Marriage By Faith (Should “No Dating” be a Church Policy?)

Scary! “Marriage by faith” (MBF) is  highly sensitive and “controversial.” In 1980, when I first heard the phrase before marriage, I cringed and broke out into a cold sweat.  I think it is a wonderful phrase. But I stopped using it because it has become misunderstood, misapplied and mis-taught, as suggested in the comments on What is the Point of Genesis? and LGBT. MBF has perhaps come to no longer mean what it originally meant.

I trust God. MBF means “I trust God (by faith) for my marriage.” I do not trust myself, nor the person I am marrying, nor the one arranging it.  It means, “I trust God, and not just my hormones.” I don’t marry just based on “Something in the way she moves;” someday the song may change to “You’re lost that lovin’ feeling.”

Marry a Christian. MBF also implies that you only marry a Christian (2 Cor 6:14), and that God is the One who ordains marriage (Gen 2:24). I marry based on the Lordship of Christ, and not just my own personal choice or preference. God must be intricately and intimately involved in my marriage. This is all good, godly and biblical.

The problem. MBF has come to mean that you should marry a person who is introduced to you. If you refuse, you may be regarded as less spiritual, less mature, more physical, worldly, lustful or  proud,  “not ready,” picky, uncommitted, etc.

No dating policy. Perhaps, a reason this happened is because of an “unspoken” or implicit, (or openly expressed) NO DATING policy, unless officially sanctioned, approved, recommended, initiated by,  and blessed  by the powers that be, usually the Bible teacher, chapter director, parents.

Of course, it is absolutely crucial that if and when a young Christian couple marries, they need the blessing, approval, counseling and advice  of their parents, Bible teachers, shepherds, mentors, elders, spiritual leaders. But a “no dating policy” until initiated by the church may not be good. Why? Some implications:

1) Dating and marriage is determined/controlled by someone else.

2) A Christian who doesn’t date is better, more mature, spiritual, self-controlled than a Christian who dates.

3) A Christian who dates sins more than a Christian who doesn’t date.

4) A non-UBF Christian you choose to marry is “inferior” to a  UBF Christian who is introduced to you.

Purity. In the Bible, the problem repeatedly addressed is not whether or not one dates, but whether or not one is sexually pure, regardless of whether one is single or married (1 Cor 6:18; Eph 5:3). A “no dating” policy assumes that one who complies is purer.

Play by the rules. This may tempt a Christian to “play the game” to please the powers that be by not dating and behaving well, so that they can “get the one” they want to marry (by faith) by keeping the rules and regulations expected of them.

Rethink (the Gospel)? As a church should we re-think a “no dating policy”? Any “rule” inclines toward legalism, and does not necessarily promote gospel faith. The gospel must always be central to our life and faith (1 Cor 1:23, 2:2, 15:1-4). The gospel  gives freedom (Gal 5:1), including the freedom to date as a God-fearing, honorable Christian.  But adding a rule, law or expectation, such as “no dating” (or any other rule), implies that keeping the rule or law or pleasing certain people in the church is what brings God’s blessing. This takes away from the glory of grace that comes only from the mystery of the gospel of grace (Acts 20:24). The issue of “no dating” is complex. It needs to be individualized.

Should MBF continue? Should we have a “No Dating” policy in UBF? (This was written in Nov 2010. This is a personal reflection and NOT a generalization to all UBF chapters.)


  1. Dear Dr. Ben,

    I think you correctly list the positives and negatives of marriage by faith–all the misunderstandings of immature people, all the strengths of trusting in God alone, etc.

    I believe purity in the church is of utmost importance and should be treasured. It should be a point of thanksgiving to God, as it is to me. I am so thankful to God that I belong to a church where purity is so highly honored–purity of heart, body and spirit. I really, really pray this does not change.

    I am afraid that we will do many things to accommodate culture. John Armstrong’s recent posts talk about the dangers of that–making our religion fit the thinking of our times. (note his articles about making Jesus fit exactly like their generation; i.e. in the 60’s Jesus was a hippie, etc, when in fact Jesus has been the same and above all generations).

    We should rather keep purity and address issues of immaturity and hindrances to establishing wonderful marriages in Christ.

    • Joe Schafer

      Jim, a very strong argument could be made that a policy of MBF is an accommodation of the gospel to post-war Korean culture.

      Belated happy anniversary to you and Helen.

  2. Joe Schafer

    In theory, I can imagine lots of good reasons why pastors, elders, mentors, etc. ought to take a proactive role in promoting healthy courtship. One of the biggest problems that young Christians face today is the lack of socially prescribed pathways to marriage. A generation ago, there were implicit rules about dating that were well understood (although not always followed), and those rules played an important role in keeping young people from getting hurt. But now, those rules are largely gone and young people don’t know what to do. I wrote a three-part article series on this back in 2009:

    In those articles, I argued that in today’s social environment, community leaders need to actively guide young people in healthy courtship. I still basically agree with that. Not by imposing rules and policies in a legalistic fashion (as Ben has well argued), but in a gentle and loving and prayerful manner.

    However, there is now a large body of evidence that MBF can go wrong, terribly wrong. Yes, there are many happily married couples. But there are too many examples of failed marriages and lots of troubled marriages (often that trouble is carefully hidden). We shouldn’t trumpet the successes without acknowledging the problems. It’s wrong to take credit when things work out well if we aren’t willing to take responsibility when things go wrong.

    The biggest problem that I have seen with MBF is the tendency of chapter directors to take advantage of the period of courtship and engagement (when young people are most pliable and vulnerable) to give them “obedience training” and the like to increase their commitment to the ministry. There are far too many examples of young people being threatened, “If you don’t do such-and-such, your marriage is canceled.” (I even know of two cases where these threats were made AFTER the couples were married!) No pastor has the right to set arbitrary conditions like that. And there are many cases where, in my assessment, leaders have tried to set up marriages in a self-interested way to build their ministries. These are not simply isolated cases; there are real patterns of ethical violations and abuse here that leaders need to held accountable for.

    That’s my 2 cents.

  3. Dear Joe,

    True. Unfortunately, I can only speak from experience. Going to an evangelical church in my hometown (before attending UBF), I felt incredible pressure to impress the girls there. I found myself looking around continually. Of course, I have my own sin problems. But I was so happy to come to UBF where that was a non-issue. Clearly there is nothing non-Biblical about MBF and many have been blessed by it, when it is taken with the correct spirit and faith, and, as Dr. Ben puts it, not as a pressure point.

    We should pray it is used correctly and with the spirit to please God.

    Then again, anyone who wants to date, what can we say? We pray for them to marry and establish godly families. But the idea of trying many people out through revolving door dating is definitely not a good idea.

    • Joe Schafer

      Jim, I know a young woman in her early 20’s who served on campus at Penn State as a staff member for a large well-known Christian ministry. While attending her church (a large multicampus evangelical chuch) she met a young man and they were attracted to each other and began dating. It was entirely their choice. They did so in a very responsible and careful and mature manner, restraining themselves from getting too involved too soon and seeking God’s direction for their relationahip. They decided to get engaged and few months ago they got married. They are happy and I believe God is blessing their marriage. Their pastor and church leaders trusted them to be mature enough to make their own decisions at each step of the way. They rose to the challenge and courted in a very mature and God-honoring way. They were subject to all the temptations that young people face, yet they had the depth of character and spiritual formation to make good decisions.

      In the long run, isn’t that better than treating dating as too dangerous? Isn’t a no-dating policy (or creating an environment where dating is strongly discouraged and continually criticized) an implicit admission that we think our young people are too socially and spiritually immature to handle it? The issue here isn’t dating per se. The issue is character formation.

  4. Hi Joe,

    You example is well-taken. There is a young couple I know who have been dating for some time and we pray God may bless them to marry as well. They met outside of UBF, but came to UBF and we pray for them.

    The issue really is keeping an environment of purity so character formation is possible. There is pure dating and impure. A church should not become a meat market. We live in a corrupt world with many people coming and going from the church in different stages of their faith (or lack there of). So, we have to think about how to make an environment where people can be free to grow in Christ without unnecessary hindrances. We should not think of our convenience or the culture, but what can we do to help people.

    If allowing dating is the solution, then let’s go for it. If the problem is we handle dating poorly, either pro or con, let’s deal with that.

    There is actually a lot to say about this, and really how things are progressing in this matter. Joshua Jeon, for example, really like Mary and asked to date her. They did and were married later. Augustine Park really like Hannah Kim and asked to date her. They did and were married. In a sense the responsible dating you are talking about is already going on.

    BTW, I am really happy to talk with you. :)

  5. Joe Schafer

    Jim, I appreciate your openness and participation in this dialogue. And your willingness to consider alternatives to current practice.

    This is all quite interesting to me, and I could go on talking about this all day, to the detriment of my job duties. I hope that others will join in the conversation. For now, I will just make one more observation and then pause.

    You said, “If allowing dating is the solution…” Over the last three years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time getting to know campus ministers and pastors in my area. They vary in their opinions on kinds of issues. But they are good friends and trustworthy brothers and sisters in Christ. If I spoke those words to them, “If allowing dating is the solution…” I think they would all give me a funny look. Those words betray an implicit assumption that a leader or pastor has the right to permit or prohibit dating within his minsitry as he sees fit. That’s a rather unusual opinion today, and it deserves to be questioned. Do church leaders have the right (not in a legal sense, but in a biblical sense) to do that? That gets to the heart, I think, of what Ben’s article is about. Yes, it would be great if we could live in an environment of purity. But do pastors have the right to try to create a pure environment by fiat, by setting rules and standards and practices about things that are not inherently sinful, prohibiting things that neither Jesus nor the apostles nor the early church fathers ever prohibited?

    I understand the apprehension. “If you allow dating, then pretty soon everyone will be marrying as they see fit, or fooling around and sleeping around, and then we’ll be no better than those worldy people.” There is indeed a slippery slope toward immorality.

    But there’s also a slippery slope in the other direction. If we start prohibiting all sorts of behaviors that Jesus and the apostles never condemned, then pretty soon we find ourselves in an overbearing, moralistic and authoritarian church.

    Those darned slippery slopes always come in pairs.

  6. @Ben: I have to strongly disagree with your definition of “marriage by faith” (which is a UBFism). You correctly state the beginning of young people’s attitude toward MBF. A young person naturally, and correctly sees MBF and thinks: “I trust God (by faith) for my marriage.”

    But this is not at all what UBF means by MBF, and all of us who have been in UBF know it. We know clearly that MBF is a UBFism which means: “Trust your UBF shepherd and director to choose your spouse only from within UBF.” This is still true in 2012, but as people pointed out here, there are some new developments, such as some UBF people actually dating (maybe only 2nd Gens are allowed to date now?)

    MBF is perhaps the most horrible practice UBF ever adopted. Personally, I manipulated MBF because I could not accept it. I knew who I wanted to marry, so I used reverse-psychology to get my shepherd to approve the shepherdess I wanted to marry. I knew from observing others that I would be condemned to hell if I ever wanted to marry someone outside UBF.

    My wife and I have talked a lot about this. It was unfair to her and manipulative of me. We both have concluded that we did marry before God, but we also acknowledge we now have a LOT to learn after living 17 years as “coworkers”. By the way, if you marry the UBF way, you better learn something about celibacy…because you’ll be living celibate in order for both of you to keep up with UBF work and your own work. I must say, marital relations improves quite a bit after leaving UBF.

    As a former UBF leader, I sat through meeting after meeting, year after year, where marriage partners were discussed and even negotiated, as if the two people wanting to marry were pawns in some power game.

    • Dear Brian,

      I slightly disagree about your marriage. You schemed, but it happened because of God’s sovereignty. So I thank God for that. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course,but the Lord establishes their steps.” So I view your marriage as God leading and blessing, using you to complete that. Praise God!

      I am thankful you are now happy in your marriage, and I pray you grow more and more in love throughout your lifetimes and as blessings to many.

    • JimR, thanks for your flattering words. Your words come across to me as perceived glory based on ideology. I gave up that perception and now have to live in reality based on facts.

  7. Thanks, Jim, Joe, Brian!

    I left for a few hours this morning to visit a few patients in the far south suburbs of Chicago and I returned to find your delightful comments.

    What you guys wrote in your comments are far more succinct than my broad sweeping statements. I may need the rest of the day to process and digest your well articulated and very interesting stories. Thanks.

  8. Brian, I fully agree with your definition of MBF. And the definition shows very unbiblical reality of the inside of UBF. If it is difficult to even discuss with other churches pastors the dating/no dating policy, then what to do with MBF? And I wrote before that UBF supports MBF methods officially and praise Samuel Lee for that in the thickest “World Mission” which is devoted to “the founder”. I was married “by faith”, and so I tried to defend MBF, but you it was very difficult to do even while speaking with cults representatives. The Moscow UBF leader left UBF and criticized MBF. Our chapter director commented, “You see that he just doesn’t like his wife that is why he is criticizing UBF and MBF, he is immature”. In our chapter it was taught that “If you can’t trust your marriage to God (that is to the director) then you can’t trust to God anything at all, just obey”. Jim writes about God’s sovereignty. But as I already wrote about that, God often uses the UBF directors the same way he used Joseph’s brothers who sold him to Egypt. God’s sovereignty is always nice, but what about the brothers? And when somebody says that the directors made so many mistakes and should repent, the directors answer “Believe God’s soveregnty and praise God!”. For example I told my chapter director that Samuel Lee was not right when he commanded the Korean UBF director to bring him coffee for three years (It is in the 50th anniversary speech of the Korean UBF director). The answer was, “You see that the Korean UBF director is grateful to Samuel Lee for that training, it means that Samuel Lee was right as always”. In UBF MBF and other “just obey”s often mean “turn off your brain and just obey”. And I want to thank Dr.Ben for the link to Franc Viola’s “Straight Talk”. I read also the book about how to know God’s will, and it helped me understand how many mistakes I did while turning off my brain and just obeying in UBF. I believe God’s sovereignty and I believe God’s justice as well.

  9. jespinola

    In talking about the Pharisees today, my pastor said that they started off good in keeping with the fundamentals of the Jewish faith. But they went wrong in adding their own ideas and interpretation to the law which even Jesus said were human rules (Mt 15:9). The same can be applied to churches who for the sake of holding onto something good (e.g. sexual purity and marriage) begin adding man made rules (no dating) which have the effect of burdening people and giving them a distorted view of the Gospel. I married by faith in UBF which to me meant letting go of my own human desires for marriage and accepting that my marriage was from God and for God. However, I cannot ignore the reality of my shepherd’s influence in my marriage which was both positive and negative. No Christian should have that sort of influence on another Christian where marriage becomes a bargaining chip to obedience. There is no justification for that. And I strongly agree with Joe’s comment that it is not up to an elder or spiritual leader to allow or give permission for unmarried people to date. Ideally if the young people involved were raised in a Christian home, I can see the value of involving the parents to help them navigate their relationship with integrity. But to have a “no dating” policy whether stated or implied does nothing to prepare young people to take on the responsibility of living purely before God. Purity is not asceticism. Purity is about making godly choices even when you are surrounded by temptation all around you. My pastor calls this developing “inner insulation”. When my kids are older, I want to teach them MBF as I have come to accept it and if they chose to date, to do so honorably before God.

    • “Purity is not asceticism. Purity is about making godly choices even when you are surrounded by temptation all around you.” I totally agree. In the book “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud he says this about dating: “The purpose of dating is to practice and experiment. The end goal of dating is to generally decide, sooner or later, whether or not to marry. Dating is a means to find out what kind of person we complement and with whom we are spiritually and emotionally compatible. It’s a training ground for marriage… Dating is a way for adults to find out about each other’s suitability for marriage…” Quite frankly, if I didn’t date, I wouldn’t know what to avoid and I wouldn’t realize problems I have that I need to work on. Have I made mistakes and given into tempation? Yes! Did I leave some relationships damaged? Yes! But, there is healing, restoration, and maturity in Christ. Dating has shown me that I am not yet ready to marry and that I need to get into a position where I will be ready. It’s also shown me that I can’t judge someone for having a past when I have one myself.

    • Thanks, Jen, Zuggy, Great point that purity is not asceticism, or being moral or moralistic. But if one assesses purity based on outward behavior, we may falsely conclude/assume that a single Christian who does not date is “better” than one who dates. Since God sees the heart rather than outward appearance (1 Sam 16:7), we should stop judging others by mere appearances (Jn 7:24), or by whether or not they want to date.

  10. Thanks, Jennifer, for sharing. Perhaps, many can relate to you in that your shepherd’s influence in your marriage was both positive and negative. As Joe said, since we take credit for the good results of MBF, we need also to take responsibility for that which is clearly and biblically not good.

    Like you I also do teach MBF to all, including all my kids, without calling it as such anymore. I also decided to trust them to date and to do so honorably with the fear of God.

    As many others have stated or alluded to, the reach of the “shepherd” into the “sheep’s” life, can be regarded as excessive and intrusive, such as deciding when one can begin to date or not date, when they can or cannot be introduced or to marry, and worst of all are threats to cancel the wedding/marriage, which often feels like the person’s marriage is in the hand of the shepherd, who is the deciding factor. The latter is truly inexcusable for countless reasons.

    Such anthropocentric influences, expressed as “shepherd heart,” surely does require serious discussion and re-evaluation.

  11. Ben,

    To answer your question, “Should no dating be a church policy?” NO! Not for the general congregation. Could “no dating” be a teaching or principle? Sure. But a policy? No way!

    If a church is so involved in people’s lives that policy dictates relationships, that church is not healthy. Such policies are signs of cult control.

    Now, if a church has policies governing leader’s behavior, such as the Catholic policy of celibacy for priests, then such policy is fine as long as it is openly understood.

    In the UBF context, “marriage by faith” is both a strict policy and a hidden expectation, both for shepherds and parents.

  12. Joseph R

    @Ben. Wow. What a conversation. I wrote an article almost identical to Dr. Ben’s in some areas. I feel as if I’m not the only one trying to reconsider UBF’s MBF.

    I am young and, at many times, reckless Christian. UBF has helped me grow to be a more mature, God-centered young man. The West Loop ministry helped me understand that its ministry is very far from perfect, with its own skeletons in the closet among other hidden elephant in the room. Yet, it is a growing church. I see leaders admitting their mistakes and even open up to rebukes. This is a church that says “We have got tons of work to do” rather than “we are doing pretty good so let’s keep up the good work.” Any pastor that says “Don’t listen to what I say, but to what God says” is a growing pastor in Christ.

    @Ben. You mentioned being anonymous. I think many students, including me, in UBF will find it very troubling if we say something wrong here, or mentioned names or places too close for comfort. If we were to be honest, there will be a lot of rebukes to leaders and other students, sheeps and shepherds. I don’t want this to be a battle ground but rather a ground to grow deeper in Christ. I don’t want to accidentally/unintentionally cut someone’s ear off (as Peter did) rather I want to sharpen iron with iron, as in Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpens iron as one man sharpens another.” Will anonymity hurt?

    One thing I want to say about MBF in UBF is that I get a beating when I use the word ‘feeling’ to explain myself. They don’t actually ‘beat me,’ I am just trying to lighten the mood here. Surely, feelings are inconsistent and to a point not be trusted. But to restrict the use of ‘feeling(s)’ when it comes to MBF is quite questionable. Can we only say “I have strong feelings for you” only after marriage?

    There are such things as godly desires i.e. to feed the hungry, to tend to the widow, to give to the needy etc. Even these desires can be misleading and selfish i.e. you may be doing it for yourself rather than for God. It is the same with looking for a wife. It can be misleading and selfish but by knowing that God is first and foremost then surely God will let you bloom where you are planted. Truly, God will be with you no matter where you go (Mat 28:20) and who you marry, given that you seek him first (Mat 6:33).

  13. Thanks, Joseph. For sure, West Loop UBF has to only trust Jesus, because of all our skeletons and elephants!

    Regarding “feelings,” I remember how I used to (foolishly) tell my wife countless times in the initial decades of our marriage that, “Feelings don’t matter.” My point was that we should love and serve Jesus and obey the Bible regardless of how we feel. Of course, I communicated it rather stupidly and heartlessly (and unbiblically). Thank God that my wife still loves me!

    God gave us 3 components: mind (cognition/thoughts), heart (emotion/feelings) and will (volition/choice). Unfortunately, MBF has “over stressed” making a decision of faith, by primarily addressing the will. Inadvertently, MBF has been communicated as though our feelings are less important or not that important, with an ascetic bent and inclination, as though asceticism makes one more spiritual. That is a gnostic idea that needs to be addressed and discussed.

    MBF in theory and principle is biblical. We humans just mess it up because of our inclination toward anthropocentricity, and away from trinitarian doctrine. Sorry for mischievously putting in this last sentence!

  14. I’ve chosen “no-dating” as my personal policy since high school and university. Honestly speaking, it’s the grace of God that has been with me. But would I impose it on the church as a whole? Definitely, not.

    What does church policy mean? How can someone put their own personal convictions and lifestyle on others? If you don’t live my way, you are out? If Jesus did that to us, we’d all be in H-E-double hockey sticks….What is the church, as an institution, role in peoples’ lives? What is the purpose of the church, to make cookie cutter Christians? I don’t think so.

    I’ve heard different outcomes of MBF. There have been marvelous ones, but also unpleasant ones which could have been avoided simply by the couple getting to know each other. It’s sad and there are recent cases. I know God is sovereign, but we still need to act with wisdom.

  15. Thanks, MJ. Each single Christian should decide before God with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), and with seeking the council and prayer of mature Christians (James 5:16) regarding dating and marriage. This is the cross of living before God vertically and living in the church horizontally with the former necessarily preceding the latter.

    The reason I asked whether dating should be a church policy is because those who have been in UBF for some time “know” that “no dating” is an implicit (legalistic, expected) policy that affects the way we think and feel, that I believe is quite detrimental to the gospel of freedom and grace.

    Without freedom and grace predominating in our church, Christian life comes across as being oppressive, controlling, and burdensome, not a joy and a delight.

    Bonhoeffer’s Life Together ( is so good and practical because he says, and I’m paraphrasing, that any Christian who imposes his expectation and view (such as “no dating,” or “you should accept and marry who I introduce to you”) on others hinders the work of the Holy Spirit, or even replaces it. Bonhoeffer says,

    “human absorption appears wherever the superior power of one person (the leader or shepherd) is consciously or unconsciously misused to influence profoundly and draw into his spell another individual or a whole community. Here one soul operates directly upon another soul. The weak have been overcome by the strong, the resistance of the weak has broken down under the influence of another person. He has been overpowered, but not won over…his conversion (or decision) was effected, not by the Holy Spirit, but by a man, and therefore has no stability.” (page 33)

    What convicting words for any Christian who is “shepherding” others!

  16. liveforchrist

    Actually right now I am dating someone in UBF. but the big problem is that the UBF shepherds in korea think that this is a great sin against God. We pray for each other daily and also encourage each other to live a life serving Christ. but the problem is since we cannot tell anyone we feel this relationship is not going anywhere and we are just hurting each other. We pray alot these.days to help us. But so far it an impossible road. I feel that if we want to continue our courtship, we would.need the guidance.of a church leader to.pray for us and help us. I really feel that God really brought us together. For now all i can do is pray and hope that he will make a way for us.

    • liveforchrist,

      I second Ben’s suggestions. In fact, I would recommend everyone in UBF leave their chapters and move to Westloop Church!

      If you are being promiscuous, then they are right to rebuke you.

  17. Hi liveforchrist,

    Date with the fear of God; date honorably and prayerfully; date acknowledging that you are not yet married. Do find some mature older Christian who can listen to you and counsel you. You are welcomed to email me at to help me understand your situation.

    I think it helps to always remember that God is sovereign and has allowed you to experience the situation you are experiencing now, to fulfill his good will and purpose in your life and future marriage (Rom 8:28).

  18. Liveforchrist, Thanks for being open about being in a dating relationship in UBF. I agree with Dr. Ben that you should find someone more mature to counsel you. The only problem with that is that it’s hard to find someone in UBF who has actually dated in a Christian way! You also need someone to keep the both of you accountable. Believe me, when no one knows, it’s easy to fall into temptation and then show up and act like everything is ok. I’m reading a really good book right now called “Boundaries in Dating” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. Townsend (I think). I highly recommend it. Oh yeah, if you’re under 25, take your time!

  19. liveforchrist

    Thank you all for your kind and thoughtful replies. we are trying hard to stay pure. But like what zaggy said, it is at times easy for us to fall.into we often avoid being in a places where people are absent. As for the counselor. I think right now the only people o cam trust are american leaders because in Korea UBF dating is consired a great sin against God. What I want to know is if this is true. I mean other churches allow dating as they tell their pastors and also have accountability people. I really need help…..

    • liveforchrist, you ask whether it’s true that in Korea UBF dating is considered a great sin.

      I can only say that in my UBF chapter in Germany 10 years ago, and from what I heard of others in most other chapters as well, all marriages were arranged by UBF leaders, and dating was absolutely forbidden. To give an example from my former UBF chapter, when it turned out that two members had dated and wanted to marry, they were shamed as having fallen into sin, they were told to repent, the less loyal member was told to leave the chapter and receive “training” in a different chapter, and the more loyal member was told to break up the relationship. The chapter leader obviously wanted to make an example of them so that nobody would ever try that again. Interestingly, the rules they had violated (“no dating” and “no marriage proposal on your own”) never had been stated explicitly in our chapter, nor are they official rules anywhere else in UBF. They are “unspoken rules” which are a typical characteristic of spiritual abusive system. But I believe real love can overcome all circumstances. In the end, the couple married anyway and are still happily together, but they had to make a tough decision, namely to leave UBF, all of their UBF friends, and what they assumed to be their “calling”, and go to another church in order to marry. None of their former UBF friends and shepherds attended the wedding ceremony. In your chapter, the policy may be less strict. UBF has changed a bit since then, and it all depends on the chapter leader. But there are still chapters following that strict policy, and just as it has never been officially admitted, it has also never been officially renounced.

  20. This may be a good quote to consider if and when any single Christian dates: “If you date marginal Christians or Christians in name only, the power of sexual temptation is so strong that it is extremely difficult to remain pure.”

    Pray that your heart truly delights in Christ more than in the person you are dating.

    • This quote is very true. It has happened time and time again to many people I know.

    • That’s why Paul said in 1 Cor 6:18 “flee fornication” (KJV), “flee from sexual immorality” (NIV, ESV). Though Christians are saved by grace, we need wisdom and resolve to avoid tempting situations that are beyond our control, in order to keep the grace of Jesus in our hearts. While Christians date, there must be certain parts of our body that should be “NO FLY ZONES,” which are only permitted for married couples.

  21. liveforchrist

    For now, all we can do is just pray earnestly about it. I do not want anyone to become hurt in this relationship we are trying to hold. I also do not want to date her for the sake of my own fleshly desire for then there is no purpose of dating. There are many things that I have learned already. I learned what it means to truly love someone. Love is not just an emotion. If we love someone with emotion, it will fade away quickly. So I am really trying to love her looking at the example of how Jesus loved us. Love is commitment and patience. I just really hope that it will go well for us so that I can show others that marriage by faith is not the “only” way for people to get married. I feel that many people get chocked on this topic because I know that many people also feel this way as I do for marriage by faith. In my opinion, I don’t have anything against this way for marriage. But I also feel that either you marry by faith or marry through courtship/dating can have good results. All you have to do is pray earnestly and seek for His guidance.

    • Please don’t use that language “marriage by faith” vs. “marriage by courtship”. As a Christian, you *always* need to marry by faith. UBF just uses such silly wordings to create an artificial antagonism and make you believe that if you don’t marry their way, then you do not marry by faith. Call it as it really is, “marriage by arrangement” vs. “marriage by courtship”. Whatever you do, you need faith. And with that I mean faith in God, not in UBF leaders. It’s a strange kind of faith to believe that God reveals his marriage plans rather to UBF leaders than to the couple themselves. Don’t just trust that it’s the right decision because a UBF leader made it. Also, don’t just trust that it’s the right decision because you made it. Instead, pray a lot and carefully check if you really fit together. In my view, this is only possible by dating. Also check your heart if it’s really love that can last or just temporary romance.

  22. Good comments, Chris. I echo your thoughts.

    My advice to anyone on this matter is: make your own decision (and by “your” I mean you and your date).

    I would accept input and advice, but MAKE SURE such life-altering, major commitments are 100% the decision you both can live with.

    UBF people like to use subtle ways to bind your marriage commitment to UBF commitment. Don’t do it. If you bind those commitments together, and then later try to change your mind, you will find a yourself in a very dark, lonely place. There are numerous testimonies of UBF leaders threatening divorce and encouraging divorce if the UBF commitment is in danger of being broken.

    One of my friends got “married by faith” not too long ago. Clearly the two commitments were bound together (to marriage and to UBF). A couple weeks after marrying by faith, his wife disappeared. A few months later they had no choice but to divorce.

    One final note: Given the result of the UBF 50th anniversary material, it is clear that UBF is not healthy right now. I think they can be in the future, but it would be best to not make major life decisions with UBF input these days (unless you talk to Dr. Ben of course :)

    • If you all can bear with me for one more soapbox… :)

      UBF leaders taught me that I am not “my own man”. This teaching is based on John 21:18. I accepted this. The result was that I lost my identity and my conscience. I found now that John 21:18 has nothing to do with giving my identity and my conscience to UBF.

      The “marriage test” in UBF is the final binding of your identity and conscience to UBF ideology.

      To crucify the desires of the flesh (as in Colossians 3:5) has NOTHING to do with crucifying your identity or your conscience!

      Sing the Bon Jovi song: “It’s my life!”. It is your life. It is my life too. We should respect leaders and submit to authority, but we do not give them our souls. Christians belong to Jesus. Jesus is the one who bought our life, not UBF and not anyone else.

      Apostle Paul speaks of our conscience quite a bit, so it is clear that our conscience is something we don’t massacre, as in Hebrews 9:14 “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

  23. Just an odd observation here on this topic… Sarah Barry gave up marriage to remain single for God’s glory. I think this is noble and good, and I thank her for this example.

    But why then, does UBF leadership DEMAND “marriage by faith” in order to continue on in UBF? How many thousands of potentially good Christian single people had to leave UBF because they could not or did not want to “marry by faith”?

    Is there even one example of someone who did not “marry by faith” and became a leader or director in UBF?

  24. It’s good that you want to set an example, but please make sure that setting that example doesn’t become your priority. Sometimes, relationships just don’t work and you have to be willing to put an end to it if necessary. It’s unhealthy for a relationship to go longer than it’s going to go when one or both parties know it’s not going to go any farther.

  25. liveforchrist

    Wow. Thanks alot for all your inputs. I’ve learned so much. I also feel that UBFs reasoning for so called marriage by faith is only can put their.focus on the UBF mission. If we marry outside the church people might fall away from the mission. Anyway…all I can do just to pray…sincerely and let God lead. In fact we are living to glorify God, not men.

    • liveforchrist

      Dear friends…last week we were caught for dating after almost 10 months of beung together…we are being shamed by the director and his wife for indulging in lustful desire…when in reality we tried our best to stay pure…everything is falling apart. we are not allowed to see each other. we are not even allowed to talk to each other, call each other, text each other….not even in the church….and finally we were told that we would never see a future together and we would neverarry because the director would “never allow it”…what do i do…im earnestly seeking God in prayer…do i give in…or fight?

    • Hi liveforchrist, I would echo all of Chris’ words. Just a couple thoughts to add…

      If you are in the USA or Canada, you might be in luck. If so, your director is certainly at the staff conference. Perhaps you could reach out to Ben or Joe and they could go all “Dirty Harry” on your director :)

      But seriously, I think you have a tough road ahead, depending on how intertwined your life is with ubf. The answer I think is just what your nickname says: live for Christ. So I would do that. I would first surrender to grace and remember that Jesus loves you and that won’t change regardless of how you are treated by your director.

      Fighting with a Korean director will get you nowhere. You have to either play his game or just speak your mind. But whatever you do, you are realizing what I realized a while ago. Your ubf director’s supreme concern is passing on the ubf heritage, and that requires your loyalty.

    • Phil 2 Five


      I sympathize with you! I agree with Brian! “Fighting” with your director will be neither helpful nor beneficial! You cannot change an old wineskin mind-set that’s stuck in the same gear, even if you tried! They will not listen to your explanation. They will not listen to your concerns. They will not be willing to work with you, unless you do as they say and blindly obey out of fear and intimidation. As Chris and Brian both mentioned, the road is going to be difficult, however you live for Christ not for your director. If you feel that they are controlling you and coercing you to keep the UBF heritage and ‘marry by faith’, you have, I believe, no obligation to remain in the ministry.

    • LiveForChrist,

      Your words remind me of the following newspaper article, from the first ubf attempt to pioneer Columbus Ohio, when a former ubf member was interviewed:

      “Sometimes when I dated in college, it was nothing more than going to church on Sunday morning and then taking her to the dining hall for lunch in the afternoon and a walk in the park that evening.But the fact that I had dated a lot of different girls, I was made to feel like a womanizer or almost like a male prostitute, somebody who’s really bad in a sense.”

      [These older articles from the ’80s and ’90s are resonating with my experiences in 2011 until now. The stories are the same: excessive control and manipulation (which is called spiritual abuse) and ubf leaders/members denying all of it.]

    • Hi liveforchrist,

      It’s been a few days since you posted about your most recent situation… just thought I’d share a few links with you in response to your situation.. (especially if you’re kinda anxious…romance can do that to us young folks)

      1) No matter what kind of looks or persecution you get in life, I pray you may know that you are Daddy God’ beloved son… This is a man named Leif’s story of Pappa’s love:

      2) Other people have also experienced some issues when going after a relationship even if it’s the one God intends… The speaker at this year’s Well retreat, John Martin shares a bit of his story… here is the recording:

      Another sermon I also enjoy which talks about one man’s issues in getting agreeance for his now spouse is Pastor Christian (from New Philly church in Korea)… here is the link to that:

      3)Another recent semon by “PC” which reminds us that God does care about our desires:

      May the Holy Spirit continue to guide all of your ways and decisions. Peace.

  26. That’s UBF how we know it. If you have an “old school” UBF director, then you can be sure that he will never allow it. The reasoning is that he believes once he tolerates it only one time, the dam will be broken and everybody would do what they like. So you can be sure he will be rigorous and maybe even make an example of your case for the other members to learn. He may also try to expel you or your friend from his chapter or send you to another chapter “for training” until the “danger” is over. The one who will be sent away will be the one who is least “useful” to UBF and least loyal and obedient, so probably you. Your friend can then decide to stay or leave together with you. So you need to pray much, but it will be a good opportunity for you to find out whether you really trust each other and love each other. Don’t enforce things. Let God lead you through this test. Be prepared that your director will tell the whole congregation and your friend that you have become “unspiritual” and that they should pray for you, but not speak to you. Be prepared that nobody will be on your side. Maybe they will also malign you and dig out old sins that you once confessed. It will be hard, but you should fight for your rights and for your friend. Don’t hurry about marriage, but eke out your right to date with your friend officially, not as a secret. Then try to find out if you really fit together. Don’t rush, but know your rights and insist on your rights. Even if in the end you decide to not marry or wait some more years, you should make that decision, not your chapter director.

  27. FYI, Brian, I opted for the priceless option of not going to the conference. But I did not have steak or rum, only some crackers and cheese. So, I unfortunately can’t go “Dirty Harry” on anyone.

    • Nice. You’re so rebellious!

    • I prefer the word “autonomous,” which might be politically correct. ^_^

    • liveforchrist

      I repented of my sins by really pouring my heart out and telling the truth in my testimony because i wanted to come with God…but the director keeps pointing out my sins and he only mentions that me liking this girl was for lustful desires…i did not date her for that….and it does not.say in the bible that liking someone is a sin….but that is the only sin that they keep constantly reminding me of…i feel insecure…everyone looks at me and i can see in their eyes that they are disappointed in me…its really stressful and i feel that my faith is becoming vulnerable towards destruction…i need to pray earnestly and make up my mind…i will live for CHRIST and not let others to judge me..i live become God not men.

    • LiveForChrist,

      Generally I don’t like giving advice and I always encourage people in ubf to find a reason to stay in ubf.

      But given the nature of your public comments, I would have to say: Run for the hills. Get out. Make a clean break. Wallowing around in indecisive guilt is not healthy.

      It’s a somewhat well-known guide among former ubf members that it takes the same number of years you were in ubf to detox from ubf. So I expect I need about 24 years to recover from 24 years in ubf. It is clear that the 2 years I’ve had away from ubf is not nearly enough time for me to recover.

    • I remember that our chapter diretor told us that “the idea of romantic love is a lie”. Honestly, that was his teaching. Consequently, dating was evil, too. Sure, these ideas somehow contradict a whole book of the Bible, the “Song of Songs of Solomon”, but nobody noticed since that book was never read in Bible studies or conferences.

      You can be sure that nobody in your church will ever tolerate dating. You are not respected as an adult person; they believe you are a child and they are your “spiritual parents”, and they will continue to do so, even if you will be over 30.

      You would think the task of a missionary is a gospel, but they think it is much more, they think their task is to raise people up like little children, to make them obedient and dependent and copy their own practices and teachings. In their view, it’s not yours to make important decisions about your life. Your task is to obey given directions, not finding directions on your own. Read the title of Sarah Barry’s sermon at the staff conference today: “Ezra devoted himself to study, obey and teach the Bible.” This is exactly what they want you to do. There is no room for making your own decisions or having your own life. They also want to get you to a point where you believe that everything you have, you owe to them and you have to be forever thankful and loyal to them. One of the best ways for them to do that is to arrange your marriage (see the article “If Not For UBF I Would Not Be Married”). However, if you arrange your marriage yourself, then they do not have this grip on you in your future.

      It’s hard to withstand their sad faces and everything they do to manipulate you into feeling guilt. But don’t allow them to manipulate your feelings. I remember how my shepherdess even wept in my 1:1 Bible study because I stopped “fishing” on the campus and said I wouldn’t bring anybody to UBF any more until UBF reforms itself. But she had already lost any credibility for me at that time anyway, since when I told her about forced abortions in UBF and many other evil things, she did not weep a single tear. If you feel you’re manipulated, and if you feel you’re not strong enough to withstand that manipulation, follow Brian’s advice and stay away from them.

      Also, if possible, find good friends who you trust, who are not tainted with UBF teachings and with whom you can discuss these things. If you are alone, and everybody is telling you that you do something wrong, it’s difficult to not doubt your own thoughts. Maybe, if you’re parents are not in UBF, speak with them. They love you and will be glad if your open your heart to them, not to strangers.

  28. Good point Chris:

    “You would think the task of a missionary is a gospel, but they think it is much more, they think their task is to raise people up like little children, to make them obedient and dependent and copy their own practices and teachings. In their view, it’s not yours to make important decisions about your life.”

    If you want to make a ubf missionary nervous, ask him What is the gospel? Find out if your missionary can articulate the gospel that Jesus proclaimed. Isn’t that the basic qualification to be a Christian missionary?

    Many years ago (while I was still a ubf loyalist) I asked my ubf shepherd something about the gospel. He just said I should find out what the person I’m talking to believes. So if you are talking someone and they believe “abc” about the gospel, you believe “abc”. If they believe “xyz” then you believe “xyz”. Then he quoted 1 Corinthians 9:22. From that moment I knew he didn’t know the gospel of Jesus. I’ve been praying for him ever since.

    We former members must remember that we are dealing with spiritual forces here. We cannot fight against flesh and blood. From my two decades of experience, I have observed that the actions of many ubf missionaries reveal that they actually believe the following:

    1. The Holy Spirit is not God who should be obeyed, but a magical force that gives us energy to work hard.

    2. Our spiritual fellowship is with a binary god: Father and Son.

    3. The gospel is articulated as “submit to your shepherd” (based on verses like John 14:23).

    4. Your ubf shepherd is your parent, with full parental rights and authority, which supersede birthright parental rights (based on Esau who sold his birthright).

    5. The supreme mission from God is to make people loyal to ubf, to turn them into ubf evangelists.

    These spiritual ideas are what we former members are fighting against. If there is anything to “change”, change the actions that demonstrate these beliefs.

  29. Hi Chris, has Sarah Barry’s Ezra message been posted? Based on your comment, I’m wondering if you think that UBF has a “grip on me and my future” because I married by faith in UBF?

    • Hi Ben. I have only seen the title of Barry’s message. It only contains the words “study” and “obey” without specifying a subject. For UBF, obeying God and obeying your shepherd is the same anyway. The shepherd gives you the direction, if you want to obey God, you need to follow his direction. It’s that easy. That’s also what makes UBF so attractive to many people. It’s so much easier if other people tell you what to do, you only need to obey, and you know you’ll be righteous and go to heaven.

      I assume Lee had at strong grip on you for many years because he arranged your marriage, and it was surely an important reason for you to be loyal. Since Lee does not live any more and you have “emancipated” yourself from UBF, that grip does not exist any more, but I bet people like Sarah Barry will still remind you that you need to be thankful for your marriage etc. when you start criticizing things in UBF.

      In order to control people and force them to obey, UBF needs “levers” to have a grip on people. One of these levers is to make them believe that the leaders are special servants of God with special authority. They let you deliver many testimonies in which you confess your sins, while the leaders never share their testimonies and confess real sins. This gives you the impression that you are a miserable and clueless sinner, while they are flawless people of God who don’t struggle with sin and always know the direction. The other levers are based on thankfulness. The strongest one is the lever that you have been saved through UBF. You can’t ever pay this back. It’s an eternal thing, so you need to be eternally thankful. The second strongest lever is arranging your marriage. This shows that you not only owe your salvation to them, but also your happy marriage and family life. So they can expect you to pay that back, too, and be always thankful to them and never question them. They see all this Bible study and shepherding of a person as an “investment” that pays back when the person has become completely dependent and obedient, as if the shepherd now “owns” that person.

    • Exactly Chris. This newspaper article from 1988 articulates what we’ve been saying here on this blog:

      Student felt suffocated by Bible group

  30. Hi Brian, Though I’ve not heard it stated, yet many leaders in UBF perhaps regard/hear/interpret/teach Jn 14:15,21,23 as imperatives to “just obey.”

    If the subject of obedience is “God,” it may be OK. But unfortunately the subject of obedience is often “your shepherd.” This is anthropocentricity.

  31. Thanks, guys, I’m considering posting liveforchrist’s sad ongoing account as a featured article:

    What do you think?

    • I think it would be a good idea. We need to discuss the MbF doctrine in light of a real, current 2013 situation. It’s the same discussion that was going on in 1976 and 1986 and 1990 and for many, many years. But it has never fully been discussed out in the public arena, mainly because the internet didn’t exist.

      For example, in the past all people has was paper with limited reach. Doesn’t this man’s story from 1986 sound all too familiar to liveforchrist?


      “They just kept working on me till finally I broke. At one meeting I just started weeping in front of everyone. I wept for an hour.” “When Samuel Lee saw that I had finally reached that point, then they could redeem me,” he said.

      “It’s a classical brainwashing technique used on prisoners of war. They get you to the breaking point and then they become your redeemers and rebuild you in the image they have for you.”

      The last stage is a series of loyalty tests to exact complete obedience from the recruit to God, which is really UBF, he said, and leaders will resort to physical abuse if stubborn members refuse to break.

      Brauns said Lee was revered as a Christ figure and wielded tremendous power over the lives of individual members in the group, including personally arranging marriages between members.”

      Source: In God’s Name

    • liveforchrist

      I am finding strength and comfort in God’s words. He gives me his words in Hebrew 12:7-11 that God gives discipline to his children simply because he wants us to be deeply rooted in oir faith. Discipline is hard at first but later it bears a fruit of righteousness. I will stay strong and only fix my eyes on Jesus (hebrews 12:2). I want to live before God not men and let him lead my life.

    • That’s great to hear, LiveForChrist.

      For me, I the line between God’s discipline and my shepherd’s discipline became blurred after about 5 or 6 years. I could no longer distinguish between obeying God and obeying UBF.

      What would help me (and maybe others) is an article on how to tell the difference? How do you protect your heart and soul and mind, and yet still obey God?

  32. Thanks, Chris, your 3 levers of “control” certainly have a lot of truth:
    1) elite servants of God you must always be subordinate to;
    2) being thankful eternally to the One who saved you and to the “one who shepherded you;” and
    3) be forever thankful to the one who introduced your spouse to you.

    As you rightly say, all of these bonds imposes a non-negotiable stranglehold loyalty to God in UBF. As the Eagles song “Hotel California” says, “You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave.”

  33. The “training” liveforChrist received DOES NOT plant the gospel in anyone’s heart. It does not reveal a God of grace, but a punitive God. For “sin,” you need punishment, shame and humiliation, rather than the grace of forgiveness of sins (Lk 23:34), where there is now no condemnation in Christ (Rom 8:1).

    A great quote by Martin Luther in his preface to his commentary on Galatians:

    “There is no middle ground between Christian righteousness and works-righteousness. There is no other alternative to Christian righteousness but works righteousness; if you do not build your confidence on the work of Christ you must build your confidence on your own work.”

    Now liveforChrist has to “earn” his righteousness through his training, which is work righteousness.

    • liveforchrist

      Its not so much about the training that stresses me…but the constant spiritual bullying/teasing…people constantly telling me to repent…looking at me strangely…writting our situation in a message or even people just looking down on me…we all make mistakes…and they only know one side of the story…which very negative..

    • “Its not so much about the training”
      > I would ask yourself if this is training or manipulation. I see no training based on your words, but perhaps we don’t know all the details.

      “people constantly telling me to repent”
      > Yes, the gospel in ubf is defined as “repent in order to get forgiveness”. This is a false gospel. It is upside down in fact.

      “writting our situation in a message”
      > This always goes on in ubf. It is the “secret weapon” of a ubf director. They normally are not explicit, but the pulpit in ubf is routinely used (yes even today in 2013) as a means of controlling people’s behaviors. Your shepherd knows you so well that just the mention of a specific verse or phrase will trigger guilt that motivates you to do something he wants. And he knows this well. As a director myself, I received much training to know how to do this.

      “we all make mistakes”
      > Don’t let this become a justification for the sinful intrusion into your life by ubf shepherds.

      “they only know one side of the story”
      > Yes. And ubf will spin a new, make-believe side of the story, trying to break you down until you come to “realize” that your “only hope” is to accept the identity of a “ubf shepherd”.

  34. liveforchrist, first you should clarify for yourself whether what you did was wrong, and if it was wrong, whether it was a “mistake” or a real “sin”. Check your own conscience and the Bible, not what UBFers manipulate you to believe. Ask any ordinary Christian pastor. If you were just dating, that’s definitely not a sin. It is in itself also not wrong or a mistake. Maybe you made a mistake, but dating someone per se is not a mistake; you should be clear about that.

    Unfortunately, the Bible does not speak much about dating in the New Testament. Most places in the New Testament recommend to not marry at all. So if you take the Bible literally and apply it to today, then UBF’s obsession with marrisage is completely non-Biblical anyway. But look at the terms the Bible is using when speaking about the marriage process. 1Cor 7:27 uses the expression “look for a woman” (or “seek a wife”). Even if this context again does not recommend to marry, it still assumes that the normal process to marry is to “look for a woman” (actively). Similarly 1Cor 7:39 uses the expression “she is free to marry anyone she wishes“. Even if this context about widows, it again assumes that the normal process is that you marry someone who you like, not who somebody else chose for you. In the OT you find the expression “This is what the LORD commands for Zelophehad’s daughters: They may marry anyone they please…” The only limitation in the Bible seems to be that the Israelites should marry in their tribes, or today, that Christians should marry Christians (but they should not seek divorce even if their spouse is not a Christian). From all of this it is clear that actively looking for a spouse is the normal way to marry, and dating is a reasonable form to do that.

    Note that not only the Bible gives you the right to marry (1Cor 7:28; 9:5) according to your conscience, but it is also part of the declaration of human rights: “Men and women of full age … have the right to marry and to found a family.” (Article 16). And also “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.” (Article 12). If UBF forbids you to marry, interferes with your privacy and shames you publicly, attacking your reputation, they are violating 3 human rights all at once.

    UBF may object that for instance, the Catholic church also forbids priests to marry. But the difference is that this is a well-defined and well-known rule, it has a name “Celibacy” and is clearly written down and regulated in the “Codex Iuris Canonici” in Canon 277 § 1. UBF however, does not make their marriage policy public. It is not written down on their website, or their by-laws or anywhere else. Usually, it is not even spoken out. Or did you ever hear your chapter director explicitly state in a Sunday sermon “dating is forbidden” or “dating is sin”? It’s one of those “unwritten laws” or “unspoken rules” that are hallmarks of any spiritually abusive church. The leaders know very well that as soon as they would write down or speak out these rules, it would become obvious how ridiculous they actually are. If they speak about it at all, they use code language and euphemisms such as “marriage by faith”. I urge everyone to read the book “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” to understand what’s going on. It was an eye-opener for me.

  35. Back to the topic of a “no dating policy”, I just want to point something out related to post-MbF. We really need to talk about what happens after MbF. After your ubf shepherds spend so much time extolling the values of “forming a world mission family” you will find out quickly that the word “family” becomes a bad word. ubf does not want families, they want world mission coworkers. Whatever family hopes you had, you will be required to sacrifice them one by one on the altar of ubf until you and your wife live like single college students, doing only student-based activities and leaving your own children at babysitters almost every night.

    One thing to note after MbF is that “no dating” becomes “no vacation”. Our family finally started going to Disney World in the summer. And it is awesome! And yes we now started making new friends having their families and our kid’s friends over for pizza and games (Note: Yes you can go ahead and blame Mickey Mouse for my criticism of ubf if you want to :)

    • Oh and that “no TV” policy? It stays. Don’t let your ubf shepherd find out you have a TV. We found that if you put the TV in the basement (and not in the front room), you’ll be able to get away with having one.

      Just a side note: One of the first things I did after leaving ubf was to replace the podium in our house with a 42 inch high def TV. And I feel no guilt over doing so.

  36. liveforchrist

    I have been getting these trainings for my wrongs. Does anyone know how long these trainings are…? And what the point is? I repented sincerely before God and i dont wanna go back to my sins

    • Phil 2 Five


      “Does anyone know how long these trainings are…?”

      > It ends when you “behave” the way your bible teacher/pastor/director wants you to behave! Any challenge to their authority will undoubtedly result in more training!

      “And what the point is?”

      > By fear and intimidation they gain more and more control over your life. Eventually you start to think that unless you abide by UBF ‘guidelines’ or ‘UBF theology’ you are outside of God’s will and in need of more training! In short, to teach you who is the “top dog!”

  37. Joe Schafer

    liveforchrist, I’m wondering what the sins are that you repented of. Being attracted to a person of the opposite sex is not a sin. Becoming obsessed with that person (or an idealized image of that person, or an idealized image of sexual love) to the point of idolatry, to the point of choosing that image over God, would be a sin. I’m not saying that this is what you have done. I’m just wondering what repentance means to you.

    • liveforchrist

      I did not really commit sins of sexual immorility. We dated with the fear of God. But the sin was that i lied and kept my relationship in secret. This led me to lie to people and hurt people including myself and I. In terms of the sins within our relationship. There were times where we idolized each other. But it was not all the time. We knew that there would be temptations. So we prayed together to stay pure and also love God and put God first. We also served God giving our hearts.

    • liveforchrist, I do not think it is a sin to keep a relationship secret from people who have nothing to do with it. And I think it’s not the business of church leaders or other church members to know who has a relationship with whom. If you lied, that’s a problem. But if church leaders interfere in your private life and bring you in a situation where you are kind of forced to lie, then this is an even bigger problem.

      Generally, I think it is a big problem that fundamentalist churches raise up their kids in a way that they easily become hypocrites, behaving differently in school and in church. This may also explain why many 2nd gens are so silent about the problems in their church. Integrity and honesty is not really a value that you learn and train in the church environment. But you quickly learn that it is important to follow the rules and keep up appearances.

  38. Repenting of idolatry is our life long endeavor, even after marriage. Of course, the temptation to sin/lust is always there if you date someone you like. Also, the temptation to sin/lust is also there if you are not dating.

    It appears to me that you have been dating honorably with the consciousness of God in your heart.

    • liveforchrist

      I do not even know why i am still even getting trained…..i made a vow to God to not meet her again until God tells me to through his leading…

    • liveforCHRIST,

      How do you distinguish between God telling you and your shepherd telling you? What is the difference?

  39. Am I beating a dead horse by saying this again?

    UBF has a serious major problem because the shepherd or missionary absolutely believes that it is their non-negotiable right over the lives and marriages of those under their stewardship.

    Isn’t this a violation of the rights/boundaries of a human being? Isn’t this a very serious violation of biblical truth that distorts the truth that Jesus is Lord (1 Cor 12:3)? Isn’t the shepherd or missionary acting as though they are God over the lives of others? Doesn’t this cause people to fear a man in the church more than God?

    Should UBF continue to allow or tolerate or say nothing about what liveforChrist is presently experiencing???

    • “Isn’t this a violation of the rights/boundaries of a human being?”

      My response to you, Ben, is this: If a human being is created for nothing more than carrying out the work of God, and that work is narrowly defined or understood by those doing it, then, no. If I believe that a person is made primarily for God’s mission, then as a leader within that mission, it is my sacred duty to intrude and bring my authority to bear as much as necessary in that person’s life in order to better fulfill said mission. I believe that the prevalence of authoritarianism in UBF is not a problem of controlling leadership or excessive power, but a misunderstanding of what it means to be a human being and a de-valuing of people from human people into merely agents of God’s work. The result is the whole world is split in two: those who are properly doing God’s work (as we understand it) and those who are not. Those who view themselves as members of the former group then believe that it is their divine calling to “help” change the members of the latter group.

    • Thanks, Joshua. The way you write and reason and comment has always appealed to me. For sure, UBF leaders (some more than others) have tended to define Christian life quite narrowly.

      For example, UBF basically expects that everyone in UBF studies the Bible with a Bible teacher, and that everyone who studies the Bible becomes a Bible teacher who teaches the Bible.

      Is this bad or wrong? Not necessarily. But it is narrow and skews toward exclusivism and elitism, as though we in UBF are some sort of God’s Special Ops for Bible teaching.

  40. These are just the thoughts I’ve been having lately Joshua:

    “Those who view themselves as members of the former group then believe that it is their divine calling to “help” change the members of the latter group.”

    I have found that I have an almost uncontrollable urge to treat UBF the way UBF treats former members. It seems to be a ying/yang relationship, not unlike North and South Korea. I am trying to break this pattern in my self, but it is obviously just as difficult for me to stop bashing UBF as it is for UBF directors to comment here. So we are locked in this psychological dilema. This is why I repeat that only God’s divine, irresistible grace can overcome this problem.

    Someone asked me this weekend if I could present a more fair, balanced viewpoint of UBF. I said I cannot, right now at least. It may take another 22 years for me to be “balanced” toward UBF. Why? Because as a UBF shepherd I was fully unbalanced and fully believed just as you write, Joshua. I thought people and my self were made only for mission, and world campus mission at that.

    All I can do is to remain in the UBF dialogue as I strive to learn the deeper truths of Christianity. Through this 2013 lenten season, I am discovering that my mission is not to change or rebuke UBF leaders or UBF people. My mission is to listen to UBF/ex-UBF people and to speak with UBF/ex-UBF people, all while learning the gospel and listening for God’s voice.

  41. It is true that UBF insiders complain that exUBFers or UBF critiquers do not give a fair, balanced viewpoint of UBF. To be honest, I actually agree.

    My question is: Do traditional UBF insiders give and report a fair, balanced viewpoint of UBF?

    • liveforchrist

      As I am receiving my “training” i am constantly being told that I was being a worldly man and the purpose of my training was so that i could focus solely on God and “mission” of “feeding sheep and becoming a shepherd.” In the bible it clearly states that we have to tell people about Jesus especially to those who dont know him….but the bible does not clearly say how to do it. UBF’s mission of raising bible teachers is not a bad thing. But like Ben said, its too narrow that you sort of seem to not have a choice but to do so….there is not just one way to serve this mission. Look at other churches. Thats why many people feel that their freedom in Christ is restricted. I sure felt it and am feeling it now. I am constantly being asked why i am not feeding sheep and trying to save one soul. There is a great sense of pressure and if you dont feed sheep you are looked down as spiritually immature and unGodly.

      I also agree with Ben about this special OPs mentality that UBF has. I have had an occassion where other Christians who are in UBF are considered less spiritual. UBF no better than any other church under Jesus the head.

    • liveforchrist


  42. Thanks live4christ for sharing with us your ongoing journey with your “training,” which honestly I find reprehensible, unjustifiable and unacceptable. Even if such “no dating” practices have been going on for 50 years, it is still WRONG and unbiblical the way you are experiencing it and describing it.

    Thanks to you, though this sort of unbiblical control has been going on and ongoing for decades, it is being publicized for the 1st time in “real time and living color” before the whole world because of the internet, and not just after the fact from people who left UBF who were abused and traumatized by their “marriage by faith” experiences from their shepherd who dictated and called all the shots regarding every detail of their marriage.

    Many prior cases of dissent were squashed with authority coming from the top, so that sincere UBF people who were in love left and married in another church. Or some “played the game” to appease their shepherds, but left soon after they married.

    For odd and unhealthy reasons, UBF leadership has often communicated to singles that if you “like” the opposite sex before marriage and before being introduced by your shepherd, you are simply unspiritual, unrepentant, full of lust, and sinning greatly.

    • Ben, you words and liveforCHRIST’s current troubles spark questions in my mind: are we talking about a Christian church or the Gestapo? Shouldn’t we be able to clearly tell the difference? How can anyone tolerate such things in 2013?

  43. To be “balanced,” let me say that my above “scathing indictments” and polemics are coming from one who has perhaps one of the happiest memories of my own marriage by faith experiences in 1981 ( To this day, 32 years later, my wife and I still laugh with joy and glee about the most unlikely way anyone could possibly ever be married, especially in that I NEVER even proposed to her.

  44. Hi Brian, Being a lifer of 33 years in UBF, let me attempt to answer your great question: “How can anyone tolerate such things in 2013?”

    * It is for singles to keep their heart pure (Ps 119:9).

    * As we already know, some UBF leaders regard it as their absolute right to “shepherd” their sheep in the way that they see best, and a non-negotiable is “Absolutely no dating until you get my permission and blessing!”

    * They can NEVER NEVER NEVER allow dating initiated by anyone but the leader. This has NEVER been allowed in UBF. It will destroy the discipleship ministry of the entire UBF chapter, if not the entire UBF world. UBF will become a dating center, not a world mission center.

    * Singles must be single-hearted to study the Bible, study for school, go fishing, feed sheep and not be distracted by dating.

    * Dating has caused sexual immorality in many churches and youth ministries. This will never happen in UBF.

    I am not saying I accept any of the reasons above. But I am sure others can come up with far better reasons to your great question.

    • Thanks, Ben. I’ve also heard those justifications before, and also don’t necessarily accept them.

      Something to consider: The reasons you mention above were also carried over to the married life after MbF (at least in my part of the ubf world). So the monk-like insistence to live in celibacy continues. Of course, we did have children. But the pressure to be “pure like a single person” was always present.

      This Sunday I’m expecting a momentous occasion: I will attend worship service with my new friends and my wife— and we will HOLD HANDS!

      I’m so excited and giddy like a teenager going to prom! This will be the first time in 19 years of marriage that I will hold my wife’s hand in church. For our 20th anniversary, we are planning to renew our vows. Heck, I might even get to kiss the bride this time!

    • Brian, I’m in absolute agreement with your statement about worshiping with your wife. To be able to sit with her and with my children is so wonderful, to worship together, to listen to God’s word as one family and one couple, and to ask questions of each other later (like, “I noticed that you were deeply moved during the second song, do you want to tell me what stirred your spirit?”). My wife and I have experienced a new dimension of spirituality in our married life through the sheer pleasure of being able to worship God together as a couple.

      Of course, now that we’re spending more time together and interacting in more ways, I’m also experiencing new areas to overcome and grow. I find it strange that after leaving UBF and stopping being so busy, I found many, many immature and undeveloped areas in my life, heart, mind, emotions, and relationships that I hadn’t paid attention to before. Slowly, the Spirit of God is leading me (and my wife too) into wholeness in our ourselves, in our marriage, family, and friendships.

    • liveforchrist

      It is actually quite sketchy because the director kinda tries to avoid saying that dating is wrong…he is not really clear on that because he knows it does not say it in the bible. But he does not want to break the UBF tradtions because it will cause disorder and the floodgates will open for many other people.

    • Hi liveforchrist,

      I’ve been in a number of ministries before that discouraged their members from dating. I think that as a policy, it is not necessarily a bad thing, especially for many university-aged young people who may be overly caught-up in pursuing romance–although, I’m not saying that’s you; I don’t actually know you:). I’ve been in churches where the majority of young adults were almost entirely absorbed with dating, who-likes-whom, the drama of break-ups, etc. It made such a bad atmosphere and environment that distracted from properly worshiping, serving, and growing in God. It prevented proper friendships between brothers and sisters and Christian fellowship in the community as a whole.

      If a pastor (or in this case UBF leader) clearly and explicitly made a policy that discouraged dating among members, backed up with a clearly-stated rationale, and this policy was made known from the beginning, I wouldn’t have a very big problem with that. In my opinion, the problem comes when rules are
      (1) implicit;
      (2) not properly explained/rationalized;
      (3) are forced on other adults in contradiction to their own conscience; and
      (4) are used to condemn those who don’t follow them.

      In my view, dating isn’t discouraged primarily because it may lead to immorality or a “loose” atmosphere, but because it opens the possibility that a Bible student will court and marry someone outside of UBF.

    • CanadianGirl

      Good points Joshua… It’s good to point out that the lack of dating in UBF is not necessarily a bad thing when it helps young people focus on their relationship with God first. Especially those that have just come to Christ and are going through a process of discovering that they are more than objects, but beloved children and Bride of Christ, and experience healing and deliverance from the effects of possible passed abuse or relationships…

    • Yay!! Another Canadian has joined UBFriends!! Welcome CanadianGirl, how’s it going bye? Let’s us canucks show what we’re aboot, eh? Nothing like a bunch of Canadians to make a conversation become, ahem, more diplomatic and polite. But not too many; we’ll spend the whole time just apologizing to each other!

    • I actually welcomed the no dating policy in UBF. As a new Christian and having a messy experience with dating for years, it was a relief to come into UBF environment. Now, however, many years later, I recognize this relief as a kind of escape. I think my early years as a Christian could have been healthier in many ways. I don’t think that this is an issue of to allow or not to allow dating. Rather, I think we need to understand how people really heal and grow in Christ. In my early experience, I left behind my past and adopted a new identity as a pure daughter of God. I didn’t talk about my past, I stopped mourning over it, and I was encouraged to take on a new identity as a “mother-like shepherdess”. This was an identity, however, that never really made sense to me. A woman is not merely a mother, and a Christian is not merely a “shepherdess” or “shepherd”. Still, I adopted this, probably because it allowed me to move on and avoid dealing with the pain of my past. Years later, however, the reality and complexity of my whole identity had to be addressed. I had to be me again, not the person I was trying to be.

    • CanadianGirl

      Thanks Sharon for your comments… I very much agree… the no dating policy and perhaps the way UBF and/or other churches deal with peoples’ past can sometimes allow us to escape but not actually deal or heal in a healthy way from things… we are still emotional and sexual beings and can’t just ignore this and think we are healed… what happens when I end up getting married? How do I go from not talking about sex or healthy marriages to all of sudden embracing one?
      I read a couple of articles that I feel ask and answer some cool questions to this issue…
      1) Shame, Sex and Jesus in the Bedroom:
      2) What’s the Big Deal about Waiting for Marriage?

  45. CanadianGirl

    liveforchrist – I’m just wondering if you’ve had any thoughts as to how you will continue to respond in your situation… like what is God saying to you about it? It seems rather sketchy if you have a sense of what is right but live the rest of your life doing what keeps you out of the bad books of certain leaders…

    would sharing your thoughts of what you feel God wants you to do with your director make things worse than what it already is?

    Also, I don’t really see UBF directors as the bad guys… for they are God’s beloved children too and our Father wants them to also live in freedom in His love… so loving the director is important in my opinion… love rejoices in the truth… so what is the truth that God desires for your situation and/or ministry?

    Sorry, I hope that didn’t come off in any kind of rude way… they are just questions that came to my mind…

    • liveforchrist

      Canadiangirl. I do not hate the leaders for what they are doing because this is how they were trained. so it is with no doubt thay they will act this way. I should respect the leaders because i also believe that they are given their authority by God. But complete submission is wrong. Just because they are chosen by God doesnt necessarily mean that their words are always directly from God. That is blind and risky. Leaders are equal as any other people according to God’s eyes. We are all equally sinners. So i have the right to say what is right or wrong by observing the leadership of Jesus and if the leadership is biblical. If it is biblical then i can understand it and obey it. But this whole matter of no dating is not biblical. What i mean by that is that dating is not necessarily considered a sin. Ofcourse the way you approach the situation can make it sin. But i can say with my soul that i was dating honarably. I always kept the presence of God in my heart and so did she. But UBF thinks all dating is sin unless approved by the leader.
      As i have prayed for God to show me the way of what to do and surrendering my life to Him, I am feeling the freedom in christ. I never said the leaders were thr bad guys. But i have every right to disagree with them if they are not biblical. Liking someone is not a sin. Dating someone fearing God is also not a sin. God tells me to be patient when i pray to him and wait. If it is God’s will he will fulfill it and there is no stopping it. So i still like her and i will still try to ask God if she is the one for me.

    • CanadianGirl

      liveforchrist – thanks for your update on how God is leading you…
      – I wasn’t saying that you hate them or think they are the bad guys… I was just making that statement in general to my UBFriends :P…
      (and lol at Joshua’s points of Cdn’s apologizing to each other haha)
      – it’s good to hear your convictions and views in dealing with this sitatuion. responding to it in an honourable way is a good thing to share

    • liveforchrist, when you say leaders got their authority from God and were chosen by God, that opens a whole can of questions for me. First, what is actually “their authority”? Which kind of authority do Christian leaders have? What about the teachings in Mt 23 on human authority? Should there be single leaders with authority or rather a group of elders with authority as a group? Second, in how far a these leaders really chosen by God? The official UBF news channel titled “God chose Dr. Abraham T. Kim as the new UBF General Director” two years ago. Really? Wasn’t it rather some Korean leaders who chose him in an obscure, indisclosed process? (The Pope is elected behind closed doors as well, but at least the proceedings are well documented.) You may say, “but God allowed this to happen so he must be God’s chosen leader”. Really? If this is the case, then we should all submit under the authority of the Pope since he was obviously chosen by God and provided with authority through apostolic succession. Or, UBF should submit under the leadership of the Presbyterian church under which they originally operated. What UBF leaders did is this: They shook off and ignored the authority of the church leaders, and then expect people to submit under their self-proclamined authority. Real authority does not come from the fact that somebody calls himself “director” in a self-proclaimed organization or is appointed as director by the organization, it comes from the respect somebody earns through his behavior. Let them earn respect and authority by living a godly life. One hallmark of such a life is to be accountable, to admit sins and wrongdoings and repent. I do not see this in UBF leaders. So for me, they do not have any authority at all.

    • Phil 2 Five


      I’m not sure how long you’ve been in the UBF…My guess is not that long! Most UBF leaders train soldiers and build kingdoms and marriage is a tool they use to bring together two so called soldiers who are ‘trained’ and ‘obedient’ (mainly to their chapter director/leaders) to build these kingdoms. What’s up with these number stats? How many sheep did you feed? How many Bible studies did you do? How many people are you gonna bring to the conference? How many? Why is number so important? Why does a certain chapter director get rebuked for not having ‘enough’ sheep or SWS attendants?

      I felt the same a while back; they are the leaders that God appointed, put in place, and gave authority to, so I should obey and not question. That’s exactly what these ‘cult’ type leaders want, full submission to their directives. No questions asked. After you are shamed and ‘convinced’ by the leader that you are in the wrong, you are once again under their control. Control freaks leap for joy when someone submits to their orders and blindly follows them. I hope and pray that is not the case for you! Control freaks are encouraged and motivated by others submission.

  46. Joshua, that’s exactly my point. The issues is not really that dating in UBF is strictly forbidden for everybody (which is different from a church that just discourages younger members from dating), but that this policy is disclosed from the public and students who are fished into UBF. Sometimes UBF defenders even deny that this policy exists. If groups keep their real teachings and practices hidden, they are rightfully considered cults. By the way, did you know that the word “occult” means “hidden”, “concealed”, or “secret”? Christian groups must operate openly, they live “in the light” as the Bible emphasises from the beginning to the end.

    The problem for UBF is that they would need to make the whole “marriage by faith” package explicit. As we know, it is not only “no dating”, but also includes arranged marriage, not proposal on your own allowed, the right of directors to cancel marriages any time etc. This policy should be clearly stated in the by-laws, every member should need to explicitly accept these by-laws, and it should also be publicly visible on the homepage under “what we believe” and “about us”. This would entail other problems, however: UBF would need to make a decision whether they want to be an “ordinary student church” (as they sometimes depict themselves wrongly in the public) or a “mission organization with strict rules”. Many of the problems exist because UBF could never make a clear statement about that.

    The current situation is this: UBF invites unsuspecting people to their organization, teaches them the Bible, and once they start believing in God and are born again, they are told: “Oh, and by the way, you are member of a very strict organization now, and need to follow our rules. If you violate them, we will tell you that you are unspiritual and your salvation is questionable.”

    UBF sells people a complete package, salvation plus calling for mission plus membership in an organization with strict rules. You can’t have one without the other, and that’s why many people are so confused.

    • “and that’s why many people are so confused.”

      You nailed it Chris. Not only are “sheep” confused, I contend that “shepherds” and directors are also confused in ubf.

      ubf shepherds are confused because they presume to have a divine right to interfere in people’s lives. When their “sheep” become upset or angry or display any hint of dis-loyalty or un-thankfulness toward them or ubf in general, the shepherd becomes first angry and then sad, feeling persecuted for being righteous. ubf shepherds end up developing the Korean-specific psychological syndrom called “han”, where they maintain just enough hope to keep persevering, but never pull out of a depressed state of mind. They “recharge” their hope for a ubf kingdom on earth at various ubf conferences, but then that hope dissipates when they return to their mission field and reality sets in.

      So they love bible verses that speak of “forgetting what is behind” and “winning the prize”, but they ignore the real power of verses like 1 Peter 4:15, which would clear up their confusion and begin healing them of their “han” thinking: “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.” There are many other verses that would bring about healing through reality checks too, such as Ephesians 4:25, James 3:1, Jeremiah 50:6, Ezekiel 34:2, Matthew 11:30, 1 Corinthians 7:21, Galatians 3:1-3.

      During my 20+ years in ubf, I heard it said explicitly and implicitly that ubf shepherds, especially directors, are “divine interferrers” and “benevolent dictators” who have been appointed as God’s servants to “serve” young people by intruding into their personal lives, with MbF(TM) being the ultimate “help” and the greatest “blessing” to them.

    • liveforchrist

      Phil2Five. Thank you for your input. I am a UBF born child. Ive been in it all my life and i could not accept mbf from a very young age. I learned how the system works. Im in Korea now which the original core roots have not been changed and are very strict. In North America its a little better but overall its still the same everywhere you go in UBF. When i started to date her i knew what i was dealing with and therefore i was very careful as to how i would approach this situation. We both liked each other and we were friends. The one thing that we should’ve had done was to stay as friends and still like each other but take it slow and take time to pray about it. But what has been done cannot be erased. During our dating period we therefore prayed for each other and also together when we met. We got to know each other and stayed away from places that would tempt us. We also encouraged one another to live for Christ. I honestly wrote that on my testimony but he thought i was just trying to convince him that i did not sin and just ignored it.

    • Hi Live4Christ, it is too bad that your shepherd does not trust what you told him and ignored what you said, yet it seems that he expects you to trust him and accept what he says. Does this sound right? Respectful? Trusting? Godly??

    • Hi liveforchrist,

      Just checking in to see how your situation turned out? There are quite a few others I suspect in the ubf world who struggle with the same dating/marraige issues you mentioned here. Hope things turned out well for you.

  47. Phil2Five,

    I think your last sentence above sums up the entire MbF(TM) process:

    “Control freaks are encouraged and motivated by others submission.”

    Control and submission could easily be two of the “core values” of ubf, right after the number one value of loyalty. And marriage is the ultimate means for gaining control, submission and loyalty all at the same time.

    [Here’s a somewhat sad/funny story about control: One time I went on a short-term journey to Seoul, Korea. I stayed for about 8 days. One Korean ubf Director there took me out to a river, where young people supposedly go to find a marriage partner (or some such romantic idea). He kept telling me how I must marry and how he would pray for my marriage. He thought I was a single college student, maybe because I looked and acted much younger than my age. He never thought to ask me how old I was or other personal questions. Yes his English was poor, but that was not the problem. The problem was that he wanted to control my life, and felt he had a divine right to interfere in my life because he was a ubf Director. I had never met the man before this trip. When I realized what was going on, I told him: I am 31 years old! I am already married! and I already have 2 children! My point is that in my experience, most ubf directors are blinded by control and their assumption of their divine right to interfere in other people’s lives.]

    So when I was defending ubf, I had to look at myself in a mirror and honestly answer these kinds of questions, and I had to answer them from my heart, with my own mind, making my own decisions:

    If my ministry teaches control, preaches control, practices control, promotes control and trains people to be in control of others on a daily basis, what do I call my ministry? How much control am I going to allow my shepherd to have over my life? How long will I submit to ubf authority? Will I commit my entire life to controlling my fellow human beings? Will I allow my children to be controlled by ubf shepherds? Will I allow my wife’s PhD dreams to be controlled by ubf directors?

  48. There was a youth conference in a baptist church I attended recently. And one of the messages was based on Gen.24. It was very interesting. Among other things I liked the pastor’s words, “You can see that one of the most important signs that God is blessing your choice and your marriage is that your future spouse’s relatives and parents bless you”. In ubf I experienced personally and saw many times that “your parents and relatives have no faith”, that’s why they are not important. Parents are put aside, their blessing is not important at all in ubf’s MbF. And the only sign of God’s blessing of your MbF can be your director’s choice and words. MbF is not a sign of a christian church. The same thing happened so many times before ubf conferences. I mean that way of “helping” your sheep to participate. “Don’t say anything to your parents, they are not believers, they won’t understand, be wise like a serpant and just participate secretly”. Why does ubf fishing focus on students? they are children who are not with their parents. Aren’t they the best targets for manipulation?

  49. Brian, I know what some UBF leaders will say about the excellent video interview with an ex-Westboro Baptist Church member.

    Some will categorically say, “We are not like that at all!”

    Some others might say, “Thank God that UBF is not that extreme in controlling people”

    Today, more may be saying, at least privately, “We realize that we have done some bad things, and we are now slowing trying to change,” which I believe is true to a degree.

    Of course, some might continue to say, or at least think, “We are the exemplary, exclusive, exceptional, elite soldiers of Christ!”

    • Yea Ben, I also think ubf people are thinking those things, and probably other things as well. The question of “What will ubf leaders say?” never enters my mind these days. I no longer care about that.

      Although WBC and ubf express their control in different ways, I do find that the words and thoughts of former members of groups like WBC and the Moonies, etc. are extremely helpful to me and my recovery from spiritual abuse.

  50. In my opinion, controlling people in the name of shepherding them is one of UBF’s biggest problems that needs major correction.

    It is because some leaders are not “absolute” about Jesus’ clear directive to not lord over others (Mt 20:25-26; Mk 10:42-43; Lk 22:25-26; also 1 Pet 5:3). I preached a sermon on this last Sun in Manila:

    • Exactly, Ben. Any person who thinks they have lifelong, permanent spiritual authority in a person’s life just because of a chance meeting somewhere, really really really needs to heed Jesus’ woes, as in Matthew 23:15.

    • Ben, can you please preach this in Bonn UBF, too?

    • Well, God willing, I want to see my 3 grandkids grow up.

    • Ben, that would be the last sermon you ever preached…so you might as well include James 3:1 too.

  51. Just tagging this article for someone I’ve been talking with. After hearing a radio call-in show this morning, I remembered some things an American (or other nationality) in ubf has to watch out for: your wedding ceremony will be Koreanized.

    The radio show asked people to tell stories about their “best man speech” at their wedding. This is a time-honored tradition in America (maybe elsewhere too). But the people who went through the arranged marriages in ubf can’t tell such stories. There is no best man. There are no brides maids. Maybe now after 50 years there is a “kiss the bride”. We had to argue for “cutting the cake”.

    For someone in ubf not yet married, better start preparing to tell you mother and all other family members that they won’t be part of the planning process (if they even have time to know about the process). There won’t be dancing at a reception (if there even is one). For the women, any dream you have of your wedding day will be snuffed out by the smell of kimchee.

    Sure there are outliers out there who did fight for a few things. The question facing ubfers is how long will I fight to be myself and to live in my own culture?

    • Joe Schafer

      In Chicago and other places, many of the strict controls on weddings in ubf (no dancing, no drinking, etc.) have been loosened. Year by year, the missionaries relaxed these rules as their own children grew up and got married. They would not impose on their own sons and daughters the same kind of control they imposed on us. The double standards are as plain as day.

  52. Good point:

    “They would not impose on their own sons and daughters the same kind of control they imposed on us. The double standards are as plain as day.” – See more at:

    This is a core problem with many Christians stuck in a bible fantasy worldview. Another example is that Christian parents will typically only start to learn the reality about LGBT people when their own son or daughter is brave enough to come out of the closet, risking their very life just to be who God intended them to be.

    ubf missionaries will only come out of their ubf KOPHN fantasy worldview (and realize they have been anti-missionaries mostly) when more and more adult men and women (aren’t all college students adults?) take the risk to speak out for what is right.

  53. I agree that when the children of missionaries “cannot be trained” like their sheep, the “UBF core values” are loosened somewhat so as not to be estranged from their own children.

    I am considering writing a post: “What’s the big deal if someone leaves UBF.” Many children of missionaries have already left UBF, but there is hardly anything said about them leaving. But woe if some long standing indigenous UBF shepherd leaves UBF…

    • forestsfailyou

      I know that there is defiantly a double standard her. One 26 year old woman was told “she was not mature enough to date” even though a 19 year old missionary’s daughter had been dating for 2 years. The 26 year old found out after she had broken up with with guy, but she said to me “I thought we are suppose to be careful about dating in UBF.” The church does not “approve” of the missionary’s daughter, but they did not pressure her to the degree of the 26 year old.

  54. Forests, Understandably, this pretty obvious “double standard” regarding dating and choosing one’s future spouse is quite unpleasant, if not highly uncomfortable–both to 2nd gens and to their missionary parents who love their children dearly (as they should).

    I cannot quantify it (and there is surely a wide variation), but generally speaking it seems to me that insistence on 2nd gens regarding UBF practices (fishing, feeding sheep, writing testimonies, marrying by faith, etc) is much more accommodating and tolerant, compared to the pressure, encouragement and guilt-tripping that some indigenous Bible students have experienced, as Forests shared.

  55. Dear liveforchrist, how is your Situation now? I have registered here to leave a comment because your Story is sad and moving at the same time. Even if you had comitted physical sin, as your leaders may call it, please read 1 Corintians 7,9

    I am not the one to tell you what to do, i don’t know you. Yet i have a wish for you: May you take this Situation to take your own decision, as for the ministry you go to, and the Person you love to marry .. even the bible says, that a man will leave his parents and be one with his wife

    i hope God will set you free and give you a beautiful outcome, surprising and great, in new freedom do be able to marry this Girl you love (and loves you)

  56. forestsfailyou

    Are there any testimonies out there of the MBF people being intentionally selected in such a way that one member is very loyal to UBF and the other is not, and when the one wants to leave the loyal member twists his or her arm to stay at the direction of the leader? Or the not loyal member is coerced into things by the loyal spouse?

    • Is the sky blue? Such things are standard operating procedure for the ubf arranged marriage process and for their thinking of “family”. Families only exist at ubf in order to propagate the ubf heritage and to be the narcissistic supply for the ubf echelon.

      Rebecca Kim expresses her angst in dealing with this in her 2001 open letter:

      “I realized that I was in a religious group in which one leader was exercising power as if he were God. If the leader was against me, then certainly, I would feel the crushing weight of an iron wheel. But I did not expect that he would stoop to turning my husband against me, and I was unprepared for what was to come.”

      (her letter and the letter of her late husband is here on my blog: A Pact of Silence – letter links to the Kim letters at the bottom of the article)

      The “divide and conquer” approach was evident when I became “troublesome” and filled with an “evil spirit” and in need of “prayers” in 2011. The Toledo ubf leaders arranged a special meeting at my house. 2 men leaders were going to meet with me, and 2 women leaders were going to meet with my wife.

      I called off the meeting and refused to let them visit. I did this by phone and told them literally this was bullsh*t.

    • That sparked a war…

  57. By the way, any interest in blogging the Kim’s letters? I have always wanting to break up the letters as a blog series to spark discussions. I am curious to find out if any reforms they suggested ever got implemented (yea I know the answer but still it would make for a needed discussion I think). If this is interesting, I’ll start the series this weekend.