learning from only those people who are considered evangelicals, I would have to stop reading two of my favorite peeps: C.S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    If either of those guys were alive and writing articles for UBFriends, I would hope that we would publish them.

    • We would have to ax any Henri Nouwen quotes here as well, since he was gay. And I suppose our Catholic friend Gerardo’s comments wouldn’t fair to well either…

    • Joe Schafer

      As far as I know, Henri Nouwen may have experienced same-sex attraction, but he kept his vow of celibacy.

    • Yes, that is correct. He was celibate, but his orientation was rather clearly homosexual. Some of his later writings indicate he might have come out of the closet or become more active in support of equal rights for gays, had he not died rather suddenly.

    • Joe Schafer

      Perhaps. But I’m always skeptical of claims made about what famous people would/would not be doing if they were still alive. For example, I’ve heard many conflicting opinions about what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would or would not support today.

    • Yes good point. It doesn’t matter though. Nouwen is routinely listed by reformed evangelical extremists as a false teacher leading people to hell, mainly because of his tendencies toward mysticism or Catholicism or universalism.

  133. Brian I am not trying to be harsh. But the reality is, when people die outside of Christ they go to hell forever. A place of infinite torment and duration. What is love anyways? If I withheld such truth I would be loveless. I can only share with you what the Bible teaches, if we cannot both be submissive to its clear teaching, then we I’m afraid it will be impossible for us to move forward in this discussion.

    • Ryan, you ask a great question, “What is love anyways?” That cuts to the heart of why I am the way I am.

      Anonymous mentioned a quote above in the original article of this thread: “Ecumenical people put fellowship before doctrine. We, as Evangelicals, put doctrine before fellowship.”

      Althought I really don’t like these kinds of black and white labels that divide us, this one is helpful to a point. People are so complex that we can’t fit each other into such tiny boxes. However, I am clearly becoming an ecumenical-first person now. I am so because I have gone through a transformation process. I used to be evangelical-first.

      I believe that putting doctrine before fellowship is precisely why Christianity has been splintered into more than 30,000 denominations. In reality, if we go that route of doctrine-first, we would end up with 7 billion denominations, one for each person on the planet. With a doctrine-first approach, we end up in isolation, even from our wives and children, because we all have flawed doctrine at some point and we all see dimly. Only Jesus had perfect doctrine, and he was killed for it! If you keep redefining who your neighbor is, and love only those people who have closely-related doctrines, you end up in an ever-shrinking circle of people, until really you end up alone.

      I’ve given all that up. And I am filled with such amazing peace and joy! I now believe firmly that orthopraxy (how we act) is far more important than orthodoxy (what we believe). Both are important. We do need balance. But I am seeking to let Christ in me mold me into improving my orthopraxy, realizing there are a lot of people out there who simply need a friend.

      So I would say love has a lot more to do with orthopraxy than orthodoxy. I would say that love is much more about being a friend and keeping unity in fellowship in spite of differences, than about putting up walls of truth and demanding someone to jump over them.

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, I learned a new word recently that you will enjoy. You’ve mentioned the balance between orthodoxy (correct belief) and orthopraxy (correct actions). There’s a third aspect that fewer people talk about: orthopathy. It means “correct affections.” Being drawn to and loving the right things. A healthy, growing faith should be drawing us more and more toward a deep, instinctive love for God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and for all of humanity, which bears God’s image. And for the created world as well.

    • Ah sweet. Orthopathy! Yes I had a suspicion there was a third term. I would say my immediate reaction is that a healthy “spiritual order” :) would be: pathy, praxy, doxy. But I haven’t thought that one out.

    • Joe Schafer

      One more tidbit to munch on. The idea of “putting doctrine before fellowship” sets up a false dichotomy, because fellowship (i.e. expressed unity) is one of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. It is implied, for example, in the Apostles’ Creed (communion of saints) and in the Nicene Creed (one, holy, catholic, apostolic church). It is a major, recurring theme in Paul’s letters. And it was Jesus’ sincere prayer for his followers. When we realize how prevalent the doctrine of unity is throughout the New Testament, the idea of putting doctrine before fellowship becomes almost nonsensical.

    • This helps to articulate some reasons for my leaving UBF, things I often don’t explain very well. I found that my answer to the “Stay or not to stay” question had to be “not to stay”. This was a reaction to the walls that UBF people threw up when I started asking questions and sharing my honest thoughts. My leaving was not the cause of the division, but a reaction to the division that already existed.

      After leaving, I was able to begin the reconciliation process with many people outside UBF and some inside. The wall of UBF heritage was clear to me as I started sharing my honest thoughts and questions. It became the deciding factor: either submit to the heritage or leave.

      One of my convictions formed through this process was that unity does not mean submitting to a certain theological system or organizational heritage or personal shepherd. Unity is possible when we first submit to Jesus as King, and when we seek the bond of peace and acknowledge one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and one Father, realizing that grace has been given to each one as Christ apportioned it via the Spirit (not as we determine).

      Our family’s decision to leave was for the sake of our own health and desire to no longer stand by idly as our friends were mistreated, but to be united with them. I’m learning that the unity Jesus prayed for and Apostle Paul went to jail for, has far more to do with loving human beings by embracing differences than with identifying similarities based on doctrines.

      So I think we should all put our Christian litmus tests away and start asking each other questions honestly in order to learn and share what we’ve learned, as we journey together as citizens of the Kingdom and look forward as aliens here on earth to our city in Heaven.

  134. Joe Schafer

    Hi Ryan,

    I won’t presume to respond on Brian’s behalf. But I am concerned that you are characterizing him as being un-submissive to the “clear teaching” of the Bible. Perhaps Brian is. But perhaps he also has some serious, substantive disagreements with you about what the Bible actually teaches and what kind of relationship we are supposed to have with the Bible.

    Interestingly, I ran across an article today about this very subject. The author wrote:

    All too often, if someone refuses to accept our view on a given issue, such as hell, we walk away assuming some sort of moral, psychological or even spiritual defect on the part of the other. Why else would they refuse to adopt our position? Clearly some powerful force is blinding them from the truth.

    Then he continued:

    …more often than not, when two people of roughly equal intelligence and goodwill disagree, it’s not a matter of blindness. It’s a product of two people seeing the world in a completely different way. This doesn’t mean every perspective is equally valid or accurate. But if we’re to have any hope of evaluating our positions–much less agreeing on a criteria by which to make such judgments–we need to stop writing people off the moment our initial attempt to recruit them to our point of view fails.

    I don’t expect you to engage Brian in a careful, long-winded discussion of these topics that you raised, unless you really want to. Not everyone has the time, patience or desire to do that.

    However, I think it’s unfair to write him or anyone off until you have thoroughly listened to him and uncovered what he actually believes — not just about his position on hell, but about the interpretive principles that brought him to that position.

    In case you’re interested, the full article is available here.

    • Thank you for the reply Joe,

      I disagree that these texts are unclear.

      “If any man is preaching a gospel to you contrary to what you have received, let him be anathema.” (Gal1)

      “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals… will enter the kingdom of God… such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the LORD Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”(1 Cor 6:10-12)

    • Ryan, the passage in 1 Cor 6 is not so clear as you think. You also want to imply a connection with Gal 1. In Galatians Paul is preaching about the gospel, the “good news”. The good news is certainly not about the fact that all kinds of homosexuals are condemned to hell. This may be good news for hardline evangelical fundamentalists, but not for any compassionate human being.

      Btw, my German Luther Bible has “Lustknaben, Knabenschänder” instead of “effeminate, homosexuals”. These German translations have a quite different, much narrower meaning. Both have to do with child abuse and prostitution. And if you read on in 1 Cor 6 it is mainly about prostitution, so this makes sense. So while the translation you chose may be clear, the meaning of the words μαλακοι and αρσενοκοιται in the time of Paul and their application to all kinds of homosexuals today is not so clear. Particularly, female homosexuality is definitely not covered by these words, so I think at least in this regard it is a wrong translation. Even if it would be true that God also condemns female homosexuality, a translator has no right to put more into the translation than is written in the text. I really don’t understand why many American Evangelicals are so obsessed with condemning homosexuals and even condemning people who do not condemn homosexuals. It reminds me more of the behavior of hypocritical Pharisees than what would Jesus do. See for a concrete anti-example. Is this the way you want to preach God’s love to the world? I’d rather prefer “false teachers” such as Brian.

    • Joe Schafer

      Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for continuing the conversation in a respectful way.

      When I wrote about those clear teachings of the Bible being not so clear, I was thinking about the passages of the Bible that are commonly used as proof-texts to support the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal conscious torment for everyone who does not profess faith in Jesus Christ. I’m glad that newer translations of the New Testament keep the words “hades” and “gehenna” instead of collapsing them into the English word “hell”, which evokes ideas and images that may be quite different from what “hades” and “gehenna” meant in the first century. For me, the question that needs to be discussed is what those images and passages meant to Jesus and his followers. That question cannot be settled merely by quoting some verses in English and declaring that the meaning is clear. There may be a consensus among any particular group of like-minded Christian scholars (e.g., neo-Reformed) about what these passages mean, but other scholars have drawn different conclusions, and their views ought to be considered on their merits, not simply dismissed as being wrong because the Bible is clear. It should be possible to dialogue about these issues in an intelligent way. That’s all I’m saying.

      BTW, I’m not suggesting that you and I need to have that dialogue here and now. I’m not competent to make arguments for or against any particular view of hell. I need to learn from others who are more knowledgable than I. I’m ready to listen to anyone who can make a compelling case for their views. But, from my perspective, quoting some verses in English and declaring that the meaning is clear is not a compelling case.

  135. I have written above, and now again. “YES Brian, Go ahead ban me. But before you do, you had better remove every single post on this site I have ever written. I am saying right here and right now: I think you are a false teacher. Therefore I will not hesitate for a moment to take legal action over my intellectual property. As a matter of fact, I have a close friend who is an attorney and who will do this for me if it comes to that. If you want to go that route we can do so.”

    • Hey David, dude, take a chill-pill already. No one’s going to ban you or remove your stuff. We’re not in a position to remove your stuff. We marked it as anonymous.

    • What do you mean you are not in a position to do so? You are the admin! Or am I misguided about that? I am not playing a game with you Brian. Do what I am asking you to do please. If you would like to test me, go ahead. My resolve is very strong.

    • ADMIN NOTE to our readers: Per his request, all of his comments (under his current login) are now marked as Anonymous and his username has been changed to Anonymous via the database. He has a posted under more than one account, so we need to investigate whether we can change multiple useraccounts.

      And for the record this is not something I will be doing again. If you want to sue us, then sue us. But if you comment here, be aware that you are making public comments, comments that have already been archived by Google and other search engines anyway, which cannot be changed.

      More info about the problems of changing usernames on comment history in threaded WordPress blogs:

  136. JOE/BRIAN, I tried to log in with my old administrative code that I used to use to approve comments with and it does not work now. If you will simply give me the admin sign in, I will make this a LOT easier for you.

    How does this sound, I would be willing to sign a document stating that I will never again post on this site if you will remove my previous posts! What a great idea! Then you can go back to patting each other on the backs like before. PLEASE REMOVE MY COMMENTS.

    • Joe Schafer

      David, you are free to post or not post comments. And we are free to display the material that people supply to this website of their own free will, because when they submit it, they know full well that they are submitting it to be displayed.

      There’s a well known saying: “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” If you don’t want your material on this website, then, for heaven’s sakes, stop posting comments.

      As for anything that appears on this website written by “Anonymous,” I’m not going to waste even a minute of my time trying to remove it, because as far as I’m concerned, it was written by someone who has already disavowed and disowned it.

      And I certainly will not give you admin rights to log in to this website.

      Nor will I ban you from this website. If you don’t want to be here, then just stop coming. It’s that simple.

    • Joe, I am asking you to remove posts with my name on them. You have already lied by saying that I asked to have other’s comments removed. You are a dishonest person therefore.

    • Joe I just sent you an email please read it

    • DavidL, why don’t you want to understand? In a threaded discussion forum like this you simply cannot delete the comments of a single person without destroying the whole thread context and thereby invalidating or distorting the comments of all the other people on the thread. You have written what you have written. Anonymizing your posts was already very fair and obliging of the admin. So why don’t you just appretiate that? Why don’t you just either stop posting or contribute in positive ways?

  137. I have withdrawn from writing here for a while in a hope others will start contributing more, and now I read this. How sad.

    Instead of improving the quality of the site by contributing more Evangelical and Biblical articles or comments, you start to condemn others to hell and demand that your orthodox Evangelical comments and articles are removed, so that only the “unorthodox” articles remain? How logical is that? You start to talk about copyright? Is that now also part of Evangelical orthodoxy? I’m lucky that St. Paul did not know about DMCA and so we can freely quote him here.

    You concluded from the site title that it was an evangelical website. Why that? The title is actually “For friends of UBF”. In my view, this just implies that the website is for people who in some way or the other care for UBF and their members. What really is “evangelical”, and what is an “evangelical website”? Can you please define it for us? Is it part of the evangelical statement of faith to believe that all liberal Protestants and Catholics and Muslims go to hell, and must the webmaster of an evangelical website censor all commenters who doubt this?

    I really would like to discuss the following claim with you two: “Muslims will also go to hell. First, because Jesus is the only way. And also because anyone who dies in unbelief, who dies in their sins, unregenerate, dies without a sacrifice for their sins.”

    Let’s be more precise here. Let’s take a real orthodox Muslim, who tries everything to please God according to his religion and to what he has learned about God in his childhood and culture. Let’s assume the Muslim is a very loving and wise person, as many Muslims are, not one of those hateful radical Islamists. Our Muslim just had the disadvantage of not knowing about Jesus, because in his culture, he had no chance to get in contact with the Bible and genuine Christians. Let’s assume this Muslim had lived an exemplary life, and yet understood that he was not sinless, but he trusted in the forgiveness of God (which is also mentioned in the Qur’an).

    Does such a Muslim go to hell? Did Jesus’ sacrifice not cover his sins as well? Does it only cover the sins of Evangelical™ Christians? And, what exactly does it mean if the Muslim goes to hell? You claim “When people die outside of Christ they go to hell forever. A place of infinite torment and duration.” So our Muslim, who loved God and hoped to go to paradise so much, will find himself tormented forever. Just for not knowing Jesus? Is this really your God?

    We could go a step further and think about Native Americans. They really had no chance to learn about Jesus before the Europeans visited them, right? And when those “Christians” came, they killed nearly all of them. Not much chance for most of them to learn about Jesus.

    Ben, Joe, maybe can we have a separate article about these questions?

    During all my years in UBF I had suppressed such questions, with the subterfuge that I should only care about my own sins, and not about others (Lk 13:45). But then, why should I engage so much in “world campus mission” if I did not really believe that these students were lost without all my activities? On the other hand, if I believed this, why did I not work more, day and night? Why didn’t I stay in front of the door of a student in a dormitory the whole night, praying loudly (as some other UBFers really did)? Why didn’t I go to Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan to preach Jesus? Or at least harass all my colleagues at work, my parents, my relatives, my friends, until they start professing Jesus?

    Talk about “cognitive dissonance”. When my little son became 5 or 6 years old, he started asking me questions like the above about the loving Muslim, and I found my former cognitive dissonant Evangelical self could not answer even such simple questions. I really felt like the king in “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. It was a sobering moment.

    But I’m still all too willing to discuss with other how they solve this dilemma.

    Personally, I believe many Evangelical Christians are dishonest and shy away from thinking about these questions, like I did in the past. Or, even worse, they secretly enjoy the idea that only they will go to heaven and most other people will go to hell and be tormented forever. It’s an eery idea for me to worship God in a church where the majority of people is of that latter ilk.

    • Joe Schafer

      Chris, what you have written here makes a whole lot of sense to me. At some point, I really would like to write something about the doctrine of hell. I too have issues with the hard stance of believing in eternal conscious torment for anyone who does not consciously profess faith in Jesus before they die. I have many questions about what the Bible actually teaches in this regard, questions that cannot be addressed by simple proof-texting, because the words that appear in Bible verses may not (or certainly do not) mean exactly the same things to us as they did to the authors of scripture. It’s not as simple and straightforward as some have claimed. I would love to have an honest, open discussion about this matter without immediately being accused of heresy, rebellion, moral relativism, or universalism. But this, like homosexuality, is one of the hot-button issues that evokes strong feelings in people and makes it difficult or to discuss. Unfortunately, these are often treated like the fundamental doctrines of Islam that Muslims are never allowed to question.

    • Mark Mederich

      it would be nice if church was more like honest discussion/searching for truth (like bereans were i guess) instead of ritual or indoctrination (maybe people would come to continually seek together rather than be convinced or convince)

  138. Joe Schafer

    What a wonderful, wacky day this has been. Good night, folks.

    • Good night Joe! These days my day is not complete without the threat of a lawsuit via a Christmas card from a UBF director or some blogger throwing bible verses at me like machine gun fire, or the friendly not-hateful condemnation to hell in a handbasket.

      All in a day’s work I suppose.

  139. Sharon Schafer

    Hi David, My impression of Brian is that he would be the first to admit that his words and provocative and even disrespectful at times. I’ve often heard him explain and admit this. I bet that if anyone were to actually engage him in conversation regarding his current positions, though, he would explain them thoughtfully and respectfully to the best of his ability. That’s why I continue to respect him so much.

    • Yea Sharon, you’ve understood me quite well. But I think the word you’re looking for is vitriolic.

      These days I don’t bother attempting to conform to some perceived idea of how I should be. Instead, I’m just being “me”. And yes, that is a rather scary thought, at first.

      I think Nouwen and others have illuminated a remarkable path of self-discovery. I’ve come to realize our Spirit-led transformation and real growth as Christians takes on a whole new meaning when we lay down our false pretenses and examine ourselves. In fact, the difference is so remarkable that I might even say the sanctification process doesn’t really even begin until we face the facts about our self and start living as “me”.

      Of course, too much navel-gazing and we become “curved inward” (i.e. the fancy word Ben uses that I can’t remember right now). And then we become locked in the prison of “self”.

      But I find it worth the risk. I am learning far more about God and other people as I continue on this journey of self-discovery.

  140. Thanks, Joe, for introducing the “new” word. It reminds me of Dt 6:5. Love the Lord your God with all your:

    * heart (orthopathy)
    * mind (orthodoxy)
    * strength (orthopraxy)

    Sorry for making this generalization, which is obviously not full proof, but which helps me sort things out somewhat in my head.

    * Doxy churches emphasize doctrine, perhaps Reformed, so called “angry Calvinists.”
    * Praxy churches emphasize activity/mission, perhaps UBF, Willow, Rick Warren.
    * Pathy churches emphasize emotion, perhaps emergent, pentacostal.

    Sorry if this might come across as offensive to some.

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, your classification is interesting, but I’m not sure that I agree. I don’t think that those churches would characterize themselves in that manner. A couple of anomalies stick out.

      1. I agree that neo-Reformed churches emphasize doctrine. But I’ve been reading Piper’s Desiring God, which is all about orthopathy. Although I disagree with some of Piper’s public stances, I do believe he sincerely wants to put enjoyment of God at the center of his life, and at some level that may be more important to him than doctrine. (Perhaps he sees enjoyment of God as the most important doctrine and practice.)

      2. My naive understanding of Emergents (which is a broad term) is not that they are seeking emotional experience as much as they are trying to create loving, gospel-centered and outward focused community. They de-emphasize certain aspects of doctrine, but they are all about practice.

    • I don’t have much insight regarding the various churches. However I am highly interested in this Trinity-based thought of heart/mind/strength.

      It is somewhat ironic that my paradigmn-shift in faith stemmed from bible study, and thoughts about the Trinity (although I didn’t have the 3 awesome ortho- words at the time).

      Last year I did a personal study of Job and Romans, as well as an entire bible review based on the word “grace” (charis). From Job I learned the passionate, furious love of God for people. And from Job’s friends who were rebuked by God in the end, I could start to see the falsehood embedded in the good-sounding words of Job’s three friends (I suspect those 3 friends represent 3 main theological systems found among today’s Christianity, but I haven’t investigated that yet).

      One of the problems with Job’s friends… can’t remember which one(s)… is that they had a linear view of faith. They saw only a pendulum swinging back and forth between what we could call “left” (liberal views) and “right” (conservative views). Human beings are not that simple, and suffering of people (like Job) cannot be adequately explained by such linear thought processes.

      The Trinity gives us a much more robust thought process. Instead of liberal vs. conservative splits/fights, the Trinity offers us a circular transformation process in which we strive to bring our pathy, proxy and doxy in balance with each other. People have various levels of each and we grow seemingly by emphasizing one while not neglecting the others.

      I’m attempting to “grow” only by keeping these 3 in balance, which means I often need to stop and let one of them catch up.

      Anyway, there you have today’s random thoughts…(really just trying to get my name to be bigger in this month’s word cloud :)

    • bekamartin

      Is there any church that has a balance of all three?

  141. Sharon Schafer

    It’s been good to get to know the real Brian…I prefer him anyday to a refined and religious Brian :)

  142. Joe Schafer

    A very helpful set of questions to ask yourself about whether to stay in a problematic church or leave it:

  143. Joe Schafer

    And a re-posting of the same questions with some interesting comments:

  144. Thanks Joe. Very helpful articles that express much of my decision process in 2011.

    I find this commenter to be right on…

    “The saying is that the fish rots from the head, and the leadership has a lot of influence in how the body tends to go. If the leadership is not headed the right direction, it will be probably just be a fight if you are going at cross-purposes to them. Barring a miracle, you aren’t likely to change the leadership. Conversely, if the leadership is going the right direction, even if the current state of the body is pretty bad, the body is likely to eventually begin rising to the leadership of the leaders. So if the leadership is something you can support, then “stay” may be the default choice.”

    • Interestingly, SL often said this about leadership: “The water upstream flows downstream.” Is this what UBF is experiencing today from her current leaders?

  145. Joe, Indeed, great questions to ask, especially #3, #8, #6, #1.

  146. Joe Schafer

    I strongly identified with the first comment by “Pat68” who said:

    “When I left, there were those who tried to talk me into staying or coming back, but they were unaware of much of what went on behind closed doors. It’s always easy to give people advice without the benefit of the details… Same old story with this congregation and probably others like it: the would-be peacemakers have little to no idea what goes on behind closed doors. And for those that do, their preferred tack is just to poo-poo it and wish for everyone to get along without addressing the real issues.”

    Many people have given me much advice about how to deal with problems in the organization. Most of them haven’t got a clue what has actually been going on behind closed doors. And the actions that they advise me to take (e.g., “Why don’t you go and talk to the leaders privately about your concerns?”) are things that I’ve been doing for years.

  147. Mark Mederich

    to go or not to go?

    ah, i have a right to be anywhere Christ pleases, he owns the earth not man;

    so like acts we can whisp around in the spirit like the wind:)

    seriously, doesn’t matter if go/stay, what matters is true to God in self, wherever

    • Mark Mederich

      God is claiming back his own: legalism/works heresy in man’s religions stole joy from many;

      but the Lord Jesus Christ is sending Holy Spirit joy to subdue man’s folly.

      man can work for decades trying to serve God wrongly, sincerely or for ill gain;
      either way fruit is deformed/twice child of hell often produced;


    • Mark Mederich


  148. Mark Mederich

    man has confused or misused religion too often, effectively claiming to be God, or claiming to really know God, or presuming to speak for God..

    in truth, man should humbly admit that everything from man is interpretation of what we think God wants/meant, only God Almighty knows for sure what he means

    official religion in Jesus’ time killed him & now has too often gotten off track with priest abuse of children/coverup by bishops, health/wealth mentality, cult-like egomania/powermonging or whatever;

    religion must not run rampant & ruin man, it must be properly managed/controlled by man, from the bottom up, since from the top down has often failed…religion must be a tool to serve man’s effort to worship God, not a ‘weapon of mass obstruction’ (hindering connection with God)

    • Mark Mederich

      man can work for decades trying to serve God wrongly, whether sincerely wrong or intentionally for ill gain; either way fruit is deformed/become twice child of hell;



  149. bekamartin

    I “left” because when I separated from my husband, and we eventually divorced, my chapter shunned us. We had been sent to pioneer a new chapter and I started to notice a sadness, a darkness, at our old chapter, so when we split up, I didn’t feel like rejoining our old chapter. But I visited at Easter and then I was shunned.

    • Beka, I know about the shunning, and how it feels. You are not alone. There are many of us who experienced this. We want to be a stop sign now, so that now one else has to go down that road.

      If you keep face, and play the authority game and promote the KOPAHN worldview, no one pays attention to real problems. As soon as reality hits KOPAHN, you are ushered out the door as if you never existed. You are then spoken about as someone who died.

      It was so re-assuring to me to meet AN for example (the Abraham of Faith of USA who was driven out of Toledo in 2001). We always talked about him as if he and his family were deceased. But to my surprise, he is alive and well and his family is doing well… and living not far from my family.

  150. Beka, Thanks for being willing to share your painful story. It needs to be told and I appreciate your courage, honesty and faith revealed here and on FB.

  151. Beka, So so sorry…this shunning and shaming is very sickeningly sad and sinful.

    I’ve expressed to many leaders that this continues to happen because the gospel has yet to meaningfully penetrate and evangelize the strong sense of honor that is so prevalent in UBF. Until repeated messages, conferences and Bible study explicitly deals with this, it will continue to happen.

    • Ben, I’ve been reading all the Toledo ubf messages about once a month. They make me ill but I keep looking for any glimpse of the things you mention. The messages are still dark and lifeless, as Beka described. The messengers don’t know how to preach a sermon from a bible text. They only know how to present the ubf heritage and proclaim honor and obedience to authority. I don’t find much difference in other publicly available ubf lectures either.

      There are two notable differences though: The Westloop messages and some of the LA messages.

    • bekamartin

      We only want to follow Christ, the Holy Spirit, our own consciences, but we are rebuked as if we are sinning when we do. More than a few times I or my children were told to “REPENT!!!” when we only disagreed (albeit very loudly and angrily) with my husband. And I was repeatedly told to submit to my husband and pray whenever I complained about his behavior and also me abusing my children. But there was never any real help for us. And my husband refused counseling, even Christian counseling. I am not innocent, but I did try to be better, to follow God’s leading better, and get help. Cincinnati UBF is only depressed and darkness is there. So sad!

  152. bekamartin

    Only God can change UBF, just as he changed us. I am not holding my breath waiting on this to happen.

  153. This song reminded me of this article and the emotions that go through your soul when deciding to say or to go…

    Are you faithful?

  154. Mark Mederich

    ?: the real question is NOT stay or go, but rather pursue right or allow wrong? I think it obvious where this Mohican stand:) CHRISTALONESHALLBEPRAISED/EMULATED/ADVANCED-DOOYAH!

  155. Mark Mederich

    perhaps the question is becoming report or not report? (or maybe best i just leave since haven’t had much time/$ go there awhile anyway?)