Walking in the Light of Absolute Honesty

One word that appears frequently in UBF messages, testimonies, mission reports, and prayer topics is absolute. If you type “absolute” into the search engine at www.ubf.org, you will see the phrases in which it appears:

  • absolute attitude
  • absolute faith
  • absolute commitment
  • absolute obedience
  • absolute command

If you use one of these phrases in a meeting, and you speak it with a loud and emphatic voice, you are almost guaranteed to evoke from your audience a hearty “Amen!”

But I cannot recall a single instance where I heard anyone talk about “absolute kindness” or “absolute love.” Nor can I recall ever hearing an exhortation to

  • absolute honesty,
  • absolute integrity, or
  • absolute truthfulness.

Why not? To put it bluntly, it is because honesty, integrity and truthfulness have not been terribly important to us. We recognize them as virtues, of course, but we just don’t emphasize them enough to place them after that coveted modifier absolute.

Throughout our history, we have tended to wink at dishonesty and overlook those little white lies told by our members and leaders, especially when they seemed expedient for advancing our mission. This tendency can be traced directly back to our founding director, Samuel Lee. He exemplified an “absolute attitude” in many areas, but he did not display absolute truthfulness.

Lee was an imaginative storyteller. When he would give announcements at meetings, he would spin colorful tales about people and events that stretched and distorted the facts. I know that he did this because, from time to time, those stories were about me, and his version of what happened often differed markedly from what I had actually experienced. (I can give specific examples of this, but I won’t bother.) We can speculate about why he did this, but everyone who knew Dr. Lee knows that the details of his stories often stretched the boundaries of truth.

And, on at least a few occasions, he doctored photographs from our international summer Bible conferences and mission reports to make the audience look bigger than it was. Eyewitnesses saw him do this, and the physical evidence of these doctored photographs still exists in our old calendars and newsletters. It is common knowledge that he did this. Some of us thought it was humorous or cute. We didn’t make a big deal out of it. But some of our members and leaders were bothered by it.

As Lee continued to spin white lies and tell tall tales, those of us who were around him got used to it. We instinctively began to cover for him, apologize for him, and reinterpret all of his words and actions in the best possible light: “What he said was… but what he meant was…” (I know because I did this on many, many occasions.) We bore with his quirks and weaknesses because he was “God’s servant.” Putting up with his shortcomings, we thought, was a small price to pay for having such a wonderful leader. Perhaps it was.

My point here is not to denigrate Dr. Lee nor to apologize for him. I have mentioned him only to make a broader point about our ministry as a whole. He was a very influential figure among us, and part of the legacy that he passed on to us is a tendency to fall short of telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That tendency persists in how we speak about ourselves and present ourselves to the outside world.

The statistics that we present about UBF’s achievements do not paint an unbiased picture of the state of our ministry. We tout the large number of missionaries that UBF has sent out during the last fifty years. But when we present that number, we offer no definitions or qualifications. Included in that count a significant number of persons who left Korea and went to other nations primarily to study or because they married a spouse living abroad. Members of UBF who leave Korea for almost any reason have been given missionary training and counted as missionaries. (I’m not saying that it’s wrong to call them missionaries. But it is different from what other mission organizations do, and that deserves to be noted.) And when we speak of the number of missionaries sent, we omit the fact that a significant number of them are longer serving as missionaries under the auspices of UBF. So even though the statistic may be technically correct, the picture conjured up in the mind of the one who hears it is not entirely accurate.

Nor do our news items and mission reports give an unbiased picture of what is going on. To us, every message is “powerful”; every life testimony is “heart-moving”; every conference is “historic”; and every wedding is “beautiful.” Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. Every one of those statements is highly subjective. But if we speak of every single event in superlative language, it cannot possibly be true. This is a clear example of what psychologists call cognitive bias or the Lake Wobegon effect. (Lake Wobegon is the imaginary childhood town of storyteller Garrison Keillor where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”) Over the years, we have taught ourselves to speak about ourselves in superlatives, believing that it glorifies God and promotes his work. But to outsiders it sounds very odd and self-aggrandizing

And we have taught one another by example to maintain a code of silence about negative events. When something good happens, it is considered virtuous to talk about it in public meetings and gatherings. But negative happenings (e.g., people leaving the ministry) are whispered in secret or never mentioned at all. One obvious example of this is the recent set of events in India, when longtime members and leaders left the ministry. This received no mention in public and, as far as I know, was not even openly acknowledged at the Asian continental director’s meeting shortly thereafter. Many of us only learned of it after Abraham Nial, one of the Indian leaders who left the ministry, wrote about it obliquely in a comment on UBFriends.

Our tendencies to hype all things positive and bury all things negative is more than a habit; it has become a de facto theology. We tell one another, “Be encouraging.” “Don’t complain.” “Talk about what God has done.” “Give a report that glorifies God.” “Don’t look at the situation not from a human point of view; see it from God’s point of view.” “Don’t become a bad influence.”

Recently, a missionary chided me for saying something candid and (only very slightly) unflattering about UBF in the presence of some Bible students. She pulled me aside and told me, “Don’t ever say that UBF is wrong. Young sheep need to be taken care of very preciously.” I believe she meant that, until disciples are fully and deeply committed to UBF, they should hear only 100% positive statements about UBF, because they are too immature and weak to handle anything else. I was taken aback and told her that, as a pastor and longtime member of this ministry, I found her attitude to be condescending. These “young sheep” of whom she was speaking were not preschool children. They were extremely intelligent, well spoken and mature 25-30 year olds attending a world class medical school! Moreover, those “young sheep” were not shaken by what I said. In fact, they were encouraged by my words and told me that my honesty was refreshing.

Young people, especially today, are seekers of truth. They are tired of fake images, deceptiveness, propaganda and spin. They long to hear a message that is honest. They want to be part of a community that is authentic. They want to see truthfulness modeled by the community, especially its leaders.

Many of us appear to hold this implicit belief: Any report that promotes our church or its members glorifies God, and anything that draws attention to our collective failure or weakness dishonors God. Presenting our church in a flattering light will ultimately advance the gospel.

I used to believe that, but I no longer do. This is what I now believe: Any report that glorifies God will be completely honest and utterly truthful, because our God is the God of truth. White lies, tall tales, exaggeration, spin and omission of embarassing facts inhibits the preaching of the gospel. The gospel is advanced whenever Christians tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Why do I believe this? Because unflattering truths, tragic events and apparent failures are deeply embedded in the gospel message itself. When we share the gospel, do we skip over Jesus’ betrayal, suffering and death and talk only about the resurrection? Of course not. If we did, the message would be robbed of its power. Nor do we gloss over the failures of Jesus’ disciples, such as Peter’s denial of Christ. The Bible is noteworthy for showing God’s people in an utterly realistic fashion, openly revealing their sins and weaknesses. Establishing the guilt and failure of all people, especially Christians, is prerequisite to the proclaiming the gospel of salvation by grace.

Proclaiming the gospel is telling the truth. On the day of Pentecost and thereafter, the apostles stood in the public square and testified to the facts of what happened: that their esteemed Teacher was arrested, condemned, nailed to a tree and died in the most horrible way, and then he rose from the dead and personally appeared to them. They didn’t need to embellish the story by exaggerating the number of miracles or post-resurrection appearances. If the risen Jesus didn’t appear to them on any given day, they didn’t pretend that he did. The apostles needed to be utterly honest in their testimony about Christ. Any exaggeration or distortion of any of these facts would have irreparably harmed the apostolic witness.

And the New Testament does not hide any of the problems or failings in the first-century Christians. In the book of Acts and the letters of Paul, Peter, James and John, the sins and internal problems of the church are on full display. Just glance at 1 Corinthians and you will see what I mean. These divinely inspired accounts of church life are painfully realistic. Despite all the apparent problems in the church, she is still Christ’s Body and Bride, the temple of the Holy Spirit.

When I see television coverage of Christian faith healers and ministers who preach a message of health and wealth, I instinctively question their credibility. God does sometimes bless people with health and wealth. Miraculous healing sometimes happens. But God doesn’t do it all the time, and he has his own reasons for not doing it. We don’t need to embellish the gospel with fantastic language or exaggerated stories of miracles, joy, blessing, etc. God doesn’t need our embellishment, nor does he want it. The gospel is fact, not spin.

If a Christian shares a selective testimony of God’s work in his life, reporting things that seem positive and omitting things that sound negative, does that testimony honor God? Can that testimony be effective? I don’t believe so, for the following reason. Everything that God chooses to do in our lives is significant. And everything that he chooses not to do is equally significant. God is the sovereign ruler over everything, including all our successes and all our failures. Jesus Christ will be ultimately glorified in exposing the problems, failures and sins of his people just as much as he is glorified in advertising their virtues, successes and victories. Positives and negatives both glorify him, as long as they are presented truthfully.

In Christ there is never a hint of dishonesty. God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1Jn 1:5).

Many embarrassing things have happened in the history of our church. I was an eyewitness to some of them. Perhaps you were too. Unpleasant events lie hidden and buried. I understand the desire to hide these things from people in order to uphold the image of our ministry and protect our members, especially young disciples, from discouragement and doubt. But do disciples of Jesus ever need to be protected from the truth? No. Disciples do not ever need to be protected from the truth, because Jesus is the truth (Jn 14:6). They need to be protected from the bad influence of dishonesty, the spirit of the devil who is a liar and the father of lies (Jn 8:44). Lying and hiding will enslave, but the truth will set us free (Jn 8:32).

At the end of this month, there will be a big celebration in Korea to mark the 50th anniversary of UBF. I imagine that there will be a lot of specific talk about the wonderful things that God has done, but only the most indirect and vague mention of our sins, shortcomings and failures. We are going to present what God has done. But are we going to paint a picture of our ministry that is utterly honest and truthful? Are we going to apply the high standards of accuracy and full disclosure that the writers of the New Testament followed when they reported on the early church? Many will say that the 50th anniversary celebration is not the proper time or place to speak about negative things. Perhaps so. But then please tell me: When and where is the proper time and place?

No one ought to be casting himself as a conduit of God’s truth – a Bible teacher, a pastor, or a minister of the gospel — if he is not ready to face the truth about himself and those around him and confess his sins to those he is seeking to teach.

Confession cannot be general or vague. If it is not specific, then it is evasion. In an excellent book titled Dare to be True, author Mark D. Roberts writes (p. 66):

…sometimes we confess our sins so generally that miss the benefits that result from true confession. A rushed ‘Forgive me, Lord’ may reflect our desire to say the right words without honestly dealing with our behavior or the condition of our hearts… [Our] unwillingness to be specific in confession is a common failing that stands in direct opposition to the requirements of Scripture.

Effective confession requires full disclosure, not partial admissions of guilt. Roberts continues (p. 67):

Confession of sin also is a key component in helping us overcome deception so that we can live truthful lives. When examining our lives, many of us need to be specific in confessing our sins of deception. Some of these may be so common in our behavior and in our culture that we need the Spirit’s help to recognize them as sin. But we also may be fully aware of our dishonesty and perhaps have even resolved not to perpetuate it, yet we have never confessed it. Choosing not to confess recognized sin is the same as saying we aren’t yet fully committed to repenting of it. Jumping immediately into attempting to resolve sin neglects the biblical call to confess and keeps us from tapping into the very strength that helps us act on our resolve. Full disclosure in confessing sin is the truth that helps set us free from those sins.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:1-2: “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”

And in Ephesians 4:25: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”

As a pastor and leader in this ministry, I want to personally commit myself to the following course of action.

1. To report the happenings in our ministry in a realistic way with no exaggeration, embellishment or spin, and to encourage others to do the same.

2. To no longer hide, gloss over, or minimize the problems and failures of myself and those around me. To face uncomfortable happenings of the present and past in a factual way, without any hint of defensiveness or spin, and encourage others to do the same. I will not defend wrongdoing by arguing that it was unintentional, done with noble intentions or rooted in misunderstanding. God is the one who will judge intentions. Our role is to ascertain and disclose the facts.

3. To confess my sins to friends and members of my community and to encourage others, especially our leaders, to do the same. Confession lies at the heart of the gospel and is necessary for forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. It cannot be limited to sins that are easy to admit, such as “I haven’t been faithful in studying the Bible and praying for my sheep.” It must include the events that are truly embarrassing, such as the times that I lied to save my own skin. The times I have engaged in ugly behavior in secret. The times that I have hurt people with angry words and actions. The times I have gossiped about people and undermined their reputation.

This doesn’t mean that I will air other people’s dirty laundry on the Internet. If is not my role to confess the sins of others, nor to cover them up. Each person needs to take responsibility for what he or she has done, not for the wrongdoings of others.

This is not going to be easy. Dear friends: Pease pray for me and hold me accountable.

Now I want to ask you a question. Are you willing to join me by placing your hand on the Bible and swear this same commitment “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God”? If so, I’d love to hear about it. If not, I’d love to hear why.


  1. David L

    Wow brother, what a concept! Reminds me of 1John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” How easy it is to speak   in superlatives, especially as pastors and leaders…I will try my best to do as you said Joe!

  2. Brian Karcher
    Brian Karcher

    Joe!  I say AMEN, AMEN and AMEN!

    You have hit the proverbial nail on the head. I am preparing some articles that I will submit to you for UBFriends, related to this topic in several ways.  

    One of the articles is my personal repentance. I recently came to realize that I did something 21 years ago, that the time, seemed “helpful and gracious”.  God has opened my eyes to see the reality.  I will share my public repentance soon.  But I will say here that I could have and should have went to jail 21 years ago.  

    I also just bought the book by Tass Saada, entitled “Once an Arafat Man.”  I believe this book contains God’s wisdom for many Americans in UBF at this time.

    Our UBF ministry has developed a dangerous “perception” of glorifying God, while ignoring the cold, hard reality of being a broken vessel.  A broken vessel cannot be repaired with kimchee and beautiful singing.  A broken vessel needs truth, and needs God’s healing.

    I have soooo much more to say. The Holy Spirit of Truth is indwelling me like I’ve never experienced.  I am a quiet man who keeps to myself, but I am now overflowing with power, peace and truth. I believe God is about to do something in our ministry that will change thousands of lives for the better, bring many to Jesus and render glory to God like never before.

    • Brian, I recently read the book A God-Sized Vision which is  about revivals. It tells the story of the great Korean revival in the early 20th century. Apparently the revival began in 1903 when a Canadian missionary named R.A. Hardie confessed his sin and weakness in public. Korean disciples were surprised and moved by his repentance and humility, because they were accustomed to western missionaries who tried to look good.  They followed his example. Instead of trying to look good in the eyes of the missionaries (as they formally did) they began to confess their sins too. Then the great revival began.

    • David L

      Joe, I supplied the picture of Martyn Lloyd Jones for that book toward the beginning of it…doc woodbridge asked me if I had any good pics of MLJ that he could use, so I was like Yeah! pretty cool that he actually used it!

    • Mark Mederich

      Korean disciples were surprised and moved by his repentance and humility, because they were accustomed to western missionaries who tried to look good. They followed his example. Instead of trying to look good in the eyes of the missionaries (as they formally did) they began to confess their sins too. Then the great revival began.
      revival comes from being ourselves/admitting weakness/seeking God’s help

  3. David Bychkov

    Thank you, Joe. I also try to follow this direction,  however it is hard, b/c of our many years practice and theology.

  4. John Y

    Joe, it seems to me that what you really mean is the combination of “absolute honesty” + “absolute humility”. At least, that is what I come away with when I read your post which is infused with both. The disturbing things you described above in your post, I agree, are instances in which we definitely need absolute honesty combined with absolute humility. I would argue that it is our pride–not necessarily the lack of absolute honesty”–that keeps us from revealing our vulnerabilities and weaknesses and mistakes to others. Trying to get to the root of the matter, I suppose.
    As you cautioned, and I know you would agree with this, but absolute honesty + “theological/personal axe to grind/desire to be proven right” can become a weapon for darkness, even when ostensibly used on behalf of exposing things to “light.” In addition, sometimes pride + “absolute honesty” leads us to say or do things that really are meant to serve ourselves than to edify others out of love.
    Therefore, I guess my point is that I’m not that sure that honesty is a virtue that can stand alone. It must be tied to absolute humility or absolute love or absolute wisdom or something. One common example is illustrated by my sister’s trick, unfair question to me each year: “Hey John, does this dress make me look fat?” And in absolute honesty,   I say, “Yes, it makes you look fat.” I’m being absolute honest, of course, but everyone can recognize I’m missing some other virtue here.
    Moreover, I’m not convinced that absolute honesty means that one is required to disclose all details, intentions, and truths. I wonder if sometimes the wise withholding of truth (without outright lying or being deceptive) is actually more consistent with how God deals with us. I mean, God doesn’t necessarily tell us the whole truth and all details of the truth of everything and His will, but the truth he does choose to reveal to us is completely honest. There are times where he withholds the total truth from us, and there are times he reveals the whole truth to us–either way it depends on His divine, loving wisdom and purpose. But maybe that is God’s prerogative, not man’s. Either way, I would argue absolute honesty must be combined with absolute wisdom/love/humility, etc.
    I guess this is my typical John Y complicated way of saying, “Amen!” to your post.

    • In Dare to Be True, Mark Roberts talks about the situation that you mentioned — the woman who asks, “Does this dress make me look fat?” He argues that even in that setting, it is possible to be truthful and gentle/loving. It is easier to try to wiggle out of the situation by telling a white lie, but in the end it is better to be truthful. Truth telling must balanced with love and wisdom to know when and how to speak it. But truth should not be buried indefinitely. (Indeed, it cannot.)

      The person who exposes other people’s sins just to get revenge and tear them down is not being truthful. While pretending to be righteous, he is full of malice. So he is not being honest about his motives.

      But there is a flipside. People can keep silent about the sins of others, pretending to be wise and discreet, when in reality they are just trying to avoid conflict and save their own skins. That is just as bad.

      It is best, I think, for people to  take the initiative to confess  their own sins before someone else does. If they  put off doing  this and then the conflict builds  until someone else exposes them in anger, who is to blame?

      I think this is why Jesus urges us to settle with our adversaries ASAP.

    • John Y

      I think Jesus’ words support the idea that you better confess your sins yourself, otherwise whatever is hidden will be blared on the rooftops, so to speak.
      But if I understand what you are saying, one might literally voice true facts about a person (but if you have malicious or faulty motives) then you are not being “truthful”? I don’t understand the distinction between telling true facts and being truthful. I guess I just think of it as being truthful either in an unloving manner, or in a loving manner – or being truthful in a humble manner or in a proud manner. Maybe there’s a different way to think about it.
      When, if ever, is it the right time to confess other people’s sins “from the rooftops”, if people are not taking the initiative to confess their own sins. I don’t necessarily disagree with this in principle, but I long to see healthy models of this in practice – particularly in our own UBF community.

    • John Y

      Do I swear to “a) tell the truth, b) the whole truth, and c) nothing but the truth?”
      Well, when I think of how God tells the truth to man, I see that God definitely does a) and c). I’m not convinced that he does b). And so I’m arguing that there are cases where we I will not abide by b) as a a requirement for “absolute honesty” because 1) I’m not sure if telling the whole truth will be edifying, wise or loving. 2) I don’t think withholding truth (for the right motives and reasons and not to avoid conflict and save one’s skin) is necessarily being untruthful and 3) I would God in His sovereignty does the same when he reveals truth to man. The truth he does reveal is a) the truth and c) nothing but the truth, but not necessarily b) the whole truth. But maybe comparing Truth as Divine Revelation and   Truth as Hidden Sins That Need To Be Exposed is like comparing apples and oranges and we are talking past each other on different levels.

    • Yes, God does withold information from us, but he doesn’t mislead or deceive.

      Witholding information at appropriate times  is necessary, and we can do this without being deceptive.   I am not going to post my tax return on UBFriends because it’s not expected of me. But  that’s very different from (a) pretending that my tax return doesn’t exist, (b) pretending that I don’t know its contents, or (c) publishing a fictitious return and pretending that it’s real.

      When silence becomes  a vehicle for hypocrisy (pretending to be something other than what we are) then it is wrong.

      Failing to speak up and tell truth rwhen circumstances or your conscience urge you to speak up is also wrong. Leviticus 5:1: “If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.”

    • Henoch

      just out of curiosity: concerning the question “does this dress make me look fat”, what is Mark Roberts’ suggestion to answer this question?

    • John Y

      Joe, of course I agree with you there that silence can be used as a cover for hypocrisy.
      I guess, I’m trying to figure out what it is exactly that makes me feel slightly differently about this post. I’m thinking that my personal experience in UBF is quite emotionally different from you and from most of the people who are reflexively agreeing with this post with an “Amen!” I’m not trying to defend the practices that you rightly point out as being wrong. Maybe I’m lacking the empathy because I haven’t personally experienced any of the disturbing things you have mentioned above. It is just not in my realm of UBF experience, but I confess, I’ve been in my own UBF bubble. But I have been burned by “absolute honesty” without “absolute humility” kinds of Christians, so that is the default bias I start out with. I need more empathy for those who have experienced what you have experienced.
      With that said, I hope you will always be open to calling me out whenever you think I’m withholding truth (wrongly or unwisely) or choosing silence as a cover for my hypocrisy instead of speaking up.   I’m open to hearing about it when we meet up this week because these kinds of things are hard to self-diagnose at times and are case-specific. thanks for the post, Joe.

    • Henoch, in response to your question: Roberts doesn’t  give any magic words to respond to that question, “Does this dress make me look fat?” But he advocates  telling the truth with sensitivity and love. My wife   said that when a woman asks this, she is not fishing for compliments but actually wants a helpful  opinion, even if it is uncomfortable.  When my wife asks something along those lines, I try to be helpful, and at the same time reassure  her of my  love  — not  with a cute sounding and joking but evasive  line, but by looking straight  at her and speaking directly and kindly. She wants to know that I love the person that  she truly is, not some false image of  woman who doesn’t exist.

      I have to admit: Looking directly at my wife and confessing my love for her without joking around was something that, until recently,  was very, very uncomfortable for me. It was virtually impossible.   But now I do it very easily. After 20 years of marriage, I was truly and suddenly  changed in that regard. The change came when — you guessed it — we became utterly truthful with each other about everything. Truthfulness allowed  love to flow.

      That is why I am now very, very skeptical when people withold truth from one another and then  claim to be doing it out of love.   I know from experience that real  love — God’s love — doesn’t flow in the midst of deceit. It flows in the presence of Truth.

    • John, thanks for your clarification. Roberts’  book covers everything that you raised in detail and with many practical examples. I cannot recommend the book highly enough. I will give it to you when I see you this week.

      Hey everyone: there will be a barbecue at the Schafer house this Saturday noon. John Y will be there, along with his beautiful and famous sister. All UBFriends are invited!

    • David Bychkov

      I also want to share that when I honestly confessed to my wife my heart conditions, my sins, my doubts and worries our relations became much more deep and loving.  But I feel that I still have to make long way to really  close and biblical relations with her.

    • GerardoR

      Seems like you have been doing this in your recent attempt to address the student exodus. Not that the document you wrote up is covering things up, but it is bringing something to light. I really respect you for that.

      This was an amazing article Joe.

  5. Joshua Brinkerhoff

    The director in my chapter not long ago finished a dissertation on confession as a means to healing, especially through testimony writing. Since then, he has encouraged students and especially leaders in the ministry to be really honest before the Lord and before people. He says that when we meditate on God’s word and apply it to ourselves, it must be personal, precise, and practical–the three Ps. This is not easy. It is easy to lazily meditate on a passage, write something at the end about not being faithful to Bible study or serving students, and then end. But to really allow God’s word to sort through the deep issues and sins and inner goings-on in my heart, that is what is difficult. In particular, confessing and sharing these sort of things is often really humbling.
    What has been the fruit of this struggle for the past few years? Some people couldn’t handle the level of personal confrontation and honesty, and they left. But us who remain have developed a really deep level of intimacy with our fellowship. I heard somebody say once that intimacy means “into-me-see”; that’s what’s going on when we as fellow believers deeply, humbly, and honestly share the truth of what is happening in our lives, warts and all. I really thank God for this, which is truly just His work going on among weak people. I really hope to do it more and more, as Joe has committed himself to do.
    Thanks for the posting!

    • Brian Karcher
      Brian Karcher

      Joshua, this is encouraging to me to hear. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Henoch

    Joe, i am amazed again and again how you are able to be so spot-on with your articles and how you are able to verbalize so well what many are thinking.  
    i have to say that i have not been a truthful person either, not so mention “absolutely truthful”. Furthermore, i was so deeply involved in certain dishonest schemes that i wouldn’t even realize that i am in fact, a very dishonest, untruthful, lying person. Of all the people who need the light of Christ to shine into the darkness i am certainly the first.  

    And i also think that i should try to encourage an atmosphere of truth. Couple of years ago, i attended a mission report. One of the speakers who was invited was not able to come. The honest thing that one could have done in this situation is to go up and say: “We are very sorry to tell you that person XYZ could not make it to this meeting because so and so reasons. Please let me now share this person’s mission report and afterwards let’s pray for this person.”  
    But what happened instead was that someone was sent up on stage to pretend to be the person who wasn’t able to come. With lots of dark make-up on his face he gave the mission report as it was his own, including imitating the accent. Even worse, many people in the audience actually fell for this and believed the actor to be the real missionary. In my opinion, no good intentions can justify something like this.
    And after all, as a good friend of mine said: impact trumps intent…

    • Woooowww.

    • Henoch –
      While this bothered me immensely when it happened (and a number of people – including some leaders – heard about it from me) I don’t think this is a matter of honesty as much as it is of cultural insensitivity. Obviously no one had the sense – or didn’t care enough – to ask any one with an ounce of historical knowledge how bad this would look like if anyone outside of our ministry heard about it or saw it.

    • Tuf, thanks for your comment.  
      i didn’t fully understand though why you suggest that this matter is a an issue of cultural insensitivity… My wife, for instance, is 100% Korean. And she reacted equally shocked and appalled when she saw the pictures and the video. Several other people i had discussed this issue with were also Koreans. And we all agreed that this was unacceptable.  
      The fact that an invited guest was not able to come to this event could maybe be interpreted as a weakness or failure of the organizers (but who would do that, anyways?). And to me it seems that the unwillingness of admitting that they were unable to present this guest is an act of dishonesty, rather than a cultural issue. To me and to many others, it seemed that the “show” was more important than the truth.

    • Henoch,

      I hadn’t thought of it that way. I guess I assumed it was due more to a lack of historical knowledge than to what you said. This is really smart – “To me and to many others, it seemed that the “show” was more important than the truth.” And you have officially changed my mind. :)


  7. Thanks Joe. I agree that communication in our UBF community is sub-optimal, even unhealthy. It is because there is  a lack of truthfulness, or need for spin which borders on lying, or is an outright lie. I’ll give one illustration, and offer 2 reasons why we do this, (which we seem to continue to do).

    Last year, a 2nd gen in her 20s reported to the police that her father beat her. That was the truth. In fact, he has been beating her periodically  on and off for 2 decades.  But the responses I heard from our leaders shocked me. One leader said to the police, “She is a mental patient,”  which was an attempt to question her credibility.  Another said, “Do you ever think what she did to her father?” implying that she may have deserved it. Another said, “There is always another side to the story.”

    Of course, they MAY be an element of truth to these varied  responses. But there seems to be some great fear that this truth of abuse gets out and is publicly known. The question I had is, “Why are our leaders so afraid to simply acknowledge the sad and painful truth that this daughter was beaten by her father?” If someone had reported, “I fed 12 sheep last week,” no one would question the account. Or they might laugh, if they know that it’s not true.

    I’d like to suggest  that we don’t have “absolute” truthfulness for these reasons:

    1) An overwhelmingly  strong culture of honor and shame. In the illustration, the honor of the father must be unheld, seemingly at the expense of the abused daughter. Even if she was beaten by him, we want to protect the honor of the father. Also, this story will bring shame to the church and make our church look bad, and so we don’t  shame the church. Surely, this is indefensible.

    Likewise, it seems that the honor of the leader or the senior is always upheld. That’s why many of us stood idly by when Dr. Lee said and did things that were questionable. We even thought it was funny. We gave him the benefit of the doubt. We respected him. We loved him. I believe that many still respect and love him, as I do.  So, we would imply or say things like letting the leader take the “high road,” while those surrounding him protect his honor and integrity at all costs, even at the cost of being honest and truthful.

    I think that this strong culture of honor is expressed by this very unhealthy attitude of almost unconditionally “protecting the leader.” It has paved the way for abuses by the leader, because the leader has little real accountability, even if he makes a questionable decision, or says questionable things. My question is “Does Christianity teach us to protect our church leader?” or “Does Christianity teach that the leader suffers even shame and humiliation for the sake and benefit of others?”

    2) Triumphalism. This is expressed by our glowing reports of every single Bible conference, and of every single message being a wonderful message, and of our always growing number of UBF members. So, I made a joke once (which no one laughed at) by saying that it seems that there may be bad Bible conferences, and bad sermons and messages, and stagnant chapters and churches, but they never happen or don’t exist in UBF. The apostle Paul clearly spoke against the unhealthy triumphalism of the Corinthians. Triumphalism breeds dishonesty, and it promotes blindness of not seeing what is the obvious reality.

    3) Control and manipulation. I believe that UBFriends tells the truth. I might tell the truth based on my inner woundedness and disappointment and hidden idols and blind spots. Others might like to add immaturity and rebelliousness and pride, etc. But Jesus said, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). I don’t think ouf leaders can question the truthfulness of what is expressed on this website. But I feel sad and sorry whenever I hear that some leaders do not want their members to read this, or make comments. So some members have been afraid to comment, because if they comment, they are afraid they may not be able to marry in UBF. I really can’t blame those who fear making comments. But I feel very, very  sorry for those who breed and perpetuate such unhealthy fear that does not plant the fear of God, or faith in God.

    • David L

      Incredible Ben, I sure hope that the father of that girl went to jail! If not, what  a travesty! I wonder what that girl thinks about a Church that defends the abuser instead of the abused? What will the Almighty Lord Jesus say when the Day brings this to light in the Heavenly Courtroom?

    • Brian Karcher
      Brian Karcher

      Ben, when I first began Bible study in 1987, I was studying Computer Science Engineering.   Soon I bought my first computer (it was a whopping 7 Mhz… and that was on turbo!).   I was told several times that this was wrong. I should not use a computer to type my testimonies, and the clear implication was “technology is evil”.

      Well, these days I am THANKING GOD for technology!   Email, blogs, forums, Facebook…it is now impossible to control information.  

  8. My wife asked me, “How would you answer the question,  ‘Does this dress make me look fat?’?”

    I said, “You look lovely no matter what you wear. It doesn’t matter whether you look fat or not.”

    She laughed. So, I think I pass…for now.  But I’ll have to wait for the rest of the day to see if she gets even…

    • David L

      Lucky for me, my wife doesn’t care what I think! haha

    • Brian Karcher

      Ben, your first sentence is brilliant!   Your second sentence though…let me just say “God be with you.”

    • That’s why my wife sometimes calls me a 4 letter “J” word with love and affection.

    • Brian Karcher

      So the word “balance” comes to mind.   I really believe God wants us to “avoid all extremes”, as Ecclesiastes says.  A wife once asked her husband, “What’s on TV tonight?”   He replied, “Dust.”

  9. I like the idea of being honest. It’s a bit difficult to be completely honest in an environment that isn’t exactly condusive of honesty. I’ve heard  it said before that we can be honest, but it  sure didnt’ feel like it.   I hope that honesty will really help things. I was very surprised to hear a leader  actually apologize to me for the evironement and some practices. Unfortunely, and maybe it’s because of my own sin, I couldn’t tell if they were being honest or just telling me what I wanted to hear in an attempt to get me to do what they wanted me to. Joe, I’m encouraged by your latest article, and I’m going to try to be a more honest person in the ministry. Of course, as someone at the bottom, I think it’s going to be easier for me. I can’t imagine how hard  it will be for you, or other leaders  to endeavor in being honest.    Let’s pray about it!

    • Brian Karcher

      Oscar, you are correct.   In the past, those who were honest were made to feel so angry that they developed spiritual problems and left the ministry, or worse. For those of us who dare to be honest, we still will face anger, bitterness and resentment.   I think UBF has studied Genesis too much. We started the ministry already, let’s move on.  

      In Genesis, Rebekah did not use truth, but lies and deception to get her son Jacob the blessing from Isaac, instead of Esau.   Joseph’s brothers threw him into a well to die, yet God had a good purpose and saved many lives.  

      Korean missionaries need to stop throwing people into “wells” and repent of the “Rebekah” syndrom.   Just because God works in spite of your sin, doesn’t mean you should sin to see God’s work.

  10. Emily Francis

    Joe, I completely agree!   Thank you for your excellent essay.   Who knew that such an extensive argument would need to be made to suggest that absolute honesty is an essential Christian characteristic.
    I was just at an educational conference last week and one of the keynote speakers was an expert in predicting future trends and understanding learners, now and future.   One of her main points about young people today was the need for authenticity.   Young people do not trust or respect those who come across as fake or insincere.     And they will not listen, follow or “obey” a leader that they distrust.   The world is becoming entirely horizontal.   There is no vertical hierarchy to the new generation.   We need to understand that to understand them and serve them.
    I will give you an example of a conversation I had recently with a bible student that I know very well but who I do not personally study with:
    The student asked me about our fellowship meetings.   I told her that we all come prepared with a personal comment about what we received from the week’s passage and two questions about the passage.   Then we discussed around the table, sharing our comment and asking our questions as they came up in conversation.   The student just kind of looked at me.   When I asked her what her fellowship did, she described a message given by a person standing at a podium in a small room and students’ sharing their testimonies.   No conversation, no “fellowship.”   It amazed me.   For a minute I had forgotten that whole structure and I thought, “Are people still doing that?”
    But that wasn’t the disturbing part.   The disturbing part was that the student said she had NEVER heard her bible teacher (who happens to be a Korean missionary) share a testimony.   Her bible teacher had never shared her repentance or prayer topics in front of her or the rest of the fellowship.   I find this to be sad and disturbing and I wonder how we can really love one another and work to encourage and support one another if the basic ideas of respect, trust, and honesty are not at the root of all that we are doing.
    I am sure that the bible teacher would say that she shared at a different meeting–at the women’s meeting–with no students present.   But if what we are sharing are truly “testimonies”–the story of God’s work in our lives–how dare we keep that from the people in our own ministry or our bible students or our own children.   Your point about God not hiding the terrible aspects that exist within God’s history is well taken.   I always think how Jesus felt, hanging on the cross, suffering for my sin, knowing that I would not share what he is doing in my life to purify and sanctify me, to draw me closer to him, to teach me his righteousness and holiness, to help me see even deeper my need for repentance, my need for him, my salvation in him.
    Thankfully, Jesus was not too embarrassed of my sin to pay the cost of it on the cross.   If he carried the weight of it on his shoulders so that I could not die, but live, it seems only fair that I am able to own up to it and share the story of God’s grace and mercy in my life.   These are not our stories.   They are God’s work and God’s gracious history.

    • Emily:  I edited your comment above to reverse the words “horizontal” and “vertical” because it seems that’s what you meant. If I made a mistake, let me know and I will fix it.

  11. Belssi

    Joe, thank you for your article. I am willing and pray God may help me to do so more and more. I have been praying for personal honesty and truthfulness for a while and reading this is a great encouragement.

  12. Joe – this is a compelling and thoughtful essay – and the responses have been equally compelling.
    I have to say this same dilemma has been disturbing my heart for many months now. Many leaders don’t trust one another and admit this freely in the right company. I feel like some people have adopted a Machiavellian leadership style rather than one of Christ-like character. That is, an emphasis on maintaining power and growing the “kingdom” over truth and integrity. Lies, politics, deception (are these redundant?) are acceptable when done for the good of the ministry or for the good of “sheep”.
    For many years I served HBF and loved them very much. Many people saw the work I did and complimented me saying I have a “gift” in serving young people. There was never a gift. I was just honest with them about myself, our ministry, and about their lives. I listened to them and never made things seem better than they were. I echo my wife’s comments – this is the next generation. After 14 years of teaching high school and undergrads – I know one thing: they are not impressed with leaders who are not real. No matter how grand leaders may seem. The days of impressing young people with pomp are coming to an end. If we don’t drastically change these practices (be honest with ourselves and eachother about our past and present sins and our weaknesses) – I think this ministry will not be able to serve the coming generations.

  13. Jen E.

    Thanks to everyone for airing out this uncomfortable but important issue that has been affecting UBF for sometime now.  I was once part of the same culture that excused leaders and dismissed people’s valid concerns because I thought my role was to protect the church from all negative comments and emphasize only the good things about our ministry.  I did this almost to the cost of losing a great friend when she was being pressured by UBF leaders to cut off ties with her family in order to stay in the ministry.  My zeal for the church made me blind to its faults and dismissive of people who were seriously hurt by fellow church leaders.  I am grateful that God healed my relationship with my friend so that we can maintain a genuine friendship in Christ even after she left the ministry.  I agree with my ubfriends here that the time has come for UBF to be honest with itself about its weaknesses so that it can with God’s help, become more genuine, loving and open to needs of the current generation (and the generations in between!).  We can’t keep glorifying in man-centered theology of how big, great, powerful or historical we are when there are pressing relationship and leadership issues at stake.  And i don’t mean to disparage the ministry because all ministries fall short.  However, keeping silent about things and excusing problems is never the way to deal with them effectively.  As Joe pointed out, the Bible makes no attempt to cover up or omit the sins of even the most godly believers like King David or Peter.  Individually and collectively as the church, I hope UBF can overcome this pervasive mindset that it must be “holier” than others and deal honestly with people’s concerns, wounds and sins in a healthy way.

  14. Yongha Lee

    There was a senior missionary who served a pioneering ministry. He served one PhD Chinese girl student for a few years but never connected with her through bible study. She was a big but tough fish. He then tried to arrange marriage for her with a shepherd from Korea. Although she was not Christian, he proceeded claiming that he served her for many years with bible study and she is a good Christian. One Korean shepherd by faith married her. But it didn’t take long for him to find out she was not a Christian. Blessings turned to a curse. But he trusts the work of God and still remains in UBF as a lay missionary although his service to God is limited because of his unbelieving wife. No one really can understand all troubles and hardship he has been going through for more than 15 years of marriage and even today. What bothers him most is dishonest and silence of church. Sure he understood it might be an isolated incident unfortunately for him. But seriously how long would you defend or endure your church’s dishonest? By the way, don’t try to encourage him saying it is the sovereign work of God and it was your decision of faith so you pray to continue to fight a good fight. He would rather like to hear a genuine and honest apology. OK, I’ll be honest with you. That victim of dishonest is yours truly. Joe, I had to hold up my tears when I read this article Sunday morning. Honest. That word touched my wounded soul. It is a simple word but perhaps one of the mot difficult words to say for us. Joe, thank you very much. You’ve got my support and prayer. I will pray for you.

    • Jennifer

      Youngha, I am sorry to hear about your family situation. I truly hope the people who introduced you and your wife under false pretenses can own up to their dishonesty and repent and apologize to you. My husband and I also married in ubf but I recall one occasion when my shepherd threatened to call off our engagement because I was troubled that my family did not support our sudden engagement. My shepherd was angry with me that I wanted to delay our wedding date ( a date she chose btw) and said unless I made up my mind to marry now, I would lose the opportunity. I never thought too deeply about this but hearing your story reminded me of this. No leader should use marriage to manipulate others to do and act as they want. Although it was clearly my decision to marry and I’m glad I did marry my wonderful husband, I believe my shepherd used her influence abusively in this manner.

  15. James Kim

    I believe we should deal with this topic with much prayer and humility. Mark Roberts pointed out, “God is the Source and Lord of all truth. How can we strut about personally as masters of the truth when we must rely so utterly on God’s gracious revelation if we are to know the truth at all? We need sincere gratitude for the truth, not smug ownership about it.”
    “Christians have the privilege of knowing God and his truth. But we also must acknowledge that divine truth transcends our limited experience, language, and knowledge. Though we can know many things about God, we cannot fully know the infinite, holy, perfect God of truth this side of heaven— As Christians we agree with this conclusion, recognizing that God alone is the Master of truth and that his truth always transcends our understanding
    This is wedding season, beginning from the Royal wedding in England. Bride spends a lot of time for make-up and dress. The bride has strong desire to present herself as beautiful bride to the groom and to all others. She wants to cover up blotches on the face with make-up and expose/reveal her strong point of the body and cover up her weak parts. Figuratively speaking, this may be our human nature.
    As we read Bible, we all pick and choose selectively the contents that we want to hear and obey. Priorities are different according to the situations and cultural upbringing. Most of us are not interested in the whole truth of God (also impossible to achieve). This is our sinful nature and human limitation. Because God is the Source and Lord of all truth, when we know God personally, we can say we know the truth. Knowing God takes a long time as the loving relationship between husband and wife takes a long time. At the same time we need to be very humble and prayerful before God who is the Source of all truth.
    Our God is God of grace and truth. In spite of all our sins and weaknesses, God poured out his grace unconditionally so that we could come to him and be healed individually and collectively.

    • Thanks, Dr. James. I don’t think that any Christian  who reads this will disagree with anything that you wrote. For sure, no Christian deserves God’s mercy, grace, love and forgiveness. This applies to everyone eually.

      Joe’s article seems to be asking, “Have we in UBF been truthful?” As many claim that they “absolutely obey,” do they also “absolutely tell the truth”? Please do correct me, if this is not what is being addressed.

    • Sorry, mispelled “equally.” I’m just wondering if “spell check” can be installed; it works so well with gmail?

    • Hi James, I’m glad that you are reading this book. It addresses the topic of humility and gentleness very well, bringing out points that I think we need to hear.

      On P.104, Roberts writes:

      Neither is gentleness and act of feigning weakness in order to manipulate others. It’s nothing like the swarminess of Charles Dickens’s classic character Uriah Heep, who uses his “`umbleness” as a way to gain power over the people around him. Heep pretends to be humble in speech and demeanor, yet all the while abusing the trut others have put in him so he can use them in his selfish schemes. True gentleness comes from a desire to serve, not to dominate. It’s not a retorical technique, but a sincere expression of one’s humble heart.

      Let me be honest with you. If I had a dollar for every time missionaries  encouraged me and  other Americans  to be humble, I would be very rich. I have heard this over and over for the past 30 years. Please understand that this  can be a  sore point for  many in this ministry, because on so many occasions I have seen  a call to humbleness be used to control and manage people and silence  those with valid concerns. I have seen humbleness be used as a doctrine and rhetorical device to advance personal agendas. Putting on an aura of humbleness — characterized as keeping silent, never saying anything negative,  and submitting to leaders in everything — has become a pathway to recognition, to positions of authority, to marriage, etc.  I hope you will understand that much of it now  strikes me as fake.

      Jesus Christ was truly humble (Php 2). Yet he constantly challenged authority. He did not try to strike a compromise point midway between humility and truthfulness, because in reality those are not competing interests.  Jesus was fully humble and fully truthful. His humble submission was to the Father, not to human beings. So he spoke the truth, plainly and simply. I want to imitate Jesus in this regard. Please pray for me to do so.

  16. Thanks for the clarification, Joe. Now I understand why my remarks on “absolute humility” were not gaining much traction on this post. I was not aware of how demands for humility (ironic) can be used against others in the upsetting ways you described above. I hope you will continue (as you already have) give me the benefit of the doubt that my posting was not my attempt to do the same.
    I will still put forth, however with a little fear and trembling, that I hope for our community to have “absolute honesty” + “absolute humility” (true Christ-like humility and not manipulated pseudo-humility that Joe talked about above). I wonder if the one side that values “absolute humility” in others sees “absolute honesty” as cover for prideful, disrespectful challenge of authority.   And I wonder if the one side that values “absolute honesty” in others sees “absolute humility” as cover for hypocrisy and a means to silence dissent.
    I presume when this is happening, the problem is not so much a lack of honesty or lack of humility, but a profound and tragic breakdown in trust between individuals on both ends. It is quite tragic and sad, and when I see it bursting out of the pages of UBFriends, I want to weep.
    My life has been in a bubble of sorts, and I thank all of you for your honest comments, including Yongha, Jen E, Ben, Tuf and others. I’ve recently realize how many of you have experienced quite difficult things during your Christian journey that I cannot even imagine or comprehend, and I hope God will give me more understanding and compassion for each of you who have had borne this lonely struggle, sometimes without support, sometimes without anyone affirming what you have going through. Wow. How difficult it must have been.

    • Yes, John. I agree that it is “a profound and tragic breakdown in trust between individuals on both ends.” I suggested in a previous article that our human conflicts in the church (including UBF) have stemmed from a lack of trust and respect.
      Because of our cultural differences, Koreans think that the leader has some kind of right or superiority over the non-leader. So, the leader can just make a unilateral decision, that he expects no one to question him on. Jen and Youngha, I believe experienced this. Americans, on the other hand, think that the leader is just like everyone else. This may be a broad generalization. But I don’t think I am too far from the truth, am I?
      I think the Trinity helps us resolve this in that the Father, Son, Holy Spirit are totally equal. Since we are made in God’s image, we humans are also all equal. I’ve found that this is such a hard concept for Asians as a whole to embrace, because they grew up in a culture (Confucius) where you simply do not question one who is older, or question one who is a leader.
      I think that we seriously have to begin to address this, and to work these things out, or there may not be the next 50 years to talk about.

    • Brian Karcher
      Brian Karcher

      Ben, you are correct:

      I think that we seriously have to begin to address this, and to work these things out, or there may not be the next 50 years to talk about.”

      We often say we don’t want to be the “church of the warm pew”… but we will soon be the “church of the empty pew” if we don’t stand up for what is true, speak openly about facts and courageously open our hearts and minds to the Spirit of Truth.

    • Another thought, Brian: in the hierarchy of values of each national culture, Koreans value honor (thus, saving face), while Americans value honesty (thus, telling the truth).
      Surely Satan wishes that “never the twain shall meet.” But by the grace and mercy of God alone, God may enable us to be honest, open and transparent. That can only happen when we rely on Grace and not on our own righteousness and honor and position and ranking and achievements and sacrifice, etc, which are really filthy rags in God’s sight (Isa 64:6).

    • Brian Karcher

      Ben, you make a good point: Satan is the enemy.   I’ve understood the two value systems for many years.   I wonder why the American value system hasn’t been acknowledged or tried?   Why is it 95% Korean and 5% American?

    • David Bychkov

      Is it really so, Brian? 5:95?

    • Brian Karcher
      Brian Karcher

      David, I am not qualified to give the percentage for all of UBF or other chapters.   I was speaking in terms of my “chapter”, i.e. Detroit.   Perhaps I was being generous, and perhaps it is closer to 99 to 1.

  17. Brian Karcher
    Brian Karcher

    YoungHa Lee,

    It is painful to me to hear your story.   These days God has put a pain in my heart like never before, and a power in my spirit like never before.   You wrote: “What bothers him most is dishonest and silence of church.”   This is the pain I now have too.

    I assure you that I will no longer be silent (be prepared because I’ve been storing this up for a long time…)   I will be publishing more articles to support Joe’s point above.   I will be repenting publicly of my sin, which was illegal and unlawful.

    I have a question for us: What land are we in?   We are on American soil, in America.   In Russia, we are on Russian soil, and so on.   In America, we have a Constitution, which I believe is a set of principles of truth, honesty and integry.   All laws in America stem from this set of principles. A law that does not abide with the Constitution is not enforcable.  

    Romans 13 declares that a missionary must honor the governing authorities.   I would argue that   Romans 13 is not talking about church authorities, but government.   A Christian submits to God and to Caesar.

  18. Darren Gruett

    Great article, and what a great challenge. Being honest about my sins is something I have been struggling with a lot over the past few months. One thing that has helped me out a lot is having an accountability partner, which in this case, is my brother. To borrow a term from Ben Toh, it has enabled me to be “HOT” about things which I otherwise would not talk about.
    “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

    • Brian Karcher
      Brian Karcher

      Excellent idea, Darren!   I am part of a Holy Club in UBF.   I will not tell any details about it, but let’s just say we have discussed men’s issues that would make your skin crawl.

    • Darren Gruett

      I understand completely. Those are exactly the types of things I have found that I can discuss with my brother and he with me. What I have found is that when I am more honest with him, it helps me to be more honest with others.

  19. Joe,

    Thank you for your insights. We do need more honesty, transparency and accountability.

    However, I don’t think it is the complete picture.

    I want to add something else to the list: absolute love. And I don’t think it is at all in conflict with absolute truth. Of course we try to categorize things in terms or concepts we understand, but we will always fall short of understanding the full nature of God and how he works.

    We need more absolute love.

    The cross shows us many aspects of God’s character of which truth and love are two. The graphic nature of the crucifixion shows us the truth about man’s depravity. At the same time, it shows us the amazing breadth of God’s absolute love for sinners.

    As has been pointed out here several times, the Bible is very blunt about the failures of his people. King David and his adultery & murder, Abram and his lies, Moses and his impatience, the Israelites’ sins, the dispute between Peter and Paul, etc. A recent article on this site, for example, brought up that the point of the book of Genesis is something deeper than what may be immediately obvious. Maybe that is a way to look at human events and history as well. In the midst of all human endeavors, God continues to love his people, disciplining them, and showing his awesome power and relentlessness to work out his plan.

    I think that an accurate history of UBF in its 50 years would include many human failures and sins, but behind the scenes God has done his work. I along with you would hope that at this time we don’t glorify an organization or a people in it, but look at the God of UBF and praise him for his work. As of at least equal value- I agree – is learning from failures of the past to improve things so that God can use us even more. And we can really praise God for his love that he uses people in spite of their faults.

    So here’s where absolute love comes in: frankly I hated Dr. Samuel Lee and others at times. My first reaction was to “complain” (although I did not regard it as complaining and still don’t) and I did/do many times. But the most surprising thing is that God has also worked in my heart through these things. Through them I have actually learned more about the love of God that transcends our sins than I could have ever learned from any book or lecture- for which I am very thankful. I learned about my arrogance, my lack of love and about how to trust God as the sovereign Lord more. And hopefully I learned about how to bear others and eventually forgive, probably in just a very small measure compared to the forbearance and forgiveness the Lord has shown to me. This is my own experience and one way God has worked in my own life; maybe God has worked differently in other individuals.

    Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” I think that underlying truth or at least along with truth, love has to be there. In this context, I will happily place my hand on the Bible and swear the commitment “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” May God bless us with even more transparency and accountability under his love and grace.

    I’d love to attend your bbq this Saturday. Maybe I can sometime in the future. I bet we both have some stories to share. Maybe at some point, I can share some of them here as appropriate and what I learned from them!

  20. David L

    I think that the ministry would go  a long way toward reconciliation and walking in the light of truth and love if its main leaders publically confessed to the terrible sins committed therein by them. Certainly, some of the claims by members of that old group RSQUBF were exaggerated and handled poorly, but I know for a fact that some of them  were not. Until a public effort to totally rehaul the ministry’s ongoing,  unwritten  policy of secrecy and confucianism  is undertaken, I am afraid that nothing will change. Sure, I am thankful that there are a growing minority of UBFers on this site that really want such a change. This is evident by the high number of comments affirming what this article is discussing. But will there ever come a time when individual leaders in UBF  are actually called out for their  sins against other members and have to answer for them? At what point does Matthew 18 go into effect? Some of the issues I am talking about are so pervasive and well known by UBF  members that it should have been brought before the entire church  long before  now as the Lord Jesus  directed. Please feel free to email me if you want   specific examples of what I am talking about. stonensling1(at)yahoo(dot)com.

    I want to be clear that I am very happy and thankful for men like Joe and Dr. Ben and the rest of you who are willing to undergo the “shame” of speaking against the unbiblical and sinful practices in the ministry and what used to be your personal lives. You are truly lights in the darkness.

    • Brian Karcher
      Brian Karcher


      I agree “absolutely”… (well I didn’t until about 5 or 6 years ago, now I do!)

      You asked: “But will there ever come a time when individual leaders in UBF  are actually called out for their  sins against other members and have to answer for them?”

      I have witnessed this calling out of a leader too many times to count.   I know it has happened over and over.   But I found out something interesting lately.   There is a lot of Eastern religious thought in our ministry toward repentance.   Korean missionaries have been called out numerous times, but it seems they sit silently and “take the flogging”, and then continue on with no change. This is not Christian repentance.

      I would argue that we need a healthy dose of “absolute repentance”.

      I am wondering  why should the recent happenings in Toledo be kept silent?   Why are things done so secretly? (These are not questions I’m asking you, David)   I often feel like I’m just asking the wind…

    • David L

      Thanks Brian, I am suggesting more than just Korean missionaries though…more like the main  elders and pastors of the church proper. And this being brought about not just by one or two people, but by every person who is a member of the ministry that desires the truth to come out.

    • Toledo? What happened in Toledo?

    • David Bychkov

      yes, I also would like to know, if possible.

    • Hi Dave, I’m wondering why Joe is not Dr. Joe while I am Dr. Ben and not just Ben. Is there some discrimination here? :-)

    • Brian Karcher
      Brian Karcher

      Oscar/David: I feel that this blog is not the place to answer your questions.   I was caught up in the spirit of “walking in the light of absolute honesty” and probably shouldn’t have mentioned anything about Toledo.

      However, M.Sarah Barry visited Toledo all weekend.   My wife and I met with her for over 6 hours Monday and had good fellowship and a time of “speaking the truth”.   I was encouraged through meeting with her.

    • David Bychkov

      Yes, I think you are right, and I’m happy that you have encouraged truthful discussion.

    • Now I really want to know! But I guess I can let it go.

    • Brian Karcher
      Brian Karcher

      Email me then: brian (at) priestlynation (dot) com

  21. I was just thinking that this article has encapsulated and captured the zeitgeist of our UBF ministry!

    • Brian Karcher
      Brian Karcher

      The what?   Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a perpetual Benny Hill routine…

    • Brian Karcher
      Brian Karcher

      I think the book Outliers has a chapter that describes my thinking right now:

      “Chapter 7 traces the influence of Korean culture and deference to superiors as significant facts in a high number of plane crashes in the national airlines. It was only when cultural phenomena such as the inability to contradict a superior were corrected by cultural retraining that Korean Air Lines began to achieve the same safety levels of the airlines of other countries. This chapter is interesting for its treatment of flight KAL 007 alone.”


    • Sounds familiar. Didn’t someone write about this before?

    • Brian Karcher
      Brian Karcher

      Ah, I knew I read that somewhere :)   I think your article sparked some of the best discussion we’ve had.   Communication is so very important.

  22. Greg Lewis

    I would like to share an absolutely honest story about a major failure I had about a year ago. I had one of my Bible students tell me directly about my own “over-focus” on works compared to grace. Instead of teaching absolute love and absolute grace, I heavily emphasized absolute obedience. He said though he received salvation and new life through Bible study with me, our Bible studies had become burdensome and even depressing. I was shocked and taken back. He stopped Bible study, and I do not blame him. As I prayed and tried to understand my failure, I realized that my over-zealousness was in fact borderline legalism. Though in my heart I really was trying to serve him with the best I had, I was not a wise servant of God. I may have been faithful but not wise.   Week after week, I would try to encouragingly challenge him with the word of God in regard to one issue or another. I even sensed the Holy Spirit working and illuminating issues to me through our Bible study. But then I took such precious revelation and used it improperly. I should have used it as a means to understand and pray for God to illuminate such truths to him.   But instead, I would try to direct him accordingly. Obviously this was wrong, unwise, hurtful, and unfruitful.   Instead of building him up, I beat him up and wounded him. I was like the wicked servant at the end of Matthew 24. I had to really repent and rethink my way of Bible teaching and mentoring others and have since tried to really focus more on just discussing the passage, God’s grace, and relationship building rather then trying to plant some kind of direction or action every Bible study. I am still learning and growing about how to properly handle the word of truth, but I just wanted to share my short repentance story. Sorry I did not include more details.

  23. Brian Karcher
    Brian Karcher

    Hello Greg and welcome!  Thank you for sharing.  It’s best not to share too many details, so your post is fine (see our Commenting Policy).

  24. Brian Karcher
    Brian Karcher

    Joe, as I re-read your article above, I am more and more moved to repent of spin.  You mentioned:  “They didn’t need to embellish the story by exaggerating the number of miracles or post-resurrection appearances. If the risen Jesus didn’t appear to them on any given day, they didn’t pretend that he did.”  I wonder how this would be reported if UBF was there?  The gap between perception and reality has reached epic levels.

  25. james lee

    My observation as a second gen is that there’s alot of pressure to be “great”. and i think this influences me a lot. I have lied to people and have told them I’ve been living a great, fun   life (when I was actually in a miserable position). This is because i grew up thinking that “i had to be great”. a lot of children (especially koreans) are pressured to be the best. Better than the rest.

    We’ve all heard about “being a great shepherd”, having a “great, big church”. I think this mentality influences us a lot, and our need for human recognition overpowers our character sometimes. Unfortunately, striving to “be great” in the eyes of others becomes the main goal of associating with other Christians. I think this results in hypocrisy and division. Fellow Christians are not equal anymore in people’s eyes. People who are labelled “great” are suddenly above regular people. These so-called “great” people begin to believe this as well.   Love for eachother as equals seems to be gone, we no longer can relate and help each other.
    “Our love must not be a thing of words and fine talk. It must be a thing of action and sincerity (1 John 3:18).”
    This is why I like reading the Bible. This verse is so true. Let’s try to be sincere and be authentic rather than trying to impose status or impress others.
    “Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous, love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offense, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes. Love does not come to an end.”
    What’s interesting is that even when i was writing this, i had moments when i thought, “are people going to like this?”, “are people going to think i’m insightful?”. See, that is when my need for human recognition came into play.
    I really hope that we can stop pressuring people to be “great”. I think it doesn’t really help at all. Besides we’re all sinners aren’t we? Let’s focus on helping eachother by sharing the gospel only, as equals.

    • Greg Lewis

      Thanks for your post.   I think part of the problem is also how we define and measure greatness as cultures and ministries, not so much greatness in itself.   We too often stray from Biblical greatness (Mk 10:45) God is a great God, and he wants us to do greater things.   Recently one senior missionary told he me he realized something.   He has spent most of his life trying to be a successful missionary, to be successful in his ministry, career, etc.   But what he realized is what God wants and what native leaders need is for missionaries to be “great” like the missionaries who reached out to the Waodani tribe in the jungles of Ecuador. Another missionary noted when he returned to visit Korea, many praised him for his sacrificial life as a missionary in America.   He said he wasn’t so sure about it, that his life in America is actually much better then it could have been in Korea.
      One verse that kind of speaks to the balance of success and greatness, even in the context of your post is Thessalonians 4:9-12, “Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”   Especially the words, “make it your ambition to live a quiet life,” helps me to find some balance in the pursuit of greatness in the Lord.
      Personally, I think I pressure myself to be great more then anyone else.   It is perhaps one of my biggest strengths yet at the same time my biggest weakness.   Deep in my heart, I want to do something great for God.   I want to pursue the greater things Jesus talks about in Jn 14. But I can unwisely mistake greatness in the eyes of people for greatness in the sight of God.   Perhaps one of the greatest sights of greatness is Jesus’ death on the cross. I want to be the best that God wants me to be. This may not measure up to much in the sight of the world or people around me, but God may be pleased.

    • Brian Karcher
      Brian Karcher

      Jesus’ words are so true:

      Mark 10:42-44 (NIV)   42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”

    • Isn’t it just so easy for a Christian leader to “lord over others,” in the name of “Jesus’ servantship”? I know that it is for me.

    • Brian Karcher
      Brian Karcher

      I’m not so sure it’s easy Ben, at least not for an American :)   We gave up “lording over others” when we became independent from England.   But still I’m sure there are Americans who do this too.

    • james lee

      Hi Greg, thanks for your insight. I also am ambitious, and I hope to achieve a lot of my goals. However, only God knows me 100% so I hope I can let go of people’s judgments, whether it be good or bad.

  26. Brian Karcher
    Brian Karcher

    James, thank you for posting. Your comments are great… sorry, couldn’t resist!   Seriously though, you mention 1 John 3:18.   That really should be one of my “key verses”.   I think Jesus understood what you are talking about.   Jesus almost always had ordinary, and not-so-great people around him. He welcomed them.

    Since moving to Detroit, I’ve started listening to quite a bit of Eminem music.   Why? Because it reflects my reality in many ways.   One of his lyrics goes like this: “Back to reality, oh there goes gravity.”   The thing is, there is a spiritual gravity. No matter how great we make ourselves, it all crashes to the ground at some point.   God humbles the proud in his right time.

  27. james lee

    Hi Brian, thanks for your response. I agree with you that God dislikes pride in people. The concept of thinking you are “great” is kind of funny. I sometimes picture humans as little ants running around, judging each other and thinking how great they are..It seems pretty childish.

    That might be what God’s perspective is like. Humans might be comparable to ants in intelligence, spirituality, and probably everything else when you put it in God’s perspective. It just shows how small we are.

    I can understand how God would dislike self-righteousness. It’s probably because everything we’re doing “spiritually” is corrupt anyways. But the person who is humble and authentic is probably in favor before God. Because at least he knows his place.
    Connecting this back to Joe’s article, I think realizing how little we are can help us become more honest; because we’re really nothing. God is infinitely greater. There’s no reason to be proud, to boost ourselves up, think you have status, etc. Which also means that there is no reason to twist facts, tell white lies, try to please other people, present yourself in a deceitful way,etc.
    This is just what’s been in my head these days. I could be wrong.

  28. Brian Karcher
    Brian Karcher

    This is something I’ve come to understand this past year:

    “Yes, God does withold information from us, but he doesn’t mislead or deceive.”

    Indeed, Jesus did not tell all the details of heaven to Peter and the others because they couldn’t handle it at that time. In fact, I’m not sure any human being could handle all the details about heaven!

    But Jesus never lied. Jesus never deceived the disciples into thinking heaven was something different than it is. So perhaps JohnY has a point about b) above, the whole truth.

    So I’m wondering, does the “whole truth” mean “all the details”?

    I don’t thinks so. We can and should vary the amount of details in various occassions. But we cannot do this at the expense of chipping away at the truth.

    If I withhold a detail that changes the truth, I am deceiving. If I tell a detail that changes the truth, I am lying. Everything I say and do, no matter how detailed, should be inline with the whole truth of the matter at hand.

  29. Brian Karcher
    Brian Karcher

    I’ve come to the same conclusion as Joe stated in the initial article above. Many before us have come to a similar point, only to leave the ministry filled with anger, bitterness or apathy, or all three. We need more who are willing to stay and make this commitment:

    “1. To report the happenings in our ministry in a realistic way with no exaggeration, embellishment or spin, and to encourage others to do the same.

    2. To no longer hide, gloss over, or minimize the problems and failures of myself and those around me. To face uncomfortable happenings of the present and past in a factual way, without any hint of defensiveness or spin, and encourage others to do the same. I will not defend wrongdoing by arguing that it was unintentional, done with noble intentions or rooted in misunderstanding. God is the one who will judge intentions. Our role is to ascertain and disclose the facts.

    3. To confess my sins to friends and members of my community and to encourage others, especially our leaders, to do the same. Confession lies at the heart of the gospel and is necessary for forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. It cannot be limited to sins that are easy to admit, such as “I haven’t been faithful in studying the Bible and praying for my sheep.” It must include the events that are truly embarrassing, such as the times that I lied to save my own skin. The times I have engaged in ugly behavior in secret. The times that I have hurt people with angry words and actions. The times I have gossiped about people and undermined their reputation.”

  30. yaruingam

    Since I am no longer with UBF I thought of to keep quiet. But when I read Joe’s exposition of the blatant truth in the ministry I am tempted to mention a few example I found here to support to his observation. (And in Fact, this is also one of the very reasons I left UBF) Recently one poor Indian shepherd got a job after along long struggle. My wife, who is teaching in a aschool, arranged that job through her friends. She did so because even though we have left the minstry, we still love and have cocnern our shepherds who converted from Hindu background. Now the interesting thing was two week later, another UBF coworker visited our home. In course of their conversation she told to my wife that one Korean missionary has arranged a job for that shepherd and she informed this to coworkers in Korea. Now they were so excited that Korean UBF has invited her and the shepherd to give misison report. The point is-in order to get credit she( Missionary) claimed that she arrenged a job for him ( shepherd)What a big lie! This is just one example. There has been many mnay lies in the similar manner in the past. So what Joe has exposed in his brilliant article is very much a part of reality in UBF ministry. There is nothing to be surprised in that; it only needed to be corrected.

    • Yaruingam, thank you for your comments, and welcome to ubfriends. While we do encourage open and honest conversation, please read our commenting policy (http://www.ubfriends.org/comments/) and be careful not to promote gossip. And while we don’t want to delete comments, please be considerate of those of us still in the ministry.

      In no way does Joe or I feel that UBF is filled with lies and deception. For example, could the missionary you mentioned above have been praying much, and found that prayers were answered? Did the missionary even know your wife had arranged the job? Unfortunately, proper “credit” wasn’t given. But as you said, you are no longer part of the ministry. So maybe there wasn’t even a chance to give proper credit?

    • David L

      Brian, I don’t think that Yaruingam was gossiping. I think that he was just relating a story that was pertinent to the context of the article. He did not mention anyone’s name. Personally, that is one of the reasons my wife and I left the ministry as well. And in my view, I do think that bending the truth or lying is a big problem in UBF, that’s why there are 87 comments on this article, and I think that is what the article points out clearly as well. I could also give many examples of this. But that is why I am thankful for this website and these reformers.

    • David, I agree that lying is a big problem in our ministry. I think the near-lies and spin is an even bigger problem. I have no intention of defending that any longer (though please correct me if I do it unintentionally!)

      Talking about what “she said to her” and what “he said to him” and such things is borderline gossip however.

      Personally, I almost wish we had a “gossip board” where people could air all sorts of complaints about our ministry. At least it would be a venting place and possibly hold people more accountable. I doubt such a board would bring about much good though.

      Yaruingam’s example is a good example of how top leader’s actions will filter throughout the ministry. It is also an example of the “Rebekah Syndrom”, which we need to repent of in UBF. We should be giving credit where credit is due, and not blindly rewarding those who act deceptively.

  31. I’ve never heard it called the “Rebekah Syndrome,” but it is cute!

    I’ve always taught Gen 27:1-46 by strongly commending Rebekah for her lying, since God revealed to her that God had chosen Jacob over Esau as the covenant son (Gen 25:23). Thus, her lying was her faith and her attempt to honor God and to ensure God’s correct choice of Jacob over Esau.

    This, I believe, is quite a bad and ludicrous way of teaching this passage. For this suggests that God needed us Christians to make sure that his will is done and carried out correctly. Wow. I think I had inadvertently communicated to those I taught Genesis to that God would be paralyzed to fulfill his will without us humans!

    Now, looking back, such a teaching would condone “the ends justifying the means,” which I don’t believe would ever be justifiable for a Christian.

  32. Arthur Smith

    Thank you for the wonderful, HONEST article Joe! You’re the first UBF leader that I know of that has written a truthful account of what UBF really is! It’s good because UBF leaders for years have denied there ever was even any problem at all.

    • Arthur, thanks for your contribution. I believe it is your first comment to this community and we welcome you.

      I would like to provide a little caution that one cannot claim to know what “UBF really is” simply by reading this UBFriends online forum, as truthful as Joe’s article happens to be. You are getting a perspective and a truthful one at that, but not a comprehensive and complete perspective of “UBF reality” in its entirety.

      I’m not criticizing Joe’s article at all, but I’m trying to fight against the natural tendency of people to think that if they’ve “seen or read about one UBF community, they’ve seen ’em all.” Of course, I’m fighting the persistent tendency of UBF-outsiders (or even ex-members) who read something about UBF (usually on the internet) or experience something in UBF (usually something wounding and disturbing) and then think they know everything about my particular UBF community and have henceforth cast me and the rest of UBF into some dark mental prison where we are now all “guilty until proven innocent.” And the usual tendency for those who choose to use the internet to “understand” UBF is not to actually talk to people involved to promote mutual understanding and edification, but to justify something else. There are exceptions, and I just met one recently who spoke to me honestly about troubles in UBF past but withheld judgment on me and my ministry until he first talked with me and got a chance to know me and my ministry. What a breath of fresh air. You know who you are and I thank you.

      So, is it true that if you’ve “seen one apple, you’ve seen them all?” No, with something as complex and diverse as our UBF community, if you’ve seen one UBF community, you’ve seen just one UBF community. Cultural and sociological generalizations are interesting, but when it comes down to it, I am not UBF and UBF is not I. My UBF community may bear resemblances to greater UBF or other UBF ministries, but not everything about greater UBF, or some problematic UBF ministry, is representative of our own local UBF ministry. Judge me by the basis of my own “strengths and sins”, not on the basis of others’ “strengths and sins” – whether perceived or real. Judge me after you have gotten to know me and my ministry. And do not judge me because you have “read something on the internet” and thus have discovered “gospel truth” about everything in my ministry and can thus claim to know what I’m all about.

      Anyway, sorry, I clearly have personal issues that I’m working through right now. What a way to “welcome” a friendly observer to this discussion. My apologies.

      Admin, feel free to give me a “time-out.” I’ll go to my room now and be still.

    • JohnY,

      I would also caution our readers as you said:

      “I would like to provide a little caution that one cannot claim to know what “UBF really is” simply by reading this UBFriends online forum, as truthful as Joe’s article happens to be.”

      I won’t speak for Joe (although I did a few posts ago, sorry!). But I hope no one misunderstands my viewpoint of UBF. I am in UBF ministry, called by God to campus mission to be a Bible teacher. I do thank God for the ways in which God has chosen to use this ministry. I do not think the ministry is full of liars and deceivers. But I do acknowledge we have much to correct and learn.

  33. John Y, your comments are fine. Please keep thinking and praying!

  34. Arthur Smith

    I’ve witness much of the behavior first hand in the chapter I’ve been involved with– and I’m hardly an outsider as I’ve been involved since 1998.

    • Arthur, unfortunately, most of us have also witnessed these things. And from what I’ve experienced, many people in almost every church have witnessed similar things.

      What do you think about Joe’s admonishment above?

      “Now I want to ask you a question. Are you willing to join me by placing your hand on the Bible and swear this same commitment “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God”? If so, I’d love to hear about it. If not, I’d love to hear why.”

  35. Arthur Smith

    I should add, I don’t claim UBF to be all bad — there are good things like good Bible studies, a sense of community, etc — but there is definitely a lot of conveniently hiding unpleasant truths and using excuses such as “I/we didn’t know”, etc when confronted about the issues/behaviors at hand.

    I’ve seen this first hand plus other things like phony praise, phony compliments, exaggerations of half-truths, etc.

    That being said, I’m glad Joe Schafer took a first step — especially since he’s a leader — to address the concerns publicly and not shirk responsibility or deny the existence of problems at all. That from my 13 years of experience has been the norm for the chapter with which I’ve associated myself.

    • Arthur, along with JohnY, I’d like to welcome you to ubfriends. Although some conversations may start out oddly, and others may finish oddly, we will be mindful to “take each person at his/her word”, to be kind, to be humble and concise, as well as truthful and honest.

      Your comments are welcome here.

  36. Arthur, my apologies to you again. I was over-reacting to something completely unrelated to your comment. I regretted submitting the comment as soon I pressed the “Submit” button.

    • And my experiences have been since 1994, but they have differed quite vastly from many of you, and colored by my own cultural understanding and interpretation of the same issues. Hence my different perspective on many issues.

      I’ve lived in a particular bubble in which I only experienced positive things and have never been wounded by anyone in UBF. Made uncomfortable, yes. But never wounded or hurt. I’m still in the midst of trying to understand the experiences of others who have had not the same fortunate experiences as I.

      My current “beefs” and “wounds” stem from the collateral damage that is resulting from unresolved conflicts between former/current members and UBF leadership, which are affecting me and members of my ministry who have virtually nothing to do with conflicts and mistakes from the past. I guess it comes with the territory, and I don’t blame anyone specifically, but people have to understand that there are other unintended “victims” out there because of the “honest” and disturbing things that get circulated out there on the internet. You can blame the leaders for not dealing with legitimate abuses or grievances. Fine. But people also need to take responsibility for what they write on the internet which end up hurting others not directly involved in their personal grievances. We all have to work together to achieve reconciliation and healing or we all as Body of Christ will be hurt, one way or another.

    • John Y, you make a good point. We all need to try and be more sensitive to other’s situations. It is very difficult for me to reconcile the current UBF with the traditional UBF however, the UBF I “grew up” in when I was 18 years old. (For example, I was rebuked during my wedding preparation for being too busy-minded…well I only had 3 weeks to prepare and that was a rather long time compared to others…)

      Someone recently asked me if I wanted to bring my list of grieveances to a meeting to discuss them. I said no, because I don’t have enough paper to print them all out. I also said, I’ve forgiven every one of them. Jesus said to forgive “70 times 7”. I feel that I’ve forgiven “7000 times 7”. I often wonder why I am the one initiating and forgiving almost all the time.

      The bottom line is that I’m just happy that things are actually changing, and there are people in UBF like those posting here who know what’s right and want to walk in the light of honesty and truth, and are willing to examine the facts without caring so much about keeping face.

    • David Bychkov

      I really love John Y’s recent comments. This narrow, one-sinded mind is really dangerous and devided thing. Sure our ministry is not that simple. It could not be just good or just bad. It is different. Chapter is different form chapter. And leader is different from leader. An the same chapter could be very good from some side, and not good from other side. And even, like Dr. Ben showed in his article, one person could be good and bad in the same time, and sure is good and bad. Even the same point could be strong in one situation and week in another.
      But when we think in terms “white” or “black”, “good” or “evil”, we could not find constructive dialog, we will never actually find it. When we in our chapter were used to think that UBF is nothing but good (very good, the best), and some guys, (who actually ,I think, already had doubts on this statement) suddenly happened to read some shocking antiubf stuff, we had no any chance to escape division. Because we were still thinking that UBF is nothing but good (at least b/c of our experience), and they (b/c of their experince and stuff they read) began to think that UBF is nothing but bad. So the only solution in this holy war was division. And both sides thought that they are just keeping God’s side.

  37. yaruingam

    Here I want to make a small clarification about my comment on Joe’s article. It appears that some people has undesrstood it as an expression of grievances for not giving a due credit to my wife. First of all, let me make it clear to every one that I need no credit from anybody except from God. The point I was trying to make was to point out the reality that has taken place within the ministry so that those who are in the habit of indulging in spiritual deception and lies in order to glorify themselves rather than God may stop. Out of many of such cases I have come across I am just pointing out the most recent one, (if at all, what the shepherdess who told to my wife, is true’) to support Joes’s article. And I also want to point here that I never use the term’ filled with lies & deception’ Anyway, if I have discouraged those who are still in the ministry, I am very sorry. I humbly beg your pardon.
    Second, due to poor expression in English, if my comments has given the impression of gossip, I apologies to my exteemed readers, ubfriends. And I must confess that English is my last language, which I learnt when I attended college. And I would suggest to remove my comment if it is harmful to others.

  38. This is a great discussion.

    My question: to what end are we pursue absolute honesty?*

    There was a lot of controversy over what writer Tim O’Brien calls “Story-truth”? In his book, “The Things they Carried” he recollects the horrors of the Vietnam War using story-truth. Sometimes, certain experiences shell-shock us. Story-truth, then, becomes a way of healing, and somehow communicating, difficult experiences. Maybe the controversy is not so much in how we tell the story (i.e. truthfully), but the motive behind why we tell them.

    My guess is that a person’s need to tell a fictionalized story says something about the kind of person/where the teller is. I have a sister and a father who are great story tellers. When I was little, I laughed along. When I got older, I judged them. What changed? Not their stories. Rather, I suspect it was my changed relationship with them. And surprise, it’s changed again.

    I don’t think I’m encouraging a humanistic or relativistic view of honesty. I’m just at a point where I’m not just tackling the truth of stories themselves (as they involve me + others) but also tacking the truth that many more things are being communicated in the telling. What really matters, I believe God himself reveals. In absolute honesty, this is the kind of truth that, I find, sets one free.

    Does this make sense? Thoughts welcome here.

    *Note: I link the meaning of honesty to truthfulness here.

    • james lee

      Yeah this makes sense..I think it comes down to authenticity, like when you said “where the motive is coming from”.

      I remember a quote that went something like, “if you look at someone lustfully, you’ve already committed adultery in your heart”.

      I think it’s kind of the same concept here. Like, it doesn’t matter that what you said wasn’t the truth. It just shows you’re in “sin mode” and lying is the “fruit” of that state, just like looking at someone lustfully is the fruit of deeper adultery (sin) issues.

      I also remember a quote in the Bible that said something like, “everything that we say that’s not truthful is sinful”.

      So what kind of a state are we in when we stretch facts or blatantly lie? personally, I usually have fear in me or egoistic pride (being judgmental)and that’s the main issue..

      just some stuff i’ve been thinking of lately.

  39. David Lee

    I believe what are said and posted is true. But I also believe that it should be handled in the proper manner and in the church, not in the rooftops. I think it also should be done in love of Christ.

    “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

    You see the point, it is still in the church to the end.

    • Darren Gruett

      Yes, we can learn a lot from this biblical model of church discipline.

    • David,

      I’m not sure I understand. Could you explain this sentence?

      “But I also believe that it should be handled in the proper manner and in the church, not in the rooftops.”

      What is the “it”? Also, what does the “rooftops” mean?

    • Thanks for your reply privately, David. While your verses are relevant, what we’re dealing with in our particular church for the past 50 years, is the “Korean Air syndrome” (described in the book Outliers: http://money.cnn.com/2008/11/11/news/companies/secretsofsuccess_gladwell.fortune/)

      “Korean Air had more plane crashes than almost any other airline in the world for a period at the end of the 1990s. When we think of airline crashes, we think, Oh, they must have had old planes. They must have had badly trained pilots. No. What they were struggling with was a cultural legacy, that Korean culture is hierarchical. You are obliged to be deferential toward your elders and superiors in a way that would be unimaginable in the U.S.

      But Boeing (BA, Fortune 500) and Airbus design modern, complex airplanes to be flown by two equals. That works beautifully in low-power-distance cultures [like the U.S., where hierarchies aren’t as relevant]. But in cultures that have high power distance, it’s very difficult.

      I use the case study of a very famous plane crash in Guam of Korean Air. They’re flying along, and they run into a little bit of trouble, the weather’s bad. The pilot makes an error, and the co-pilot doesn’t correct him. But once Korean Air figured out that their problem was cultural, they fixed it.”

      In fact, we discussed this about a year ago here: http://www.ubfriends.org/2010/06/what-is-good-communication/#more-57

    • I also agree with you David that sensitive conflicts and grievances should not be blared from the “rooftops” or shouted out in public. I was just making the general point that when you don’t deal with conflicts on a honest, personal level from the very beginning, it eventually bubbles up, breaks out of secrecy, and even explodes in a more obvious fashion – “from the rooftops” (Luke 12:2-3), so to speak. I hope the general theme of all my postings on ubfriends makes it pretty clear that I’m not so much of a fan of trying resolve personal issues and conflicts through using a public online forum.

      I am a fan of trying to win the highly coveted prize of the “most commented article” on UBFriends – if that functionality ever gets restored again. Someone out there is “training” me and curbing my ego. :)

    • I agree that personal issues should not be discussed on the “rooftops”, i.e. this website, per our commenting policies.

      But what process does our church have for dealing with chapter issues? What if problems are larger than one person? What if the issues are not personal, but systemic to a chapter? What if the perception of glory doesn’t match the pain of reality?

      The comments from Abraham Nial and the India chapter are perhaps not inline with ubfriends, but they are telling. Where else could he turn to? We simply do not have a proper way of dealing with issues truthfully and honestly. The problems indeed start out as “just a little bad weather” and could be resolved reather easily initially. But wounds and hurt are left to smolder since there is no healthy way of dealing with issues. The answer is usually just “make good with your shepherd” or “leave the ministry”.

      I am a man who typically is silent about everything. Yet in order to prevent two more chapters from such a situation as India, I will shout from the mountain tops if necessary.

    • I understand the problem of not having an outlet in UBF. It is my personal commitment to work on developing a healthy, respectful and healing process within UBF in which personal conflicts and even more public, wide-ranging problems can be addressed and resolved in culturally-sensitive ways, without resorting to the suboptimal ways I tend to see occurring on online forums in the past. I’m currently researching good models for this and talking to friends who have lots of experience in conflict resolution in Asian background or multicultural contexts like the one that UBF generally faces throughout the world.

      Just because there hasn’t been a healthy outlet in the past doesn’t mean there will NEVER be one. Perhaps sometimes this means we have serve as a prophetic voice of change and working actively towards creating a healthy outlet. Other times, this may mean fighting the temptation to take things into our own hands but instead learning to wait on the Lord to accomplish something more powerful than that which we might have been imagining. I’m not trying discourage any form of UBF “activism” I’m starting to see online or offline. But I am hoping and praying that whatever the Lord calls us to do in the ministry of restoration and reconciliation, we’ll be able to keep trusting the Lord to work in the midst of His Body to bring out about the necessary healing and reconciliation that we all are longing to see in our UBF ministry and in rest of the Body of Christ.

      Like many things about the Kingdom of God in a fallen world, it’s hard to believe God’s redemptive reality will break through those private broken worlds which are marred by sin and wounded by relational conflicts, bitterness, injustice and silence.

      But as some theologian once said, there is no area in all of creation in which Christ does not say “It is mine!” and that He will not seek to redeem it. Indeed, He will seek to redeem it. Nothing we have experienced in our lives is so bad that it is far beyond the reach of His grace to redeem it. It is this (theological) conviction that I move forward in my own life, praying for the kind of redemption we need in the various broken relationships in our ministry and throughout the world. Being part of this UBFriends community has motivated me positively in that respect, and for that, I am really grateful.

    • Thank you very much John for sharing this. Your words are like a breath of fresh air and quite encouraging to me. Your mature words are also rare for me to hear, though I have started to hear such words in the past month or so. It seems that perhaps the changes that have started to take place in our ministry haven’t taken place in my part of UBF, or perhaps the changes are just starting.

      Sometimes I sense that I should take a vow of silence from ubfriends… I really don’t intend to de-rail the good communication that has taken place here.

      Also I am very aware of Jesus’ words about wine and wineskin in Luke 5:36-39. Most people who came to the point I have end up leaving the ministry. In the past, the wine and the wineskin are damaged in some way. I want to remain part of the ministry in order to see new wine poured into new wineskins. I am like many though, I love the old wine!

  40. To be fair, I would be interested in reading a book in which non-Americans are analyzing Americans’ cultural blind-spots and how studying how American-style approaches to communication or biases in their low-power-distance culture lead to disasters analogous to the classic Korean-air plane crash example. Perhaps the recent economic market “crash” might be a fertile field of such research. If someone knows of any books, let me know. I keep hearing about Americans analyzing Koreans, but what about Koreans analyzing Americans? Do Koreans even analyze cultural issues and write books like “Outliers?” Just curious.

    • I don’t know about Koreans in general, but Korean missionaries in our church have analyzed American culture extensively. In fact, I would say they have, in the past, dissected and obliterated American culture. In the past 24 years I’ve heard WAY too much analyzing and degrading of American culture by Koreans.

    • I think I have an idea of what you might be talking about, but that is not the level of cultural “analysis” I was looking for. Perhaps a book like this might be a start:


    • By the way, yesterday I added ref-tagger and the “most commented” plugins back… for all you comment-cravers!

    • And there was much rejoicing. I have a purpose in life again.

    • I think it is quite revealing to note that our “most commented” article is this one, Joe’s article about walking in the light of honesty and truth.

      By the way, we are fast approaching our “1 year anniversary”! The first ubfriends article was What is good communication?.

      Any thoughts on what to publish on 6/24/2011? Any thoughts about the last year? I for one want to say THANK YOU to Joe and Sharon Shafer for their faith, courage and love for Christ our Lord and for their neighbors around the world.

  41. Abraham Nial
    Abraham Nial

    Sorry folks if my comments are inappropriate for this site. At times I must have mentioned personal unpleasant facts. I have tried my best not to present something untrue and I understand that truth hurts before it heals or so to say sets us free. Please understand that my comments about UBF or it’s leaders were out of love and concern for a ministry where I was blessed and involved for last 12 years.

    I like this site and the articles as I find them edifying with a fresh breath of the Holy Spirit. I will keep visiting this site. However, I have decided not to comment anymore. God bless.

    • Abraham, I think your comments are very helpful. Please know that you are most welcome to continue commenting here. In fact, I would invite you to submit articles if you have something more lengthy to share. And I would encouarge anyone reading this to continue boldly commenting! We need to hear your opinion.

    • David Bychkov

      i also will be very upset if you brother Abraham will not comment more

    • Abraham, I don’t know what comments you are referring to, but you are a valued contributor to this site. Please do not take my recent comment to be directed at you at all. I hope this to be a forum in which we can talk honestly about matters that concern us all. It will be tricky at times and I cannot think of anything you have written that has been inappropriate (otherwise you would have heard from Admin!) so please keep contributing.

  42. John Martin jr.

    Joe thank you for your article. I especially am encouraged by your decision and commitment to real and open honesty. That is something that has been a desire of my heart in my relationships in UBF, my fellowship, and of our leaders. When I hear a leader in our ministry (which I feel rarely happens) confess their sins openly or take the blame for something publicly; something happens in me that makes me gain a whole new respect for them. They suddenly become more human, more approachable, relate-able, and makes me want to listen to them more. One person I really respect in Christian history is St. Augustine who wrote a whole book openly confessing his sin.

    I too would like to make a commitment to being absolutely honest. When we share testimonies I mostly never hear of specific sin, and the way I do hear about it is having to ask that person what they meant when they said they struggled with sin or fell or something. I pray to be a good example in being open about my life, and just saying that is freeing.

  43. Thanks, John Jr. I believe this may be your first comment. But I know that you’ve been reading for a while. Welcome! It’s good to hear from you. I agree that, in many cases, our confessions of sin are so vague and non-specific that we deprive ourselves of the practical benefits of Jesus’ cleansing blood. Those benefits are freedom from guilt, inner healing, power to overcome such sins in the future, deeper and more loving relationships toward one another, etc. Nothing deepens a Christian fellowship more than visible, practical application of the gospel to sins in real time.

  44. Crystal Park

    I just want to thank you for providing this place! Absolute honesty + absolute humility produces inner peace to me personally because there is nothing I have to struggle to hide, pretend, or disguise in order to look good, better, or holy. I am going to tell openly about the matters my bible students might have regarding the problems our church have and ask them to pray for us. Please excuse my broken English! I am a Korean missionary:)   

  45. Mark Mederich

    “Young people, especially today, are seekers of truth. They are tired of fake images, deceptiveness, propaganda and spin. They long to hear a message that is honest. They want to be part of a community that is authentic. They want to see truthfulness modeled by the community, especially its leaders.”

    if they don’t find it, they should not ruin themselves participating in failed adult efforts in religion; if adults can’t get it right, too bad; religion better grow up in Christ, or we’re better off going it alone straight to Christ:)

  46. Mark Mederich

    “But do disciples of Jesus ever need to be protected from the truth? No. Disciples do not ever need to be protected from the truth, because Jesus is the truth (Jn 14:6). They need to be protected from the bad influence of dishonesty, the spirit of the devil who is a liar and the father of lies (Jn 8:44). Lying and hiding will enslave, but the truth will set us free (Jn 8:32).”


    • Mark Mederich

      lies include withholding truth/acting holy/not helping bring good change..

      the choice is simple: honor (..horror) or truth (..freedom)

      make no mistake about it, human overhonor is horrific

  47. Mark Mederich

    absolute honesty: i abhor hidden agendas/couched words (it’s good to share testimony, but now i use info against u): (message to guide, but also used to shame/suppress): better to be ‘man or woman enough’ to just say/do, then people can agree/disagree openly, work it out, & move on together or apart as seems fit..

    anyway, like Rocky, getting strong now! Holy Spirit is helping, who can stop Him?

  48. forestsfailyou

    Interestingly absolvere from latin means to set free from. The word came to mean “unfettered” or “unconditional” when the church offered absolution from sins though sacraments. Absolution means to be set free from sin. Absolution comes without condition in the church. We are set free at no cost to us, so it came also to mean without condition. Absolute now means “unconditional”.

    My pastor once told me justification means being found innocent under the law, but interestingly the Vulgate uses “iustificere” instead of “absolvere”. I guess a priest would need to explain the difference.

  49. A friend sent me this link with many verses from Proverbs about the wisdom of being honest: https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?qs_version=NIV&quicksearch=honest&begin=24&end=24

    But after some recent conversations and correspondences I realize that it is really not easy to be honest. Someone said, “If it will hurt your wife, you can’t her the truth. You must wait until the right time.” In effect, truth telling becomes subjective, arbitrary and relative.