Feedback from 2011 and Direction for 2012

Readers, thank you for making UBFriends a fun interactive Christian website. Jesus says that he came so that we may live life “to the full” (Jn 10:10), including blogging and commenting for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). As we close out 2011, have you any thoughts or comments? Any suggestions for 2012? How should we continue UBFriends? Should we stop? Should we change? If so how? Should we leave UBFriends as it is? Should we expand? Anything else?

As you consider these questions, let me comment on some snippets as reminders and for reflection from About This Site:

* Unity by Embracing Differences: “Our purpose is to foster open interpersonal communication on spiritual matters that leads to Christian community: Christ + Communication = Unity. Unity is not … uniformity. Christians do not all think alike. …there is a diversity of opinion on many issues within the (church). As the gospel welcomes people of every tribe, tongue and nation, it also challenges us to stretch ourselves beyond what is comfortable. The degree to which we imitate Christ is not measured by how much we love those who are similar to us, but by how much we embrace those who are different.” (Italics mine.)

If you’re a Bears fan like myself, you’d naturally love fellow Bears fans, even if they annoy you. That’s expected. But if you love the Packers and their fans, that’s exceptional! That’s a Christian who loves and embraces those different from them. Our hope is to promote unity (which cannot be forced), and not cause division (which is Satan’s constant ploy).

* Discussing Difficulties and Disagreements: “Our purpose is to (have a) forum to learn, to think, and to express themselves in a healthy, friendly manner. We hope this website will…help us to see multiple sides of difficult issues and truly learn from one another, even when we do not agree.”

Disagreeing agreeably is a sign of Christian maturity and humility. It is not easy to embrace anyone you disagree with, even if it is your loving spouse. (I should know!) But when we disagree and express our differences, we can ask God’s help to humble ourselves and be gracious when we remember our gracious Lord, who does not treat us as our sins deserve (Ps 103:10). Christian humility is being agreeable when we disagree; it is being embracing when we are embittered.

* Trust and Respect: “We regard you, our readers, as grownups who can discuss matters with kindness and civility, weigh different viewpoints and make up your own minds. Because we trust Jesus, we also trust you.” Also from Submit An Article: “We recognize that sincere believers maintain a variety of opinions on many issues, and as we learn to express ourselves and listen to others with love and respect, we may all grow and mature.”

Trust and respect is the lasting glue to any friendship or relationship. If we do not trust or respect others, even our own children or long standing close friends, we weaken or break that relationship. For the most part, UBFriends has been a website where no one is afraid to say what they wish, as we attempt to welcome all who share. The church (or Christian website) should always be a safe place for anyone to come and find comfort and solace in their quest for truth. Jesus said that he did not come for the healthy who have “no problems,” but for the sick who desperately need him and his healing (Mk 2:17).

* No Cheap Shots: Finally, these guidelines have generally been followed: “All writing should be good natured. Criticism, if warranted, should be offered in a spirit of kindness and love. Condescending, demeaning, mocking or offensive statements are unacceptable.” “Personal attacks or revealing sensitive information about individuals is not acceptable.” Thank you and thank God.

Do freely share your thoughts and suggestions. Merry Christmas 2011 and a Happy New Year 2012.


  1. Darren Gruett

    My only suggestion is that we post an article a week. It seems that nothing gets posted for weeks at a time, and then suddenly a whole bunch come out at once. By posting one a week it gives everyone time to read it and join the conversation without feeling rushed to go to the newest one out here; and it gives us something to look forward to each week, without those long drags with nothing new. Since new movies, music, and Microsoft patches all come out on Tuesdays, why not follow suit?

    • I was just about to publish another post…but I will wait a week. Once a week sounds good, Darren. Perhaps, someone else might beat me to it!

  2. As we close out 2011, have you any thoughts or comments? 

    >>> My thoughts are full of thanksgiving for the people who have contributed articles and those who have commented here. I am grateful for Joe and Sharon, and their courage and grace. This blog was born out of their struggle to honor Christ and to remain friends with UBF. I support that vision and see good fruit born out of the open, honest dialogues allowed through this website. ubfriends has become not just a website, but a starting point, a door to facilitate dialogues about taboo topics that have lied dormant for 50 years in UBF. 

    Any suggestions for 2012? 

    >>> I concur with weekly publishing. Two challenges to this: the need for articles and the resistance to former UBF members. I have many, many articles I want to write and submit (none of which directly address UBF). But often my name on articles or comments drives UBF people away (although it seems to attract the interest of others). My personal suggestion (for myself) is to remember the grace of God. I am re-committing myself to not be divisive and yet not dismiss grace, truth, faith, hope and love. This is my struggle for 2012: to blog and speak with grace. 

    How should we continue UBFriends? 

    >>> I think we should continue being an “open door” and even a “landing point” for people in/out of UBF. Does it really matter if someone is in UBF or not? No, it doesn’t. I say we should continue flushing out taboo issues, not with an attacking spirit, but with a spirit of grace. I personally am sickened by hearing all the endless praise of UBF activity. If even one UBF director will speak publicly and honestly in 2012, I will be happy. Seriously, is there nothing that needs to be addressed in UBF?

    Should we stop? 

    >>> No way!

    Should we change? 

    >>> Yes!

    If so how? 

    >>> However the Spirit leads us.

    Should we leave UBFriends as it is? 

    >>> Keep the existing content for sure. Perhaps we could revisit some earlier posts that didn’t get many comments? Perhaps re-publish them in a fresh way?

    Should we expand? 

    >>> Perhaps. I used to think “expansion is good” and anything negative is bad. But this is not necessarily so. I think we need to keep in step with the Spirit. 

    >>> One way I think we must expand is to go beyond UBF. There have been 3 reform movements the past 50 years. SO much has been said. I think it is healthy for all of us to delve into the greater things of God and blog about a wide array of topics. It will be challenging (for me) to avoid coming full circle back to UBF all the time, but I feel that we all need to try not doing that. 

    Anything else?

    >>> Many thanks to you, Ben! Your summary above matches most of my thoughts. I can assure you that you are NOT insane (a little off the rocker maybe!).  And I want to give a big shoutout to the few women who have posted here. We really need to hear more from you! We simply cannot be fully effective without the voice of women who are not afraid to speak up. Women are normally taught to be submissive and never speak up. I for one say that being submissive to Jesus means speaking up! And I am really glad we have some world-wide readership and contributors. Thank you David B. and the Russians and Ukranians especially!

  3. Thanks Brian. I have thoroughly enjoyed interacting with you in UBFriends cyberspace! By God’s grace we may meet face to face soon.

  4. Thank you all! I’m very happy to be in touch and thankful to everyone from this community. It was like fresh breath and great encouragment for me. I do agree that we need to go beyond UBF and to interact on more significant things, in this case UBFriends will live. I think some stuck which we met recently is due to some frustration on UBF reality. Though when I myself began to look beyound UBF on God himself, Christian doctrines, cool writers writings etc. I found the great motivation for my personal further walk with God no metter how unclear it seems now. 
    However sure if we can do anything what can help UBF at whole or some UBFers personally – we should do it. Want to mention that even if UBFriends did provoke some tenstions – there is nothing wrong with it. 
    As for me, in these days I had not that much time for contributing here b/c of my Seminary studies beyond all other duties. Though, if it can be helpful sometimes I can publish my works, books review etc. And I still have to write some UBF-related articles, if God will let. 
    Again thank you all. And as Brian did, I wish each of us, and personally me – to grow in God’s grace, humbleness and love. God bless!

    • Thanks, David. It was so delighful to chat with you on video Skype. My thought about your contribution is to write and share something that is “short,” which you have learned in seminary or read in books. I am consciously trying to write “short” posts, unlike my original “long” ones, that hopefully can be read in less than 5 min. God bless you in 2012, and God bless your seminary studies.

  5. As one who almost always reads all posts–but doesn’t comment at all (perhaps once), I just wanted to say: Thank you!!  I very much appreciate all of the effort and prayer that has gone into this website.  I have learned so many things –I have agreed as well as disagreed with many of the postings. Mostly, I am thankful for the honesty and openness of everyone writing. Keep up the good work!!

    When I reflect on 20 years of being in UBF, there are countless things I am thankful for. By God’s grace, I met Christ in a very personal way and began my own pilgrimage toward heaven. I studied Scripture in a way that I haven’t encountered anywhere else. I have made friends for life with many God-loving people. I met and married my soul mate. My life has been blessed beyond measure. There are also events that I would very much like to forget. There are plenty of things for which I would like a do-over. We recently have stepped off the spiritual treadmill that had been our lives. Today, my family and I are attending a local church and are very much enjoying the garden in which God has placed us. Lately, God has been speaking to my heart to engage in the well-established college ministry at this church. I am waiting on God’s leading for this one…

    To answer all of the questions you posed Dr. Ben–no, you shouldn’t stop. I pray for all of the other ‘silent’ readers to be encouraged through the honest and open discussions here. I do like the once a week posting idea. It definitely gives time to digest articles. (I confess that some of the more ‘theological’ (for lack of a better term) posts take lots of time for me to fully grasp the meaning.)  I look forward to reading new and interesting articles in the future. 

    Merry Christmas and may God have mercy on us all in 2012!

    • Samantha, thank you for reading and sharing! And I’m really glad to hear that you have both agreements and disagreements with some things said here. It means you are thinking and working out your faith. I’d really like to hear your thoughts. These days I’m suspicious of people who only agree 100% with whatever I say or who only say agreeable things all the time. I certainly am not 100% correct and we all have a right to develop our opinion. I am finding that I really only grow when my ideas are challenged and thought through.

      Blessings and Merry Christmas.

    • Thanks, Sam, for your words of encouragement! Regarding “theological terms” I am conflicted about using them, since they are frequently used in books and blogs, as often as we might say “shepherd nation,” “spiritual order,” “marry by faith,” “message/discipleship training,” “Abraham of faith,” “12 Marys,” etc. Some have accused me of “showing off” (perhaps some truth to this :-), but I think that “common” theological terms are really very useful and helpful in understanding Scripture.

    • Hey Dr. Ben- about the ‘theological terms’  I appreciate all of it and have learned/am learning a lot.  I certainly don’t want you to stop. As you said, it is very helpful in understanding Scripture! 

      As an aside, I am very excited to begin a new program in 2012 called Project 4:4 created by a local church (Mt 4:4).  The whole church will read through the Bible chronologically ~each weekly Sunday message for the whole year will be based on the reading for that week. The kids, high school and adult programs will also be based on the same reading each week. The pastor plans to put a brief mini-message online for each daily reading as well! Our whole family is excited to engage! Praying that we may stay engaged to the end!! 

      Merry Christmas to all! 

  6. Ben,  I have loved your last posts! Like, Samantha, I read and appreciate the dialogue that goes on here every week.  I also agree that once a week may be enough.  Wish I could say more but I am truly crazy busy right now.  Please don’t stop!

  7. Thanks, Sharon. To receive words of encouragement from 2 gracious women in a row (you and Sam) on UBFriends is quite a rare treat! It should be enough to carry me through 2012!

  8. As others have mentioned, I’m also very grateful for this site. Until recently we spent a couple years in Japan without other Christian co-workers nearby and this site gave me a sense of community support and helped to encourage my heart and think about the Scriptures with a fresh, open mind. Thank you!

    One thing I would like to see is a way to ask questions or start topics without writing full articles. For example, recently I’ve been interested in the topic of keeping Saturday as the original Sabbath. I read a fairly long article describing how the Catholic church changed it to Sunday. There are some New Testament verses about the believers meeting on the first day of the week (Sunday) but when looking at them closely I’m not sure we can say that this is grounds for changing the day. Or maybe the day isn’t important. Anyway, there are many issues here (and about other things) I’d like to hear/discuss about but I can’t seem to find time to write formal articles to get things moving.

    Another comment I have is that sometimes I feel there is a little too much “UBF bashing”. Surely there are problems that need to be addressed and I think they should be brought up, but sometimes I wish that we could focus more on topics related directly to Scripture. Like any church, the UBF ministry has problems, but because of this ministry many of us were saved and I think that we can all share in the joy of that grace together. Also, some of the problems discussed might be more relevant to some chapters than others and thus can’t really be said to be true of all of UBF as a whole.

    On a related topic, because there is such a strong emphasis on UBF topics, it becomes hard to invite “outsiders” to join in our conversations. If we kept some things more open and generally scripture based I think people from different backgrounds would be more willing to join and we could really benefit from their comments.

    • David Bychkov

      Thanks for sharing, Ray.
      regarding starting and discussing the topic without writing the full article, why don’t we use facebook group for purposes like this?

    Thanks Ben for the blog/direction for the future UBfriends,  These are some of my thoughts about it.
    1. I read the website off and on. Through this I learned a lot. Especially when someone gives a book report, I also ordered the book from Amazon and read about it. In this way I leaned a lot. I could have more objective view with proper perspective. This is very positive process, growing and maturing spiritually together. I encourage to do this more often.
    2. It is natural to have differences of opinions. I encourage everybody when you write about critical views and different opinions, please do so with much respect as if you are talking to your own spouse. Why? Because our God is great God. And we are the body of Christ. Each one was called by God to serve him wherever they are.
    3. Cyberspace is not the best place to discuss some serious issues. Because it is short lived, quickly forgotten and there is no continuity. In the future, you can think about some forum for face to face dialogue.
     4. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,—“ If I have bitter taste after reading some blogs, that can turn many people off. I see less people participate in comments and only few people dominate comments.
    5. Reform cannot be done by theory, but through living a life according to the truth of God and good influence. We should not be too impatient and trust in God. I believe God is doing his own work mightily in us and among us in his own time schedule.

  10. I like what Ray said about posing questions or small topics without an article. I also agree that there has been a good amount of UBF bashing. Let’s move past that now and contribute to this community in a way the is mutually edifying and honoring of God. I’m really grateful for this website. When I first started looking up UBF on the internet I found a lot of bashing websites. Then, I found this one and was amazed not only of the substance of the articles, but also, of the respect shown by those who posted articles and commented. This year I’m going to try to submit an article! God bless!

  11. I am a big supporter of this site and appreciate everyone’s faithful communal stewardship over it. May the Lord continue to use it to be a mutual, common-ground place for everyone to share their thoughts with love and respect. May it be a place where all of us as different members in the Body of Christ can work together for His kingdom.
    Reading through these comments, I would like to suggest that there seems to be a growing work of spiritual renewal in our midst. I wasn’t expecting to see it in cyberspace :) But there will be even greater things in store. The Holy Spirit is on the move!
    For the record, I believe Barnabas and Paul reconciled in the end. So there’s hope for all of us (Acts 15:2; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:23-24; 1 Peter 5:13)
    God bless you all in the year 2012!

  12. John, I agree wholeheartedly. The “rift” between Paul and Barnabas shocked me because at first it seemed like division. But it taught me that God uses all kinds of people for a good purpose, and we often work for different things at the same time. God can use it all for good in his own time.

    As for the site, I haven’t been on it near as much as I’d like,  but overall I appreciate the openness, sincerity, even-handedness and spirit of inquiry on this website.  God bless it to be so in 2012!

    Not to make a prophecy or direction or anything, but something like this could really be critical in maintaining a self-awareness of the difficulties Christians face. A lot of other sites are out there for the typical enemies of spiritual growth (ie ministries for people who struggle with sins like gambling, overeating and pornography, or encouraging websites about prayer and spiritual music), but few are interested in the actual inner workings of ministry. I think a lot of people just kind of think that leaders just lead well or not well, without taking into consideration the difficulty of actually participating and leading in a ministry and facing challenges in that arena. Most people turn their noses up at this kind of discussion, but this website has taken some of these issues head on and I appreciate that. I think people in our time are struggling to learn what it would look like for them to participate in Christian ministry because of the type of issues that are discussed here. It needs to be discussed so we can understand the difficulties of growing as a Christian and lead others to make positive decisions so they can have a fruitful relationship with Christ in this life and the next.

  13. I am very thankful for this site. I’d like to express my deep gratitude and respect especially to Joe and Ben. I’ve read many articles and comments and it helped me a lot in my personal situation. I see that many are eager to move on and leave UBF-topic articles behind. But it seems that the name “UBfriends” suggests continuous discussion on UBF topics even while expanding and even in 2012. By this time I haven’t commented anything here and for me as a newcomer it seems to be too late to do this on such articles as “To stay or not to stay?” or about 0,3% and divisions. So may be in the “blog direction” there should be also a question like “How to make the most popular and most commented articles fresh, not only for reading but also for discussing and commenting?” I think that it would attract many “passive” readers to “active” discussion and expand the number of people who “participate in comments” and who “dominate comments”. Thank you.
    Greetings and best wishes from Russia (where Chrismas is always so white!)! Merry Chrismas!

    • David Bychkov

      Hi Vitaly!

      I think you can just go ahead and comment the articles you want. And you will be heard. Or you can write your thoughts as the independent piece (doesn’t necessary have to be long) and it can provoke new discussions. 

  14. Tim McEathron

    I’m thankful for finding this site, in general, which I’ve been reading solid for almost a month trying to catch up on all the thought provoking articles and comments. I never knew this site existed. I saw a controversial post by Brian Karcher on facebook which led me to his fb page which led me here. Particularly, to some of the very hot, controversial articles on here. If you’re interested in a fresh perspective, perhaps you’ll entertain a rather too lengthy comment. After reading almost nothing else for the first 2 weeks, here were my first impressions:

    1) I found everyone’s honest sharing and struggles led me to look hard at myself and my spiritual walk. Particularly, I’m realizing more and more that I had become one of those who used my performance in the ministry as a spiritual barometer, which led me to the thinking that personal Bible study, personal time, personal (fill-in-the-blank), was a waste of time because the only thing that matters is the results I’m getting for God. Reading what others have said very honestly, helped me to realize how much my personal struggle is the biggest struggle and the foundation of doing any work for God, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” However, this was clearly a personal problem, not a UBF problem (though as much as I would like to blame UBF, there are too many good examples around me to really pull off such an argument, it was my own immaturity.
    2) I, unfortunately, found the name of the site paradoxical. After the first 2 weeks solid of reading, I have to say I had a very bad taste in my mouth. I found–in general–there was a very anti-UBF vibe about this site. I haven’t read every article yet, but I agree with Ray, that there is a lot of UBF-bashing going on, yet done with a lot of spiritual words and politeness.

    3) After reading some very sensitive and personal issues, encountered by specific individuals in specific chapters, yet proclaimed to be general problems of our ministry happening in every chapter, I felt, quite honestly ashamed to be part of UBF. I agree that discussion is good but I also had the exact same thought as James Kim, that cyberspace is perhaps not the best place for it. For example, I have a lot of issues with my mother, but no matter how therapeutic it may be, I would never air her dirty laundry online. Therefore I kept wondering if it is, metaphorically speaking, polite or appropriate to hang UBF’s dirty boxers outside for all to see. I tend to agree that nothing will be solved or fixed online and that controversial/serious issues would be better discussed face-to-face (which is much, much harder, takes 100 times more patience and humility/self denial and hence why we [I] run to the internet). 

    4) I wondered, along these lines, if I had Bible student who read this site would he stay in UBF? If I felt ashamed of being in UBF given what I read, I think a new Bible student would leave immediately when they read all the problems this church has. Yes, every church has problems, but when you join a church they don’t give you a flier stating them all succinctly as part of your membership packet. I stay because I have hope and faith for the future and I believe strongly that God doesn’t make mistakes; hence, I’m here for a reason. A person without foundation or faith, would not be able to make such a decision. But this is all just my speculation (however, my wife does not want to read, because she’s still growing and trying to find what she believes; therefore, debates of this nature, just make her confused and discouraged). 

    5) I find the articles about a Biblical topic, an area of spirituality, or Christian life and the discussion that follows are awesome and really make me think; however, when controversial articles come up, I feel they are too one-sided and sometimes wonder if all the anti-UBF, anti-Korean, revealing extremely personal info about an individual or chapter comments adhere to the above guidelines (one of the first things I also did was read the guidelines after I began reading peoples posts). I agree with what Ray said, that some comments are made generally about UBF that only apply to certain chapters/countries and therefore should be specifically addressed not listed as problems of UBF. I’ve been continually amazed at the progress that’s being made lately in Chicago, which is all the more amazing given the diversity of age and culture, I don’t think many comments being labeled as “this is what is wrong with UBF” meet the guidelines of this site or are correct of every chapter but are clearly major problems with that specific chapter or director etc. which then needs to be dealt with personally with that person, as writing anything about it would be revealing personal information about someone or directly slandering a person without giving them a chance to defend themselves etc. I think the problem with putting discussions of this nature on the internet, is that it doesn’t really show all sides of the argument. We may say, “we hoped they would post here and openly discuss this issue” but if “they” don’t then we continue on a one-sided conversation and say it’s “their” fault for not joining the conversation, which could be construed as gossip. (gossip: “idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others.”)

    6) I understand the guideline “Truth and Respect” meaning that the truth without a spin will be revealed in all it’s raw details and that we as adults will be left to make up our own minds/pray/meditate. However, all the really sensational articles on the site are the controversial ones. I used to be (probably still am) an addict of criticism and gossip. I had to struggle a LOT to stop this, but I’ve made very little progress… In general misery loves company and wounded people always wound those around them, and the fastest way to make friends is to complain about someone/something. Since, the sensational articles are ones pointing out the problems of UBF and there aren’t really any articles talking about what is good about UBF…the general vibe I got was very negative. However, that said these are incredibly good and important discussions that need to be discussed, so I’m a little conflicted as to whether it is good to put them on the internet.

    All that said, I sound rather strange saying that I like this site despite it all because it’s making me think and reexamine many of the things I’m doing and why I’m doing them and what need to change and what needs to stay. I will actually continue to read this site and probably post (much, much more concisely in the future) and I look forward to what many people have to say and am generally glad we have such a place to congregate and talk about our spiritual walk. I thank God for those of you who are really examining your spiritual life and heritage and digging out the deep answers about what is truly right before God, unflinchingly even if the answers are not always comfortable. I’m really thankful for many such people these days who are looking for the new answer which is relevant to this time and the indigenous culture, such people make me feel there is a bright future for our ministry. Please don’t take my comments to negatively. Forgive my lengthy response I’ve been trying to figure out how and where to say what’s on my mind for 3 weeks…

    Thanks for this site and putting up with a chronic criticizer!

    • Tim, great to hear from you! Thank you for your very prayerful and sincere comments. Please give my greetings to everyone in Chicago. Merry Christmas!

    • Tim McEathron

      On a side note, I can’t leave a comment from my Android phone the box in which you type text is unclickable….just a possible point of interest for the tech people…or maybe it’s my phone. 

    • Hello, Tim. I am not an article author or a commenter on this site. I just read. And I think the discussion here is very healthy. Of course, it is not right if someone says that his chapter problems are the whole UBF problems. But I clearly see that every problem mentioned is a problem of my chapter. I tried to discuss with the director and it turned out that the only UBF problem was me and my family. I saw very good christians leave UBF, my family’s sheep leave UBF (because of “training” and “10 absolute weekly meetings” and “no discussion” and “trauma leaving” and… problems). This time I had to leave and my wife was forced to leave (“No more discussions, just leave! because everything will stay this way in UBF and is not going to change!). So may be it is good things in UBF that are exceptional and extraordinary (like the one you say about) not the bad ones. And as people can’t discuss in private where and how do they can?! And this site helps people who were close friends inside UBF to still be friends inside or outside of UBF and communicate. You see, though I live quite close to my best friends who are still in UBF I have no possibility to talk to them because of the director (And I couldn’t really do that even while in UBF because the director would angreely interfere: Don’t talk!). So may God bless this site! And I wish that it would somehow and someday become a part of official UBF activity. Merry Chrismas!

    • Thanks, Tim. for such a comprehensive and thoughtful response! Christy and I are encouraged by your excellent reflections. God willing, we may meet up to chat one of these days.

      Thanks for sharing Vitaly, and welcome to UBFriends. I am very sorry to hear what happened to you in your chapter. You shared honestly, not as a criticizer, nor are your comments “UBF bashing,” which some might say it is.

    • oops! I am not an amercian but even I can see some unpleasant language mistakes in my comments. I just want to thank all native speakers on the site for understanding and friendly joyful international communication, especially with “Russians and Ukranians” (who make sometimes so many mistakes).

  15. David Bychkov

    Thanks Matthew, Vitaly, Tim and welocome to UBFriends!
    We really need new people and fresh views here.  
    Tim, in my humble opinion some comments, which could look like “one-sided ubf bashing” appeared here just recently. I f you can look at earlier articles, and discussions they were really far from and angriness or bashing. Yes they had some amount of healthy but honest and accurate criticism which was shared from sincere hearts and just with desire to help, and I believe out of love. 
    As for me I had started examine my faith and practices before I came on UBFriends, and this site just facilitated this process and helped me to think deeper and to hear others, to see that my questions and problems are not something really uniq. And this was really exciting and fresh. And yes while this process was going on, I’ve found that I just can not keep the same behavior and  tell the same words I used to. I just can not. So I began to change and to behave different and talk different. But the reality I met was that it is extremely hard at least for me at least in my UBF context. So this reality led me to some amount of frustration and even bitterness. 

    • David, your comment gave me an idea. What if we re-brand the site name for 2012 as “ubFriends”, as in “you be friends”? Perhaps that would focus our attention on becoming friends regardless of what church we attend?

  16. Tim, 

    Thank you for sharing. I too am glad to hear your thoughts, along with Vitaly, Matthew and other new commenters. I am not offended in anyway by your comments. I am thankful to see that you are thinking critically! It is a breath of fresh air for me. ubfriends has been (and hopefully will continue to be) a place where people can speak their minds and receive a response from others who also speak their minds.

    In regard to the “bashing”, I would agree with David. The things said here may seem shocking to you and others who just discovered this blog. But if you want to read real bashing, email me and I’ll send you the links (I won’t repost them here).

    In regard to publicly speaking on certain topics and comments, I admit a couple of my comments started to cross the line. I am thankful for people like John Y. who then publicly rebuked me (which led to some constructive private conversations!). I believe all this is healthy, but I do understand that it is rather hard to digest for some. But I would say “get used to it”, because there is a lot of underlying angst in UBF. It is not healthy to let such things eat away at your bones.

    Some respected Christian teachers have suggested such public discussions for UBF for many years now. Perhaps Scott M. didn’t imagine we’d create ubfriends (and perhaps he doesn’t even agree with some of the approach). But this is a first attempt.

    Finally, I want all our readers to remember that some of us have just left UBF. In 2011, doing that can still be a VERY traumatic experience. Publicly speaking about such things helps ease the trauma, although at times I did reveal some specifics (because otherwise I wouldn’t have been truthful). But I and others made much effort to conceal details. My leaving this year was largely a protest, an act of civil disobedience to bring such trauma to light. I hope that no one has to experience such trauma again, and that the pattern of demonizing former UBF members may end. Some former members leave healthy, then they are demonized, and then they actually do develop spiritual problems. Then UBF says, see, they have spiritual problems, just have nothing to do with them!  

    Such things are maddening. But ubfriends has helped me keep my sanity. I am so thankful this year that there are Christians who can bear with one another and express themselves honestly and speak against party lines when necessary.

    And finally, finally :)  For those who say “it’s just one chapter, not all chapters”. How can one part of the body of Christ say to another part, “I don’t need you?” (read 1 Corinthians 12:1-31). So MUCH suffering happened in UBF in several parts of the world in 2010 and 2011. The senior UBF leaders call the leaving a “crisis”. Do you care? Or do you just believe the self-glorifying reports that “it’s all ok here”? How do we properly deal with this crisis? Should we really deal with the crisis based on 2 Timothy 3:1-17? We really need external help. The more UBF remains a closed group, the more pain we’ll encounter. And just because good things are happening in Chicago (and they are indeed!), doesn’t mean the satellite chapters around the world are affected by it, or ever will be.

    Lastly, please understand that I am a man of passion. I will speak with passion. I will act with passion, courage and hope. I am now on a journey of grace– to follow the Holy Spirit’s direction and to dwell in the grace and love of our Lord. May the grace of God be with us all in 2012.

    (and p.s. for those who don’t know this: Who was the person getting “bashed” on the old UBF discussion forums? Me. I was the one being bashed for defending UBF publicly. I’ve since reconciled with the “bashers”, for I understand their plight.)

    • Tim McEathron

      Brian, sorry if you took my comments personally, I wasn’t really directing them at you, I’m not very tactful as anyone will tell you. I know there are some pretty bad sites out there, some of which I’ve read and clearly this site is not like that. I think my words came out too negatively. On the whole, I think this is a good site and on the whole I think a lot of what you say is prayerful and respectful given that many demonize UBF on the web upon leaving. I guess the word “bash” carries a lot of weight with it. 

      You bring up a good point about public debate. 1 Ti 5:20 came to mind immediately. Perhaps it is better to discuss things in public rather than in secret, so long as it doesn’t become complaining or gossip. I guess as a recovering complaining addict I sometimes get too sensitive on this.

      I completely agree with you, and have agreed about this, that the demonizing of former UBF members is totally wrong. Though to some degree I understand it. I had a Bible student who I poured many years of love into who didn’t want to study with me anymore and I found it hearbreaking, I mean really heartbreaking. I found myself flopping between two extremes of harshly blaming myself or blaming this person. It may be how much we invest into people that makes us have such strong reactions but it’s still wrong. Oh Lord teach me to accept what you do in my life with open arms.  

      However, I still stand behind the comment that a problem with one chapter is not a problem with the whole church. For example in one country, a missionary came without anyone knowing and began his own ministry apart from the already thriving ministry there after he was found (a year later!), he began to be very disruptive. We can easily say, “that is the problem with UBF, this is always what is happening” but it was found that this person is actually a well known troublemaker. So the General Director will take care of it. The problem was one person, not the ministry as a whole. How many more times is it a bad egg and not really UBF. I think maybe the problem is one of accountability. This is one thing I’ve felt for many years. How do you monitor what hundreds of Bible teachers are teaching and doing with Bible students and make sure that it conforms to the Bible and the teachings of this ministry, especially when many begin to teach while they are still trying to figure out what they believe?

    • Tim, you are correct, I did take things a bit personally. I take your words, not as an offense, but as a way to learn.

      As a shepherd, I too have had to learn the meaning of Psalm 49:7-8 “7 No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him–  8 the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough–  9 that he should live on forever and not see decay.”  My sacrifice for others just is not enough to motivate them to give their lives to Jesus. I may be able to help them for a time, but in the end I must give them up to the Lord, trusting and knowing that it is only the sacrifice of Jesus that transforms and motivates and changes.

      Also your points are valid. Your question is good too: How do you monitor all the Bible teachers? I think that’s why it is helpful for members of a church to be included in major decisions, to develop a constitution together, to know what your churches by-laws are and especially to be able to obtain and read ALL of your church’s books and official teaching material. It is very important to know and understand what your church’s official doctrine is.

      Ultimately, both of these issues require faith in our One Good Shepherd, Jesus and submission to the Holy Spirit. Grace is sufficient, I believe.

  17. As we reflect on 2011 and look forward to 2012, I hope we would take time to listen, reflect and discuss. May 2012 be a year of confessions such as “the Coleraine Declaration” from a church in Ireland:

    Gathered at this great Assembly, 850 of us in all, animated and uplifted by a fresh hearing of God’s word, by joyful music and by songs of praise, we have been gripped by the Assembly’s theme ‘Transformed, not Conformed’.

    We confess that too often we have been conformed to this world;
    – by our failure to listen to God;
    – by our lack of appetite for God;
    – by our failure to recognise and use the power of prayer;
    – by casually assuming God’s presence with us;
    – by our failure to listen to one another;
    – by being bound to the traditions of the past;
    – by being more committed to Presbyterianism than to Christ;
    – by being content with superficial fellowship;
    – by our preoccupation with money and possessions;
    – by our failure to enable all our members to exercise their personal ministries;
    – by ministering to ourselves rather than to others;
    – by our lack of concern for the divisions within the Church, the Body of Christ;
    – by not challenging sectarianism;
    – by being afraid to take risks for our faith.

    In spite of all this, we thankfully acknowledge God’s mercy in calling us, unworthy as we are, to be His people, chosen and redeemed in Christ. It is our vision that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be transformed, so that we may

    – be hungry for God – and His truth and righteousness;
    – be open and willing to listen to His word;
    – be enriched in worship as we celebrate God’s awesome and joyful presence amongst us;
    – be ready to make each congregation a living example of the family of God;
    – be renewed in our personal and local church life so that members contribute to the total ministry;
    – be willing to adopt a simple lifestyle, no longer preoccupied with money and possessions;
    – be glad to share our time, talents and money for the work of God;
    – be committed to mission, not only in our own country, but in all the world;
    – be responsive to the needs of the world Christ came to save;
    – be present as Christ’s love, Christ’s justice, and Christ’s hope in the world’s darkness and decay;
    – be concerned to proclaim with new confidence and joy the saving name of Jesus, both by word and action;
    – be gifted to present Christ attractively and to apply the Word relevantly;
    – be able to affirm our oneness with all who sincerely love the Lord Jesus.

    God make us a joyful and expectant Church, confident in Him who has made us His people, and given us a heavenly destiny.

    God make us no longer a Church of yesterday, but a Church of today and tomorrow.

    God make us mindful of Christ’s living presence in our midst, leading us where He wants us to go, no longer conformed to this world, its mind-set and lifestyle, but transformed by the Spirit’s renewing power.

    To God be glory in the Church, now and ever.  

  18. Hi everyone, sorry for my late response here. First of all, merry Christmas to all of you!

    Much has already been said. i am very happy about the fact that this site exists and i have certainly learned a lot through reading, discussing and writing for ubfriends.

    As mentioned by several others beforehand, i would absolutely welcome any contribution dealing with theological issues and Christian themes, which are for interest for any Christian. In one way or the other, everything that has something to do with Christian theology, will at least indirectly also have something to do with UBF because UBF seeks to be a gospel-preaching, mission-driven church. I think all of our discussions about church should be theology-driven and not driven by the urge of uttering criticism.

    In any case, i am very thankful for the writers and every contributor who are active on this site. For the new year, I hope that the discussion can be beneficial, that friendships can be made and fostered through this website and that whenever people come and read, they will leave this site with a word of encouragement and something to think about.

  19. Tim McEathron

    I like the quote from Ps 49. I always pointed my sheep to Ps 23, “The LORD is my shepherd…” One sheep adamantly refused to believe, saying “no you helped me…” but I said “I didn’t do anything but what God told me and poorly at that and I guarantee you that sooner or later you’re going to see all my weaknesses and be disillusioned, so the sooner you meet your real shepherd the better…haha” Thankfully, his life was changed by holding only Jer 29:11 and he is a growing and thankful man who wants to live his life to thank Jesus for all that He’s done in his life. Amen. 

    I think you may be right about the need for transparency and discussion. Perhaps, one thing we lack is a common practice in other churches of becoming a member, reading and agreeing to the doctrine of the church clearly stated and then swearing to abide by it. I do have to say I never had a point where I really knew I went from being a “sheep” to being a member and I actually haven’t the faintest clue how anything is decided, or the by-laws governing it. Though if I asked P. Ron, I think he’d direct me to it without a moments hesitation…perhaps it’s my lack of initiative, I’ve never really considered the matter. Good points. 

  20. Tim McEathron

    Dr. Ben, 

    Yeah we should meet up one of these days it’s been a while since Sharon and I visited. Sorry, my other glaring sin (or only son symptom) is lack of maintaining relationships. I’d love to chat, I still find myself musing on our last conversation. Maybe we can have you guys over this time. I’ll shoot you an email.